[The Cult Club is where Flixist’s writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pack, as well as their enduring legacy.]
Last November, the Cult Club featured Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Trilogy, a series of films that have been historically bound together not because of any connection between the films, but because they started a revolution in horror cinema. Thanks to 1963’s Blood Feast, 1964’s 2000 Maniacs, and 1965’s Color Me Blood Red, blood is no longer enough. Now it’s all about the gore. In 1972, 9 years after the release of Blood Feast, H. G. Lewis stopped making films. His final film, The Gore Gore Girls, is a fascinating film in its own right, and I recommend that for any fans of gory films.
But as the turn of the century neared, rumors abounded that H. G. Lewis would return to helm a sequel to Blood Feast, and then the rumors became a beautiful, beautiful reality. In 2002, H. G. Lewis released Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat. Because it predates the digital revolution, it was much rarer for a filmmaker to set out with the intention of creating a film that is “so bad it’s good.”
But if anyone’s going to do it, it may as well be a man whose repertoire is made almost exclusively of those kinds of films, don’t you think? Of course you do. The images found below, by the way, are not safe for work. Consider yourself warned.
Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat tells the story of Fuad Ramses III (J.P. Delahoussaye), the grandson of Fuad Ramses I, the killer from Blood Feast. One day, Fuad III finds out that he is now in possession of his grandfather’s old catering building, so he shows up to claim what’s his. Immediately upon arriving, he is interrogated by Detective Michael Myers (Mark McLachlan), whose father was on the police force during the Fuad Ramses murder case way back when. Fuad III, obviously, knows nothing about the exploits of his murderous grandfather, and continues on his way.
Soon he gets his first (and, as far as the film is concerned, only) catering job: a wedding for Tiffani Lampley (Toni Wynne), although all of the preparations are run through her horrible mother (Melissa Morgan). It starts off simple enough, but Fuad III soon finds a statue of the Egyptian goddess Ishtar in a locked room in the back of the building and is brainwashed. It is time for him to complete the sacrificial Blood Feast for Ishtar that his grandfather never could.
But the story’s not important. It’s all about the violence and nudity, the things that made exploitation films what they were. The films in The Blood Trilogy, while certainly violent, lacked any real nudity. There was some almost-nudity at times, but none of them were as explicit as many of his other films were. Blood Feast 2, on the other hand, is very explicit indeed. Although there is no full frontal nudity, anyone expecting to see breasts will not walk away disappointed. They are there, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are horrifyingly still while in motion (implants are really creepy looking) while others are perfectly natural. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.
And speaking of spices, this is a movie about a caterer, so there’s quite a lot of food. Detective Myers’s partner, Sam Loomis (John McConnell), is constantly eating. Almost every shot that he’s in there is some kind of food in his hands or his mouth. It’s a running gag that as he’s finishing one snack/meal, he complains about hunger and asks Myers if he wants to go get something else. Realistically, he’s not fat enough for that to mirror his actual eating habits, but it’s not like he’s Christian Bale in The Machinist or anything. But Fuad III’s dishes are a bit more disturbed than donuts or tacos. Instead, he takes livers, eyes, or whatever else his cookbook (entitled How to Serve Man, of course) tells him he needs. The blood flows primarily from Tiffani’s bridal party, including such characters as Misty Morning and Candy Graham.
It’s possible that this all sounds dumb to you, and I will readily admit that it is a little dumb, but anyone going into a film called Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat with expectations of intelligence really needs to think about their priorities in life. But even though it’s dumb, and there are a lot of jokes that are silly for the sake of being silly, it’s not always so simple. Some of the jokes require at least a little bit of thought, and every once in a while the jokes stop being so juvenile. If you saw the original Blood Feast, there are some wonderful in-jokes for you. My personal favorite, and one that gets me to this day when I just think about it deals with the very nature of Ishtar. Beyond the joke itself (which is pretty awesome), it’s very telling about the state of H. G. Lewis’s films in the early 1960s. I won’t spoil it, but believe me when I say it’s a fantastic moment, and you will know it when you see it.
As a piece of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, Blood Feast 2 finds itself in an interesting position. Unlike Troll 2, Birdemic, or other films of that sort, it is entirely self-aware, as Lewis’s films always were (at least somewhat). Usually this leads to a film that is inherently broken. Making a film that you know is bad in the hopes of striking comedic gold is the easiest way to make a film that is legitimately bad and nothing more. It’s like anything Tommy Wiseau could do now. The House that Drips Blood on Alex had its moments, but it didn’t compare to the beauty of The Room. But Tommy Wiseau is not H. G. Lewis. The only other director I can think of working today who could match his exploitation pedigree would be Roger Corman, and Corman has stayed away for the camera for even longer than Lewis has; he’s just a producer now. So Lewis has a reputation for films that are so bad they’re good, and now he wants to take it to the next level.
If The Gore Gore Girls and Blood Feast and all of his other films were horror with a tinge of comedy, Blood Feast 2 is comedy with a tinge of horror. At every moment it’s looking at the camera and telling you that it knows exactly what’s wrong with it, but it harkens back to a time when people didn’t. When the scenes are shot day-for-night (shot during the day but with a dark blue filter to simulate nighttime) it’s ridiculous because that’s how it used to be. The occasionally awful audio dubbing (e.g. in that first day-for-night shot) serves the same purpose. These are some of the more cerebral jokes, but they’re more about the familiarity and nostalgia. If you know what things used to be like, seeing them used in a modern context is bizarre and wonderful. Yes, technology has made leaps and bounds, but staying firmly in the realm of the unbelievable and basking in it makes Blood Feast 2 unique.
But even if the severed heads and cut bellies are clearly fake, the things inside are a bit more real. Back in the day (I say as though I was alive then), H. G. Lewis would spend excruciatingly long periods of time with closeups (or even extreme close ups) of the gore in a given scene. A killer would remove an organ and then stroke it for ten, fifteen, twenty seconds. They wouldn’t do anything else with it. It was all for the audience, always for the audience. I always felt it was a bit excessive, but who am I to judge? Blood Feast 2 gets the right proportion of time. There’s plenty of intestine pulling and stroking (not a euphemism), but it doesn’t get annoying in the way that it was.
I should note that there are two versions of this film, one which runs about 93 minutes, and the other (director’s cut) version is 99. Having never seen the cut version, I can’t say what the differences are, but I can’t imagine they did anything other than make the film less amazing. Regardless, I expect no matter what version you get, this film is not for anyone with a weak stomach. Long gone is the bright red paint of the original three in The Blood Trilogy. I haven’t seen a liver, but I have no doubt that’s what it looks like. I have no doubt that all of those organs belonged to some kind of animal previously (probably a pig, since that is the animal they popularized 4 decades ago). They look very real, and even if some of the important organs (like the heart and lungs) don’t seem to be anywhere in the meat-caverns that are Fuad III’s victims, doesn’t mean the illusion isn’t effective.
What really makes Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat so brilliant, though, is its complete dedication to its parody. This is again why having H. G. Lewis at the helm makes the film so unique. Exploitation and other intentionally-so-bad-they’re-good films have been on the rise in recent years, but they’re mostly from filmmaking newcomers, frequently people who were born after the golden era of exploitation films (1960s and ’70s, for those of you unaware). Maybe they grew up with drive-ins, but it wasn’t their stuff on screens. They parody those films from a very different mindset. They parody other peoples’ work. H. G. Lewis parodies his own. Admittedly, that could completely and utterly fall apart, but it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.
Also, John Waters plays a pedophile priest. And, really, that should be enough for you.
Next Month… The man in a hat Hubert Vigilla will rock your freaking faces when he looks at David Bowie’s first starring role in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.
PREVIOUSLY SHOWING AT THE CULT CLUB