"Ganja and Hess" also features a self imposed act of exorcism. Starring Duane Jones as Dr. Hess, the film explains through opening title cards that doctor Hess was studying ancient tribal mysteries when he comes into the possession of a dagger that is "diseased". Hess takes in assistant George (played by director Bill Gunn himself), a mentally unstable man who eventually stabs Hess with the dagger, "wherein he becomes addicted and could not be killed or could not die". It's in these careful framing words that director Gunn sets up the implications for something larger than blood lust. After killing George and stuffing his body in a basement freezer, Ganja, George's wife, returns to the States and takes up residence with Doctor Hess, awaiting the outcome of her husband's "disappearance". She and Hess fall in love, although it's quiet the sadistic relationship. Ganja, played by Marlene Clark, takes pleasure in insulting Hess's butler and promptly throws her weight around the house. Even after finding her late husband's body in the cellar, she marries Hess and establishes quiet a unique marriage.
Like "The Addiction", "Ganja and Hess" is an art film first. A victim of its time (early 70's funk cinema and Times Square exploitation), "Ganja and Hess" feels, looks and sounds cheap.... all things that filmmaker Gunn makes up for in dreamy narrative. Images of the tribe bleed into real life with droning chant-like sounds.... jump cuts establish no rhythm and force us to recognize the interaction between people quickly, and the blood that Hess so craves is often orangish tomato juice. But its the ideas that give "Ganja and Hess" its creative power. Like "The Addiction", this is one way to substitute the universal struggle of addiction into an easily identifiable means of expression. Whether that addiction is substance based or the paralyzing fear of mass destruction and the apocalypse, both Kathleen and Dr. Hess are just inquisitive, educated people inoculated by the dangers of our time. Separated by 22 years, both films create a dazzling double feature that feels almost interchangeable. In "Ganja and Hess", one scene has them lying in bed together when Dr. Hess asks "do you think I'm still psychotic?" Her reply of "everyone has their freaky side, baby...." would fit right at home in the punk rock nihilism milieu of Abel Ferrera's cinema.