Blood Beat (1983) Christmas horror movie filmed in Wisconsin

Blood Beat is a Weird 1980s Christmas Horror Movie Filmed in Wisconsin

Psychic powers. Poltergeist activity. The ghost of a samurai warrior. All this and more in rural Wisconsin. Yeah, this 1980s Christmas horror movie has a lot going on.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas in Wisconsin? The murderous ghost of a samurai warrior?

If not, it will be after you watch this bizarre and confusing 1983 supernatural slasher about a battle between the spirit of a samurai and an amateur artist with psychic powers. Blood Beat was written and directed by French filmmaker Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos and filmed in Wisconsin.

“Christmas samurai gives animal activist orgasms,” IMDB user timhds wrote in a review, which goes on to say, “Not even making that headline up. This movie covers a lot of ground, explains nothing, sets up almost nothing, uses student film special effects, has the most convoluted plot of any movie I’ve seen, and yet I couldn’t stop watching it. Overall a 5, but a solid 10 on originality. Watch it, you won’t be disappointed.”

Get Blood Beat on Blu-Ray

I think timhds may be a little optimistic here. Yes, Blood Beat is mildly watchable. Yes, the girl who doesn’t want deer to die is climaxing every time the samurai spirit plunges its katana into someone. But there are no guarantees on the disappointment scale.

The IMDB review I think best represents this film is, “What the hell was that?”

Seriously, that probably should have been the tagline.

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A Rural Wisconsin Samurai Christmas

1983 Christmas horror movie Blood Beat

A visit to Wisconsin is all you really need for things to start getting weird, of course, but Blood Beat doesn’t stop there.

It’s Christmas, and siblings Ted and Dolly come home from college to visit their mother Cathy and her boyfriend Gary. Unbeknownst to the family, Ted has brought his “good friend” Sarah along to meet everyone.

Cathy glares at Sarah. She was expecting her. She even had a gift wrapped and labeled with Sarah’s name.

Ted and Dolly play Monopoly in Blood Beat (1983)

Ted and Dolly play Monopoly while the cat does what cats do

What ensues is a confounding onslaught of psychic visions, poltergeist activity that goes on for way too long, a glowing samurai ghost stalking the woods of rural Wisconsin to slaughter people for no reason, and Sarah getting off on every kill with some psycho-erotic connection to the ghost.

Oh, and Gary wants to marry Cathy. But Cathy’s not into it. She’s an artist. And although she loves Gary, she also loves her work and doesn’t think she can live with him anymore.

Who knows why.

It’s not remotely important.

Blood Beat (1983)

The titular blood in Blood Beat

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Production

Blood Beat was filmed in 1982 over the course of 8 weeks in the Spring Green area near House on the Rock and Taliesin. In the credits, production specifically thanks the community of Hyde, WI, which is an unincorporated community near Spring Green in Ridgeway.

During production, the director Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos actually lived in the house where it was filmed.

Wisconsin filming location of Blood Beat

Blood Beat was filmed on location at this farmhouse in Wisconsin

The house was located at 5536 County Hwy T in the town of Arena, WI. It’s gone now, but Street View gives us a glimpse of it from 2013.

You can still see the oak tree in the yard where the deer (purchased by a local farm for production) was hung to be field dressed.

House where Blood Beat was filmed in Wisconsin

Blood Beat house as captured on Street View in 2013

In another shot, Uncle Pete speeds past Birch Lake on Hwy T/TZ west of Barneveld.

Uncle Pete speeds past Birch Lake

Uncle Pete speeds past Birch Lake in his Chevy Blazer

15 days into the shoot, Zaphiratos learned they were filming in 4:3 fullscreen format rather than cinematic widescreen, because director of photography Wladimir Maule thought it was a television movie.

High quality special effects seen in Blood Beat

Something happened to Gary’s hand somehow

Production value wasn’t super high, anyway, if the effects didn’t immediately give it away. At 22:22 you can catch the dead guy blink, and later when everything in the house starts going crazy and Gary is assaulted by the oatmeal, you can clearly see the strings pulling the food off the shelves.

The samurai slasher of Blood Beat

And in case you’re wondering, as we all are, why a samurai in Wisconsin?

Zaphiratos says, “Why not?”

Legacy of Blood Beat

Blood Beat's Samurai ghost almost stabs Ted and Dolly

Viewers either seem to revere it for its weirdness and originality, or hate it for all the other reasons. But the one thing everyone has in common is they are utterly confused from start to finish. And most can agree the violin music is the worst. Some scenes are best watched on mute. 

In the canon of horror movies filmed in Wisconsin, Blood Beat isn’t nearly as unwatchable as Fever Lake, but it’s also not as fun as The Giant Spider Invasion or as unsettling as The Pit.

Still, it’s the only Christmas horror we have (local independent productions like Dismembering Christmas aside) so I guess we have to embrace it.

Besides, that spectral samurai could still be out there somewhere, wandering the woods of Wisconsin, looking for its next holiday victim.

A samurai ghost stalks Wisconsin on Christmas in Blood Beat (1983)

Paul should have gotten his own damn orange juice

Get Blood Beat on Blu-ray

Get Blood Beat on Blu-ray

What are your thoughts on Blood Beat? Love it or hate it? Tell us in the comments below!

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