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Blood Feast (1963)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Thomas Wood, Connie Mason, Mal Arnold
Not rated, 67 minutes

BLOOD FEAST might not be the first film to feature graphic onscreen gore, but it was the first to use blood and guts as its primary selling point. Filmed in harshly lit 16mm and saturated in a garish early 60's south Florida color palette, the film tells the tale of mad Egyptian caterer Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) who is hacking up ladies in order to assemble a gruesome feast for an obscure goddess named Ishtar. While Fuad slices and dices, Detective Pete Anderson (William Kerwin, billed as Thomas Wood) spends his days romancing June 1963 Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, in between visits to gory crime scenes.

Is there anything objectively "good" about BLOOD FEAST? Not in the normal sense of the word. The acting is uniformly terrible, with cue card reading Connie Mason being the worst offender. Even at his best, Herschell Gordon Lewis could be considered a barely competent filmmaker, and while he manages to successfully capture images on film, he does so in the most uninspired style possible. His single take, one-camera-in-a-room approach (with a few closeups here and there) do little to mask the fast and cheap nature of the production. Despite it's technical incompetence (or perhaps because of it) BLOOD FEAST has a fuzzy and surreal charm. The minimalist horn and kettle drum score, the poorly executed attempts at humor, and most importantly the things-we-found-in-a-butcher-shop-dumpster gore effects all help make the film the seem like an accidental art film. It belongs to a rare breed of cinema that is so awful it transcends any measure of quality and becomes something else altogether, a la MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE or CATHY'S CURSE.

Despite its charms, the film is deathly dull at times, with some of the talkier scenes making the film seem much longer than it actually is. Quite an accomplishment for a film that barely breaks an hour running time. HG Lewis would hit his stride and deliver his most purely entertaining film, the Hillbilly ghost/gore epic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!, the following year.


Psychotica (2010)

Director: Jonathan Wright
Starring: Megan Hutchings, Mike Webster, Aimee Feler, Christian Bako
Not Rated, 79 minutes

After witnessing one of their friends commit a very gory suicide, a group of heroin addicts decide to get clean. They agree to venture out to a secluded house in the country where they will be unable to access any more drugs, but only after making one last score to enjoy opium bliss for the final time. Their sleazy dealer gives them a freebie -- a little baggie of blue heroin that's just hit the streets. What they don't know is this is no ordinary heroin -- it is a government-engineered super smack intended to end the War on Drugs once and for all by causing users to kill themselves. Problem is, it turns them into homicidal maniacs instead. While the junkies are settling down for their last ride on the horse, a murderous doctor with government ties is looking for the group, and killing anyone who happens to be in his way.

It's hard to point to a single element that dooms PSYCHOTICA (aka NOSTRUM). It's a dark and ugly looking movie filled with unsympathetic characters acting out a dumb story. Aside from a visually interesting moment or tow, it's predictable, and worst of all, incredibly dull.

1.5 out of 5.


Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday
Rated R, 100 minutes

 With remakes coming each decade, Stephen King's classic novel CARRIE is moving into folk lore territory. It's not hard to see why; the twisted coming-of-age/revenge tale has universal appeal because we've all known a Carrie White, and we've all witnessed some degree of the high school cruelty she was subjected to.

With the exception of a bloody birthing scene as the prologue, the 2013 remake remains fairly true to the source material, in both the King novel and the 1976 Brian de Palma film. Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, LET ME IN) is a socially awkward and shy girl being raised by her religious fanatic mother (Julianne Moore). After suffering a dehumanizing and humiliating experience in the locker room showers, Carrie earns the sympathies of her gym teacher Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), who comes to Carrie's defense and punishes the girls involved,by demanding they go through a boot camp-style after school detention. Mean girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) refuses and is kicked out of school, while her co-conspirator Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) begins to regret her participation and tries to make amends by convincing her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom.  Through all of this, Carrie has been coming to terms with the telekinetic powers she possesses, powers which have led her mother to believing her daughter is a witch. As the fateful night nears, Chris and her equally unlikable boyfriend, Billy, conspire to set Carrie up for the ultimate prom night humiliation.

Despite being faithful, there are a number of huge problems with this newest incarnation of CARRIE. The first being the star: Chloe Grace Moretz. Woefully miscast as the troubled and emotional scarred teen outcast, Moretz lacks the weirdness and the vulnerability needed to portray Carrie White. In her defense there aren't many who could touch Sissy Spacek's role-defining performance in the 1976 film. Whereas Spacek brought a naivete and all-around oddness that sold the movie, Moretz doesn't have the edge or the fragility needed to be to a convincing Carrie. Julianne Moore and the rest of the cast are fine, but without a strong central performance, none of it amounts to much.

Even worse, the film's legendary climax, in which Carrie launches all-out psychic warfare against the bastards who mocked her, is made laughable by some ridiculous choices by director Kimberly Peirce. In order to avoid spoilers, I won't reveal them here, but I will say that Peirce demonstrates that she is utterly clueless in handling this material. Top it off with some very unfortunate CGI, and you have a finale that's more likely to provoke laughter than thrills.

This version of CARRIE plays more like a business decision than an organic project. While it attempts to update the clothing, the music, and the special effects, it fails completely at imbuing any of it with the feeling and shocks of the original. In the end, like most of the contemporary horror remakes, it's completely pointless.

2 out of 5.