The difference between art and pornography inspires open discussion in the silly Chicago-produced goth horror film Cup Of My Blood, but based on the evidence at hand, it really comes down to whether the woman's nipples are showing. If they're on display, it's pornography. If they're obscured behind a thin swath of shadow or a religious icon, it's a profound rendering of the human connection with the divine. Either way, it's hot. Writer-director Lance Catania would clearly like to have it both ways in his explicit sex-and-death flick gussied up by heavy religious overtones, but who is he trying to kid? At bottom, Cup Of My Blood happily marinates in all the elements that have loaded every pseudo-spiritual gorefest since The Exorcist: A reluctant, spiritually vacant hero drafted in the fight between good and evil, decomposing Satanic ghoulies appearing in jarring flash cuts, and all the cleavage and plasma a Fangoria subscriber could ask for.


Plotted within an inch of its life, the film wraps a supernatural mystery around a human mystery, then adds a whodunit with about a dozen shifty suspects. In the three years since his wife's disappearance, former successful commercial photographer Daniel Patrick Sullivan has fallen into a tailspin, applying his talent to an Internet porn outfit run by the nefarious Roger Anderson. After witnessing a car accident, Sullivan rushes to the scene and tries to aid the woman in the passenger seat, who in her dying breath refers to him by name and beckons him to take a box from the back seat. He's ordered to protect the box at all costs and never to look upon it, but those warnings didn't really fly with Pandora, either, so Sullivan opens the box and finds what appears to be the Holy Grail. Soon enough, everyone in his life seems to have ulterior motives for spending time with him, including his longtime agent, the two conspiratorial techies who run the Videodrome-like porn website, and a beautiful stranger (Janina Gavankar) who thaws his libido.

Any thriller with suspects named Nibbles, Sparky, Scooter, and Limpy can only be so scary, and Cup Of My Blood only quickens the pulse when it goes for a cheap jolt. Working under a limited budget, Catania stirs up a thick gothic atmosphere and delivers the goods with a certain amount of proficiency, but when professionalism is the best thing a film has going for it, there isn't much else to discuss. As independent productions go, Cup Of My Blood seems fashioned more as a calling card than an end in itself, beckoning Hollywood types to imagine what a great horror director Catania could be with more resources. Sadly enough, his brand of hokum would fit right in.