In 1963, Herschell Gordon Lewis unleashed what many consider to be the first splatter movie. Filmed in technicolor and featuring tongue ripping and bathtubs of blood the film was made on a criminally low budget and became notorious for its explicit gore. Fast forward 53 years and we now have German director, Marcel Walz’s ‘torture porn’ re-imagining. Most horror fans would have reasonably presumed the ‘torture porn’ genre well and truly gutted after the Hostel and Saw franchises out-stayed their welcome. Roth’s films were made with love but were generally terrible, and the first Saw film was heralded as something innovative however later instalments became increasingly rotten.
Blood Feast (2016) is the second reimagining of Lewis’ original film, following Kong’s Blood Diner back in the late 1980’s. Where Kong’s film was more of a tribute, Walz’s film is an attempt at an actual remake with a similar premise (diner setting, Egyptian goddess, multiple murders and again, tongue ripping). However, writing partner Philip Lilienschwarz helps him flesh out Lewis’ story and in particular central character, Fuad Ramses, is given more of a narrative including a potential mental health issue.
Ramses (Robert Rusler, Nightmare on Elm Street 2) and his family have relocated from the United States to Paris, where he runs an American style diner in the suburbs with his wife Louise (Caroline Williams, Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2) and their daughter Penny (Sophie Monk, The Hills Run Red), who is also at university. As business is slow, he takes an extra job working at night as a museum security guard. One evening whilst wandering the Egyptian history section he has a vision of the Egyptian goddess Ishtar (Sadie Katz, Wrong Turn 6), who enchants him into a crazed rampage of murder and cannibalism. Ramses kills and tortures indiscriminately with the intention of presenting his victims at a magnificent blood feast in Ishtar’s honour.
Walz’s reimagining was a genuine surprise at this year’s Frightfest. Rusler’s performance anchors the film and he is ably supported by Williams who conveys genuine concern that her husband is descending into madness. The script ranges from the downright terrible to hilarious (it had the best line of any film I saw at the festival), but what really sets it above the usual generic remake is its genuine relish in all things gore. Where Lewis failed to show the actual feast, here Walz presents it in all its cannibalistic glory, replete with balletic score. Blood Feast (2016) is so over the top, that its camp tone actually works in its favour.
Where recent homages and remakes have been earnest and failed as a consequence (The Green Inferno, Texas Chainsaw), Walz’s film basks and succeeds in its sadistic and gruesome cheesiness. It actually has the potential to cross over into the ‘so bad, it’s good’ cult status and it will be interesting to see how the rebooted Saw franchise fares next year if this is the new standard for the ‘torture porn’ genre. However, the film’s greatest achievement will surely be encouraging new viewers to check out Lewis’ original movie, which will be made easier by Arrow Video’s impending release later this year.
In short, this new Blood Feast is one banquet you do not want to miss.