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Canvas Of Blood (1997)

VHS Cover (EI Independent Cinema)
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Overall Rating 26%
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Ranked #6,731
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Jennifer Hutt
Jennifer Hutt
Jack McClernan
Jack McClernan
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Review by Chad
Added: August 19, 2008
A couple weeks ago, I reviewed Psycho Kickboxer on this site and gave it a slightly above-average review. Tonight, I checked out the "b-side" of that double feature, and surprisingly enough, this bonus film wasn't half bad. I can fully see why it didn't get its own DVD release and instead tagged along with another film as a mere bonus feature, but as far as ultra low-budget revenge / slasher flicks go, it could have been much worse.

The film centers on violinist Julia (Jennifer Hutt) and her Vietnam Vet dad Paul (Jack McClernan), a lovable pair of scamps who are going through some major problems in their lives. You see, Julia's boyfriend is insistent on getting into her pants regardless of Julia's feelings on the matter, Paul is a little disturbed about the politicians pushing post-traumatic stress syndrome to the side and labeling it as bullshit, and of course, both of them are rather distraught at the loss of the main woman of the house. However, Julia intends to make her father proud at the local competition with her violin skills, as he was also quite the player in his day prior to losing the use of his hand in what was presumedly a wartime incident.

At least, that was the plan before a drunken doctor entered the picture. It turns out that Julia has been having some aches and pains in her wrist, and what should have been a simple snip-and-stitch surgery turned into massive damage to her nerves thanks to this doctor having showed up to the job inebriated. Not to fear though: a big-shot lawyer has heard about the case and wants to help, but when the doctor hears about his involvement, he quickly pads the lawyer's wallet with some green so that he'll "throw" the case. The lawyer passes on some of the cash to the judge, the judge finds the doctor not guilty, and once again, the common man has been screwed by the lawyers and lawmakers.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Julia's boyfriend has left her and killed her dog in the process (I shit you not), and this was all too much for our poor heroine to handle as she soon slips into a coma. This pushes Paul over the edge, and with his Vietnam training and his ability to create nifty little weapons to attach to his hand (a buzzsaw, a blowtorch, a vice grip), he sets out to gain a measure of revenge on those who have done him and his little girl wrong.

As I mentioned above, this was an ultra low-budget film. Actually, truth be told, I think it might have been a step below that as I really can't see where any of the money went. There's very little gore on display as all of the kills take place off screen, the actors are the polar opposite of talented (they're bad even by low-budget standards), and aside from the gadgets that our hero attaches to his hand - all of which could have easily been rigged up by raiding someone's toolshed - I just don't see where the money went. This film seems to have been created by a guy with a script and a camera who turned to friends and locals for help (who received starring roles in return), but as I also mentioned above, it was better than it honestly should have been.

The main reason for this is the story itself. Granted, it suffers from some padding issues (more on that in a moment), but when you remove the fluff, you find a story that is actually fairly solid and keeps you interested until the end. The slasher fan in me would have liked to have seen more gore and more of the red stuff, but what we got in that regard was perfectly acceptable. As an added bonus, the film is shot with much more expertise than I expected; the camera may have been low-end and the quality does suffer as a result, but whoever was holding said camera sure as hell knew how to frame a shot and shoot a scene for maximum effectiveness.

Getting back to the padding issue, we find what was by far the biggest strike against the film. Let's see... I didn't watch the clock, but I'll be generous and say that it took about thirty minutes to introduce the characters and get the gist of the storyline spelled out for us. Add on to that about ten minutes for all of the kills combined, and you're left with about fifty minutes that really could have been left on the cutting room floor. Sure, as a straight male, it's sort of hard to bitch about watching two women break into one of the most random lesbian scenes that I've ever witnessed, but when you have more fluff than actual movie, I think it's time to consider a shorter film. When you realize that the story is basically over and there's still thirty minutes to go, you'll see why this was such a huge issue with this release.

If Canvas of Blood was a standalone release, there would be no way in hell that I would recommend it. However, considering that it's basically free if you're interested in Psycho Kickboxer, I'm going to say that it's worth a watch if you find it in your possession. It's not going to sell the disc and it's not an underrated classic, but it's worth about fifty minutes of your time if you're in the market for kickboxing sociopaths. 4.5/10.
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