ByQuinton Ridley, writer at
i love movies

A game show has taken this movie world by storm. A show about dismemberment for contestants who fail to answer trivia questions correctly. The population is fine with the blood n guts, but turned off by the corrupt and dishonest politics happening behind the curtain. A journalist sets out to expose the show and shut it down. But in the end, violence prevails.

This very low budget independent gore movie from 2009 is made by Herschell Gordon Lewis, the man who started the genre in 1963. The man has been making cheap schlocky exploitation since the 1950s, so he's kind of a master at it. Typically Herschell's films lack in almost every way except a great original concept and the nastiest cartoon violence imaginable. Its usually done with a wink and a smile, but there's always a seedy and sinister undercurrent of Southern Fried sadism, sexism and cynicism. It can be very hard to stomach if you are easily offended, but the films reveal the most twisted side of Lewis' psyche. Whats redeeming about these bloody and seemingly brainless movies is the craftsman that H.G. Lewis is. He's been around so long that he's mastered the basics to capturing an audience that many more successful, more thoughtful directors never learned. These films are personal and auteuristic (and mildy autistic), even if Lewis himself always denies this and claims they are merely commercial entertainments meant to be laughed at. But it goes to prove that the mind of the director is always revealed in their work and how they treat their audience.

The movie starts at breakneck speed, diving right into warped caricatures being ripped apart to the joyous laughs of a mindless audience. And its done in such a lush, sexual way that it becomes thrilling and it really is funny at first. New obnoxious characters are introduced and quickly eviscerated. I love the concept of the first 30 minutes or so of this film but it becomes obvious that it can't maintain this nihilism for a feature's length, so the question becomes "When will it crash?" It comes when the movie starts revealing what its doing. Like a magician revealing its tricks, it starts talking down to the audience and explaining how its manipulating them and how media conglomerates manipulate them with similar images and entertainments. Underneath it all is a very traditional moral play about capitalism, carnies, sex workers, deviants, fans, phonies, wannabes and shady producers. Possibly this is all a vinegar-blooded attack on Lewis' longtime collaborator and producer David F. Friedman who died in 2011. The two famously fell out and Lewis is the type of ghoulish prankster who would air his dirty laundry before his good ex-pal was in the dirt. The villain in this film looks and acts just like Friedman and even has the initials F.F.. It is a personal film, wounded, dark and passively aggressively vengeful.

Its deliberately made to not be technically perfect. Its obviously made by a highly intelligent man for not so intelligent people. He's hooking you with gore and sex and then brainwashing you with his own views and critiques of society. But the politics of it are quite unnerving. Its aimed at sick minds but it might be coming from a sicker one. Lewis has a distaste for most everyone it seems and no one is safe, but he has (and has always had in past films) a worship for the virginal young white woman. There's a racist edge in the way his heroine is given a black male sidekick so she can underline her sexual disapproval of him, as if to say "this is a good girl" because she sticks to "her own kind". She loses her white boyfriend in a gory scene and her black friend becomes interested in her. Rather than date him, she chooses romance with a new white male character who she despises initially. Telling her black suitor, "At least he's the same species". This and the nefarious casting of some Middle Eastern villains kills the momentum of "this is all innocent fun" in the film. Intentionally or not, H.G. Lewis is taking a very KKK stance on the racial co-mingling of younger people. Its very off-putting and makes you view the film in a new way. He was brought up on offensive, outdated ideas about entertainment and never evolved past them. Only warped them with violent sexual fetishization and cold one-sided political reinterpretation.

This is the confessional of a dying bigotted dirty ol' madman. A talented man who felt ostracized and out of sync with the way the world was going. A man who proudly claimed to always be anti-art. But ironically he made art. Dark, depressing, tragic autobiographical Freudian art. But its still art. Because obviously it doesn't work as traditional commercial entertainment at all. Ironically he inspired legions of horror films and franchises from Friday the 13th to Final Destination. This sadly may be the last piece in his career, a career of just as strange, fucked up but revealing "bad movies". This is the last jigsaw piece to reveal the motivations of the man who invented torture porn before the makers of Saw were even born. Crazy old man or not, he has to be remembered as an essential artist in the history of film and one of the horror genre's genuine basket cases. He might never have been a great director, but he proves with this last work that he is The Godfather of Gore for a reason and he is a self-hating, crazed, confused, outdated, guilt-ridden ARTIST.


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