Ganja and Hess
Directed by Bill Gunn
After getting stabbed with an ancient knife, an archaeologist becomes a vampire in this black indie horror classic starring NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Duane Jones. Made during the era when campy films like BLACULA and ABBY were the only offerings for Black horror fans, Bill Gunn’s atmospheric vampire movie offered a rich alternative. According to Variety’s Scott Foundas, GANJA “used vampirism as an ingenious metaphor for black assimilation, white cultural imperialism and the hypocrisies of organized religion. Four decades on, it still packs a primal punch.”
After getting stabbed with an ancient knife, an archeologist becomes a vampire.
Cast: Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn
I find this film to be one of the most intriguing I have ever seen. Even if it lacks a bit in plot and pacing, it's visually stunning and definitely deserves its status as a forgotten arthouse gem. I agree with other reviewers who see some of the parallels with the visuals from "Daughters of the Dust." Even "Eve's Bayou" kind of draws thematically from some of the same territory as "Ganja and Hess." And Duane Jones is so freaking handsome, so that's another plus :-) He did a great job as the lead in "Night of the Living Dead" - too bad he never had much of a film career aside from that film, "Ganja and Hess," and a few others. I didn't realize he was in Kathleen Collins's "Losing Ground" - I will have to check that one out. It's a shame that "Ganja and Hess" got watered down for its theatrical release to fit the Blaxploitation paradigm. Some of the Blaxploitation films are fun, but this is definitely more than that. It definitely has that trippy/strange feel of a lot of films from the 1970s. This one is definitely worth a watch.
I couldn't finish it. I'll probably need to return to it later, but currently I find the movie to be a little too slow. The "action" is poor, the volume is hard to hear due to the preservation of the film, and I had no clue what the story was. Sure, I know the "premise," but I had a hard time understanding the external goals of any of the characters; either that, or the goals (like surviving) weren't enough to keep my interest. I want to like it on the premise, alone, but I wasn't captivated or entertained.
What an interesting, interesting film! I first heard of it thanks to Shudder and their wonderful documentary " Horror Noire" (A must watch!) Unbelievable performances by Duane Jones, & Marlene Clark! The artistic feel to this movie is surreal. Wish Bill Gunn did more films would've loved to see more of his work. As great as the performances are, and as great as job as Gunn did, the film may be a bit too out there for a lot of average horror fans. If you're a fan of artsy, different films, this is highly recommended!
Surreal and dream-like, this African-American take on the vampire tale is an exquisite piece of film-making. The performances are top notch and the imagery is haunting and beautiful. Duane Jones sadly didn't make many films but he is a force here that is all restrained power.
Strange, abstract, original. Methodically manic. Loved it.