blood feast | herschell gordon lewis | allison louise downe | william kerwin | mal arnold | connie mason | united states | ritual | mythology | religion | lyn bolton | scott h. hall | christy foushee | ashlyn martin | astrid olson | sandra sinclair | gene courtier
Film: Blood Feast
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Writer: Allison Louise Downe
Starring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold and Connie Mason
This film is one that I sought out when working through the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Movies issue. This was the first introduction I had to the godfather of gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. I’ll be honest, I didn’t appreciate this with that first time. My second watch was when I was a bit more versed. For this Traverse through the Threes, I know quite a bit more about Lewis and the history of the exploitation cinema.
Synopsis: An Egyptian caterer kills various women in suburban Miami to use their body parts to revive a dormant goddess while an inept police detective tries to track him down.
We start with a young woman entering her apartment. She goes into the bathroom and gets into the bathtub. We see next to her is a book titled ‘Ancient Weird Religious Rites’. A man then attacks her with a knife. We’ll learn that this is Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold). He stabs her in the eye and then cuts off her leg.
We then see the police captain, Frank (Scott H. Hall), as he talks with Det. Pete Thornton (William Kerwin). We learn that there have been other murders and they still have no idea or clues as to who could be doing this. They’re struggling to find a connection outside of them all being women.
We then see Mrs. Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) enter Fuad Ramses’ Exotic Catering business. She is looking to throw a party for her daughter and wants to do something that will be the talk of the town. He suggests having an Egyptian feast that he will cater. Mrs. Fremont states her daughter is interested in this history and that will be great. She gives him the details.
There is a curfew that has been put into effect but a couple on the beach ignores it. The woman is Marcy (Ashlyn Martin) and she wants to go home. Her boyfriend is Tony (Gene Courtier) and he wants to stay. He thinks that he can protect if needed. Fuad shows up and knocks Tony out. He then kills Marcy, taking her brain. This encounter feels like an encounter that happened with the Zodiac killer. The police get their first lead with Tony. It isn’t much though.
I should also introduce Mrs. Fremont’s daughter Suzette (Connie Mason). She is the one the party is being thrown for. She goes to the world history talk. It is there we see she is seeing Pete. We learn about Ishtar and the Egyptian feast that Fuad is planning. The film uses Mason in a wig and Arnold to reenact how the feast went in ancient times. We learn that virgins were sacrificed to make the meal and that the high priestess was killed as well to raise Ishtar. It seems this is what Fuad has planned. He needs a few more elements before the feast is ready, with Suzette’s party as the climax.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is what I alluded to earlier with Lewis. I’ve seen a few more of his movies. I did hear something interesting that it seemed like he didn’t necessarily enjoy making these. It was more of a way to make money. I’m not going to hold that against him, because he is the ‘godfather of gore’. Rewatching this and seeing things that have come after, he was an inspiration.
I’ll start with those effects. I know this was made on a low budget. I’m not going to harp too much on the effects because they were practical. This was ahead of its time going as violent as it did. Does it look real? No. The blood is too bright and you can see the seams watching this in high definition. I’ll still give credit to trying this. I also have a soft spot for bright blood. The first time I saw it, the effects made me cringe. I will give credit there.
With that set up, let me bring up the story. It is lacking a bit, but I love the introduction to the Egyptian lore. If I had seen this at a younger age, that would have fascinated me. I know a bit about Ishtar and her counterparts in other mythology. It is a cool idea to have Fuad killing these young women, looking to sacrifice them to bring this goddess to life. I’m guessing budgetary reasons is why we don’t get more there. We do get a cool shot to end this with the statue of her in his shrine.
What I don’t love though is the bumbling cops. I’ll be honest though. This seems closer to real police work where they get lucky. It seems that from different true crime shows, it is more of mistakes by the perpetrators is what catches them and less finding the patterns that we see in the movies. I don’t dislike Kerwin or Hall. They seem like amateur actors. It fits in line with what we are getting here.
I’ll then move to the rest of the acting. The best performer is probably Arnold. I should say that everyone overacts. His seems like the least though. There is a problem where he is limping at times and in other places he isn’t. It is what it is there. Mason is attractive. We see her and other women in bikinis or their underwear. That was as far as they went there. No one is great here, but it fits the budget.
The last things then to go into deal with filmmaking. I’d say that the cinematography is fine. They don’t do anything to stand out, but it doesn’t take me out of the movie. What I did enjoy was the soundtrack. They have this song they use throughout when it gets tense of just hitting a drum. It feels in line with the lore that we get as well.
In conclusion, this is one that I’ve come to appreciate more now that I’ve seen it a few times. I still think it is limited by the budget it is working with. The acting fits there. Where they went with early gore was good, especially with what would come later. Other than that, this movie is fine. I’d only recommend it to gore hounds who want to see the history of their exploitation tastes. Don’t come in expecting a masterpiece though.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10