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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

2001, Starring Phil Caracas, Mureille Varhelyi, Maria Moulton, Ian Drsicoll, Josh Grace, Tim Devries and Jeff Moffet. Directed by Lee Demarbre.

Overdubbed dialogue, hand cutting, grainy stock, and in-camera special effects. In the old days of cheap drive-in movies, these were standard cost-cutting techniques that were not uncommon to see on the big screen. In today's noisy landscape of digital cameras, music videos, iMacs and straight-to-video releases, these tricks of the trade have been all but abandoned. Which is why I have to congratulate director Lee Demarbre for not taking the easy way out. He actually revives many of these lost arts to give his feature Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter the look and feel of a drive-in, B-movie classic of days gone by.

And what a film it is. Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter actually stars our Lord and saviour as a one man army dedicated to destroying the evil Dr Praetorious and his gang of vampires. Troubled by the diminishing number of local lesbians, mohawked preacher Father Alban jumps on his scooter to enlist the help of Jesus. No sooner has he asked Jesus to solve this mystery and right all wrongs, than they are suddenly attacked by kung-fu fighting vampire women. Father Alban perishes, but Jesus escapes on the scooter and returns to modern day Ottawa to help civilization once more. Seeking to fit in, he gets a haircut, a shave and even a piercing or two. And it feels so good, Jesus bursts into song, skateboarding around town and healing the crippled masses in a great choreographed dance number. But being a saviour isn't all fame and fortune, and Jesus is soon jumped by a gang of roving atheists. In a great parody of kung-fu films (and I'm not talking about The Matrix here), Jesus says "Let's get on with the conversions" and kicks some non-believing ass, complete with overblown tumbling and meat-slap kung-fu sound effects.

When he meets up with Father Eustace, another local preacher, Jesus learns that many of the lesbians in Eustace's congregation are also disappearing. Eustace sets him up with an apartment, some money for stakes, and a gun-toting conspirator, Mary Magnum. Before they start fighting evil, Mary decides that Jesus needs to ditch his traditional robes, and so they decide to go thrifting for some sleek new holy outfits.

While Mary pays for her partner's new wardrobe, two vampires (Johnny Golgotha and Maxine Shreck) come in to talk to the store clerk. Jesus and Mary tail the vampires back to their lair where they learn of Dr Praetorious' sinister lesbian harvesting plan. While he explains his motives, Dr Praetorious cuts open an unlucky girl in a scene that could only be an homage to H.G. Lewis' splatter classics like Wizard of Gore. After watching Johnny and Maxine attack a lesbian drop-in centre, Jesus and Mary have a drag-out battle with the unholy blood suckers. It doesn't go quite as planned though, as Jesus loses Mary to the forces of evil and is badly hurt himself.

Thanks to a transvestite with a heart of gold, a bloodied Jesus manages to get back on his feet. When his infamous father appears in a bowl of ice cream to offer Jesus some advice, he once again vows to vanquish his enemies. This time he enlists the help of Mexican wrestler " El Santos," obviously based on the famous Mexican grappler and film star El Santo. While enjoying some of the finest Star Wars rockabilly around at Ottawa's Dominion Club, Jesus and Santos realize they are surrounded by vampires. They spring into action with drumsticks and homemade stakes, but the cocky ladies man Santos and his assistant are quickly captured. It is up to Jesus alone to hunt down Maxine, Johnny, and the elusive Dr Praetorious. So does Jesus deliver us from evil? I'm not saying, but try to keep in mind that he is the messiah.

What makes JCVH such an effective movie is that it makes itself almost believable. I noticed myself taking this picture much more seriously than other Canadian B-movie parodies like Big Meat Eater and Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter. Because JCVH is filmed to resemble an older drive-in movie, I associated it with the slightly more serious cult films from the 60s and 70s that we all laugh at, not with. Sometimes it doesn't seem like it's supposed to be funny at all, just an oddly scripted gem that hasn't aged well.

Another dead-on aspect of the film is the music. There is a whole slab of strutin' biblical funk by Graham Collins, but the highlight for me was the finale. In the mighty tradition of party rock anthems that end every post-Caddyshack 'screwball' comedy, JCVH finishes with 'Everyone Gets Laid Tonight' by the Hammerheads.

Although it makes little reference to it's Canadian origin, I quite enjoyed this 'new' Canuxploitation effort, and you should be on the lookout for this film.

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