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Scream Blacula Scream/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Scream Blacula Scream

After a voodoo priestess named Mama Loa dies, her choice for an heir apprentice is her adopted daughter Lisa (Pam Grier). When her son Willis (Richard Lawson) learns of this he goes berzerk and vows to get back at Lisa and the voodoo cultists who support her. Willis then pays a visit to an ex-voodoo shaman who gives him a bag that he proclaims contains great power. Willis brings the bag to his home (a large mansion) and it is revealed that the contents are the bones/skull of an unknown person. On a dark, stormy night, Willis recites the voodoo chant to transform the skeleton back into a human being. After an initial fire starts then goes out, Willis is under the impression the voodoo ritual failed. But when The Black Prince of Vampires suddenly appears and attacks Willis beginning a new chapter in Blacula's bloody tale, we know that the voodoo is indeed real.

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Blacula (William Marshall) takes up residence at Willis' mansion and lounges around planning his next move. Meanwhile, Willis is ready to go out and party with his friends. When he finds out that vampires can't see themselves in mirrors, he freaks out because his threads are so cool. He lets Blacula know that he doesn't dig this aspect of being a bloodsucker at all. Blacula, as calm and collected as ever, tells Willis that he is now under his control and that he is not to leave the mansion unless given permission. It isn't long before Willis' friends arrive looking for him and are quickly attacked by both Blacula and Willis, who change them into vampire followers.

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When Blacula learns of the local voodoo cult, he pays a visit to a party where Lisa and her friends are hanging out. Blacula introduces himself as Mamuwalde. Lisa's boyfriend Justin, a police officer, is also an African antique collector, and Mamuwalde helps shed some light on some of the ancient artifacts he owns. As usual, Blacula is charming as ever and he quickly becomes part of the hip scene. Lisa is immediately taken by Mamuwalde and the two begin talking and getting to know each other. Mamuwalde abruptly leaves the party but returns through a back door, and secretly attacks one of the guests, turning her into one of his vampire minion.

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In this film, we discover that Blacula is not completely evil, he deeply wants to be normal again, and he seeks Lisa's help in the voodoo arts to remove the curse Dracula placed on him so many years before. One of the scenes that stands out is when Blacula is walking down the street late at night and is propositioned by a hooker. He doesn't exactly understand what she's doing at first, but she gets angry and walks off. When her pimps notice and proceed to rob him, Blacula swiftly warns the two not to mess with him and declares that they are just modern "slave masters!". Here we see that while Blacula may be an undead vampire he still has a code of honor!

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Scream Blacula Scream is actually better than the first film because it makes the story a bit more complex and interesting. Bringing the voodoo aspect into the plot, (something that is also the basis of the classic 1974 Blaxploitation-Horror film Sugar Hill), gives us more depth to bite into. Secondly, since we already know Blacula's backstory, we can move right into action. It's a great example of what a sequel can/should be. This time, Director William Crain was replaced by Bob Kelljan, who wasnt a stranger to vampire movies since he previously made Count Yorga, Vampire and its sequel The Return of Count Yorga.

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Speaking as a longtime fan of Blaxploitation cinema, I can say that both Blacula films are great for what they are trying to do. They really are well made and entertaining vampire subgenre films. I generally don't believe in the "so bad it's good" approach with exploitation movies and with Blacula its more of a classy wink and jab at the audience. It delivers the vampire delights, but the actors, most prominently the late William Marshall, elevate the films so much. Marshall doesn't play Blacula as a cartoon at all. He gives him all the depth/seriousness of a Shakespearean character. This is what made the films better than they would've been if someone else had been cast as Blacula. If you are new to classic exploitation/Blaxploitation cinema and are a film fan without prejudice, give these films a try, I think you will enjoy them.

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Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.
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