Def by Temptation
Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by a low-budget shocker. Def By Temptation, despite its nonsensical title, is one of those films. Of course, it helps that the Director of Photography is Spike Lee’s long-time collaborator, Ernest Dickerson, who gives the film an atmospheric and polished look so lacking in many similar efforts, but it’s still decent entertainment aside from the look and feel.
Basically, there’s a succubus—that’s a posh term for a demonic vampire to you and me—on the loose in New York. She is pure, unadulterated evil and her only goal is to feed on the souls of the men she meets—the more innocent, the better.
Her heart, or I suppose her non-heart would be more correct, is set on corrupting a young trainee pastor called Joel (the delightfully-named James Bond III). Joel lives in North Carolina with his gran, but the spirit of his dead father (Jackson, in an attention-grabbing cameo), a fire and brimstone preacher, hangs heavily over the house. But Joel is troubled by visions—which we later find out are inspired by the Evil One—which lead him to doubt his religious calling and set out for new York to visit big brother Hardison (yup, Dwayne Wayne from TV’s A Different World).
For a cheap horror flick, there’s actually quite an original and intelligent script lurking beneath the blood. Hardison’s character is a DTV horror/action star, which is a pleasingly self-aware touch, while Bill Nunn’s renegade FBI agent is assigned to investigate the paranormal, but is ridiculed within his own department. Can anyone else say Fox Mulder? The religion angle is also a nice touch, but does get a bit overdone at the end.
Rather than waste his limited funds on cheap un-special effects, Bond has turned to that old staple of leaving the horror to our imaginations, only letting us hear the screams and see the blood splatter. This is much more effective than the usual shock tactics employed by too many slasher movies, where seeing the action actually makes you remember how fake it all is.
Acting-wise, it’s writer-director-producer-star Bond who’s the weak link, but maybe he’s spread himself a little too thin on the production. Even though they were little-known then, you can always count on quality work from both Nunn and Jackson, but it’s Hardison who surprises with a believable turn as the cocky actor who just wants to protect his somewhat simple little bro.
Despite Samuel L Jackson’s prominent role on the cover of the DVD, he’s only in the film for about 5 minutes in total, so don’t buy it solely for his performance, unless you’re a Jackson completist.