Horror Becomes Her - Blood Diner (1987)
Horror and films directed by women are both big blind spots for me, so I am taking this deep dive into some of the more outre films I have come across in my movie watching.
I am not entirely sure how much intentionality to ascribe to this film simply because of how ridiculous most of Blood Diner is. One of the main villains is a rather foul-mouthed cursed pair of eyeballs and a brain floating in water. The rival restaurant owner has a puppet that he practices ventriloquism on. As to whether he’s aware of that fact is highly debatable. A woman gets her head fried like a huge hush puppy and that’s not even the most bizarre death that occurs in this movie.
I do think the movie works as a fairly observant satire of the health craze that dominated much of the 1980’s. The two brothers own an extremely popular vegetarian restaurant, and most of their victims are vegetarian. Of course, the “special sauce” that makes their food taste so good is far from vegetarian. An early scene focuses on a young woman whose friends are pressuring her to join a nude aerobics class. The fact that the two brothers brutally murder everyone in that class could definitely be seen as a satirical view of all the exercise fads that were popular during that time.
There is also a sharp observation of the male gaze. Even though the brothers who do all the murdering are so cartoonishly evil that it’s hard to take them seriously, the fact that they have to summon the goddess Sheetar by making a Frankenstein creation out of different women reflects a common theme of dismemberment in discussions about the male gaze. There are some more obviously female empowerment moments such as when a naked woman, instead of running and screaming from one of the brothers, actually fights back with martial arts (perhaps another comment on another popular exercise fad).
Blood Diner is messy, bloody fun, even if it indulges a bit too much in some of its gags (a scene where one of the brothers runs over a hitch-hiker repeatedly is literally overkill and may have been paid homage to by Michael Bay in Pain & Gain), but there’s enough subversive humor to make this a worthy watch. Or if silly, overindulgent violence and physical gags are your thing then it works on that level brilliantly.