Spike Lee, USA, 2014, 123 min.
Before: I haven’t heard anything particularly good about this remake of Ganja and Hess but I love Spike Lee. I’ll always give him the benefit of the doubt.
After: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is lacking in any sense of escalation, which is ultimately it’s downfall. Stephen Tyrone Williams plays Dr. Hess, an expert on ancient African culture.
Early on in the film we hear about the a civilization that became addicted to blood and eventually self-destructed because there wasn’t enough fresh blood to go around.
Through some strange events, Dr. Hess himself becomes cursed and addicted to blood. He takes to his new life pretty well. Eventually finding a lover and partner who is initiates into his world.
The film deals with the ramifications on this new-found addiction on the couple and the people around them. But although there are great moments, this film never comes together.
I mentioned earlier it was lacking in a sense of escalation. The events displayed make logical sense, but the impetus or transition to is not explored. The changes in Hess’s attitude to his new addiction seems to develop out of nowhere. I like the trajectory of his character a lot, but it wasn’t earned.
The same goes for the love between Ganja and Hess. Their relationship seems to happen episodically, in fast-forward. Unfortunately, that part of the story is meant to be the crux of the film. Without the audience being invested in it the film falls apart.
I would even go as far as saying that this film would be better without Ganja. Although Zaraah Abrahams did a good job, her character was completely unlikable and didn’t add to Hess’s story arch at all. In fact, it is inexplicable that they got together.
The cinematography made the film look too much like it was shot on video for my tastes. But budgetary concerns aside, it lacks any particularly interesting film-making, except for one scene that shined: Hess’s reaction to the church choir performance towards the end. The rest of the film is just too poorly conceived to recommend.