Monday, July 21, 2008

Ganja & Hess

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: This movie's success doesn't hinge quite so much on a plot-line, but I will give you a brief synopsis anyways. Hess is an archeologist who is stabbed by an infected knife and develops a vampiric need for blood. Struggling to deal with this, he meets his late assistant's wife, and they fall in love. Soon she will learn of his insatiable bloodlust and must figure out what to do.

Scariness factor: This movie is not about the scare. But it is DEFINITELY haunting.

Gross-Out Factor: Minimal. And very 1970s. The blood is crayola red, for example.

Complaints: None. But I *CAN* tell you what some of you who rent this on my recommendation may complain about, and it's that 1) it's slow-moving and not plot-driven at all... it's moreso reliant on the power of the (sometimes disconnected) images rather than any real story, and 2) it's not jump-in-your-seat scary. But that's also not the point of it.

High Points: The back of the dvd declares that Ganja & Hess, "Hailed as one of the great artistic achievements of modern American cinema, [] was the only American film screened during Critics’ Week at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival--where it won a standing ovation. It was literally ahead of its time--so audacious and unique it was all but buried." And it's true: Ganja & Hess is a piece of cinematic history. It's a strange blend of blaxpoitation 1970's films, horror, and gothic themes. There's no horror film that I've seen that's quite like it. As I mentioned, it is not at all plot-driven. Its success is moreso contingent upon the power of its images. The movie uses the vehicle of "vampirism" to comment on addiction, fitting for the drug-soaked time-period. And it's got Duane Jones in it (the lead in Night of the Living Dead who pretty much MAKES that movie) and the woman from Night of the Cobra Woman who, if nothing else, is GORGEOUS to look at. You won't like it if you go in expecting something high-paced and horror/actiony. But if you rent it expecting to see something cinematically unique and strangely haunting, you may enjoy.

Overall: I thought it was quite haunting (and terrifying in moments). Again: it's like nothing you've ever seen. But rent it only if you're in the mood for slow, disorienting, imagistic, commentary-like horror.

Grade: A



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