Def By Temptation (1990)

Demons have always been frightening. I was absolutely terrified of them as a little kid, filled with fear from misguided church lessons. I thought they walked among us and that I could run into one at any time. Worse, I imagined they could seek me out for some perceived slight. I was a good boy, though. I was older when I learned of the fabled succubus and incubus. Demons who either fed from sexual pleasure or used it as a major tool to obtain the death and damnation of their target. Human sexuality can be a hell of a weak point. It is absolutely fabulous but we know that it also drives some truly heinous behavior from mortals let alone demons. These demons lean into the myths of Lucifer. The danger of evil so beautiful and seductive that it is hard to resist. Before you know it, it is already too late.

This movie is written and directed by James Bond III. Beyond being handed a name that must have been both a blessing and a curse, he had been acting since 1977. There is actually little information about him online but his IMDB page tells quite a story. First, nobody has ever listed his birthdate. I have no idea how young he was when he first started acting but he looks very young. He appeared on several television shows including a shortlived show called The Red Hand Gang which looks like a 1970s version of The Little Rascals. He also appeared in Spike Lee’s School Daze from which he got most of the cast of Def by Temptation. Finally we come to Def by Temptation which was his last confirmed acting role and also the first and last movie that he wrote and directed. He has since become solely a producer. This was his one movie. This was what he was building toward.

The first thing I noticed was the setting. We are looking at urban New York City in the 1990s when there were still such things as smoking sections. After that, the music really hit me. We have some of the best tracks of late eighties rap, funk, and R&B. It really drives home that this is a black production top to bottom. Like Spike Lee and horror movies like Bones, Blacula, and Ganja and Hess, this is an uncompromising journey into black culture. The effects are tastefully done and I appreciated them being appropriately cartoony. The movie cuts away a lot to let you imagine what exactly is happening. There are some really trippy effects as the action heats up that really blew my mind. The lighting and atmosphere reminded me of Fright Night but it felt more natural like a Spike Lee movie. The movie also sneaks in some level-headed and interesting takes on homosexuality.

Cynthia Bond is so good as the succubus. Many movies with predators go full to the hilt with campy and aggression. Bond is so good at appearing vulnerable, playful, wicked, and so many more emotions and all of it is subtle and fun. Of course, there are her moments where she gets very spooky and campy too but the moments are chosen well. James Bond III is really good as the everyman preacher who is at a crossroads in his life. He is a great at being nerdy and cute and vulnerable. Of course, he is helped a lot by Kardeem Harrison and Bill Nunn who are hilarious as his friends and comedic relief. I was also really pleased that the villains victims were fleshed out a lot and given quite a few scenes to humanize them. Samuel L. Jackson has the most calm and subtle role that I have ever seen him in.

Overall, I really loved this movie and a big shout out to my friend Tchaka who recommended it to me years and years ago. It absolutely stuns me that a lot of the people who made this did not do much else. James Bond III could have continued directing. Cynthia Bond was so good but she retired from acting to be an author. I am thankful to Lloyd Kaufman and the people at Troma for giving a young filmmaker a chance at making something unique. I recommend this movie.

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