Cup of My Blood (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Jack, once a great photographer, lost everything important to
him when the love of his life and the muse of his art died in his
arms. He lost his religious faith and became a wastrel, haunted by
guilt, tortured by his artistic block, forced to make a living by
churning out dreary photographs for a pornographic web site.
One day he witnesses a car accident. Running to the scene, he is too late to help, but just in time to hear the dying words of one of the victims. Although she is a stranger, she addresses him by name. Turns out it has been foreordained for him to be there at that moment so he can accept a responsibility for which cosmic forces have chosen him. He is to be the keeper and protector of the Holy Grail. He then wanders home with the Grail and opens its protective box to find out that it works exactly like The Clapper. Opening and closing the box turns his electricity on and off in his house. This creeps him out, so he takes the box to the local Church, hands it to the priest, and leaves.
When the Grail Box is opened by one who has not been chosen, it does a lot more than The Clapper. It basically sucks all the liquid out of the body of anyone who looks upon it. Oops. Two priests bite the dust. Vaguely aware of the danger he has placed the priests in, Jack heads back to the Church, surveys the damage, and takes the Grail back with him, since he is able to deduce that he is the only mortal who can look upon it without dying.
Keeping it is not as easy as it might seem. Since it was foreordained that Jack would someday get the Grail, that fact was known to just about every angel and demon in the universe and beyond, and even to some mortals who have studied the ancient texts and read every issue of Weekly World News. And everyone wants the grail. Therefore, everyone who is now and has ever been in Jack's life is actually there for some grail-related purpose:
Some of these people are trying to protect him and the Grail, while others are trying to steal the Grail for their own purposes. Some are human, some demonic, some angelic, some apparently hybrids. Some can be killed permanently. Some can be killed temporarily. Some are good, some bad. The various baddies are not necessarily in cahoots, but represent competing forces who want the Grail for reasons mostly undefined.
Are you lost?
Yes, so was I. It's a very confusing story with too many players, many of whom are totally undeveloped. To make matters even more confusing, the story begins with a prologue about a couple of completely different guys who had previously obtained the grail. They seemed to be about college age, and apparently were going to use the Grail as a beer stein or something. I'm not sure what the hell they were doing with it, but owning it did not turn out to be a good idea, because apparently every angel and demon in the universe also knew that the young guys were going to end up with the Grail, and ... things worked out badly for them, to say the least. Who were those guys going to pass the Grail to? Who stopped them and why? How many years passed between the prologue about the college kids and the main story about Jack the photographer? Who had the Grail in the interim? Your guess is as good as mine, even though I just watched the film, plus the deleted scenes.
So, you probably think I hated the movie.
You're wrong. Despite my caviling above, I thought this to be one of the best straight-to-vids I've ever seen in the horror genre. It's a good horror film even by theatrical standards, and is almost certainly the Citizen Kane of Circus-Szalewski movies.
Wha ...? Circus what?
This film has one of the better credits in recent memory:
... with Circus-Szalewski as Nibbles
On the other hand, there is some stiff competition for the top spot in the Circus-Szalewski filmography. The Circus man also appeared in a film called Miss Twiggley's Tree in the demanding role of Puss the dog, but I'm going to have to disqualify that because (1) it's not a feature-length film; (2) Circus only did voice work as an animated Puss; and (3) he was then billed as Circus Szalewski without the hyphen, so it was technically not a Circus-Szalewski film.
So why is there a guy named Nibbles in a theological thriller? Again, your guess is as good as mine. Some of the other characters are named Scooter, Sparky and Limpy.
OK, I'll admit the director had some screwy ideas and didn't really have that good a script on the table, but he had a solid vision of the look and feel that he wanted to create, and he paid a lot of attention to the visuals and the other atmospheric details. The film is one of those very deliberate supernatural stories which builds very slowly. It has a greenish, darkly-tinted, neo-Gothic look to it, the same kind of atmosphere present in the best recent horror films from Asia. The director didn't just make every scene seem murky and claustrophobic, but he made them all seem consistently so, as a great artist like Peter Greenaway might do in his own films. But he did not get so absorbed with his visual atmosphere that he ignored dramatic tension. The film has a lot of spooky moments, mostly the kind that inspire those "oh, jeez, what's in this room with me" feelings, but also the occasional "jump" scare, and a fair share of splatter as well. The filmmakers were not lacking in visual imagination, either. They didn't have a lot of money to work with, but they did a good job at combining low-tech, wires-and-batteries grunge with eerie religious symbolism to create some unique environments to film in. Some of the sets didn't seem to make any more sense than the plot, but they worked quite well to generate the required ambience, and were melded effectively with the chilling sound track.
The film is not without a sense of humor.
A couple of funny lines:
There are more where that came from.
And the film is damned sinful and erotic as well: lots of naked flesh, lots of sex, even a hot three-way with the hero and two female demons. So it combines new-wave Japanese visual horror sensibility with Polanski-type religious themes and old-school European gorotica, 1970s style. As I see it, that's a pretty good combination because it brings life and passion to the new Asian style which always seems too aloof and sexless, and it brings a more controlled artistic sensibility to the old European style which always seemed too loosey-goosey and unprofessional. And the DVD has lots of extras, indicating that the creative team put as much thought into the disc as they did into the film. I'd say that this young filmmaker may just have established his credentials, certainly he did well enough that I was willing to forgive the messy plot and the disappointing ending and still say to him "well done; good start; hope to see your next one."
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