Wicked Wednesday: Blood Feast (1963)

Last week, I dipped my little toes into Herschell Gordon Lewis’s bucket of blood with Color Me Blood Red. Sure it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it got me curious enough to want more. And where better to start than where the blood all started flowing?

Blood Feast is possibly one of Lewis’s best-known films (The Wizard of Gore probably takes the top spot thanks to Juno). It’s also considered one of the first splatter films, meaning plenty of blood and gore to fill your screens.

Even by today’s standards, Blood Feast has plenty of shocking and graphic moments. The opening scene sees a woman getting attacked while in the bath, her legs hacked off by our killer. This is only three years after Psycho shocked the world with its slaying of Janet Leigh in the shower.

The killer, we later learn, is Fuad Ramses, the owner of a catering company that specialises in “exotic” food. He’s approached one day to cater a birthday party for Suzette Fremont, a young student with a particular interest in Egyptian culture.

Incidentally, Ramses is a loyal follower of the goddess Ishtar. He slays women for their body parts in order to create a blood feast – one that he believes will cause Ishtar to be reincarnated.

The police are stumped by Ramses for the most part. The killer never leaves a single clue behind. Why Ramses is so good at getting away with murder is never really explained. Most of the film doesn’t really convince you that he’s particularly clever or tricky!

It isn’t until one victim is found alive. Despite having most of her face hacked off, she’s able to utter a few words to the detectives including “Itar”.

One detective, incidentally Suzette’s beau, finally puts together that “itar” means Ishtar. Thanks to some sleuthing, the detective is able to link Ramses to the killings. And never fear, our darling blonde Suzette is saved before she can be sacrificed at the birthday buffet.

Okay. It’s a bit heavy-handed. I imagine clever writing and story-telling wasn’t at the forefront of Lewis’s mind when he created this movie. Though I really appreciate that a woman, Allison Louise Downe, gets a screenplay credit for this.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie. The acting is some of the worst I’ve ever seen – it’s more wooden than an Amish table. It kind of trots along at a meandering pace – even at 67 minutes. Many things stop it from reaching “so bad it’s good” levels. But it’s difficult not to appreciate what influence this movie has had on the horror genre. A movie doesn’t need to be “good” by conventional standards to be worth watching.

So I sault you, Herschell Gordon Lewis. You got vibrant red blood to paint our screens with. It’s certainly a step up from that chocolate syrup.

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