Pretentious millionaire Mason Murphy hosts the largest and sexiest lunar eclipse party in the close knit community of River Ridge. Murphy renovates the old Mayhew estate, home to the mysterious disappearance of the wealthy Mr. Mayhew in 1926, as the party’s extravagant setting. One of the young party goers is also a practicing partaker of witchcraft and when she attempts to summon upon the spirit of her dead boyfriend to ask about whether he bought a winning lottery ticket or not just before his death, she accidentally aligns all things evil right as the eclipse takes place, trapping the oblivious guests in a nightmarish twilight zone that includes black bat demons, Civil War ghosts, lawn ornament zombies, bar tending vampires, and a slew of maniacal murderers.
Director Mike Donahue’s “Mansion of Blood” is a horror-comedy of an ambitious narrative that was doomed during the middle of production, resulting in a shameless, mishmash heap of a film. From what I’ve read from various article sources, “Mansion of Blood” came to a screeching production halt due in part of a sexual assault claim from an actress or two. The complaint was against the film’s headlining star, Gary “Lethal Weapon” Busey. Are we really surprised here? Busey, who suffered permanent brain damage in 1988 after a motorcycle accident, has sustained from his wild and crazy, sometimes delusional, antics that raises many eyebrows through almost the last three decades. The film’s crew was so fed up with Busey that he was actually fired and massive re-cuts and re-edits caused the story’s downward slope. Aside from the Busey debacle, executive producer and one of the film’s stars Tom Tangen is rumored to have screwed over the film’s investors, leaving director Mike Donahue high and dry.
Honestly, I strongly feel “Mansion of Blood” never came an inch off the ground. I get that the film is a horror-comedy in a slapstick sub-genre, but the story is in total shambles. Numerous characters and their individual stories are diluted to the point of being a suffering and aggravated attention deficit disorder. The severely choppy editing, the unbalanced dialogue and ambient audio tracks, and the oafish acting throughout only piles on top of an already high mountain of sadness. And even though I have a soft place in my heart for Busey and his sheer lunacy, in life and on film, his performance as the malicious party host Zachariah was, dare I say it, surprisingly stale. Only a few handful of scenes of Busey’s floating, grinning head faintly superimposed as a ghost or a spirit or as a something are uniquely guilty pleasurable. Not all has failed as the film’s other star, “Star Trek: Voyager’s” and “Innerspace’s” Robert Picardo, attempts and succeeds at a good performance as the party’s caterer who ends up almost being poisoned by his chef wife, played by Lorraine Ziff.
Again, I’m well aware that “Mansion of Blood” is a horror-comedy, but the no budget special effects couldn’t be any more offensive to our intelligence. The “demons” were extras in black face and black leotards with a dark cape and plastered with exuberantly adhesive bat ears. The computer generated lunar eclipse was near 1950’s animated cartoonish. These effects bog down the quality of the film, turning a potential Sci-Fi channel movie spoof to a more of an obsolete, outdated, and cheesy and campy schlock that could be deemed worthy of being presented on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Instead of solidly funded practical and computer generated special effects, Donahue leans firmly on the hard bodies of young (and some slightly older such as Lorraine Ziff) actors and actresses. The naked bodies of upcoming scream queen Mindy Robinson and the industry versatile Dustin Quick are two to name just a few who pair up with the rock hard abs of Kyle Clarke and Frank Mora Jr. One would think Jennifer Tapiero, Sarah Alami, and Tegan Webster would be the group of main characters that would develop and expand throughout the duration since they’re stories begin in a diner, but their characters become junk roles that fizzle into into oblivion and tangents are created for non-setup characters.
“Mansion of Blood’s plethora of characters is too much to handle, especially when the film tries to go in numerous directions that doesn’t give Donahue’s motion picture any direction. The story and script flounders as the legs are cut right from underneath both of them. I empathize that the Gary Busey and the rumored Tom Tangen issues might have derailed this project that categorizes this film into the scrap-to-salvage scenario similar to prior films like “Bad Meat” and “Old 37.” Tom Cat Films and MVD bring “Mansion of Blood” to retail shelves and I encourage those brave enough to venture into the film to remember this particular review because when the credits begin to roll and the popcorn is down to the last few underdeveloped kernels, you will know somewhere in the sands of time and space that I’ll be whispering in the ears of your mind, “I told you so.”