Friday, November 8, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Nothing So Appalling in the Annals of Horror!

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody marks the 50th anniversary of onscreen gore and witnesses the end of Pumpkinhead (for now).


Fifty years ago, independent filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis and his producing partner David F. Friedman were looking at the product the mainstream studios were putting out into the marketplace and finding what they could offer the moviegoing public that the bigwigs weren't providing. By 1963, they had several "nudie cutie" sexploitation movies to their credit, so they had already met demand for bare flesh... then they had a new idea. Horror movies had been around for several decades already, but the violence in them had always been rather tame and/or relatively bloodless. Three years earlier, Norman Bates had started to set the stage for the slasher genre by brutally knifing victims in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and yet as shocking as the film had been, there still hadn't been much in the way of blood and wounds. Lewis and Friedman were going to give the people gore.

They cooked up a simple story about a man named Fuad Ramses, who runs a catering business by day but in his personal time is a devotee of the ancient Egyptian goddess Ishtar, the mother of the veiled darkness. In her heyday, Ishtar's followers would offer up human sacrifices to their deity, sacrificing female virgins to appease her and then feeding on their flesh and blood. 5000 years have passed since then... and Fuad Ramses believe it's time to bring back the old ways.

After convincing a woman looking to have him cater a party for her daughter to let him make an Egyptian feast for the festivities, Ramses sets out to collect the ingredients he'll need to make a traditional feast in the name of Ishtar. He stalks the Miami area, killing nubile girls and hacking off body parts from his victims - a leg from one, the tongue from another, a brain, blood collected from whip wounds, etc.

When all the ingredients are added together and the feast is prepared, Ramses intends his final sacrifice to be the girl the party is being held for, Suzette Fremont, played by Playboy Playmate of the Month June 1963 Connie Mason, who is said to have been paid $175 to be in the film.

Armed with animal parts collected from butcher shops and a blood mixture with the secret ingredient of Kaopectate, Lewis and Friedman brought these grisly deeds to the screen in a bloody, gory, disgusting manner that 1963 audiences were not accustomed to... but were ready to embrace. Despite dire reviews, public outcry, and even bannings, Blood Feast was a hit.

H.G. Lewis earned the nickname "the Godfather of Gore" because of this film, and gore became a strong foundation for the rest of his directing career. Now 84-years-old, Lewis is a beloved figure to the horror community and the legacy of Blood Feast endures whenever you see blood splatter across your movie screen.


Shot back-to-back with the third film in the Pumpkinhead series, Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes, the fourth installment mades its premiere on the SciFi Channel just under four months after part 3 - Ashes to Ashes was a Halloween premiere, while Blood Feud aired just in time for Valentine's Day.

Debuting around the holiday of love was fitting for Blood Feud, because at the center of the story are star-cross'd lovers Jodie Hatfield and Ricky McCoy, a pair of young adults who have fallen in love with each other despite the feud that has been going on between their families for generations.

Writer/director Michael Hurst, who had previous experience writing or directing SciFi premieres like House of the Dead 2 and Mansquito, named the feuding families in his film the Hatfields and McCoys, and yet they're not really supposed to be that famous real life pair. The setting is not the 1800s, the reason for the bad blood between the families is completely different, but this fictional and modernized (about as modern as the backwoods the Pumpkinhead series is set in gets anyway) take on the broods still cause each other a great deal of trouble.

The situation escalates when some Hatfields catch Jodie and Ricky together. While taking Jodie waway, they hurt Ricky badly and accidentally cause the death of his younger sister... So Ricky seeks out the help of "the witch of the woods", the shack-dwelling Haggis, gatekeeper for the demon of vengeance, Pumpkinhead. Ricky summons Pumpkinhead to wipe out the Hatfield family, every one of them except for Jodie.

Risen again, Pumpkinhead sets out to do just that, stalking Hatfields through the woods and killing them in all manners of ways. It's quite enjoyable, despite the fact that, like Ashes to Ashes, Blood Feud was filmed in Romania and the cast features several local actors who have been unconvincingly dubbed with voices doing accents from the American South. It blemishes the film a bit, and the Romanian locations look like a poorly constructed Old West set, but these things don't take away too much from the fun of watching the awesome titular demon wreak bloody havoc.

Lance Henriksen again reprises his role as Ed Harley, who died in the first film but is now an apparition that appears to various characters to warn them about Pumpkinhead. He has more screen time than he did in Ashes to Ashes, and through his interactions with Haggis we also find out more about this old witch who people have to seek out to call on the demon. "We all have our curses."

Having rewatched all of the entries in the series now, I have to say, the Pumpkinhead movies are pretty awesome. I don't own a single one of them, and I really need to fix that. By owning all of them.

Bring on Pumpkinhead 5!

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