Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
2014. Directed by Spike Lee.
One of the best things about watching movies is when you get surprised by something. I went into my viewing of Da Sweet Blood of Jesus with reservations as this was Lee's first foray into the horror genre. To say that I was blown away by this beautifully shot, completely unfocused, and absolutely insane departure would be an understatement.
Dr. Greene is a wealthy anthropologist who studies African cultural history. His colleague recovers a rare artifact, the Ashanti Dagger , a symbol of a civilization that became addicted to blood transfusions. After stopping his colleague from committing suicide, Green is stabbed with the dagger and awakens as a vampire. Embarking on a murderous voyage of discovery, Greene finds love, obsession, and ultimately a dark sense of enlightenment.
Daniel Patterson's cinematography enhances the modern Gothic vibe with porcelain imagery. The transitions between the elite echelons of wealth and the discarded tenements are seamless and full of light. Every drop of blood is a crimson crystal, every corpse a just-departed angel. Lee's usual urban tableau is refreshingly presented as a mystery of the soul, effusing a cultural paranoia into the heart of the horror. Based on Bill Gunn's classic Ganja and Hess, Lee and Gunn himself penned the script, which relies on Patterson's provocative visuals to bring the cult shocker into modern times.
The film begins with Lee's trademark use of hip hop, featuring Charles "Lil Buck" Riley performing a dance routine throughout Brooklyn, as if to say, "Yes, this is a horror film, but it's still my film". This premonition proves correct as Lee's trademark techniques of displaying stunning urban locales and relevant cultural commentary persist throughout.
Stephen Tyrone Williams gives a solid performance, while Zaraah Abrahams eclipses the screen as his vampiric better half. Their relationship as lovers and lethal mentor and student is hot and dynamic, with each partner committing their lesser parts to Lee's labyrinthine story. One of Lee's weaknesses is his inability to bring all of his various themes home in some of his film's conclusions. Horror is the perfect remedy, as the mood is everything, and he harnesses the base concepts of the genre perfectly, while still retaining his ire towards social concepts of race, sexuality, and poverty. The film touches on HIV, the treatment of women, and the selling of one's soul for status and how these concepts are the core of Lee's idea of the African American struggle. In becoming something else, Greene is able to see the results of his rapine journey once the shine of the blood has dried and clings to his expensive loafers.
Available now on Netflix, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is Lee's most artful film of his impressive and controversial career. It is for this reason that it may not resonate with many viewers, as it'never truly answers any of the big questions it poses. However, the film succeeds in propagating a beautiful and violent vision unlike anything Lee has ever attempted before.