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"Blood Sucking Freaks" (1976) - [NSFW]



by Bone Jawnson

This past weekend, I viewed the cult film from the mid-1970s, "Blood Sucking Freaks." Originally, the film was released under the title "The Incredible Torture Show," which was acquired by Troma in 1981 and retitled. At face value, this film is a misogynistic buffet of torture, murder, and bizarre sex acts. When examining it further, it can be seen as the beginning of what is currently known as "meta" currently. After viewing this film, I researched the history of horror theater. Through this process, I learned about Grand Guignol-style theater productions that originated in France in the late 1800s. This article will discuss the correlations between the "Grand Guignol" style and the modern splatter film while analyzing the production of "Blood Sucking Freaks." 

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol opened in Paris in 1897 and specialized in naturalistic horror shows. This type of horror show aims to create an illusion of reality on stage in front of an audience. In general, horror can be described as "the feeling of revulsion that usually follows a frightening sight, sound, or otherwise experience." Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol specialized in realistic murder, torture, and violence. The Grand Guignol audiences attended these early shows to feel some type of real emotion. Horror in this format became real to them. What's fascinating about how these emotions evolved is that some audience members would feel sexual gratification from these shows. An interesting fact about the original Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol theater is that, ironically, it was formally a church. There was an area built below, which I would imagine would have been the altar, where nuns could watch the service. During theatrical productions, this area was used as a place where people could pleasure themselves during the performances. The theater went through many iterations with varying directors and eventually closed in 1962. 

Fast-forwarding through the 1900s, the Grand Guignol style of theater made a significant transition from the stage to the screen. This theatrical style, characterized by its intense and graphic depiction of horror, found its way into the emerging genre of horror films. Over the years, the horror film genre has become a fundamental component of overall film culture, captivating audiences with its ability to evoke fear and suspense. "Blood Sucking Freaks" exemplifies the convergence of the Grand Guignol theatrical style and horror cinema. Directed by Joel M. Reed and released in 1976, this controversial film combines elements of sadism, gore, and black comedy. It depicts the depraved actions of a theater troupe that engages in violent and sadistic acts for the entertainment of their audience. "Blood Sucking Freaks" embodies the shock value and explicit nature that characterize the Grand Guignol style while also embracing the horror genre's ability to provoke a visceral response from viewers. 

In my viewing opinion, "Blood Sucking Freaks" delivers an almost meta approach to the horror genre. It's essentially a production about productions in which the viewer also sees what is happening behind the scenes. What the audience in the film doesn't know is that the Grand Guignol-style splatter and murder effects aren't effects at all.

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