By: Addison Wylie
Spike Lee took to Kickstarter to fund his latest joint Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. It was a bold move that opened up the floodgates for skeptics to start criticizing the filmmaker. Zach Braff endured the same with his campaign to make Wish I Was Here.
Lee brings more of an argumentative crowd compared to Braff’s followers and naysayers. Some see Spike Lee as a self-serving loudmouth, but loyal fans believe he has a powerful voice. Personally, I think Lee occasionally and insensitively oversteps, but he’s always been a selfless filmmaker. It makes sense that he would use a fundraising tool such as Kickstarter. He keeps close with his fanbase throughout the production while making a movie that sticks to his original vision.
Spike Lee has a defined style that has gotten brash over the course of time. His voice is strong during his earlier works, but his recent movies show the new challenge he faces when trying to calculate where he should place his energy. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus resides somewhere in the middle, which is both a relief and a slight disappointment.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus features an entitled upper class lifestyle that the filmmaker likes to take swings at. Although, this time, his cracks are not as aggressive. Stephen Tyrone Williams (City of God) is Dr. Hess Greene, an uptight intelligent person of power who is overcome by a curse when he’s attacked by a colleague. In an interview with Variety, the filmmaker makes note that Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is not a vampire movie. However, after Greene is resurrected after a brief death, has a thirst for blood, and kills in order for his appetite to be satisfied, sooner or later the audience calls a spade a spade.
There are things in Lee’s unofficial vampire movie that are genuinely freaky, such as the stringent transformations and the helpless compulsions that follow. Scenes of Greene suckling spilt blood while hunched on all fours over his naked victims are unsettling and haunting. If Lee had taken more time to flesh out the film’s lore and continued to build on the segregation Greene endures as he becomes someone else, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus could’ve been more of a chilling character study with more of these menacing moments of desolation.
Instead, Lee and co-writer Bill Gunn (adapting from Gunn’s original 1973 film Ganja & Hess) drop Stephen Tyrone Williams in a melodrama opposite Zaraah Abrahams. Abrahams has a striking allure to her presence which takes a few hits as her role sinks deeper into Greene’s newly seldom life. However, like some newcomers to Lee’s convoluted sensual dialogue, she sounds too tangled up in the conversation.
The re-watch factor of Lee’s filmography is not complex. As the credits roll, you can usually tell whether or not the film is worthy of multiple viewings. While Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is far from perfect, it’s one of Lee’s joints I wouldn’t mind diving into again soon. It works as a rebuttal to the argument stating that all vampire movies are alike. Spike Lee would think differently though. Remember, this “isn’t” a vampire movie.