Fangs, fried dough, and David Cronenberg in crime boss mode.

By Alexandra Heller-Nicholas · @suspirialex · December 22, 2023, 5:00 PM EST

Editor's Note: In each Wild Women with Steak Knives entry, author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas examines a woman-directed horror film that's been largely overlooked or forgotten. Read them all here!

Wanting a vampire romcom, but also needing to quench your unholy thirst for bakery-set Canadian genre films where David Cronenberg plays a mob boss? Relax! Holly Dale is here to help. Make no mistake, she is not here to fuck around, nor has she ever been in what is now very close to her half-century-long career as a filmmaker. Dale began as a documentary filmmaker, working closely with her collaborator Janis Cole, who, together during the mid-late '70s, especially focused on pretty gritty, close-up snapshot documentaries on what life was like for women in Canada. Later she'd move on to make short films and features, including 1995's absolutely adorable Blood and Donuts. If her name is familiar to you, though, it's possibly more to do with her later work on television, including stuff like The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Dexter, Mary Kills People, and Batwoman.

Blood and Donuts marked a significant transitional period for Dale. It was not just her first solid foray outside of documentary terrain, but also the first film project she tackled without Cole as her primary collaborator. But in an interview with Angela Baldassare for her 2003 book Reel Canadians: Interviews from the Canadian Film World, Dale noted she'd always been drawn to genre films - especially those of a more fantastic nature - and for her, the line between documentary and her horror comedy wasn't as gaping a chasm as some might imagine; both, for her, were about "trying to dispel stereotypes."


Aside from Dale herself, two big names often synonymous with Blood and Donuts are a young Vincent Natali, who worked on it behind the scenes in the art department, and - of course - our holy lord and master David Cronenberg, who puts in a hell of a cameo as a gangster boss in front of the camera that truly has to be seen to be believed. The film is worth it for the Cronenberg cameo alone, filmed in what I like to respectfully refer to as his "foxy years" (an admittedly vague term, I confess, because somehow, even today at 80 years old for Cronenberg, the "foxy years" are still going).

Dale received funding support to make Blood and Donuts from the Canadian Film Centre, and Brendan Kelly at Variety summed it up pretty neatly by describing it as a movie that wanted to "combine classic horror with camp horror in a story about a vampire stuck in an all night donut shop."

On one hand, that's it - that's the plot. But on the other, there's so much more going on in this film than that premise suggests. The film is about a super sweet vampire called Boya (Gordon Currie) who emerges in the mid-90s after a lengthy period, having been hidden away in a crypt since the '60s. There's a fair bit of culture shock as he acclimatizes to the new world, but at a local donut shop, he befriends waitress Molly (Helene Clarkson) and a taxi driver called Earl (Justin Louis), the latter is caught up in all kinds of no good business with Cronenberg's gang boss, Stephen.


While there is certainly a sexual attraction between Boya and Molly, one of the things I love about this film is that this is trumped by the friendship between these three main characters - it is a love story in a way as much as it is a horror comedy, but it is as much about platonic love as it is romantic love.

There's nothing macho here; it's a world where men cry, and that's OK, and where women can be tough without being femme fatales or final girls, and that's OK, too. This film is charmingly and subtly subversive in the way it just lets its characters, well, "be". Blood and Donuts doesn't savage masculinity like a lot of feminist horror, it does something quite different; it embraces it, allows it a space to be soft, and Holly Dale does it all with grace, humor, and charm.

BLOOD AND DONUTS (1995) promo