Boya, ethical vampire, crawled into a bag in a cellar on the night man first landed on the moon. As our story begins, he is awakened by a golf ball someone hits through the cellar window. Making his way out into the world again is frightening for our shy, undead protagonist, but he soon makes friends with a squirrelly cab driver named Earl. Boya also finds a new love interest in Molly, the waitress at an all night donut shop. Unfortunately, Boya is pursed by his girlfriend from the sixties, a beautician who is pissed off that she got old and Boya didn’t. Earl has his own troubles in the form of a couple of low life gangsters who feel entitled to use his cab for nefarious purposes, as well as their boss, a creepy guy played by David Cronenberg. Molly has it the easiest of all the characters, seeing as how her only concern is not letting people get close to her, that is, until she acquires a vampire for a potential boyfriend.
I loved Blood and Donuts when I saw it on VHS in the 90s, and I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up well. Luckily for me, I still enjoy it just as much. The life of a night-dwelling misfit appeals to me, and although I have been forced to more or less take on normal people hours since I became a parent, I’m sure I’ll go back to working second shift and hitting late night coffee shops someday. It’s just how some people’s biorhythms are. Blood and Donuts gives me the same calm feeling I had when I lived the life the characters live, and also reminds me of how I feel when I see the painting Nighthawks; I have read that Nighthawks is meant to convey a sense of loneliness, but I feel very comforted by the emptier world of nighttime, and its wary inhabitants. Blood and Donuts may be on the surface about lonely people finding each other, but they’re lonely because they’re cautious, which is a a positive thing in small amounts.
Besides my vicarious nighthawking, I enjoy Blood and Donuts for the fact that much of the story is told through body language and facial expressions rather than dialogue. When Boya awakens, we see, rather than being told, the effect his re-emergence has on his former girlfriend. The same technique is used for a dream sequence sex scene between Molly and Boya, and also for the conclusion of the film, when Boya decides how to ultimately take his next step in life.
Interestingly, we get more dialogue between Earl and Boya than between Molly and Boya, with Boya laying out more of an explanation for his condition than he does with anyone else. These Boya/Earl scenes have led some viewers to a reading of Boya as bisexual, and also to a comparison between vampirism and heroin addiction. Personally, I’m not sure about the bisexuality, as Boya’s body language and choice of words could be left over from an earlier era when men were not as concerned with appearing as if they did not care for one another as friends. Heroin addiction and vampirism is an obvious comparison, but is put to much better use in Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction. In this case I think the vampirism is more of a device used to symbolize the conflicting principles we all have and the compromises we have to make in order to balance our needs with the needs of others. Boya’s struggle in life comes specifically from being a vampire, but it’s not given more screen time than Earl’s troubles, and the vampire traits have both positive and negative effects. Plus, it looks cool when Boya vamps out.
The character we get the most explanation from is Cronenberg’s mob boss, who holds forth to his underlings in the bowling alley where he conducts business. I know that I am biased against Mr. Cronenberg because I have seen inside his mind in the form of his films, which are some of the most disturbing works in horror history, but I would like to think that he also is an effective actor without the viewer having had that insight. I both hoped and feared that he would become a vampire, but it was not to be.
With almost any other film, the ending we get here in Blood and Donuts would seem to be lacking in resolution. We get a chance meeting between some supporting characters that might go somewhere, a bit of business that seems unfinished, and a surprising death. But to tie everything up neatly when so much time has been spent allowing us to draw our own conclusions would be out of character for this film. It works the way it is, and seems as much like real life between real humans as possible in a world where vampires and auto shop surgery are real. Blood and Donuts gives us a slice of life, and induces a wistful but not unwelcome mood. I recommend this one to fans of the vampire comedy subgenre, fans of quirky romances, night owls, and donut nuts.