3 out of 5
Directed by: James Bond III
Though it’s ultimately very thin, story- and character-wise, low-budget Troma flick Def By Temptation well surpasses the assumptions one might make of a “low-budget Troma flick” with, firstly, a lot of visual comfort and style – helped by Ernest Dickerson in his d.p. days – and also by putting a lot of things on screen that are just unusual, both for the genre and, like, in general, but especially in 1990.
As written and directed by James Bond III, who also stars as naive minister-to-be Joel, Def By Temptation often has a very dream-like construction, initially cross-cutting between flashes of scenes which establish the presence of a black-clad female figure in Joel’s dreams, and thoughts of his preacher father (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as the car crash which left him parent-less and in his grandmother’s care; this visual style continues throughout a good portion of the movie, but somewhat at random, further lending it that dream-like quality. This alone puts it in rather odd territory, but it’s part and parcel with the movie’s somewhat loping pacing, which is not slow – Def is a fun film – but somewhat quiet, and unflashy, giving its characters time to talk during open-ended scenes that drift into one another; allowing conversations to actually feel rather human without making a thing out of it. That plays into the main criticism – that the movie doesn’t really make a “thing” out of anything, actually -but it also means Bond can play with themes of culture and sexuality without forcing it into the framework, or trying to make the movie wrap itself around some point.
Otherwise, on the surface, DBT is about a female vampire / succubus (Cynthia Bond) who’s chatting up and then chowing down on men at a New York bar, including barfly Dougy (Bill Nunn) and Joel’s brother, K (Kadeem Hardison), who lets his little bro stay with him during a crisis of faith.
The blood splashed is pretty minimal; the makeup effects could be done at home; but Dickerson gets right in there with some Raimi-esque camera angles, and the film’s blue and pink color scheme is played against the remarked upon floaty flow and the pleasant chatter of the actors, making the film an entertaining curiosity.