When people discuss innovative filmmakers in the horror genre a few names immediately come to mind: George Romero, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, and Guillermo Del Toro.
But there’s always a very important omission:
The “Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Now, that is not entirely without reason. To put it bluntly, Mr. Lewis’s films are not, how you say, good. In fact, you could say they are cringe-inducingly bad. I’ll put it this way - if Ed Wood were alive today he could make a strong argument that he has been unfairly bestowed the title of Worst Director of All Time.
The films of Herschell Gordon Lewis really are that bad. BUT, he’s still a crucial figure in the history of horror. Despite his ineptitude behind the camera, despite scripts that seem to have been written while in drunken stupors, and despite the hiring of actors so bad they make Sylvester Stallone look like a master thespian, Lewis’s films pushed boundaries. Much like Larry Flynt took the nude photography in his magazine, Hustler, to the “show everything” limits, Herschell Gordon Lewis adopted much the same philosophy for horror movies. He is responsible for what many consider the very first “splatter” movie.
Blood Feast (1963)
Every self-respecting horror fan must view Blood Feast at least once. This is not negotiable. It is a glorious “feast” of bad direction, embarrassing acting, and cringe-worthy dialogue. And it’s AMAZING.
A mother wants to throw her daughter the party to end all parties, so she travels to the local Egyptian caterer (!) to provide the food. Fuad Ramses, the owner and also the psychotic madman who is killing young women to appease the god Ishtar, agrees to deliver an authentic Egyptian feast that hasn’t been prepared in over 5,000 years. Needless to say the party is ruined by bloodshed and mayhem, but luckily for us we get to witness the carnage.
Blood Feast is a “classic” in the sense that it was the first of its kind. Watching it today Blood Feast is laughable; the shocking gore seems quaint by modern standards. But its influence can’t be denied. I’m sure the masters of modern effects: Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, Rick Baker, etc, would all give a tip of the cap to Blood Feast. A viewing today would most likely elicit more laughs than gasps of horror, but if you want to call yourself a true fan of the genre, and you haven’t seen Blood Feast, then you know what you have to do:
Get off your butt. Turn off your Special Edition Blu-Ray of Hostel II, find a copy of Blood Feast, and see where it all started.
You won’t be disappointed.
Still not convinced? Maybe this glowing review from Variety will sway you:
a "totally inept shocker"
"incredibly crude and unprofessional from start to finish"
"an insult to even the most puerile and salacious of audiences"
I think that about says it all. Happy viewing!