Def By Temptation

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Def By Temptation (1990) is a peculiar film to have been released by Troma Films. This all Black, highly stylized horror film by James Bond III is a one of a kind passion project. The low budget of a Troma Film is clearly evident, but it has sparked an ingenuity that fills Def By Temptation with images that are at once wholly familiar yet entirely unique. As a byproduct of circumstance as much as the result of conscious decision making, Def By Temptation draws equally from seventies Blaxploitation horror films as it does the independent films of the eighties.

The plot about two brothers, one a minister (James Bond III) and one an actor (Kadeem Haridson), battling the succubus known only as Temptation (Cynthia Bond) for their souls provides enough of a framework for James Bond III to hang his elaborate tapestry of images on. Even with an excellent supporting cast (Bill Nunn and Samuel L. Jackson) the real stars of Def By Temptation are the director and the cinematographer.

James Bond III’s collaboration with Ernest Dickerson is all together gorgeous and singular. Aesthetically they have married the American Southern Gothic with the chic of late eighties New York City. Even with some pretty stilted dialogue and two dimensional characters Def By Temptation works. Things like this have been the hallmark of low budget moving making since sound was introduced and takes nothing away from the pervasive mood and atmosphere of the film. If anything it only further grounds Def By Temptation in the traditions of Petey Wheatstraw (1977) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986).

Def By Temptation is ripe for mainstream rediscovery. The Vinegar Syndrome dual format release from a while ago is excellent and doesn’t really need an upgrade. What does need to happen is that more viewers have to see this movie. With the remake of Candyman (2021) and Black filmmakers generally finding more acceptance in the mainstream Def By Temptation feels more relevant than ever as a touchstone of our collective cinematic heritage.