Oh for the warm and fuzzy Friday night VHS rentals from the era of 1980s glory! If you were alive in those days then you know exactly what emotional vibration that should conjure up in your cells. I absolutely miss the small town video rental stores that seemingly were everywhere when I was a lad. You could be miles from a grocery store or even a gas station, but you were sure to stumble upon someone’s former woodshed turned into a video rental shop. Each experience was unique, yet, oddly similar: the often friendly, though slightly odd owners; the smell of stale popcorn and cigarettes; and of course, the first wave of plastic rectangles that humans began to worship. The 1980s VHS craze brought so many titles into the pantheon that most of us never would have heard of. Granted, one could argue that a lot of those films were better off unknown, and I could partially agree with that sentiment, though I am leaning more towards the generic action-cop/blow-‘em up – type films. That’s a matter of preference, admittedly. Give me Horror over that nonsense, please! This brings us to 1989’s, Blood Salvage. And yes, the IMDB says this came out in 1990, but the packaging on my tape says ’89, the ending credits say ’89, so that’s what I’m typing! The IMDB also says this film is a cross between Deliverance and A Nightmare on Elm Street – yet again proving that the internet, contrary to popular belief, does not always know what “it’s” talking about! The only thing Blood Salvage has in common with Deliverance is that both were shot in Georgia and the only similarity with A Nightmare on Elm Street is the presence of John Saxon. Shall I describe this beast, for you?
To be fair, there are influences from other stories here, but none of them are direct copies. There have been countless films that address the creepiness of some of the humans dwelling in the Deep South, and this is another one. The underlined theme here is the loyalty of family and is reflected by the good (The Evans’), and the not so good (The Pruitt’s). We are first introduced to the Pruitt’s, who have themselves quite a lucrative business forcing travelers off the road and towing the wreckage away for parts. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. They are also harvesting the people and selling “their” parts – hearts, kidneys, livers, and so on – to everyone’s favorite Martian, Ray Walston. The daddy, Jake (Danny Nelson), is clearly out of his mind and in some way thinks he’s doing “God’s” work. His boys, Hiram (Christian Hesler) and Roy (Ralph Pruitt Vaughn), are the stooges, as you probably figured already. Admittedly, there is definite influence here from the original Sawyer clan from Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Jake is a bit like Jim Siedow’s ‘Cook’, Hiram is certainly trying to channel Ed Neal’s ‘Hitchhiker’ and Roy has a touch of Gunnar Hansen’s ‘Leatherface’. These are very mild influences though, I will stress that. They are not direct copies.
On the other side of the fence, we have The Evans’, who are visiting a fair where the wheelchair-bound daughter, April (Lori Birdsong), is participating in a beauty pageant, despite her being handicapped. Her family is there, proudly supporting her; the father (John Saxon) is taking pictures from the audience, with her little brother, Bobby (Andy Greenway), applauding by his side and her mother (Laura Whyte) is beaming behind the curtain. As the story unfolds, we learn Jake is obsessed with April and she, and her family, are targeted. There, we have our conflict for the story and I will leave the rest for you to check out on your own.
There is a cameo with Evander Holyfield and Lou Duva that ultimately makes no sense and likely took up a nice chunk of the budget. Even though that scene has a tiny bit of character development involving Hiram Pruitt, it just seems as a waste of time. It is one of several scenes that have some silliness happening, so I suppose it serves its purpose. I laughed a few times watching this, especially when Jake is working his operations and preaching a sermon at the same time. Those scenes are rather funny, while holding a delicate balance with the gruesomeness. Pay attention to the gospel singing during the ending credits – it’s hilarious!
Written quite well by Ken Sanders and Tucker Johnston – the sick man also directed it – Blood Salvage was a fun ride into 1980s Horror that plays all of its cards at the right time and is never too extreme in one direction. It’s not too slapstick, it’s not too gory, everything has a good balance and it just works. Even the campiness works! The Pruitt’s have Elvis in their shop, for crying out loud, but it still works! I’ll put it this way – Blood Salvage is a great Friday night popcorn movie! So dim the lights, smell that butter and have a ball!
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