It is a rare and holy (Easter) occasion to offer a sneak bloody review into a movie such as Blood Feast. Hershell Gordon Lewis opens up with this movies the floodgates for that viscous and vicious materiality for the entire world to see: gore movies.
This is a one-of-a-kind movie, a trite, to the wound-, point blank shot cinema. It looks like a movie done in 2000 about the 60s. No wait a minute! It looks completely different from the 60s we imagine we know. The usual bonbon pink and pastel sheen colour and plastic fantastic appliances are ore a bright, hallucinatory canvas on which to splash guts, mutilate beautiful bodies, a perfect homey set up to chop tongues and legs off without much ado.
Hershell Gordon Lewis produced an open gash that oozes viscera even now. Blood has been never so glistening, so frenetically left to trickle and poodle in beds, beaches and tables. Blood Feast presents as with a dilemma – maybe all we knew about the Mad Man era, the placid cocktail parties and melodramatic Elvis vehicles need to be reappraised.
This is a movie from a time of early surf movie and surf culture, a time of utter conformity, outside of the strident and vocal Beatnik culture. A pre- psychedelia era that was closer to gogo movies and exploitation mondo – genres. It is a world as seen trough shockumentaries that where preparing the seedy beginnings of the countercultural midnight movie circuit.
The plot seems curious in retrospect. An ancient Egyptian in nondescript Miami? Young girls liked ritually in the name of Ishtar Goodess of Blood(they meant Isis)? Policeman and hapless babes attending Egyptology lectures? A book called “Ancient Weird Religious Rites”? Suburbia middle class digging for an authentic 5000 year Egyptian feasts not seen since the pharaohs? I think it is no mere accident or cultural fad that the first gore movie in history was based on a gory fascination with ancient Egypt’s – a Western tradition that goes back to at least the Mummy’s Curse. These demonstrations of colonial hybris and elaborate dark fantasies connected with the rediscovery of ancient Egypt have been explored by Roger Luckhurst.
The 1900 moment has been rich in weird literature developing the neo-Egyptian cursed lore and its sinister occult flavors. Algernon Blackwood Sand story from 1912 tells about the pull of the desert, of the hidden, ancient lure that assimilates everything in its wake since ancient time. Blackwood speaks about the vast Saharan hinterland, the true inheritor of civilization, calling out for lost travellers and hypnotized tourists.
Fuad Ramses – the evil priest of the cult of Isis/Ishtar is definitely a completely camp killer with fake brows and some incredible pauses and accents full of innuendo’s. His shrine looks like a showroom dummy design studio. Indeed, what strikes one as the ‘horror’ is not the anatomical butchery of sexy bodies but the incredible clean and shiny surrounding of Miami suburbia. Worn-out, ‘gothic’ or Victorian manors are completely devoid of any tremors and real monster – while the vacuumed interiors, kitchens and living rooms of American modern living are infinitely more fertile in uncanny horrors. Caverns, channels and sewers are still horrific places but there is more to the visible in your face daylight horrors that we care to admit.
They all ooze the same pastel domestic violence – the places where nothing evil is suppose to happen, where all foreigners are supposed to be exotic shop spice vendors or catering agents. It is a place that the Egyptian founders of Islamic Brotherhood found unbearable and terrible and frighteningly corrosive, empty and soulless and for a reason.
Blood Feast is a unique movie in the sense that it doesn’t feature a homicidal maniac or serial killer – it allows for some obscure (if occult) purpose for his acts. It introduces in a scurrilous way (admittedly) a larger, higher sacrificial intent meant to appease a Goddess or revive an ancient cult that is completely at odds it seems with the largely hedonist society. It is a society that praises sucess and appearance (the talk of the town) above anything else. It wants “authenticity” with any prize. As much as it is dressed in new polyester fabrics and synthetic hues, it craves for authentic dishes and experiences.
Pharaoh feasts and biblical remonstrate against gluttony: the 20th century consumer society as ripe – ready for ritual slaughter, with its well-off members that have been engorging in all manners of excesses. Brutality comes invited, it is welcome inside these bland interiors like respite, a break away from the dulness of contemporary living.
There is something in Gordon Hershell’s early masterpiece that anticipates the viciousness of Blue Velvet and the clinical interiors of Rabid and The Brood. At the same time there is something totally jarring and cacophonous in the lawn murder scene – one of the greatest slasher scenes ever. Starting from minute 44:10 we have this incredible dream suburb, with parking lot and lanes with palm trees and a Cadillac. There is literally no place to hide, no bushes, no narrow NY alleys and also no person in sight. It is a crime-less spotless place, the most safe environment ever – so the sudden attack appears as unexpected as it is impossible. It lacks the whole mental and architectural infrastructure of delinquency and maniacal stalking – it offers no place or reason to strike, and yet there it happens, during the most innocent of walks, in broad daylight with nobody to intervene. What it has to offer is plenty of blood aesthetics – an atrocity exhibition inside the modern IKEA catalogue.
The end is also glorious – it truly end in the garbage disposal machine (like Rabid if I remember well). It basically and brutally disposes with the fears as with consumer goods – it trashes them to kingdom come.