Def By Temptation (1990)
Dir: James Bond III
* * * *
I'm not sure what I'd call Def by Temptation. It's not, as its Troma release would suggest, a standard b(or/to z)-horror film. This film falls into that strange and amazing area between the art film and the schlock film. It is a film that should not work: a devotional religious splatter comedy about a succubus, that not only works, but is quite incredible and effective.
Yes, the acting is iffy (except for a solidly fun performance by Bill Nunn ), the editing is clumsy and bordering on inept at times, and there were some scenes where it was obvious they were covering for lost or bad sound. But it's also obvious that this film, the only film by Bond, was a labour of love, crafted the best he was able, and full of the vitality of a movie made by people who wanted to be a part of it. On a technical level the cinematography by Ernest Dickerson (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X) is what holds the film together, and provides some incredibly composed shots on a shoe-string budget. What makes the exploitation film a marvel, when it attempts to be something greater, is the creativity involved in over-coming the limitations and difficulties of both the genre and the budget and level of talent. This film is a perfect example of that, and the way the film uses a Deren like space/time in editing to work around limitations on it's access to locations, and in creating a backstory, is quite remarkable.
But what makes this film stand out is its earnestness. It's able to realize it's absurdity enough to be fun, have fun, but is also focused enough that it is able to be serious when it needs to be, and surprisingly moving in its convictions. Bond dedicated this to his late Father and his Grand-father and this is an obvious personal project. The acting often evokes a non-fictional quality, especially in scenes between Bond and Hardison, the score is vibrant, the make-up stands up to a studio film, and through vivid dream sequences and some quite creative set pieces, time and again this film demonstrates a confidence and purposefulness that is rare in any type of film.