Blood Freak – 1972, Steve Sipek and Brad F. Grinter, USA
Blood Freak is a seriously confused creature. Part pious minded morality play on the folly of living an unchristian life, part smutty ass gore film about drugs, sex and mutants, this thing is a two headed monster hauling ass in opposite directions. Needless to say, it doesn’t make it very far.
THE PLOT~ When Herschel, a lumbering, middle aged lummox cruises into town on his motorcycle, he encounters Angel, a nice, old-fashioned Christian girl, with whom he quickly hits it off. Immediately, Angel abandons Herschel at a drug party where he is skeezed upon by numerous ladies, including Angel’s noticeably more attractive sister Anne. Herschel isn’t into drugs or casual sex, so he turns Anne down when she makes a pass at him, and she does not like that shit, not one damn bit. Not about to let her sister’s new friend reject her hard-partyin’ life style in favor of morality or church, Anne kicks the peer pressure up a notch and soon gets her way. Within days, she’s sleeping with a newly drug-addicted Herschel, who will now never again live a normal life and can barely even function in society. Win?
In the meantime, Hershel also takes a job working at a poultry farm, where he is coerced into acting as a guinea pig by two scientists who are testing out some sort of weird, turkey chemicals. Hershel is apparently a serious push over. Anyway, he eats some genetically modified turkey, and shortly thereafter mutates into a horrible, turkey headed monster who is addicted to drugs and must drink the blood of other drug addicts to survive, as do so many of our young people today. Thus begins Turkey-Hershel’s gore laden rampage across central Florida, which claims many lives and is hilarious. In the end, he wakes up, no longer a monster, and we learn that this whole thing was a horrible dream brought on by the side effects of turkey chemicals and the drugs already in Hershel’s system. Apparently, Hershel was in ‘Nam, and since the war, he has self medicated a fair amount. So…. hastily tacked on anti-war message? Hard to say.
As I stated earlier, the most pronounced peculiarity here is just how divided this movie is at it’s very core. It really is fairly churchy, but it’s the “do as I say, not as I do” style churchiness you might see in outspoken community activists from the deep South, the type of person who attends church every Sunday without fail, but who also owns a lot of bondage gear and has a secret torture chamber in their basement. Blood Freak’s message is simple; “Woe to thee who strays from the righteous path of the lord, for he is our shepherd, and only through him can we know the divine kingdom of heaven, but also if you don’t a damn turkey monster will mutilate you and drink your blood, so now let’s watch some people smoke crack and fuck.” It’s a mixed message, for sure.
One also get the impression that this movie really wanted to present itself as some sort of shocking expose into the wild world America’s drug savvy youth culture, which was just tearing it up in the early 1970’s, but on this front Blood Freak is a clear failure, because it doesn’t look like they were able to get anyone under the age of 40 to even be in the movie. I guess Anne and Angel looked like they could be in their late twenties, but everyone else is firmly plopped into middle age. Herschel especially looks like he must have been cast in a pinch, this man is just old as hell. If someone had handed me a copy of the Blood Freak script in 1971, I imagine the only reason I would have not to throw it in the garbage was out of concern that it may end up being evidence in a murder trial in the very near future, but if I had read it and somehow managed to ignore how insane it was, I feel like I would have envisioned the lead role to be played by more of a James Dean type guy. Herschel looks more like a background extra who bumbled off the set of Hee Haw and into our movie. To make matters worse, Herschel is the worst biker name I have ever heard.
Fun fact; there is like, ONE sound effect for a woman’s scream in this entire movie; they use it over and over again, and it’s super, super recognizable. In one sequence, a woman screams like, thirty times, and it’s the same sound effect, used over and over again. It’s insane. Then in the next scene, a completely different woman screams a couple dozen times, and it’s that same effect again. Damn, Blood Freak. You crazy.
This is a clumsy production, make no bones about it. Blood Freak is marred by many nagging technical shortcomings, it’s full of actors who aren’t very good, and bogged down with outdated tropes that betray the film’s attempt at delivering a more visceral, Euro-style horror gore fest, but as I mentioned before, the greatest folly of Blood Freak is how maddeningly confused it is in it’s very bones. It really seems to think that it’s preaching from the side of spiritual piety, like it’s somehow going to please a super-devout Christian audience, and yet the vin diagram overlap for “goes to church” and “would watch Blood Freak” has gotta be just the teensiest sliver you could ever imagine. This renders Blood Freak more or less unwatchable to it’s target demographic, and that’s a pretty serious problem. For non-churchy audiences, it’s not at all a deal-breaker, but it makes it a lot harder to take Blood Freak seriously, and honestly, a movie about a turkey headed oaf who drinks junkie blood didn’t need another reason for you to not take it seriously. Today, surprisingly, this is why we remember Blood Freak, this mortal wound is now the film’s single most important redeeming quality. After all, in the realm of psychotronic cinema, “insane,” and “great” are synonymous, and Blood Freak is totally bonkers.
For the right audience, this movie is a good time waiting to happen, but it’s a little further down the path than say, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, or Dead Alive. Blood Freak might suck a little too hard for you if you’re not pretty well acclimated to this sort of celluloid nonsense, so you really just need to take a hard look at yourself before you decide if this is a movie you need to see. If, after some reflection, you decide that this is just a little too rich for your blood, don’t fret, they’ll probably remake it sooner or later.