Director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ influence can be found all over horror today. Credited with inventing the ‘splatter’ sub-genre, Lewis pushed the boundaries – showcasing gore in more detail that his contemporaries, earning him the title ‘Godfather of Gore’. Indeed, one critic even described his work as “an insult even to the most puerile and salacious of audiences”.
With a career starting in in the ‘nudies’, and films with low budgets, buckets of blood, and less-than-steller acting, Herschell Gordon Lewis was never going to appeal to the masses. But his long career saw his amass a cult horror following and a dedicated fanbase, who were saddened by his passing only last year. However, the iconic director had one more trick up his sleeve in the form of Canadian horror anthology BloodMania.
The film is made up of four shorts, two of which are directed by Lewis himself and the others by Melanie Reinboldt and Kevin Littlelight. Lewis’ segments – one focused on a man with a possessed hook prosthetic and the other on a family who suspect something is living in their walls – are the highlights and the strongest of the anthology. Lewis himself opens the film, presenting in a manner much like a horror host. His intro is full of gore puns, as though he’s hosting a very strange children’s show, but it’s also poignant to share what feels like an intimate conversation with the Godfather knowing he is no longer alive.
Lewis’, and the film’s, first short takes inspiration from Evil Dead II, involving a possessed, sentient prosthetic hook-hand which leads it’s user on a strange journey of kidnap and self mutilation. These scenes are interwoven with slapstick local news crew footage and interviews. It’s like being whisked into a bizarre alternate reality where everything is slightly askew. No one reacts as they should – an old lady tuts at a man drenched in blood, teenage girls giggle when discovering severed body parts.
Of course, the ‘otherness’ of this universe is reinforced by Herschell Gordon Lewis’ trademark gore. It’s hammy at times, but it works in creating the dark comedy of the situation. It goes further than you imagine it will, yet it’s entertaining rather than overdone. The second short continues this tradition – pushing the gore a little further. If you like the outlandishness of Mortal Kombat, there’s memorable gore here too. How many films are going to present scenes of still beating hearts laying on the ground attached to the victim’s body only by veins? There’s a torture porn vibe to this one, and it features perhaps my favourite shot from the film – the gently, hypnotic, pumping flow of blood from a characters’ neck.
Lewis is back in the third section, with a story about ‘something’ in the walls of a family’s new home. The opening hints at what it might be, but the payoff is worth it and probably not what you were expecting. Of course, there’s plenty of his low-budget vibes to the short which feels like something of a video nasty re-incarnation. This could also be said of the final short, about a man with a need to collect various body parts. The central character is so utterly unappealing, unpleasant that this universe draws you in to ask what deplorable thing he will do next.
Sure, the acting is over the top, it’s made on a budget, and it might not be as pioneering as Blood Feast was back in the 1960s. But there’s still a lot here to enjoy, and the film is an important bookend in the life of one of horror’s greatest icons. Grab some horror-loving buddies for watching BloodMania, and raise a glass to the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis.
BloodMania premiere on Amazon Prime this Friday, May 5. Find out more about the film at it’s official website, or watch the trailer below.