Blood Feast (1963)

If anything can be considered admirable about Herschell Gordon Lewis’ pioneering gorefest, it’s probably the tagline—”Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!” may well be the most accurate film poster blurb in history—and the speed with which it gets going with its repulsive business; only slightly over a minute and a half into proceedings, and Fuad Ramses has already claimed his first victim (and requisite body part). But really, Blood Feast is a film you can probably only “admire” on an extremely ironic level; it’s hard to entirely deny the justness of the contemporary review attacking the film’s crudity and lack of professional finish. The camerawork is shoddy, the sound is poor, the acting… well, it just isn’t, is it. And Mal Arnold’s “old man” hair is a wonder unto itself. And yet it’s kind of marvellous, cos the film doesn’t give a shit about its own badness; it’s got other things on its tiny mind. Subtlety? Historical veracity? Discernible talent? Never mind such considerations; this film is all about its astonishing quantity of blood-letting. When you look back at older films that were notorious in their day for being violent and what not, they tend to look tame by later standards. The remarkable thing about Blood Feast is that, somehow, it avoids this. Not only is its total lack of restraint hilarious, it’s actually kind of breathtaking; Lewis seems to have decided that if he was going to make violence and blood the main attraction of the film, there was no point just offering a hint of it when he could go way over the top instead. And he attacks his subject with a sort of perverse gusto that somehow makes the cynicism underlying the exercise (for rank cynicism was Herschell’s hallmark) kind of bearable, nearly forgivable. Shabby as all hell, really, but as historically influential cinematic atrocities go I’d much rather watch this again than Friday the 13th

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