I find it very hard to review Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “Blood Feast” as a movie, as it more closely resembles an amateur high school production, albeit one with a copious amount of silly gore. The camera is largely static throughout, showing what little action there is from unattractive, poorly framed angles. The film was reportedly shot in four days, and it shows. There’s not a lot of style OR substance on show here, but I expected that going in.
“Blood Feast” is considered the first “splatter film,” and being a fan of movies with as much grue and onscreen mayhem as possible, it’s shameful that I haven’t seen it until now. In my last review I covered “The Man From Deep River,” which is considered the first cannibal film, so my appetite has been whet for more genre originators, and “Blood Feast” fits the bill.
The film sort of tells the story of a man hoodwinking a group of upper-class socialites into becoming the meat for a feast in honor of an Egyptian god. I feel like there might be some sort of commentary there, but it’s lost underneath the poor production values and what must have been shocking displays of gore back upon its release in 1963. There really was nothing like it at the time. We see tongues ripped out, mutilated bodies, and brains torn from skulls. “Blood Feast” delivers on its promise.
Sadly, it fails to truly entertain. Long stretches of droning, inane dialogue numb the viewer into submission between bouts of fake blood. Overly melodramatic acting only serves to annoy rather than amuse, which should be the goal here, at least for modern viewers. Lewis knew he wasn’t making a good film, but he didn’t need to for “Blood Feast” to leave a lasting legacy.
The film may be nothing more than a curio now, but its impact on the horror genre is undeniable. It paved the way for future cinematic bloodshed and as horror fans we should applaud Lewis for having the balls to make it. Every bloody slash of the machete in “Friday The 13th,” and every deadite dismemberment in “The Evil Dead” only happened because “Blood Feast” was made, and for that, it will always be remembered… even if it’s a laughable piece of shit.