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Blood Freak
(a.k.a. Blood Freaks)
(1971)
 

Director: Steve Hawkes, Brad Grinter     
Cast:
Steve Hawkes, Dana Culliven, Randy Grinter Jr.


At long last, I got a hold of a copy of Blood Freak, a movie that I'd heard has many people (the kind who dig a little deeper in the video barrel than usual) considering it a runner-up of Plan Nine From Outer Space in the so-bad-it's-hilarious category. I immediately watched it, and it was well worth the years I had to wait to see it. I agree that it's definitely one of the top of its field, and a must for anyone who likes to laugh uproariously at inept technical skills, horrible acting, and ludicrous storylines. Blood Freak delivers on these in spades.

With a movie like this, it's best to review it as a kind of synopsis, so that you get a good idea of the kind of (hilarious) bad movie it is. So if the description appeals to you, then I'm confident that you'll like Blood Freak. Blood Freak, by the way, is a unique movie - it's part Christian morality play, part Reefer Madness, and part 50s mutated-man-on-the-loose movie! You read that right. The movie starts off with a narrator (co-director Grinter) seated at a desk. He smokes a cigarette, and while puffing away, gives us a short lecture. "We live in a world subject to constant change. Every second....of every minute....of every hour....changes take place. These changes are, perhaps, invisible to...............us, perhaps because our level of awareness is limited. Take, for example, how the things we do and say to the people we meet - all these things affect our lives, influence our destiny. And yet there seems to be some kind of fantastic order to the whole thing. We never know how or when we'll meet...a person who'll be a catalyst, or will lead us to one."

He continues: "What's a catalyst? Well, in this case, a catalyst is a person who'll bring about changes. They can be good - or bad. But there will be changes. You can meet one almost anywhere in your everyday life - a supermarket....a drugstore....anywhere. Even riding down the turnpike. A pretty girl....with a problem. Who could resist? Certainly not Herschell...."

Several things struck me about this sequence: (1) The subject matter and actual writing of the narration sound incredibly close to something Ed Wood would have written for his friend and movie narrator Criswell, and (2) The camera-shy narrator keeps glancing downwards - it almost looks like he is reading from a script on his desk.

The main story starts, and we see main character Herschell (writer and co-director Hawkes), a Vietnam vet driving his motorcycle into Florida, a state that rivals Texas in making really crummy movies. Speaking of crummy, we get our first taste of the camerawork, with shots of Herschell (taken from another vehicle) jiggling wildly, and with sudden zoom shots for no apparent reason. Along the highway, he stops to assist Angel, a young Christian woman whose car has broken down. After helping her, she invites him over to her house, where her sister Ann is having a pot party with all her druggie friends. Angel tells Ann, "You know your body is the temple of the holy spirit - you shouldn't defy it!" When Ann subsequently tries to seduce Herschell, she finds that he's so straight, he won't smoke pot or have illicit sex. Angrily, she tells Herschell, "You're a dumb bastard who doesn't know where it's at!" Seeing Herschell and Angel having fun with reading the bible, Ann then makes plans to get back at her sister, by using Herschell.

We cut back to the narrator, still puffing away at his cigarette. "Do you ever think about this fantastic...(William Shatner pause)...order of things? You know, most people go through life completely oblivious to the obvious things that predictably influence their destiny."

The father of Ann and Angel is so impressed with the kind of man Herschell is, he offers him a job at his poultry farm starting a few days from now. In the meantime, he shacks up with the family, doing odd jobs for them. While working on the pool, Ann in her tight bikini prances up to him, and quickly sits down next to him in an unsubtle fashion. The next thing she does is offer Herschell some pot. Of course, nice boy Herschell refuses. Ann starts mocking him, and calling him a coward. "I'm no coward!" he yells, and grabs the reefer and starts puffing away. The creators of this movie must have gotten their information about marijuana from Reefer Madness, because in less than a minute, our boy starts laughing hysterically and out of control. Ann joins him in his laughter, and within a minute they are in bed together.

The narrator (still smoking) reflects on this change of events by saying, among other things, "Amen!" and "Right on!"

Herschell then races to the poultry farm on his motorbike, late for his first day of work. He enters the grounds wearing sunglasses that make him look remarkably like Elvis. The girls' father introduces Herschell to the farm's two scientists, Lenny and Gene. They explain that besides Herschell doing chores around the farm, they want him to volunteer for some experiments with some doctored turkeys. "We need a human to eat the meat to see if there any side effects....[It's] not dangerous at all - it's a government regulation." While Herschell considers this, later that night he starts getting the sweats, and starts to claw the furniture in a ludicrous manner. He's addicted to marijuana!

Herschell gets his "fix", and the next day he sits down at a picnic table, and one of the scientists gives him a roasting pan with a foil-wrapped whole turkey. "Let me see if I can get you a knife and a fork..." With those tools in his hands, he (apparently) finishes off the whole turkey. Cleaning up, the scientist muses, "Ah, he sure did clean that up..." Elsewhere on the grounds, Herschell gets into a seizure, and starts wiggling on the grounds, at one point wiggling on his ass while the other parts of his body are stuck up into the air.

Later that night, a shadowy figure walks into Ann's room. She awakens...looks up... and sees Herschell. But Herschell is different now - he's now Turkey Man!!!! His body is human, but his head has turned into a paper-mache turkey head!!!! He gobbles - she screams and faints. Frantically, he writes her a long note, for he can no longer talk, just gobble. She wakes up, strangely calm, and reads his note, which explains what happened to him. She starts to babble. "I can't believe you're here like this...Do you think it'll wear off? You're sure ugly!...What if we got married - what about the children?" They ask for help from the Almighty.

Our cigarette-smoking friend returns. "Interesting...(WSP)...how when we come to moments of dispair...(WSP)...when we can't seem to solve our problems any other way, we turn to God."

Then we suddenly cut to see Turkey Man outside at night. (Well, you put your cat out at night, right? Maybe Ann did that action to our friend.) He creeps up on one woman and grabs her. She struggles, but doesn't scream until he has dragged her into the woods and has cut her throat. Yes, Herschell is not only still addicted to marijuana, but now he is addicted to blood! He cups his hands in the flow of blood coming out of her neck, though I'm not sure how Herschell, with a beak like that, could drink the blood from his hands.

Meanwhile, Ann is still trying to get enough drugs for Herschell, not knowing about his second habit. She later shows Herschell to her very understanding friends, and when Herschell is out of the house doing some more unsuspected killing, she and her friends talk about Herschell in the understanding way your grade school teacher talked about the kids who were taught in that special room in the basement of your school. She and her friends shake their heads sadly, feeling so sorry for Herschell.

The remaining footage continues with Herschell's reign of terror on the neighborhood, with more random slaughter. At one point, he uses a buzz saw to chop off one guy's leg, and feast on the blood dripping from the severed leg, while the poor bastard's screams are badly dubbed into his lip movements. Finally, from out of nowhere, someone unexpectedly runs up to Herschell, and chops off his head with a machete. This scene is intercut with (real) footage of a decapitated turkey. Hershell's severed turkey head is placed on a table next to a roasted turkey in a roasting pan, and several hands fly into the frame to rip apart the turkey.

But that's not all! We are then treated to a twist (which I won't reveal) that's both a groaner and a gut buster, and then are treated to several pro-Christian minutes of footage. The smoking narrator returns once more, and says, "There's much to...(WSP)...warn us all. When you take a chance on any drug, you take a chance on any unpredictable reaction." He lectures the audience some more on the evils of drugs, and then gets into an uncontrollable smoker's hack, still coughing away into the fade-out. The end.

This movie's a classic. There's terrible acting - you'll never believe the line. "You dumb bastard" could be uttered without any emotion until you watch this movie! Everybody acts so badly, that even when nothing is happening, you're laughing at both the acting and the dialogue the poor actors must utter. I've mentioned just some of this poor dialogue in this review, and believe me, there's much more I haven't mentioned. What were Hawkes and Grinter thinking? With the pro-Christian elements, one has to wonder if they were really trying to put a positive message in this movie, while trying to make something "commercial". But did they really think a movie with such poor production values could be commercial? That turkey head mask will have viewers screaming with laughter, not simply screaming. How can you take such a creature (who generates countless gobbles on the soundtrack, by the way,) seriously? Those, and other questions are fun to think about in this movie, but the movie itself is much more entertaining. There's no doubt in my mind that anyone who loves unintentionally bad movies will find a lot to savour about Blood Freak. I think I've said enough about this movie, so the only thing left to do is for you to go to your video store and rent a copy.

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See also: Didn't You Hear, 99 And 44.100% Dead, Dr. Caligari

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