Blood Feast is probably the ultimate exploitation movie; it’s cheap, horrifically
acted, poorly shot, badly written and brilliant in every possible way. On the
surface, it’s pure trash cinema in its finest form. However, the film made an
enormous impact and is probably one of the most important and influential in
the genre. Blood Feast was one of the first films that was totally unapologetic
in its depiction of bloodshed, and its impact on cinema is still being felt
today.

Shot over four days in a seedy motel in North Miami, the film centers on a mentally unhinged
Egyptian caterer with massive eyebrows who brutally dismembers women and steals various body
parts to use as ingredients for an ancient Egyptian sacrifice. Stalking his victims, he
pulls out tongues, slices off limbs, cuts out brains and rips out guts
manically and in an almost cartoonish way. It took the slapstick violence of
Punch and Judy to a whole new level and may just be the perfect film to show at
children’s birthday parties.

The film is essentially a prototype slasher movie – every convention we see in the modern horror
film is established in the first five minutes of Blood Feast – an attractive blonde,
alone in her apartment, listening to a radio broadcast detailing another
gruesome murder in the area before getting naked and then getting stabbed in
the eye and mutilated in a bathtub. It’s a formula countless horror fans have
seen before, and Blood Feast invented it.

The film pays little attention to its story, and so do the people who watch it.
Blood Feast is one of those films where you get what you pay for –graphic
violence, and the film delivers over and over again. Before Blood Feast,
explicit violence in cinema usually had some kind of justification, but Blood
Feast was one of the first to genuinely exploit violence; the lingering shots
and cut away close-ups of severed limbs and brains falling out of skulls are
almost pornographic. There was only one reason to see Blood Feast, and that was
for the gore.

The ripple that Blood Feast made in cinema is still affecting the way we make and
watch movies; this year, Final Destination 5 made nearly $168 million, a film
that, like Blood Feast, uses the spectacle of violence as its main selling
point. The only reason we watch the Final Destination movies is to see its
characters die in intricate and creative ways. Films like Final Destination,
Saw, Hostel etc would never have been made if Blood Feast hadn’t shown us how
much fun it is watching people get dismembered.

Regardless of the films important impact, the cheap, sleazy quality of Blood Feast makes
it a bizarre mesh of exploitation, horror and unintentional comedy. On being
told that the feast she is about to serve her guests is actually the mutilated
body parts of young women, Mrs Freemont unemotionally says“”oh
dear, the guests will have to eat hamburgers for dinner now.” Whatever kind of
film it is, it’s not a serious one.

Whether he realised he was doing it or not,
Hershel Gordon Lewis helped bridge the gap between classic and
contemporary horror in American cinema, taking the traditions of the genre and
adding colour, sex and explicit violence. The influence of the film can be seen
in countless other horror movies, from Night of the Living Dead and Halloween
to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While Blood Feast may not have been perfect, it
provided the blue print for the future of the horror film.

Review by James Alexander

 

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