Review: Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania (2017)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #642

Number of Views: One
Release Date: June 1, 2017
Sub-Genre: Horror Anthology/Satire
Country of Origin: Canada
Running Time: 98 minutes
Directors: Herschell Gordon Lewis, Kevin Littlelight, Melanie Reinboldt
Producer: James Saito
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis, Kevin Littlelight, James Saito, Justin Sane, Bob Schultz
Special Effects: David Trainor
Visual Effects: Jeremy Pollock
Cinematography: Federico Flores, Dan Olson, Harry Papavlasopoulos, Emil Starlight
Score: Timothy Fife
Editing: Federico Flores
Studios: Diabolique Films, HGB Entertainment
Distributor: Monarch Films
Stars: Sarah Troyer, Carolyn Bridget Kennedy, Genoveva Rossi, Roger LeBlanc, Brian MacDougall, Emily Siobhan McCourt, Chengis Javeri, Caroline Buzanko, Saleste Mele, Emeri Cukulin, Jewelle Colwell, Stuart Bentley

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Nat King Cole “Unforgettable”
[2] Foo Fighters “Gimme Stitches”
[3] Phil Collins “One More Night”

On 26 September 2016, horror lost one of its true elder statesmen. Dubbed “Godfather of Gore” long before Lucio Fulci learned how to operate his zoom lens for maximum grisly effect, Herschell Gordon Lewis is widely regarded as the creator of the splatter movie. Filmmakers inspired by his work include John Waters, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Quentin Tarantino, and his name will forever be etched in the memories of horror aficionados the world over. It was 1963 when he graduated from the soft-core sex flicks (affectionately branded “nudie cuties”), dabbling in the macabre with the gloriously grisly Blood Feast, and the wheels were set firmly in motion.

“I’ve often compared Blood Feast to a Walt Whitman poem; it’s no good, but it was the first of its kind”

This hyperviolent number openly embraced mayhem and, while by his own admission, it wasn’t a great movie, the gross-out special effects were simply to die for. Of course, this was at the expense of plot, acting and suspense but, while traditional movie houses flat refused to have anything to do with it, Blood Feast soon found its home at drive-in theaters across the United States. Grossing $4 million against a miniscule budget, Lewis seized this opportunity with both bloody hands and continued to churn these low-rent delights out for fun.

Two Thousand Maniacs!, Color Me Blood Red, A Taste of Blood, The Gruesome Twosome, The Wizard of Gore, and She-Devils on Wheels soon followed, before he bowed out disgracefully in 1972 with The Gore Gore Girls and moved on to different pursuits entirely. His hiatus may have lasted thirty years before eventually returning to the directorial hot seat for Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat in 2002, but he was anything but idle during the interim. Indeed, he published over 30 books on marketing, gave numerous lectures on copywriting, and was eventually inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame. Not bad for a man generally regarded as a trashmonger.

Looking back over his numerous achievements all these years later, it seems only right that he be held in such lofty regard. Granted, his films provided entertainment of the lowest common denominator and had precious little to commend aside from all that deep red relish. But he possessed the cojones to become a martyr for the cause and never compromised his inimitable style to tick the boxes of correctness. Living to the ripe old age of 90, Lewis still had one more trick up his rosy red sleeve before departing the mortal realms – an encore if you wish and blood-drenched parting gift to us all.

Not to be confused with Robert Vincent O’Neill’s 1970 sleazefest of the same name, Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania is a four-piece anthology that celebrates all that is grotesque and politically incorrect. Time to start licking those lips fellow gore whores.

There’s no wraparound per se, and instead, Lewis himself lends his services as our master of ceremonies for the entire kit and caboodle, providing a little light-hearted heads-up before each terror-tinged tale takes centre stage. The jokes are of the bottom-rung variety, the tone at ground zero, and speaking as a lifetime follower of Lewis’ fiendish fashions, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Starting things off is the aptly titled Gory Story and this introduces us to potentially the most unfortunate fellow ever to roam the streets aimlessly while awaiting a grand piano compacting him into the pavement cracks like street spam. The perpetually cursed individual in question is Brewster (Roger LeBlanc) and he’s none too happy this day as his ex-girlfriend Becky (Savannah Nightingale) dumped his ass unceremoniously and future prospects are looking decidedly bleak.

To add metal to the bloody wrist stump, poor Brewster can boast a full five fingers on one hand but a mere rusty hook on the other. On the upside (and heaven knows, they’re thin on the asphalt), this also doubles up as a rather efficient gouging weapon and he heads off to wreak some revenge with the wind firmly beneath his one good wing. What could possibly go wrong?

Next up is Attack of Conscience and it seems our damsel Julie (Sonia Deleo) was some way farther to the front of queue when good fortune was dished out. You see, she seemingly cannot die, no matter what kind of grungy demise befalls her, and you’d think that’d be a cast-iron reason to be cheerful wouldn’t you?

Not so as her diabolical fiancé Beau (Donovan Cerminara) is banking on all his persistence paying off and repeatedly attempts to break his lady in waiting’s long-running death duck. Presumably the wedding’s catering costs are too extortionate to shell out for but I guess it beats being jilted at the altar. Not altogether sure Julie would agree, mind.

Third in line is The Night Hag and I’ve got a good mind to award an extra point to the overall score awarded for the wondrous title alone. Have you ever wondered what happens to all that molted hair after you dispose of it down your plug holes? Well ponder no more as Zoe (Sarah-Joy Goode) is the living/dead embodiment of all things follicle-themed and has found herself a crawlspace amongst the very bricks and mortar of the house she calls home, or more likely, “ome”.

Bully for Zoe, new tenant Sam (Caroline Buzanko) and her family have just unwittingly stumbled into her sanctuary and that makes it is time for our nocturnal crone to fix herself some fresh fleece. Like they say – hair today, gone tomorrow.

Finally we close with GOREgeous and are left in the less than capable hands of Gordo (Stuart Bentley) for the duration. Gordo had one chance in life of amounting to anything more than less than zero and it just sank agonizingly down the S-bend. Managing an all-girl rock band is a cushy gig for Gordo, but alas, he can’t help but suck at his chosen vocation. After being relinquished of the one duty he loves, a sycophant of Gordo’s strain does what any other passed-over pervert would in such circumstances.

He stalks the girls in single file (after they’ve taken their post rehearsal soak down naturally). Had I mentioned that the sight of his own spilled coulis sends Gordo spiraling into a fit of google-eyed blood rage? Whatever you do vacant airheads, don’t choose that teasingly positioned treadmill as the escape track for your desperate last-ditch escape bid. Girls? Girls?

And there we have it in nutshell form. That’s the easy part. But now the million dollar question – is Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania actually any good? I’ve been asked some million dollar questions in my time, but this one stands to make me rich beyond my wildest dreams. I guess, if it were requested that I place it on par with regards to quality, then Ana Clavell & James Dudelson’s five-pronged festerer, Creepshow 3, would be its closest cousin. Who’s that snickering in the back I hear?

The thing is, had George A. Romero himself played any part in that monstrosity, then their movie wouldn’t have felt so utterly disrespectful, whereby here Lewis was in it up to the cuff links and his swan song has been personally chosen. If you asked him the same poser, then I’d wager a guess he would have come out with something along the lines of “it’s no good, but it was the last of its kind.” God bless him for that.

What I’m saying in essence is that, like the great man himself, this movie could never be accosted for false marketing. It’s a lovable mess from grue-soaked start to bloody maniacal finish and sees no fit cause to disguise such. There’s precious little plot or suspense, but the characters painted are more than colorful. Moreover, they die pretty for the most part and, with 18 gallons of gush juice swimming the screen like sanguine soda, it provides no shortage of light refreshment.

Will it leave a bad taste in you mouth? Lewis wouldn’t have it any other way and that’s as close as we could get to a parting hug in my eyes. The bottom line is the best line – should you be a long and happily suffering fan of this gentleman’s vast body of work, then Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania may well result in you popping your cork. Salut sir and thanks for the grue.


Dedicated To Herschell Gordon Lewis (June 15, 1926 – September 26, 2016)

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 3/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: A good place to commence would ordinarily be the start but, where Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania is concerned, I think I’ll just dive in snout first with a checklist of sorts. Degradation –  Molestation –   Decapitation –  Evisceration – Amputation –   Obliteration –   Derailment –   Impalement –   Scalping –   Slicing –   Dicing –   Melting –  Mauling –   Brawling Shooting –  Gouging –  Gorging –   I reckon that just about covers us and it’s a clean sweep for David Trainor, whose practical work is more than up to snuff. Throw in a side order of bouncing bunny boobies as you have yourself a feast truly fit for us heathens.

Click here to watch on Amazon Prime

Read Blood Feast Appraisal
Read The Wizard of Gore (2007) Appraisal
Read Creepshow 3 Appraisal
Read 3 Dead Girls! Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. Those photos were pretty splatterific at the end, Rich. Solid review. I have heard of Mr. Lewis but I have never seen his films. So, you have educated me. I should check out some of his classics.

  2. Thank you so much for the thoughtful and in depth review. It reads like a love letter to everything Herschell put on screen. I know we all felt that way during filming. It was bloody delightful!



    1. You are very welcome Stuart and thank you for the wonderfully creppy Gordo. I am honored that you took the time to read and comment. Also, it pleases me that you could see my love for Lewis’ work despite the score awarded. Really wanted to pay the great man tribute. Your comment is much appreciated.

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