Deafula (Video Screams). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This highly unusual film was made by and for deaf people. All the dialogue is in sign language and the soundtrack consists of stark readings of translations of the signed dialogue (for the benefit of hearing people in the audience––sort of like closed-captioning in reverse), occasional moments of stark, eerie music, and maybe 2 or 3 sound effects total. The plot is an expressionistic horror tale of a preacher's son whose mother was bitten by Count Dracula during her pregnancy with him, cursing him with a dual personality––one a pious preacher's son studying for the ministry himself, and one a blood-sucking vampire who commits a string of murders. What's really weird about the movie, though, is that it takes place in a silent world where everybody communicates in sign, where everybody uses TDDs for telephones, where such things as motorcycles and women's screams make no sound, and where a man with no hands is mute. The film was obviously very cheaply made and shot in black-and-white, which was rare in 1975, the year it was made. It's obvious that the people involved really put a lot of care into the project, yet it's also obvious that they were amateurs at filmmaking. All of these elements make for one strange film indeed. It is genuinely creepy and surreal, but it's hard to tell if that's because of the story, the amateurishness of the production, or just simply how strange such a film looks to a hearing audience. I will say that despite its length and the cross-cultural barriers involved, the film did hold my interest throughout and was even pretty scary at certain points. It really is a curiosity, though––were other deaf films made? Was there a whole industry involved to serve this population? Or was this the only film to experiment with this concept? I would really like to know the story behind this one.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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