Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat Review
Herschell Gordon Lewis has been described as one of the worst directors in the history of filmmaking. This isn’t an unfair assessment, as anyone who has seen one of his films will appreciate, but it’s only just to point out that his films are frequently more fun than those of more competent directors. An intelligent man who is happy to acknowledge his own shortcomings, Lewis makes movies which make up in entertainment value for what they lack in technique, production values, acting skill, decent scriptwriting and special effects. It’s a particular delight therefore to hail Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat as the most shamefully enjoyable film I’ve seen this year. It’s not good, in fact it’s appalling, but it’s appalling in a way which fans of The Gore-Gore Girls, Color Me Blood Red and the original Blood Feast will immediately recognise as bearing the Lewis hallmark.
The first sign of Blood Feast 2 being a treasurable experience is that it has, for want of a better word, a plot. Lewis is incapable of telling a story in a manner which makes sense on any rational level and the more he tries to keep things moving, the more the story falls apart. You may remember that the original film concerns the efforts of crazy caterer Fuad Ramses to create an ‘Egyptian Feast’, a meal which is made up of various parts of the bodies of nubile young ladies. If this sounds too disgusting to contemplate then I suggest you stop reading now because it’s not going to get any better. The sequel basically reprises this storyline as one of Ramses's descendents attempts to revive his uncle’s catering business by catering for the appalling Mrs Lampley’s society wedding. Needless to say, it’s not long before he falls under the influence of the goddess Ishtar and is kidnapping young girls to use as ingredients. Two idiotic cops are hot, or rather lukewarm, on the trail but can they possibly stop Ramses before he completes his masterpiece and presents the wedding party with a feast they will never forget ?
The main thing which distinguished Herschel Gordon’s films right from the start of his filmmaking career was his willingness to go further than anyone else in terms of the explicit gore shown on screen. Indeed, if he has any real historical importance in cinematic terms, it’s as the man who made the first steps on the 1960s road which ultimately led to Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch. The gore in his films would, in any other context, be unbearably sadistic but there is something childishly innocent about Lewis’s use of blood and guts and it the more horrible it gets the more amusing it becomes. The special effects in Blood Feast 2, created by Joe Castro, are notable for being considerably better than the ones in earlier Lewis gore extravaganzas, where most of the gore was cooked up on the cheap – the famous example being the scene in The Gore-Gore Girls where a girls nipples bleed chocolate milk after being cut off with scissors. The effects in this latest opus vary from the functional – the results from a girl’s hand being put into a mincer – to the exceptionally good – a scalping which turns into the removal of the whole face. From the opening death of two tramps, one of whom removes his own intestines, to the hilariously over the top orgy of violence at the wedding which climaxes the film, fans of gore will be in hog heaven. It’s also nice to see a film in which all the gore effects have been created physically without recourse to CGI.
More astonishingly, the screenplay for Blood Feast 2 is sometimes - intentionally -- very funny indeed. Ramses correcting a cop for his word usage – “How can someone turn up missing ? If they turn up then they’re not missing” – is a nice moment and every time the two dumb cops turn up, the linguistic results are a delight. Admittedly, in terms of exposition, it’s plodding, stretching out a nothing plot to 95 minutes and Lewis doesn’t help this by pouncing on every plot point and pounding it into the ground. Nor do the scenes with the female friends of the bride exactly ring with verisimilitude. However, you’re not likely to care too much once you realise that the only purpose of these characters is to allow for a display of breasts during preparations for a dubious lingerie shower to which the bride will be treated.
As with most of Lewis’s work, the position of women is pre-feminist to the point of being antediluvian. A revealing joke is contained herein – “What is the word for a type of woman which ends –unt ?” (the answer is Aunt). The main female character, Mrs Lampley, is a bitch with pursed lips and the kind of face which resembles a wasp chewing a bulldog and the rest of the women have no purpose to serve except for their role as screaming victims. As Ramses says, “I don’t want you to serve appetisers, I want you to be appetisers”. Take this remotely seriously and the film would be incredibly offensive. But why on earth would you want to take seriously a film in which a bit-part female victim explains that she’s “Half Cherokee and half Flemish” ? It’s also fair to point out that the men don’t come out of this very well either, being either thick as pigshit or completely psychotic. I particularly relished a scene in which one of the cops questions Ramses about a missing girl, while messily chomping on her mashed-up fingers.
In the pivotal role of Ramses, J.P.de la Houssaye is rather amusing with the ability to deliver some awful lines without looking embarrassed. He also wields a carving knife with considerable elan, as he strides into his killing room and greets his victim with the phrase “Ahhhh, the pate !”. The other actors do what’s required of them, some more engagingly than others, but this couldn’t be described as the kind of film which relies on great performances. That might suggest that it’s a directors film and, in a way, it is. Lewis has fun with his standard one-take style, moving the camera as little as possible and lingering whatever exploitative elements might be present in a given scene – generally either a pair of tits or some bloody mutilation. During chapter 4, breast fanatics will note the most gratuitous close-up of a well upholstered pair of knockers that I’ve ever seen outside a porn movie. A minute later, the same woman’s brains are pulled out of her ear in an even more extreme close-up. In his early movies, Lewis tended to shoot only masters and his development as a director can be charted by the amount of inserts in his films. Blood Feast 2 is nearly competent but don’t worry, the characteristic lack of attention to pacing and the inability to direct dialogue-driven scenes is still present. The film is visually undistinguished, not that you’d call that a surprise. It’s lit without much attention to atmosphere, although the opening scene has a nicely imaginative use of the red mist emitted by the goddess. Even more typically of Lewis, the low-budget use of real locations produces such pleasures as a police station placed in a semi-detached suburban house with a sign saying “police station” posted on the front.
But let’s face it. If you’re going to watch Blood Feast 2 then you know exactly what you want and, all-too obvious overlength apart, you’re going to get it. My colleague Dave Foster described this to me as a porn movie in which the regular bouts of sex are replaced by gore scenes every ten minutes, and he’s right on the money. What is surprising is how engagingly funny the film is. The quirky sense of humour which Lewis displays on the commentaries to his films which have been featured on the Something Weird releases, comes through here in W.Boyd Ford’s script. Sleaze fans will revel in the casting of long-time Lewis fan John Waters, as a clergyman who at one time tells a group of pre-pubescent boys that if they don’t want to go to hell then they should “always hang around priests”.
Lewis is a director completely without pretensions and his willingness to throw away the story and stage a lingerie shower as a kind of wet-dream rock video is in the very best exploitation tradition. And, frankly, if the last twenty minutes doesn’t raise at least a smile, then you’re probably clinically dead.
Blood Feast 2 has been released by Shriek Show as a ‘Special Edition’. To be honest, I’m not at all sure that it’s all that special since the second disc consists of some brief featurettes and not much else. Nor, regrettably, is there an audio commentary from Lewis, one of the best commentators in the business.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 and in not anamorphically enhanced, despite what it says on the Media-Blasters website. The transfer isn’t very good at all, sadly. Although it’s reasonably clear and free of grain, it’s murky and makes the film look as if it was shot on video. Lewis has maintained that it was made in 35MM and that he is disappointed that the film went straight to video when he intended it for theatrical distribution.
The audio track is functional enough for the purpose. It’s straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. However, the music sounds awful throughout – a fault of the transfer I think and not just because the soundtrack music by Southern Culture on the Skids is pretty terrible in the first place.
The first disc contains the film and an affectionate photo gallery which is devoted to pictures of Lewis, his veteran producer David Friedman and some of the gory highlights.
The second disc kicks off with a 4 minute featurette called “On The Set With Herschell Gordon Lewis”. This begins with the great man telling us “I always thought making movies was like having malaria – you never quite get rid of it” and proceeds with some thoughtful observations on the nature of his ‘art’. His presence on the set is as likeable as you’d expect and is an interesting insight into the process of very low budget filmmaking. It’s fullscreen and very poorly filmed on video and sometimes nearly inaudible but the content is fascinating. “Behind The Scenes” is a little more substantial, running just over 12 minutes. It’s slightly better filmed, but not much, and is full of amusing moments. I wish it were longer but the affection for Lewis and Lewis’s own love for making films is evident throughout. The direction of the featurette is a little irksome, with silly camera angles and meaningless zooms thrown in for supposedly comic effect. Given the amount of blood and guts in the film, you might expect “Behind the Gore” to be quite lengthy. Sadly, at just under five minutes, it’s a very short and unenlightening examination of how some of the gore effects were created. The comparisons with the finished product are interesting but this could have been a killer feature with a bit more content. The deleted scenes are actually just alternate or slightly extended takes and not especially interesting. They are similar in picture quality to the film and are presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. In total, these last just over 10 minutes.
There is an ‘easter egg’ on the disc. Go to “Behind the Scenes” and press left to highlight the tooth. This will take you to a montage of the nude scenes in the film which is set to a dire rock song called “Your bottom’s at the top of my list”. Given the completely un-erotic nature of Lewis’s filming style, I’m not sure what purpose this serves but I’m sure there is an audience for it. According to the back cover, an original trailer is also present but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
There are 12 chapter stops and no subtitles or alternate language tracks.
Blood Feast 2 is 98 minutes of sheer trash movie pleasure which will be relished by anyone with a sense of humour and a strong constitution. The DVD is something of a wasted opportunity and the relatively poor transfer and the brief special features both leave something to be desired.