Blood Feast is a hard film to evaluate. It suffers from what I call “Jimi Hendrix Syndrome.” You know how Hendrix is considered one of the great guitarists of all time, yet anyone who has been playing the guitar for a couple of months can do some Jimi licks? It’s not so much the technical skill to be admired, but the audacity and genius to do it first. This is the case with Blood Feast.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Blood Feast is terrible. The acting is wooden, even more so than the sets which are obvious. The writing is awful and the entire movie barely makes it over the one hour mark. Accounts vary on what the budget was, but $60,000 is the high end. And yet, Blood Feast turns up regularly on “Horror Movies You Must See” lists and similar rankings. Why?
The answer is gore. Shot in 1963, long before America had become desensitized to violence due to Vietnam, Blood Feast does not shirk from showing the red stuff, and the practical effects still hold up even today. Organs are harvested, limbs are cut off, tongues yanked out, and more, and Blood Feast isn’t afraid to show us the carnage. Considering this is a movie shot just three years after the relatively-bloodless Psycho, Blood Feast marks a sea change in how gore and violence will be depicted in cinema. It may not be the first to revel in staged bloodshed and bodily mutilation, but it probably does it the best for its time. It even earned itself a Misfits’ song in the process.
While Blood Feast will never be held up as an example of fine acting or screenwriting, it remains an icon of horror cinema. And at an hour and seven minutes, well worth the time it takes to acquaint yourself with it. I give it three-and-a-half skulls out of four.