Looking at the flicks that paved the way for Halloween and the heyday of slasher movies.
“Blood Feast is like a Walt Whitman poem – it’s no good, but it’s the first of its type”.
– Blood Feast director Hershell Gordon Lewis
Blood Feast is a joy. The world’s first splatter film delivers the goods and manages to have a sense of humour while seeming campy at the same time.
The story goes that HG Lewis and producer David Freidman were looking for something new in the exploitation market. Their previously successful nudies like The Adventures of Lucky Pierre and Boin-n-g couldn’t compete with the more explicit content being featured in the sex films being produced in the mid-60’s. So where could they turn? Horror was the answer. Why not up the gore quotient and see how it plays?
And so Blood Feast, the story of an insane Egyptian caterer who wants to revive his blood goddess through human sacrifice, was born. Former Playboy model Connie Mason stars as Suzette, a student of Egyptology.
She’s dating Pete (William Kerwin), a detective who’s trying to figure out who’s hacking the female populace of Florida to bits. As Suzette’s birthday approaches, her mother arranges a surprise Egyptian feast through the catering services of the insane and devout Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold). Ramp up the blood and put on your goggles.
The plot doesn’t matter. What matters is a series of set pieces that are grisly yet unconvincing. The fact that they’re not exactly state of the art effects make them all the more entertaining. Adding to the enjoyment are some truly terrible performances (you can sometimes see actors reading their lines from awkwardly placed notes), and intentionally funny dialogue. The highlights are many… the deep red gore scenes, Mal Arnold’s over-the-top performance, Connie Mason’s complete lack of acting ability, the wonky soundtrack, the wacko dialogue, the faulty logic of the police department, the shoot-it-and-run filmmaking technique, the continuity errors. But these are all pluses in my book. Blood Feast is 67 minutes of entertainment. Watch it with a group of friends and I guarantee you’ll come up with your own favourite moments and quotes you’ll be boring each other with for weeks. I love Tony’s breakdown scene after his girlfriend has had her brain stolen. I love Trudy’s death speech and the music cue that signals her death; it sounds more like a fart than a death rattle. I love that it takes the cops so long to figure out that the mispronounced E-tar is actually the goddess Ishtar, even though one of them has just heard a lecture about her. I love the name of the book Ramses writes, “Ancient Weird Religious Rites”. I love the newspaper headline that screams: “LEGS CUT OFF”. I love… Well, you get the point. There’s plenty to love in Blood Feast country.
I met HG Lewis at a convention about 20 years ago. I asked him where Connie Mason was at that time, and his reply both surprised and delighted me. He said, “She probably crawled back under the rock she came out from under.” Amazing.
Go see Blood Feast if you haven’t already. Love it or hate it, it’s an absolute must for anyone who calls him/herself a horror fan.