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"Blood Feast" (1963) -


Mal Arnold as killer Fuad Ramses

by Bone Jawnson

Going into "Blood Feast," I was not sure what to expect. I figured that it would be a slow-moving killer film with no substance or redeeming value. I did not do any prior research before my viewing because I wanted to go into an early 1960s horror film cold, so I could embrace it fully for what it was. I was taken back at how crisp and clean the scenes were, as well as their, in my opinion, great composition. As for the budget, this film was shot for about $24,000 which was low for the mid-sixties as the average film budget was about $1.5 million. Although this could be considered a low budget, it brought in around $4 million for investors, which can be considered a win for a first film of this nature. 

The plot for "Blood Feast" is rather simple. A crazed caterer, Fuad Ramses, murders young women and includes some body parts in meals in a ritual sacrifice for the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar, in an attempt to bring her back to life. Because of the graphic nature of the killers that were shown, this film is widely considered the first slasher/splatter film. "Blood Feast" was released only three years after Alfred Hitchcock's groundbreaking film "Psycho." Herschell Gordon Lewis, the films director, felt that Hitchcock simply alluded to victims getting killed without actual showing the nature of the killing. This is where "Blood Feast" upped the film ante.

The two elements in "Blood Feast" that stick out are that Ramses weilds a machete or knife and typami drums begin to play evertime the he is about to show up in a seen. Thoughout the film, I had visions of Michael Myers from the "Halloween" series and the "duh dun, duh dun," from the film "Jaws," whenever the killer shark was about to show up. In that respect, I feel that "Blood Feast" drew a blueprint for this type of film suspense, which would be used in films going forward. 

As excited as I was to discover that this was considered the first slasher film, I was equally excited about how the producer, David F. Friedman, went about marketing the film. Friendman came up with pubilicity stunts that I thought were genius. The first was having theaters hand out vomit bags to audience members entering the theater in an effort to hype up the gore. Second, he purposefully and intentionally took out a legal injunction against the film in Florida in order to gain publicity. I can confidently state that this film producer may have been the first troll. 

I encourage you to watch "Blood Feast" with the thought that something like that did not exist prior to 1963. Yes, Hitchcock was filmed with suspense and allusion, but he did not show actions happening, just an aftermatch. This film should be kept in a low budget/indie horror filmmaker's back pocket as a reference. There are elements that exist in "Blood Feast" that are still used in horror cinema today, as well as a ton of great screams. Even though there are many horror franchises available to view, you can trace much of the plot lines, character actions and screams back to "Blood Feast."

Next up on my viewing list: "Auntie Lee's Meat Pies" (1992)

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