Throughout the history of film, there have been countless movies that have never seen the light of day for one reason or another. Some are too controversial, some are scrapped either before or during production, and then others… well, they just suck. In 1985, Michael J. Murphy wrote and directed a film called Bloodstream (not to be confused with the 2000 film Bloodstream, also unreleased), which falls directly into that last category. I love low-budget, cheesy, “bad” movies, I really do, but this is taking it to a level of bad that escapes the quotations. The storyline, the characters, the acting, it’s all rubbish. Obviously I’m not expecting anything life changing when I watch something like this, in any way, but I hope to at least enjoy it on some level.
So, here’s the premise – Filmmaker Allistair Bailey shoots a film called (you guessed it) Bloodstream, and after screening it for the distributor, William King, he’s fired from the project. King tells him it’s garbage, he’ll never work in film again, so on and so forth. Being the sneaky, no-good son of a bitch that he is, though, King makes plans to release the film on his own, and reap all of the profits. Meanwhile, Allistair sits at home and pops in VHS after VHS, creating so many movie within a movie moments (pure filler) that they take up a huge chunk of the movie. Maybe some of these are Allistair’s earlier films, some of them are apparently dream sequences… there’s really no definition. With nods in these moments to everything from The Exorcist to Mad Max, Murphy was clearly trying to pay homage to his influences by ripping them off and surrounding them with his shit show of a film.
Thanks to King’s secretary, Nikki, Allistair learns of this underhanded scheme, and he and Nikki begin a plot to take revenge. Every day, Nikki goes to work and gathers information, which she then gives to Allistair as he’s watching one of the previously mentioned “homage” scenes. Why King’s secretary feels so much hatred towards her employer (and other employees) that she wants them killed is pretty suspect, and throughout the whole thing, she seems every bit as sketchy as the people she hates. Slowly but surely, the dirt builds up and Allistair becomes more and more furious. In a completely logical and rational reaction (with more than a little nudging from Nikki, as well) he decides to don the same costume worn by the killer in his film, and start killing off all of the people involved with screwing him over. Oh, and of course he’s going to film it all.
One by one, everyone involved with Bloodstream meets a terrible end at Allistair’s hands, hell, he even goes so far as to kill a dog that had nothing to do with the film. There’s some pretty standard methods that are fairly well done, in all honesty, but marred by the budget constraints. My favorite involves Allistair killing one of his victims as he’s lifting weights. See, he moves the rack away from the bench, and for some reason, the guy doesn’t just, oh, I don’t know, drop the fucking weights on the ground. For such stupidity, he deserves to meet his end, I suppose. There are some problems with some of the other deaths, of course, like the guy cutting up wood with a chainsaw who somehow doesn’t notice the masked man 15 feet in front of him with a camera and a pistol, but the death scenes really are a highlight of the movie. Admittedly, it makes you wonder what Murphy could have done with an actual budget.
That brings to me to an interesting point about Bloodstream, and Murphy as well. This movie was something of a personal project for Murphy, who himself had been repeatedly on the short end of shady deals. To his credit, Murphy never let a lack of money stop him from making movies (the estimated budget for Bloodstream, for example, was £400). In a 2004 interview with The Zone, Murphy stated,”I am now in my fifties with very little to show for it, except great memories, which is maybe more than many people have.” That’s the sort of attitude that I admire in independent film (or music, or art, or anything, really) – despite never striking it rich, Murphy soldiered on. Now, whether he never struck it rich had anything to do with his films being bad, that’s another story. Point being, I don’t think a ton of deep thought went into the script of this movie, and once you know the writer/director’s background and situation, you can easily see how reactionary it was. At least Murphy sort of took the high road and made a movie about killing sleazy film industry folks, instead of actually killing sleazy film industry folks. It also explains the over the top amount of filler to try and make up for such a lackluster story.
One thing that I think hurts the movie (aside from the obvious) is another reactionary aspect of it. In addition to his personal quarrels, Murphy made this film to address the uproar of the day over “video nasties”. The argument by those who opposed, was that exposure to films with violence and bloodshed would lead the viewer to go out and start engaging in their own acts of violence. At the time, it was a legitimate concern amongst horror filmmakers in the UK, and one worthy of satire to some degree, but unfortunately (well, fortunately, really) it’s hard for us to relate to now.
Who knows if a higher budget and actual release would have benefited this movie. I suppose with a little more money thrown at it, Murphy could have hired better actors, had better special effects, and maybe he could have even taken the time to write a better story. But, when you’re in a rush to make a cinematic middle finger, you don’t worry about those sort of things. You have to give the guy kudos for that. There’s no way to know, really, if any of that would have had a positive impact. As the movie stands now, it just falls completely flat, and remains relatively unknown for very good reason.