Fuad Ramses owns an exotic catering business in Miami. But it’s really just an elaborate front to his true purpose, which is the eventual resurrection of the ancient Egyptian goddess Ishtar. After a woman comes in requesting a unique and “unusual” banquet for her daughter Suzette’s engagement party, Ramses takes that as a sign that right now is the perfect time to recreate the ancient resurrection ritual. But to do so, he needs human sacrifices so he can use their various parts to create the feast needed for his great goddess. So Ramses goes about on a brutal and bloody killing spree that puts the entire city on high alert. No woman seems safe and the police appear totally baffled as to the motives of the killer. Everyone worries about who the next victim could be, but the one who should be most worried is Suzette. Because Ramses’ plan doesn’t just involve feeding various human appetizers to her unknowing party guests. His ultimate goal is to complete the ancient summons by using her as his final unwitting human sacrifice.
You gotta appreciate a man who loves his work.
Good gracious, this movie is a mess. Blood Feast from 1963, directed by Herschell Gorden Lewis (and not to be confused with the similarly titled film from 1972) holds the distinction of being considered the first official “splatter film” which, if you don’t know, is a sub-genre of horror known for its focus on very graphic depictions on on-screen gore. Herschell Gorden Lewis is widely considered the purveyor of this particular sub-genre, having since been given the nickname the Godfather of Gore (…in the US. The Italians, naturally, have their own). Other films around that time also may have had a strong emphasis on gore, but Gordon helped popularize the genre by having the gore itself be the main attraction, meaning that these are the types of films that spend a ridiculous amount of time painstakingly focusing on every visceral, gruesome, gory, bloody detail that the director thinks they can get away with. So yes, Blood Feast is, quite literally, a mess. But it is also quite figuratively one too, because as you can imagine, with all that focus centered on all the gooey, nasty bits, very little attention gets paid to any other part of the film.
Except when it comes to this book, oddly enough.
But first, the gore! Because that’s what the whole movie is centered around. You’re not even a scant 2-minutes into the film before the very first victim gets stabbed in the eye and has her leg chopped off in the bathtub. That’s how quickly this movie starts throwing the bright red tempera paint at you. Stabbings are plentiful, limbs are hacked off, multiple organs are removed, one poor gal literally loses her mind, and the audience is privy to just about every squishy, shiny icky detail of it. I kinda feel sorry for the crew members that had to clean all this crap up, it’s that much of a damn mess. So much so that I think most of this film’s budget was probably solely dedicated to buying giant buckets full of fake blood and sinew. But as much of it as there is, all the icky, bloody bits on screen still manage to come across as looking horribly fake, almost to the point of absurdity in some cases, especially in the nicer, cleaned-up prints of the film where all of the details are on full display. It’s really, really, cheap is what I’m saying. This might actually be one of the few cases where a film might have been more effective watching a grainier, darker, “I can barely see what’s happening on screen, what is going on?” print of the movie. But oh well. Regardless of that, the film’s purpose is blood and guts and it delivers it in spades (bloody, bloody spades), so even though the effects are rather cheap and hokey, the gore-hounds should still walk away relatively pleased.
But the cheesy gore ends up being the film’s only real selling point, because everything else the film has to offer is essentially a shining example of amateur, exploitative film-making. The acting? Oi. I’m fairly certain that no one here knew what they were doing. I don’t even think any of the “actors” here can even pull off something as simple as laughing with any degree of credibility. Characters show shock by placing their hands comically over their mouths, they cry and wail over other character’s dialogue as if their very lives depended on it, they interrupt one another, forget their lines, flub their lines, staring intently at the camera is treated like a GREAT art-form…you get the idea. It’s just downright awful. If this film was aiming for any level of seriousness I might be annoyed by it, but since everything about this movie is so ridiculously over the top the horrible acting seems to fit right in and it ends up winding back around to being entertaining again. Especially Tony, who stands there and wails hysterically with a bandage over his head for a good solid minute (and they say women are overly emotional) Is it horrible? Yes, but it’s mostly in a cheesy, easy to laugh at sort of way, so it’s not that bad.
Seriously, Tony, dial it back just a tish.
Not that the actors had all that much to work with. The movie was filmed in only 9 days on an approximate budget of 25K and it shows. The script is laughable and chock-full of extremely lamentable dialogue. Any time you’re NOT watching someone get brutally slaughtered, whipped, or having their tongue pulled out, you’re forced to listen to scene after scene of exposition where the characters detail damn near every faucet of the plot, oftentimes more than once. I guess they thought the plot was so clever that it bared repeating. They were wrong. The story here doesn’t even reach levels that could be described as skin deep. The plot is merely an excuse to fill in the time between each bloody murder scene, so the dialogue was crafted accordingly. That’s how you end up with scenes involving a character on the phone where we only hear one side of a (dull) conversation, the mother of the intended final sacrifice immediately settling on hamburgers after she learns that her intended feast is full of human flesh kabobs, and sharpshooter exchanges such as this:
“Well the killer must have thought she was dead. It was a miracle she wasn’t.”
“Well she is now.”
“God, we’re really in this stinker of a movie, aren’t we?”
No, mother, no! Anything but hamburgers!
And none of that is even touching on the number of goofs and oddities the film has on full display. Shadows of crew members and equipment have a tendency to sneak into the frame, the time of day switches in the middle of the same scene, closeups almost always end up blurry, Ramses is either wearing the shoddiest wig the filmmakers could find or they streaked the actor’s hair with copious amounts of flour (or maybe both), the statue of Ishtar is clearly a mannequin that they painted gold and put hooker eye-shadow on… The list goes on and on. Nevermind the film’s numerous factual goofs, like police just leaving their dead suspect to rot where he will and going home without even bothering coordinating off the crime scene. Or the biggest issue of all, that Ishtar is a Mesopotamian Goddess and has absofriggin’nothing to do with Egypt. Which is probably for the best, because if she was she’d probably cursed everyone involved with this production long ago.
Why do I get the feeling that somewhere out there a JCPenny manager is missing their display model and they don’t know why?
Focus? Kinda? Maybe?… Pretty please? For a hamburger?
Blood Feast is just so inept that I kinda want to hate it…. But I can’t. It’s one of those movies that’s so horrid that it transcends itself and (somehow) manages to be good again. Or, if not good, then at least highly entertaining. Just about everything about it is crap, yes, but it’s cheesy fun crap that’s easy to laugh at and make fun of. At the very least, you have to have respect for the gore scenes. Cheesy looking or not, those scenes probably weren’t too easy to pull off in the early 60’s, and it did inspire a whole new genre of horror films, so props should be given where props are due. So if you’re into cheesy horror or history, then Blood Feast is something that deserves to be watched at least once. At only 67-minutes, it’s not that big of a time sink. But if you’re looking for something with more scares or realism, then you’ll want to give this one a wide birth.
Blood Feast is available on a variety of streaming services.
Blood Feast is also available on DVD and Bluray.