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[Ed Note: All November-long, FANGORIA has teamed with Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema (136 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg) on their weekly VHS VAULT, a dip into their library of bloody strange genre cinema. This month's "Family Values" kicks off tonight, November 5, in the downstairs cafe and programmer Caryn Coleman preps you below for Herschel Gordon Lewis' classic, BLOOD FEAST.]
Horror cinema has many Godfathers. James Whale, Val Lewton,
Mario Bava, and George A. Romero have all laid down the foundation of what we
collectively consider to be the “horror film.” Mixed in with these founding
forefathers of horror is the varied bunch of “B” geniuses: Edgar G. Ulmer,
Roger Corman, and…Herschell Gordon Lewis. As the crowned “Godfather of Gore”
and the near antithesis to Mr. Lewton, Lewis created the “splatter” subgenre in
his over-the-top movies that would set the wheels in motion for future
generations of American horror filmmakers. On the cusp of its fiftieth anniversary,
Nitehawk Cinema and FANGORIA revisit Lewis’ first filmic foray into horror by
presenting the VHS version of his cheap and charming 1963 flick, BLOOD FEAST.
A wild meld of exploitation, horror, and mystery, Blood
Feast exists outside of the socio-political readings bestowed on much of horror
cinema. Fuad Ramses is an Egyptian caterer living in, of all places, Miami who
is under the spell of the centuries-long dormant goddess of good and evil,
Ishtar (visualized as a Barbara Steele-esque gold statue in his store’s
backroom). After slicing, dicing, and chopping his way through the city, the
female body parts Ramses has brutally collected will be used in an ancient
ritual to revive Ishtar that he plans to enact at a rich and naive woman’s
dinner party. His host wanted something exotic but is hypnotically unaware that
her request for the unusual will involve the sacrifice of her daughter!
Included is the standard genre device of including the opposition force of the
law (even in a situation where the structure of the law is impossible) as
detectives on the case wind up falling victim to their own folly. The story is
as outlandish as its depiction.
BLOOD FEAST is the infamous film you heard of as a kid, the
one that lives in your mind as being infinitely more terrifying than it is
today, given how much nastiness we’ve grown accustomed to. In a contemporary context,
it has evolved from a 1960s shocking representation into a nostalgic
blood-soaked romp into the cult film cannon. With its vibrant depiction of
blood, guts and violence, BLOOD FEAST stands alongside its Italian
contemporarie,s even though its well-known lack of quality seems to set it
apart. It is epically bizarre, features terrible over-acting (you can see
actors reading cue cards), and its camera shots are at once distant, static,
and obvious. Still, BLOOD FEAST is more charming than ever. In fact, if you
imagine it as a late 1930s horror/noir film in black-and-white, you could
picture it as actually being quite good. But trying to make BLOOD FEAST a “good
film” would be missing the point entirely; its bloody audaciousness and its
mere existence are amongst its admirable attributes. Self-aware of its faults
and failures, this is gore in living color.
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