Filmed in Sharon Springs, New York over the course of eight weeks. The film was inspired by several real life events that occurred at the time, namely a rabies epidemic in Iran and the murders committed by the Manson Family. The film's graphic violence initially resulted in an "X" rating, but subsequent cuts caused it to be rated "R". After changing the title from Hydro-Phobia to I Drink Your Blood, it debuted on a double-bill with I Eat Your Skin. It was released on DVD on November 9, 2004.
The film opens on a Satanic ritual conducted by Horace Bones, the leader of a Manson-like cult. The ritual is unknowingly witnessed by Sylvia, a young girl who has been observing them from the trees. Sylvia is eventually spotted by one of the members and is dragged in front of the group. She manages to run away but is soon caught and raped by several of the cult members. The next morning, Sylvia emerges from the woods beaten and apparently raped. She is found by Mildred, the woman who runs the local bakery, and Pete, Sylvia's younger brother. They return Sylvia home to her grandfather, Doc Banner. Mildred seeks help from her boyfriend, leader of the construction crew working on the nearby dam which has bought up most of the town leaving it deserted. The cult members' van breaks down so they elect to remain in the town. They buy pies from Mildred who explains that as most of the town is deserted and awaiting demolition they can stay in any vacant building they wish.
Learning of the assault on Sylvia, Doc confronts the cult but they assault him and force him to take LSD. Pete intervenes and Doc is released. Enraged by the incident, Pete takes a shotgun to get revenge but encounters a rabid dog which he kills. He takes blood from the dog and the next morning injects it into meat pies at the bakery, and sells them to the cult members. Back at their house, Horace and the others eat the meat pies. The others begin to show signs of infection, and eventually they lapse into animalistic behavior. The infected members then proceed to attack and kill each other in a feral rage. One of the female members of the group, Molly becomes terrified and rushes off into the night. Construction workers sent there by Mildred's boyfriend find Molly and take her with them. Molly uses her sex appeal to insinuate herself into their group, and she spends the rest of the night having sex with all of them. Afterwards Molly begins to show signs of infection, eventually biting one of the men. Two other construction workers are killed when they venture into the house of the hippies and encounter a now-crazed Horace, who hangs one of them and guts the other. Banner discovers what is going on when Horace attacks Mildred's car and leaving bloody hand-prints behind. Andy returns to the Banner house and hides out in their barn; after making peace with Sylvia, they are discovered in the barn by Pete, who admits what he has done. Andy explains that he did not eat the pies, therefore he is not infected. Banner has informed others about the potential rabies epidemic, and the next day they are joined by Dr. Oakes. Banner, Oakes, and Mildred's boyfriend all discover that the entire construction crew is now infected with rabies. Oakes and the others are nearly killed by a large group of the infected before they reach a water-filled quarry, which frightens them off.
Andy helps Sylvia and Pete escape after they discover Banner dead in the barn, impaled by a pitchfork. While running through the woods, they happen upon the pregnant hippie, who commits suicide after learning she has rabies. When they emerge from the woods, they discover Rollo and Horace lurking near the bakery; fortunately they become interested in each other, allowing the survivors to escape. Rollo and Horace clash, each of them armed, until Rollo impales Horace with a sword. Andy, Sylvia and Pete discover Mildred barricaded inside the bakery, but she is too afraid to let them inside. When she finally manages to undo the barricade, Andy is beheaded by a machete-wielding madman. Sylvia and Pete retreat with her to the basement of the bakery, but unfortunately they cannot lock the basement door. One of the infected gets inside, and Mildred shoots him in the head. They rush out of the bakery and try to drive away in Mildred's car, but crowds of the infected converge on them, overturning the car. Just then, Oakes arrives with reinforcements and they gun down the infected. Mildred, Sylvia, and Pete all emerge from the car, shaken but otherwise unharmed.Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury as Horace Bones
Jadin Wong as Sue-Lin
Rhonda Fultz as Molly
George Patterson as Rollo
Riley Mills as Pete Banner
John Damon as Roger Davis
Elizabeth Marner-Brooks as Mildred Nash
Richard Bowler as Doc Banner
Tyde Kierney as Andy
Iris Brooks as Sylvia
Alex Mann as Shelly
Uncredited cast members included Arlene Farber, David Durston, and Lynn Lowry.
In 1970 director David Durston was contacted by notorious exploitation producer and CEO of Cinemation Industries Jerry Gross to write and direct a low-budget horror film. Durston had previously directed several sexploitation films and ABC’s financially successful TV series Tales of Tomorrow before meeting Gross. Durston later recalled, “He [Gross] said he wanted to make the most graphic horror film ever produced, but he didn’t want any vampires, man-made monsters, werewolves, mad doctors, or little people”. Gross had been impressed by Durston’s work in Tales of Tomorrow and made a deal with Durston that if he came up with a good idea, he would double his previous writing and directing contract with the Guilds. The film’s story began after a period of three weeks with Durston struggling to come up with an idea. Inspiration for the film’s storyline came from a newspaper article on an incident involving a mountain village in Iran where a pack of rabid wolves attacked a local schoolhouse infecting the victims with rabies, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, driving victims mad and homicidal. Contacting a local doctor who was an authority on the disease and had visited the village, Durstan was shown 8mm footage that the doctor had taken during his work at the village of the infected children locked in cages, and foaming at the mouth. “It made the hair on the back of my head elevate. I had never seen anything so horrible, yet so real, in my life,” Durston later recalled. Inspired by the experience, Durston wrote a story outline for the film which was originally titled Phobia and centered on a small town overrun with a rabies epidemic. Durston pitched the idea for the film to Gross who liked the idea and immediately green lit the project.
Development of the film’s script took eight weeks to complete with Durston making constant additions and revisions in later drafts during and additional five weeks. Further inspiration for the film came from coverage of the trial of Charles Manson. Using the high publicity generated from the trial Durston rewrote the script, creating the character Horace Bones, a Manson-like leader of a satanic cult that terrorizes the town. According to Durston, the character Horace Bones created a real threat to the town as well as adding scenes that genuinely shocked the audience. Impressed with the film’s script, which was then titled Phobia, producer Gross immediately authorized Durston to begin pre-production for the film.
Because of the film’s relatively low budget, most of the film’s cast was composed of mostly unknown actors. The film is also notable for its multi-ethnic cast, with actors and actresses portraying the satanic gang being composed of black, white, Chinese, and Indian members. For the film’s major villain Horace Bones, actor and Indian dancer Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, who had previously starred in a minor role in Durston's earlier film Blue Sextet was cast for the role. Many critics have cited Bhaskar's performance as Horace Bones as being one of the film's major assets. Bhaskar would continue his work as a professional dancer until a tragic accident in 1977 while performing a difficult maneuver paralyzed him from the waist down, later dying on August 4, 2003. Several of the film’s uncredited actresses included Arlene Farber and Lynn Lowry, who made their screen debut. Both actresses have gone on to star in major motion pictures, and Farber starred as Angie Boca in William Friedkin’s critically acclaimed film The French Connection and the 1974 made-for-television film All the Kind Strangers. Lowry would eventually star in George Romero's 1973 film The Crazies.
Filming for Phobia commenced later that year and was shot on location during a period of eight consecutive weeks in Sharon Springs, NY, a small village once famous as a summer spa town which has since then been revitalized as a center for tourism. By the time of the production Sharon Springs had largely become a ghost town, and the producers were allowed to use the abandoned hotels as locations. Durston became quick friends with the town sheriff, who helped the film's crew during filming. Durston later cast him in a bit role as the sheriff seen in the film's climax.
One of the town’s locations which were used in the film was The Roosevelt, an old hotel which was scheduled for demolition within the next couple of months. The crew paid the town $300 for use of the hotel which, according to Durston they practically tore the building down themselves. Because of the film’s relatively low-budget, most of the film’s effects and stunts were practical, and the cast performed their own stunts. For scenes involving rats, trained rats were brought in, and scenes requiring dead rats were purchased from a local medical center and painted to match the color of the trained rats. Several of the trained rats featured in the film would later be used in the hit horror film Willard and its sequel Ben. During the course of filming, tensions between the town locals and the film's cast and crew mounted because of the locals' uncertainty and misunderstandings with the film's director. After one such incident which the locals witnessed Durston 'motivating' actress Iris Brooks during a particularly emotional scene, they contacted the town sheriff, insisting that Durston was abusing the cast and crew and should be arrested or replaced with another director. Regardless of this, Durston remained the film's director throughout the duration of filming.
I Drink Your Blood was one of the first movies to receive an X-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America based on violence rather than nudity. Several scenes needed to be altered to qualify the film for an "R" so the producer distributed the original film asking that each projectionist censor the film as seen fit for their market.
I Drink Your Blood was marketed and released as a double bill with Del Tenney's 1964 film Zombies which was then changed to I Eat Your Skin which had been recently acquired by producer Jerry Gross. As a part of his deal with the film's distributor Jerry Gross, Durston did not receive a percentage of the film's profits but was paid double his established directing salary. Although the film was marketed under the now infamous title I Drink Your Blood, director Durston had originally intended to release the film under the title Phobia or Hydro-Phobia. However, during the film's marketing, the film's producer Jerry Gross changed the film's name to its current title; Gross had not consulted or informed Durston of the change before releasing the film under its current title which bears no real connection to the actual film. The film was originally intended to play in drive-ins, however, without informing Durston, it opened at the first class Warner Brothers Theatre in Broadway.
Bob Murawski of Grindhouse Releasing sought out film director David E. Durston and the two collaborated on the official release of I Drink Your Blood for DVD in North America through Murawski's Box Office Spectaculars distribution company, which continues to hold the worldwide rights to the film. The Director's Cut was released on DVD, on November 9, 2004, and again on Oct 31, 2006, by MTI Home Video and Grindhouse Releasing respectively. These cuts included scenes and material that were cut from the film during its theatrical release. The film's original cut was released by Cheesy Flicks on Oct 25, 2005.
I Drink Your Blood has received mixed to positive reviews from critics, with some critics praising its ability to shock as well as Bhaskar’s performance as Horace Bones, while other critics have critiqued the film’s explicit violence. Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford in their book Sleazoid Express: A Mind-twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square praised the film, calling it "the pinnacle of the blood horror movie". The Encyclopedia of Horror said that "as the film now stands what looks like it might have been a raw, ferocious thriller has become a frustrating exercise in splicing, incessantly building up to scenes of bone-crushing horror and violence which never actually happen.
Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a mixed review, awarding it 2 out of a possible 4 stars. Donald Guarisco from AllMovie gave the film a mixed review, criticizing the film's thin characterizations, inconsistent acting, and dialogue. However Guarisco also stated that the film manages to overcome its flaws through its delivery of its premise, summarizing, "In the end, I Drink Your Blood is too demented and rough-edged for the casual viewer, but it will delight horror fans with a sweet tooth for schlock". Cavett Binion from The New York Times gave the film a positive review, calling the film "an intense and well made Exploitation item". Fernando F. Croce from Cinepassion.org gave the film a positive review, stating, "Shot through an inch-thick layer of grime and scored to the greasiest synthesizer in film history, David Durston’s blast of undiluted grindhouse surrealism always has a handful of jokes up in the air". Scott Weinberg from DVD Talk wrote in his review on the film, "Energetic, sloppy and entirely watchable... David Durston's I Drink Your Blood is true-blue camp all the way. Plus it's vicious, violent, and frequently fall-down funny". The film has gained a cult following over the years and now considered a classic in exploitation film.
The film bears resemblance to several later films, which include David Cronenberg's 1976 film Rabid and George Romero's The Crazies which was later remade in 2010. Both films, the latter of which also featured I Drink Your Blood actress Lynn Lowry, share a similar premise to Durston's film which has been noted by author's Johnathan Rigby and Stephen Thrower. On 17 September 2009, it was announced David E. Durston planned a remake of the film that would have starred Sybil Danning. Durston died in 2010 at the age of 88 before the project could begin production.