Story: Jeff (Jason Majik) has just gotten some terrible news, after a routine doctor visit turns tragic and he learns he has been infected with the AIDS virus. Not exactly a portrait of stability as it was, this news pushes him over the brink and when his mind breaks, he starts to have visions of vengeance. As he faces his own mortality, he racks his brain to figure out who could have given him the virus, only to be unable to find an answer. So he decides to cast a wide net and go after anyone he suspects, as well as some folks he just has other issues with. He starts with his last hookup Tanya (Susan Para), but instead of some transactional love, Jeff stabs her with a needle filled his own blood. The goal is to cause her distress if she was responsible, but even if she wasn’t, Jeff wants revenge against her, likely to compensate for his poor dating skills. Soon enough, word of the needle attacks begin to spread and Jeff lashes out at more victims, but can the police somehow end his jab attacks and protect the community, or will Jeff make it all the way through his hit list?
Entertainment Value: A title like L.A. AIDS Jabber conjures up some unique expectations and in terms of unusual, off the wall cinematic chaos, this movie more lives up to that monumental marquee. The story is just what you’d expect, a madman on the loose with virus filled blood in syringes, but while this has immense exploitation vibes, the movie manages to show some dignity when it matters. I appreciated that AIDS was treated as serious here and while it is the main plot device, the virus and those who contract it are not made fun or minimized at all, quite the opposite. There are several scenes that show compassion about the subject and understanding, even if Jeff is flipping off the deep at the time, so it was a welcome surprise to find such a wild movie that showed some restraint. At the same time, the tone is wild here and the b movie vibes are off the chart, due in part to the film being shot on weekends for over a year, which led to some continuity issues and even sudden cast shifts. These issues only add to the charm of L.A. AIDS Jabber for me and there is already so much to like here, with great passion and DIY magic seen on screen throughout. I can see if the more DIY elements turn off those in search of more polished fare, but I had a blast with this and I would recommend L.A. AIDS Jabber to anyone with an interest in cult or shot on video cinema.
The film’s spirit is most evident in the cast, a colorful ensemble that seems to run with the vibes of the material and for the most part, bring enthusiasm and energy to their roles. I love regional cinema and L.A. AIDS Jabber is an example of what happens when the tumblers fall into place just right, delivering that pure, uncut b movie magic. Jason Majik has the lead and he goes for it, a wild, often unhinged effort that is hilarious to watch. His mood swings are played over the top, which really amplify the sheer mental break he’s experiencing and while really dialed up, it suits the character and general vibe, not to mention he is just flat out fun to watch. His interactions with others are always memorable, but so are his solo tantrums and wild antics when he’s alone, just a crazed performance that is quite memorable. All the cops are entertaining as well, always shifting the narrative focus without warning to a tale about an abusive ex husband, dropping one cop for a new cop, all of which is played straight, but in a most humorous fashion. Susan Para also deserves a mention as Tanya, a small role, but one that stands out as especially 90s soaked and fun. The cast also includes Justin Mack, Joy Yuruda, and Marcy Lynn.
The Disc: This movie was given the deluxe treatment by Visual Vengeance, starting with a visual transfer using the archival master that was sourced from the original tape source. This was shot on video and it shows, so there’s only so good this can look and I can’t imagine an improvement over this. The image is as clean and clear as possible and of course, the shot on video vibes are so awesome here. The disc is also stacked with supplemental material, starting off with an insightful audio commentary track with director Drew Godderis, who is joined by Wild Eye’s Rob Hauschild and b movie legend Mark Polonia. I wanted to know as much as possible about the shoot and material, so hearing first hand stories from Godderis was a real treat. He also provides an introduction to the movie, takes on a location tour, and sits down for a ten minute interview. Also interviewed are stars Jason Majik, Justin Godderis, Gene Webber, and Joy Urada, as well as cinematographer Rick Bradach and Blood Diner director Jack Kong, so a lot of perspectives and stories to be found here. The film’s trailer is also on the disc, while physical extras include a booklet and some video store style stickers.