“Transmissions to Earth” Presents:
HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS’ BLOODMANIA (2017)
Review by L.L. Soares
Billed as director Herschell Gordon Lewis’s final film, HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS’ BLOODMANIA (2017) is currently available on Amazon Prime streaming. Needless to say, this isn’t the kind of film that is going to be playing in theaters anytime soon (more proof that the Times Square theaters of old are but a distant memory). Made up of four short films, Mr. Lewis himself is the host who provides introductions to each segment.
I would love to say that BLOODMANIA is a great little gore flick that makes Lewis’s legacy proud, but that’s not really the case. Later in his career (starting with his “comeback” film BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT, 2002), Lewis’ output was been firmly in the “gore comedy” genre. I guess you could say his horror films were always “gore comedies,” but in the 60s and 70s his films mostly played it straight, even if the acting and effects could be pretty awful, and I really miss that. Making the comedy much more obvious and self-aware seemed to lessen his work, at least for me.
While most of the stories in BLOODMANIA are meant to be funny, the movie itself is pretty bad. But it is fun, in a demented way. It just can’t hold a candle to Lewis classics like BLOOD FEAST (1963), 2,000 MANIACS (1964), and THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970)—which are worth seeking out on DVD or Blu-ray because Lewis’s director’s commentary on his movies are hilarious—and a hundred times funnier than this particular movie.
We begin with Lewis himself as our host for the evening. Despite the fact that every time he is onscreen he utters dialogue that is almost complete nonsense, it’s just enjoyable to see him in front of the camera. We then go to the first story, called “Gory Story,” involving a man with a hook for a hand.
When we first see him, Brewster Bricabrac (Roger LeBlanc) is holding a woman hostage in the lobby of a doctor’s office, and someone is recording it on their video camera. He insists that the hook is telling him to do these awful things. The police try to reason with him, but he’s having none of it. He demands a car, and is provided with one. But it doesn’t take long for his hostage to dump him on the street and take off without him.
Our hapless “hero” then goes from bad to worse as more and more awful things happen to him, and he becomes more and more injured and bloody, losing an eye, and eventually getting run over by a steamroller. Meanwhile, a perky reporter, Cindy Weirman (Sarah Troyer) interviews witnesses and family members along the way. I especially liked Ms. Troyer in this one.
This installment was written and directed by Mr. Lewis (Bob Schultz co-wrote it), and while it’s very silly, it’s one of the better stories.
Our next story, “Attack of Conscience,” directed by Melanie Reinboldt and written by James Saito, involves a woman named Julie Cook (Sonia Deleo) who is killed by her boyfriend (Donovan Cerminara) over and over again. At the end, we find out the reason why she keeps coming back for more. It’s okay, but nothing special. I thought Deleo easily gave one of the best acting performances in the film, though, which isn’t that hard, considering the overall level of acting in this movie, but she’s a standout here.
The third story, “The Night Hag,” directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and written by Justin Sane, at least has a (sort of) cool monster in it. It begins with a sitcom-style opening where an old couple (Eric Pettifor and Gayl Veinotte) bicker and are eventually killed by a supernatural creature that lives in the walls of their house. I say “sitcom-style,” because whenever the couple say their lines, canned laughter is heard. After their demise (and the demise of the fake laughter), the Lear Family (mom, dad, and two daughters) move in. They hear noises in the walls, but dismiss them as mice. But there’s a strange “night hag” living in the house with them (she looks like a skinny guy in underwear wearing a fake dog fur coat on his back). The hag eats human hair and eventually starts chomping on Mom’s scalp, until the rest of the family fights back. This one is pretty goofy, but might be the best of the bunch.
The last story, “GORE Geous,” written and directed by Kevin Littlelight, involves a middle-aged agent named Gordo (Stuart Bentley), who represents an all-girl rock band called “Gore-Geous.” They just got new management and have fired Gordo, but he’s their agent for one last night, during which the band is making a music video. Gordo, meanwhile, goes on a killing spree that involves lots of graphic gore effects, culminating in a bloodbath at the location of the video shoot, where he kills off the band members one by one. This is easily the goriest segment, and it’s the only story that has nudity, as the band members walk around topless a lot of the time.
Let’s just say that BLOODMANIA isn’t H.G. Lewis’s best work, but it might bring a smile to your face due to its sheer goofiness. And it’s always nice to see Herschell in front of the camera. He was a showman until the end.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
This has been a “Transmission to Earth.”