Blood Feast

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"I think there's a more sinister picture here "

March 5th, 2013

If you're a horror fan the name Herschell Gordon Lewis should be common knowledge. The godfather of gore managed to influence the future of the genre with the creation of the splatter movie (of which Blood Feast is considered the first). While his status cannot be disputed and all he has achieved has to be respected I personally struggle to sit through his films.

Blood Feast is regarded as a classic and to say anything otherwise is enough to find you ostracised from cult circles. Even so one viewing of the film was more than enough for me as it had very little to offer aside from nice special effects. But like I have with many other movies that continue to be reaped with praise I return to the film over and over in an attempt to force myself to like what is an average movie.

HGL stories themselves are actually quite good even if a little simplistic. When it comes to horror simplicity is never an issue as at their core they thrive on base emotions. Usually horror/thrillers attempt to frighten, repulse and entertain their viewers; they do not aim to be the pinnacle in cinema art. Blood Feast follows the exploits of Fuad Ramses and his ritual sacrifices (in the name of Egyptian goddess Ishtar) in preparation for a cannibalistic feast.

The films main redeeming factor are the rather remarkable death scenes which still look pretty good despite being produced in 1963 (I'm sure the CGI hounds and younger generations won't really appreciate them). It may come off sounding like an oxymoron but the gore scenes are quite tastefully done (yep even for a splatter film) and stick with you due to how vivid they are (the severed tongue remains my favourite).

Of course they stand out less due to the camera work and more due to the beautiful lighting and the visual splendour of the colours on display (the reds really do pop). The best comparison I could make (which might sound a little off) is the way Hitchcock films stand out (I'm talking about the look in no way does this compare to even Hitchcock's worst output). It amazes me that something shot on such a small budget could look so good. Just as an extra I have seen some rather poor transfers of the movie where the film looks dull and faded.

As we all know the visuals do not a good movie make and that is ever present here. If I had to muster up a guess at how long all the gore scenes run it would be 5mins at the most and in general that's the most enjoyment I got from the entire feature.

The first thing that ruins any potential enjoyment is the rather shabby camerawork. On the most part things are kept static and unmoving with many medium to long range shots. Bland is the name of the game and as we shift back and forth between scenes the exact same setup and shots are presented to us. It's when scenes are shot outdoors for establishing/tracking shots which linger on buildings and scenes far too long. I was left wondering if these were the only shots left over in a rushed production or they were intentionally added to pad the runtime.

Many fans of Blood Feast tend to fixate on how poor the entire production is and tend to derive pleasure from the elements that are generally poor from the sets, make up, camerawork and especially the dialogue. I think the term so bad its good has become so overused that it's just applied to any movie that fails to reach certain competent standard.

The reason why I fail to understand that label for Blood Feast is that fact that it was intestinally shot poorly to reach a "trashy" culture and maximise profits (by keeping the budget as low as possible). For me for something to be funny in the so bad realm it has to have been achieved unintentionally.

That's why I don't enjoy the stilted dialogue that so many fixate on. The dialogue was never meant to be taken seriously ("I'll just have to serve the guests Hamburgers") so while there are a few gems sprinkled throughout the rest of the dialogue is delivered in such a monotonous tone. Not only that but the actual content of speech delivered is rather boring and does little other than once again padding the runtime (The worst offenders are the police force).

Mal Arnold as Fuad Ramses is the only actor who appears to have any sort of interest in the movie (and he stands out with a rather nifty look) and as such my interest peaks when he is on screen everyone else come off as organic props.

And here is where we get to my main gripe with the entire production and the fact that it is amazingly dull. Moving from scene to scene at such a snail's pace I think I spend more time looking at my watch than the actual screen. The idea that time is relative is no better represented than by Blood Feast a film that seems to drag on longer than The Lord of the Rings and clocks in at a brisk 65 minutes.

There is a reason this review is one of my shortest yet and that's because there really is nothing else of note in such a short movie. All in all I enjoyed the 5 minutes of gore on display but have found nothing that has warranted repeat viewings despite actively trying to like it(I know at some point I'll probably sit through this again). Blood Feast earns its place in film history and probably deserves to be seen but I can't guarantee you'll like it let alone love it.

Additional – I decided to review this due to my rediscovery of another movie which is dependent on the existence of this film, Blood Diner

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allison Louise Downe
Starring:William Kerwin
Mal Arnold
Connie Mason