Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #319
Number of Views: One
Release Date: August 19, 2008
Sub-Genre: Cult Film/Bizarro
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Jeremy Kasten
Producers: Jeremy Kasten, Glenn W. Gardner, Christopher Duddy, Daniel Gold, Dan Griffiths
Screenplay: Zach Chassler
Special Effects: Jason Collins, Elvis Jones
Visual Effects: Michael Shelton
Cinematography: Christopher Duddy
Score: Steven Porcaro
Editing: Jeremy Kasten
Studios: Sick-O-Scope, Open Sky Entertainment
Distributors: Dimension Extreme Films, Genius Products
Stars: Kip Pardue, Bijou Phillips, Crispin Glover, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif, Joshua John Miller, Garz Chan, Tim Chiou, Evan Seinfeld, Flux Suicide, Amina Munster, Cricket Suicide, Nixon Suicide, Kenneth Moskow
Suggested Audio Candy
Impetigo “Wizard of Gore”
Legendary B-movie film-maker Herschell Gordon Lewis has long fascinated Keeper. Growing up, he was often considered the Ed Wood of horror, a mere servant of low-grade schlock and lacking in any finesse whatsoever. However, his films always piqued my interest with such irresistible titles as Color Me Blood Red, 2000 Maniacs, The Gore Gore Girls and Blood Feast suggesting that, while never likely of being Oscar-worthy, they would at least quench my lust for carnage. Consequently, time has been kind to Lewis as attested by the fact that his works have been remade with regularity since the turn of the millennium. The Wizard of Gore is arguably the most successful translation of his unique brand of cinema to date.
Jeremy Kastan does exactly what he should with the material; pays homage to it unerringly, while straying from the formula enough to make sure this film exists on its own merits. Given how long in the tooth the original film is now, it’s the only way to truly honor the man’s art as, beyond his films’ often crude exteriors lay some devilishly playful ideas which deserve to be updated with a fresh audience in mind. Noir is in abundance and fans of pulp fiction should lap this up as it’s almost graphic novel like with its progression. Alas, that also means that certain tastes will not be catered for and Kastan remains unapologetic as opposed to attempting to spin too many plates. It is satirical, but never shambolic, ambiguous but never completely alien, uneven but when it plays it smooth it is easier to forget the roughs that proceeded.
However, its appeal rests squarely on the shoulders of one man. Crispin Glover (Willard, The Doors) is a fascinating creature indeed. To some he will always be George McFly whereas, to Keeper, he is go-to-guy for anyone looking to portray a nut job with authenticity. He steps straight into the straitjacket of Montag The Magician and you get the feeling that Kastan simply said “run with it buddy” as he is evidently in his element. His act is turning heads and putting fannies on seats in Los Angeles’ grimy underbelly; attracting praise and welcoming skeptics by interacting with his audience in a far more personal manner than is customary. Heckle him and you shall be invited on-stage to test his validity and, should this occur, then it’s about to get messy fast. Glover commands our attention the moment the spotlight becomes his but recruits Jeffrey Combs as his opening act, The Geek, just to ensure we know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into.
Amongst the initial cynics is reporter Edmund Bigelow (Kip Pardue) and closely in tow are loose affiliates Maggie (Bijou Phillips) and Jinky (Joshua Miller). All are entranced by Montag’s crazed demeanor and willingness to share his secrets openly with his addressees, culminating in nightly visits as Bigelow in particular becomes captivated by his alluring madness. Audience participation is key and Montag has a handle on that, luring all-comers to their horrific ends in full view of his wide-eyed audience. Some are sickened by his exploits and swiftly make for the nearest exits but, at that point, he reveals his persuasive illusion and everyone leaves with a smile on their face…except Edmund. He wants to learn more; obsesses with it until which point as his dreams merge seamlessly with reality and all the while folk keep showing up dead. So who’s playing who here?
Kastan is content with leaving the audience to come to their own conclusion and instead focuses on courting madness like a seasoned pro. His casting couldn’t be more astute and Brad Dourif also gifts us one of his more wild-eyed performances as Doctor Chong. When not making the blindest bit of sense, it is making the most sense oddly enough. This is as close to an acid trip as he can provide and, with Glover placing the tab on our outstretched tongues, he has a most able runner for his debauchery. Pardue has proved on numerous occasions that he is comfortable with leading man duties and, despite occasional blips, shows another side to his game and does so rather deftly. Phillips is a little underused as Maggie but only because I know full well this young lady can give more when necessitated. Here she largely plays bystander.
The film is called The Wizard of Gore so it is only right that we will demand both wizardry and gore in copious amounts. Kastan has no intention of leaving us wanting in either area and each time Montag takes to the stage, we are utterly mesmerized by the results. If there’s a chink in its armor then it would be that the story often struggles to resonate when presenting us with downtime. However, it is never less than intriguing and we aren’t ever kept waiting too long before Montag produces another rabbit from his seemingly bottomless hat. Actually, it’s more game than rabbit and consists of gizzards and other icky human surplus. Lewis would be proud as punch.
This movie isn’t going to appeal to all tastes. If your eyes glazed over at Naked Lunch then it may just lack the coherency to encourage that walk on the wild side but when a film boasts a cast comprising of Glover, Combs, and Dourif, it will invariably find its desired audience. Lewis is still making movies at the ripe old age of 85 and, while engaging in other pursuits, it’s good to see somebody is honoring his legacy. Is it a masterpiece? Name me a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick which can wear that emblem and I shall serve you your left kidney in a baguette. However, that all depends on how you define masterpiece. If you find off-the-wall charismatic then you may have found yourself a bona fide masterpiece after all.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Gulp as Montag cuts a protesting maiden in half, shudder as he chows down on the resulting intestines, cringe as he places a light under the stove and cooks himself up a human banquet, gawk as another shapely vixen disrobes under his hypnotic command. The Wizard of Gore proudly boasts the three B’s – Boobs, Bush, Bloodshed; all bases soundly covered.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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