BLOOD FREAK: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Schlock Epic

Some of the best trash classics achieve their glory by piling on more ambitions than any filmmaker could achieve.  Blood Freak embodies this concept: in its quest for exploitation film glory, it mixes together several different genres in this market that don’t go together – the gore shocker, the anti-drug message movie, the monster flick and the religious propaganda piece.  It twists itself into knots trying to cover all that ground… and the fascinating, mentally toxic mutt that emerges from this sleaze-cauldron of celluloid ambition is endlessly fascinating.

Blood Freak starts with the director himself, Brad F. Grinter, chain-smoking as he spews a stream of sub-Criswell prophetic mumbo jumbo and psuedo-science to set up the tale of Herschell (Steve Hawkes).  This big lug is a peaceful biker who helps bible-toting Angel (Heather Hughes) fix a flat tire.  In short order, he is tempted by her hot-to-trot lil’ sis Ann (Dana Cullivan) and conned by an evil dealer into smoking some potent, super-addictive weed. Angel’s dad hires Herschell to work on his turkey farm(!) and a couple of lackeys con him into eating a roast turkey spiked with experimental additives for an ‘experiment.’

That’s a lot of set-up to work through but the payoff is worth it: the combo of super pot and drug-enhanced turkey transform our hero into a gobbling mutant with a huge paper-mache turkey head and a lust for human blood.  What follows combines Herschell Gordon Lewis mannequin-and-animal-gizzards gore with the kind of sledgehammer anti-drug and pro-religious messaging unique to really severe educational films of the ’60s/’70s.  The crowning touch arrives with one last brain-frying lecture from the director that climaxes in a smoking-induced coughing fit.

Watching Blood Freak is an experience that makes you feel like Alice stepping through the looking glass… if your destination was a particularly low-rent regional drive-in movie.  The characters all look like people but they act and speak in ways that no human ever could.  Everyone delivers a stilted performance, especially the terminally rigid yet oddly intense Hawkes: when he tries to emote, you’re afraid he might spontaneously combust. There’s a drug party that looks more like a Tupperware party.    Badly mixed bursts of garage-psych rock and canned horror movie library music kick in at randow, along with some ridiculously threadbare sound effects (each murder victim uses the same identical scream, over and over again).

As it lays odd gesture atop odd gesture, Blood Freak weaves a strange magic over the viewer.  You get all the cheap gore, sleaze and amusing period fashions and decor you were expecting but you get much more as it twists genres into pretzels and shunts them into a cinematic Bizarro World.  The fact that it’s hard to tell if this was all a big put-on or not just adds to the charm.  It’s guaranteed to make you thankful for the wonder of eccentrically bad films and thus is perfect to watch on Thanksgiving, turkey-headed monster man and all.

DVD Info: The old Something Weird DVD of this title is still available, at least through Amazon, and is a must for any respectable schlock home video library.

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