Def by Temptation

(James Bond III, USA, 1990)

BY LAURA KERN | June 19, 2024

Every so often, an actual reputable film materializes from Troma’s output of zero-budget shlock. Despite its nonsensical title, 1990’s Def by Temptation is one such example. While its too-orange blood looks beyond fake, its message is spectacularly real: don’t be an adulterous jackass or a sexy succubus will destroy you. A fixture at a New York City bar where much of the movie is set, a mysterious woman-creature with long gold nail-claws lures sleazy men home for hot sex, before killing them gruesomely. Cynthia Bond was the perfect choice to embody this evil temptress, and it’s a shame that the sometime-TV-actress and best-selling author has made no other film appearances to date. She sizzles on the screen, her perfectly droopy eyes serving as the ultimate vessel for seduction. It didn’t hurt either that she was captured by master DP Ernest Dickerson (a frequent early Spike Lee collaborator), who provides a much more stylized look—beautifully lit and coated in a smoky haze—than is usually found in a Troma production. 

Bond’s she-demon generally targets and draws strength from slimy guys, but for her diabolical master plan, she needs a pure soul—which is where a squeaky-clean minister-in-training from North Carolina comes in. Played by the film’s writer/director/co-producer, James Bond III, Joel is both having doubts about his calling and haunted by a tragic past (notably, Samuel L. Jackson appears as his preacher dad, who was killed in a car crash), so he decides to visit his childhood friend K (Kadeem Hardison), an emerging actor in NYC. Though the succubus had already struck up a flirtation with K, she quickly shifts her sights to Joel, and K sets out to remove him from her grips with the assistance of Dougy (Bill Nunn), a cop who specializes in the supernatural and hits on every chick in the bar—except for the succubus, because “that bitch,” he says, “scares the shit out of me.”

Certain promotional art gave the impression of Def by Temptation being a vampire flick, and there is some Dracula-like lore in there for sure—fangs, missing reflections, and aversions to holy water and crucifixes—but this creature can face the daylight hours. She’s a dreamlike angel who is actually the star of men’s worst nightmares. One of her prey gushes that coming home with her is “too good to be true.” “You’re right, it is,” she replies, before grabbing a knife. This type of satisfying wordplay punctuates the film, which also contains its fair share of gooeyness, most memorably in scenes involving a bloody shower and a Videodrome-like television absorption.

Def by Temptation kicked off something of a Black-led ’90s horror renaissance, with the decade also giving us the likes of The People Under the Stairs (1991), Candyman (1992), and Tales from the Hood (1995). There was also another Troma cheapie, Bugged! (1997), that didn’t fare nearly as well as the joyfully messy Def by Temptation, which sadly stands as a one-hit wonder for Bond. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see Def by Temptation

The film can also be found on various DVD and Blu-ray editions.
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