Def by Temptation (USA, 1990)

Lloyd Kaufman calls this one of the best films Troma ever released and it is not like the Troma we’re used to. This is a great urban horror film from the one-hit wonder named James Bond III.

Joel is a young man whose parents were killed in a car accident. Raised on the Bible, it is after his parents’ death that he begins to question his faith in God. When he has a chance to go on a vacation from his rural North Carolina home to New York City, he takes it. He is there to visit childhood friend “K”, who has succumbed to the temptations of the big city and just wants Joel to enjoy himself while there.

Meanwhile, various men have been disappearing. They meet a mysterious woman who takes them to her apartment before she kills them in cold blood. She is a succubus, a demon who thrives on temptation. And she now finds Joel as her next victim. When Dougie, a regular at the bar, informs “K” of the temptress and her actions, “K” must attempt to convince Joel to stay away from her or risk losing him to temptation forever. However, “K” and Dougie do have a plan B should that fail and work together to stop the demoness once and for all.

It’s been thirty years since this film was released and distributed by the Troma Team, who offered to help aspiring filmmaker James Bond III. Bond wrote, produced, directed and perfectly casts himself in the lead role of Joel, who questions his faith and in some way, finds New York City, as a test to see if he can resist the temptations of the big city. We see in flashbacks Joel’s relationship with his father, a preacher who is played by Samuel L. Jackson, up until the accident that kills him and his wife.

The supporting cast and even the cast of victims perform really well here. Kadeem Hardison, known to many as Dwayne Wayne from A Different World, is great as “K”, who wants Joel to have a good time but soon regrets it when it comes to Joel’s relationship with our demoness, played by actor turned author Cynthia Bond (no relation). Bill Nunn brings some mystery and a bit of the comic relief along with Hardison as Dougie, who has a secret and uses it an attempt to help “K” and Joel.

As for Cynthia Bond, she makes an impressive demoness as she seems to play the demoness without going over the top unless it calls for it, such as a scene where holy water is used, and it does pose to be quite laughable in terms of Temptress’ reaction, but it’s not the finale so don’t worry folks. There are also appearances by musicians Najee and Melba Moore, who play himself in a dreamlike sequence and a spiritual fortune teller respectively.

Ernest Dickerson’s cinematography here is spot-on and the special effects, by Rob Benevides and Christina Bone with additional effects by Troma Team’s Pericles Lewnes, are very impressive. One death scene in particular stands out thanks to the collaboration of the SFX team and Dickerson, where a victim is sucked into a television. There are some pretty funny special effects as well and Troma-ites will spot on a certain type of effect used in another Troma hit film.

In any case, if by chance, Spike Lee had done a horror film 30 years ago, it would be something like Def by Temptation because it had the feel of a Spike Lee film combined with a dash of Troma. James Bond III made a very good horror film here and sadly, it would be his only film as a writer and director. Now that’s a “one-hit wonder”.

WFG RATING: A-

Troma Inc. and Orpheus Pictures presents a Bonded Enterprises production. Director: James Bond III. Producer: James Bond III. Writer: James Bond III. Cinematography: Ernest Dickerson. Editing: Brian O’Hara and Yu Li-Shin.

Cast: James Bond III, Kadeem Hardison, Bill Nunn, Cynthia Bond, John Canada Terrell, Guy Davis, Rony Clayton, Samuel L. Jackson, Millie Gentry, Steven Van Cleef, Najee, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson.

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