B-movies have become a staple in popular culture over the recent years, with cult classics from the 1970s and 1980s finally receiving the wider attention they rightly deserve. One such classic piece of media that has garnered attention is I Drink Your Blood.
I Drink Your Blood (1971) is an exploitation film directed by David Durston, who has only directed a total of 7 films from 1964 to 1978, including Stigma (1972) and produced by Jerry Gross, who has work on a number of well-known films such as Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) (or Zombi 2, depending on where you are from).
*This review contains spoilers
The film opens to Horace, the leader of a roaming cult of satanic hippies, performing an occult ritual in the woods outside of a small town, when a young girl, Sylvia, is noticed observing the group, but Andy, a young man, who she had caught stealing a chicken in the afternoon and befriended, tries to defend her. The rest of the group give chase and attack her, beating her mercilessly. After managing to make her way back into town the next morning, she is found traumatized by her younger brother, Pete, and Mildred, the towns baker, who take her home to her grandfather, the local vet.
After their van breaks down, the cult has no choice but to make their way into town for supplies. They buy food from Mildred, who is unaware of what has transpired, who lets them know that the town is scheduled for demolition and they can stay in a vacated house for the night.
After Sylvia overcomes her state of shock, she tells her grandfather what has happened and he confronts the cult, only to be beaten and force-fed LSD. As Horace is about to kill the old man, the cult members convince him to stop as Pete arrives outside, demanding to know what is going on. Angered by what the cult did to his family, Pete hatches a plan of revenge by obtaining tainted blood from a rabid dog to lace food to sell to the cult.
After eating the contaminated food, except for Andy, who refuses to eat, the cult starts to show signs of infection and exhibit violent behaviour, causing some of them to flee into the night. One member of the group is picked up by construction workers from the local dam, who take her back to their lodgings to calm down, she proceeds to have sex with a few of the workers and infect them. Roger, head of site construction and Mildred’s boyfriend, discovers his workforce are now all infected with rabies and is chased, along with the local doctor, down to a lake filled quarry but their assailants are scared away by the water that has collected.
The remaining members of the cult attack each other in what remains of the town whilst Pete, Sylvia and Andy, who has expressed regret for what had happened to Sylvia, try to find a means of escape. The group find Mildred hidden inside the bakery, but as they are let inside, Andy is attacked and killed by a rabid construction worker and the store is breached but Mildred manages to kill one as they escape outside to her car. Surrounded by Rabid workers and cultists, the car is flipped over and all looks lost until a group of armed police, led by Robert, gun down the remaining infected and save the trio from harm.
The film was originally title Phobia but was changed after production to be more fitting for a double feature and renamed I Drink Your Blood to be paired with I Eat Your Skin, a film that went by the name Zombie and was shelfed for 6 years before Jerry Gross obtained the rights to release the film under this double feature.
The film was the first to receive an X rating for violence alone and was re-edited and scenes reshot to receive a M rating and a cinema release. It is rumoured that David Durston based the character of the cult leader, Horace, on actual cult leader Charles Manson, who was made famous for ordering his cult to go on a killing spree in 1960’s California. With the film being marketed and released a year after Manson’s conviction, Jerry Gross wanted to cash in on the public’s fascination and disgust with the case. In 2009, David announced that he planned to remake the film, which he had started work on the films script, unfortunately, David’s death in 2010 has causes the project to be permanently shelved.
The cinematography is fairly competent but has many scenes where crew members are visible making them feel somewhat rushed in production. The use of its soundtrack adds both tension and unintended comedy to certain scenes, composed by Clay Pitts, the synth heavy soundtrack being atmospheric and unsettling in some scenes but becomes hilarious during chase scenes. The practical special effects are very well done for such a small budget and hold up 50 years later, with great blood work and realistic props, it’s one of the films core strengths. I’m not going to lie; this film was never going to win any awards. With a fine mix of over and under acting by the cast of relatively unknown actors, a campy exploitation story and unique 70’s soundtrack, this film falls perfectly into the category of “so bad its good”, and my is it good.
Despite all this, the film has positive to mixed reviews from critics and is a beloved cult classic, having similar characteristics to later classics as David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977) and George A Romero’s The Crazies (1973) and has been shown at frequently at film festivals over the years, helping cement its place in popular culture.