“Haunted by a childhood trauma, a deaf mute accountant develops a fixation with blood spilling across his skin. Brief flirtations with ketchup and red ink seem to satisfy him at first but he soon develops a taste for the real thing. Though he nurses a weird fascination for a neighborhood girl who passes the time by dancing on the rooftop, he remains socially withdrawn with his co-workers and can’t even find comfort in the arms of a hooker. One night he breaks into the property of the local undertaker and ravages the prettiest female corpse. Now addicted, he habitually raids the tombs of the dead and drinks blood from their throats via a spiked, double pronged glass straw. Authorities and citizens are incensed by these crimes and the search is on for this modern day vampire.”
This is going to sound really weird, but the 1977 Swiss film Bloodlust (aka Blood Lust, aka Mosquito, aka Mosquito der schänder) really reminds me of Man Bites Dog. On the face of it, the 1992 Belgian serial killer movie would have little to compare with the ’77 necrophiliac vampire flick directed by Marijan Vajda.
However, part of what makes both films so intriguing is that the viewer is invited to not necessarily empathize with a murderer or corpse mutilator, but there’s definitely an attempt to show these otherwise unpleasant individuals as actual human beings, as opposed to the standard serial killer trope of making them into unknowable monsters.
Understandably, there are exceptions: Monster, the story of Aileen Wuornos, for example, tries to humanize the late ’80s killer, and Netflix’s Mindhunter series does the same by drawing parallels between the killers and those who hunt them. For the most part, though, we’re often asked to be voyeurs while these people commit acts of ever-increasing violent depravity.
Bloodlust — and, to a lesser extent, Man Bites Dog — present their protagonists as characters with whom the viewer forms a connection. It might be at a certain remove, of course; we’re not all going to celebrate the desecration of a corpse or violent murder of passers-by, no matter how sympathetic the lead.
However, The Man, as lead actor Werner Pochath’s character is known, is presented with a horrific backstory of physical abuse at the hand of a drunken father, while his young sister is subjected to even worse. Its inevitable result sees him rendered deaf and mute, isolating him from his surroundings in every aspect but what he can see.
The Man’s inability to form connections with those around him, combined with his childhood trauma, leads to a fixation on blood that escalates ever-further, until an ultimately violent conclusion. Throughout it all, however, you find yourself feeling terribly sorry because of Pochath’s portrayal of The Man, which is very much dependent on a face in which we can read so very much sorrow and misery.
A further generalization sees the objectified neighbor of The Man’s fixation known only as Young Girl (Birgit Zamulo), with her mother simply The Mother (Ellen Umlauf), and the rest of the cast has no names at all. It’s an idea mirrored by the fact that everyone in Man Bites Dog uses their real names for their characters, another way of blurring lines and messing with reality.
In Man Bites Dog, we’re invited to wonder why a documentary crew might begin helping a serial killer, but Bloodlust answers that question 15 years prior: we begin to maybe understand a little of why they do what they do. Ben is certainly more charming than The Man, obviously.
The Mondo Macabro Blu-ray looks excellent, although the film’s low budget shines through in the fact that it does look a little thin. The focus is a little weird in parts, and there’s definitely a sense of “this take was good enough.” Still, it’s quite clean, and the sound is nice and robust.
Interestingly, the interview with Birgit Zamulo sees her mentioning the fact that she finds it too much to view, and couldn’t get past her first appearance onscreen to rewatch it for her interview. The interview with the director’s son and assistant director, Marijan David Vajda, is shorter, but he seems to have a lot to say about his father’s work in a short period of time.
This is a unique film, and definitely a dreamlike bit of bloody weirdness that demands a late-night screening while you’re winding down. Give it your full, but sleepy, attention, and let it give you the strangest dreams you’ve had in a while.
Bloodlust is available on Blu-ray through Diabolik. http://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/bloodlust-mondo-macabro-blu-ray-all-region/