Weird, Grisly Ancient Rite Horrendously Brought To Life In Blood
I seem to be on a roll finding so-bad-it's-good gore fests recently,
and Blood Feast is another example. Which shouldn't be surprising,
since this is and early effort from Herschell Gordon Lewis. Fuad
Ramses, an Egyptian caterer, is collecting ingredients to make
canapes for Ishtar. This being an early '60s gore fest, the ingredients
are body parts from young, beautiful women. Which I found mildly
surprising, because you'd think their industrial strength lift-and-separate
undergarments (which you see rather a lot of) would act as body
Blood Feast (not to be confused with the similarly-named,
and also wonderfully terrible, Blood
Freak) starts off with a bang. We get immediately to the
carving up of disrobed lovelies, but the whole thing is so terribly
unconvincing, badly acted, and uses such crappy effects that right
from the start you are screaming - with laughter.
That being said, the visual style of the film is actually weirdly
sophisticated. Silly gore effects aside (and who knows what was
convincing in '64), the film actually looks pretty good, and the
use of color in the costuming and the sets is really terrific
in a very stylized, abstract sort of way. The overall effect is
kind of alarming, actually.
Just to take the pre-title-sequence murder (which can't possibly
count as a spoiler), you start with a blonde getting it in the
bathtub. As soon as she settles in, the killer (whose face you
see right off) stabs her in the eye, the gore for which comprises
a shot of the knife sticking through what appears to be tripe
followed by a shot of the actress lying very carefully so the
red paint and gibblets dribbled into her eye socket don't fall
out and spoil the effect. The killer then sets to hacking off
her leg - a remarkably gore-free activity, there isn't a drop
of blood on his machete. Finally, we get a lingering close-up
of the severed leg-stump. Amazingly, the only blood is smeared
on the leg around the wound, a bit on the side of the tub, and
none whatsoever in the water or marring the nice white foam from
the girl's bubble bath. It's so bad, it's surreal.
However, it's also gorgeous. The blonde is all platinum hair,
white skin and red lips set against a blue dress or bath tiles,
and the entire sequence is a sort of beautiful fantasy in robin's
egg blue, white and red. There was one costume (orange suit, lemon
yellow fur stole and a gigantic tangerine flowered hat) that made
me think I was watching John Waters on acid (in a good way). Suspiria
is the only thing I've seen that uses color in this kind of crazy
way (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is the
only other thing that even came to mind, and it didn't come out
ahead in the comparison). The colors are so specific and controlled,
and the visual sensibility so strong, you wonder how Lewis can't
see how terrible the acting is, or how high-school-play bad the
killer's "old man" makeup is. The juxtaposition with
absolutely incompetent plotting, scripting and acting is really
Anyhow, the gore is plentiful if primitive, and there are some
entertaining shots of the killer playing with what appear to be
chicken innards. (Is it just too ghoulish to think of buckets
full of brains and guts as "cheap and cheerful"? Well,
that's what they are.) Some butcher made a bundle on this. In
Fuad's evil chamber of horrors, there is what is obviously the
better part of a side of beef on top of a cabinet. (And nevermind
that they are 4x too big to be human: what are they doing up there?)
Then there are the cops. Apparently, cops in Miami work by sitting
around at the only desk in the "station" saying to each
other "So what do you make of these murders anyway, Frank?"
("Well, I guess it's just a sick, psychopathic killer, Pete.")
Occasionally they even wander out and ask random non-cops "What
do you make of these murders, anyway?"
Also, I learned some things I didn't know about ancient Egypt:
1. Ishtar is apparently an Egyptian goddess.
2. The ancient Egyptians got their goddesses from the used mannekin
bin at Kleinman's department store.
3. The ancient Egyptians had tan lines.
4. If you've got a real "Egyptian culture bug", you
can learn all about it thru 5 minute long lectures by noted local
... um lecturers.
5. Otherwise, "Ancient Weird Religious Rites" is authoritative,
and, even though it was self published by a guy in food services,
the author is immediately familiar to all local um lecturers on
6. Don't eat ethnic food. You never know what's in it!
I see HGL made a sequel (Blood
Feast 2: All U Can Eat) in 2002, which I am totally going
to get. I see that John Waters has a part in it, which I guess
brings this review full circle.
1 out of 10 for actual quality, 5 out of 10 for visual interest,
7 out of 10 for hilarity, and 7 out of 10 for gleeful gore. That
works out to a 5/10 on average, but that's really understating
the pleasures of this film.