Monday, December 01, 2008

Blood Freak

One thing about watching terrible movies is that, occasionally, you get to see something so bizarre, so amazing, so absurdly wonderful, that it's nigh impossible to describe. BLOOD FREAK, a no-budget wonder shot in Florida, is exactly that: a Christian anti-drug gore/monster movie that fails at every level, particularly technical.

Put together any list of the Top Ten Crappy Movies Ever, and BLOOD FREAK will undoubtedly be on it. The acting, music, sound, photography, dialogue and special effects are beyond awful, and its combination of Bible-thumping morality and bloody horror make for a fascinating experience. It opens with an on-screen narrator (co-director Brad Grinter, who resembles the greasiest pornographer you can imagine) seated in front of a tacky plywood wall, wearing a sleazy silk shirt and smoking a cigarette. In the best tradition of Ed Wood and Criswell, he spends about a minute spouting nonsense about "catalysts" and introducing us to Herschel (co-director Steve Hawkes), a muscular motorcycle-riding square with huge Elvis hair and sideburns. While riding along the interstate, Herschel picks up pretty Angel (Dana Cullivan), a born-again Christian who takes him back to the swanky pad she shares with her bad-girl sister Ann (Heather Hughes), who's having a pot party. When Herschel turns down Ann's offer of a toke, she calls him a "dumb bastard" and plots revenge by teaming up with a drug dealer named Guy and getting Herschel addicted to marijuana.

Angel and Ann's kind father agrees to let Herschel live with them and gives him a job at his turkey farm (where they sell turkey poop!). While doing chores around the pool, Herschel is seduced by Ann's bikini-clad body and, to prove that "I'm no coward", he takes a hit of her joint. He find that he likes pot--so much so that, a few scenes later, he's suffering from some serious DT's, spazzing and crawling all over the house until Guy can show up with a soothing joint to ease Herschel's grass jones.

Meanwhile, the turkey farm is some sort of front for scientific experiments, and the two doctors in charge ask Herschel if he'd like to earn some extra bread by eating the tainted turkey. He sits down with a knife and fork and polishes off the whole thing, which sends him into more spastic antics before transforming him into a horrifying half-man/half-turkey. Yes, it's true. Herschel still has his body, but he now sports the head of a giant turkey. He can no longer speak, just gobble, and when he shows up in his lover Ann's room, he writes her a note explaining who he is, while her only thoughts are about what their children might look like.

Not only has Herschel transformed into a gobbling turkey monster, but he also thirsts for human blood, which he gets by roaming around the swamps, killing people, turning them upside down, and jamming them in the jugular vein, catching their gushing blood in his hands and cupping it into his mouth. Lots of screaming, gore and, of course, gobbling populate this section of the movie, highlighted by Herschel sawing a dope dealer's leg off to drink the blood pouring out of it. The squeamish have no reason to look away, because how seriously can you take an actor in a plaster turkey head attempting to slurp blood through his beak while inane gobbling sounds dot the soundtrack?

Herschel is eventually redeemed through the power of Christ, and there's a strange mixed-message happy ending, as he ends up with pot-loving Ann, rather than Angel. The highlight is probably the final narration, in which the oily middle-aged sleazebag smokes and pontificates about polluting your body with foreign substances, just before breaking down in an (intentional?) smoker's coughing attack.

Considering that Hawkes and Grinter's previous filmmaking experience was in sex films, including one set in a nudist colony with many middle-aged men and women completely naked, I don't know how sincere they are with their Christian message. Perhaps they thought an anti-marijuana creed would be commercial fare in 1972 (I don't know why), but even if it was, the amount of misinformation about drugs presented in BLOOD FREAK would taint it as For Laughs Only. Even without a killer turkey-man.

Hawkes also played a Tarzan ripoff in several Spanish pictures. Serious burns he suffered on one of them are explained in BLOOD FEAST as wounds suffered by Herschel in Vietnam. Hawkes later ran a wild animal sanctuary in Florida, and made the national news in 2004 when one of his tigers escaped and was killed by police.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, could this be my next Blackenstein?

Wait, NOTHING could be that bad, could it?

I have ALWAYS wanted to see this movie, mostly because of the salacious title. I'm so going to have to check this one out!

Anonymous said...

Turner Classic Movies is scheduled to air this as part of their "Underground" series at 2:00 a.m. Saturday, December 27th.