Saturday, 21 June 2014

Bloodsucking Freaks

Having seen this a couple of times years ago on dupe VHS, and never particularly liking it, I thought I'd give it another go on Blu-ray, as it has now surprisingly been released on the format uncut in the UK by 88 Films.  Oddly, despite the fact that the film is entitled Bloodsucking Freaks, 88 have chose to separate the 'Blood' from the 'Sucking' on the cover, but I'm not intending to nitpick.  The film itself is scarcely plotted, vaguely about a theatre owner, Sardu, whose magic shows of torture and murder are actually using real victims and not actors.  Mostly women, they are being abducted from various locations for the purposes of being used in the show, or to be kept in some sort of dungeon downstairs.

Considering that this was made in the mid seventies, it certainly is a nasty, depraved little number.  Yes, the gore is not always up to Tom Savini standards, and it is thoroughly amateurish at times (Joel M Reed could hardly be considered a master of his art) but it refuses to acknowledge any barriers, and even today there are bound to be a few things in here that make any viewer wince.  It does periodically feel like the entire endeavour was to create something to shock and nothing else, which may be true, thus the endless torture and screaming can occasionally become a little wearing.  However, there are elements of sadomasochistic eroticism present, albeit not realised as well as they could be, plus it marks itself as a precursor to what would eventually become known as the 'torture porn' sub-genre of horror that popularised itself from Hostel/Saw onwards (although I think it has justifiably ran out of steam now).  Personally I think the writer/director was influenced by The Sinful Dwarf which was released a couple of years previous to BSF, and with which it shares a number of elements such as the depraved dwarf himself along with the dungeon of captured women and the intensity of some of the lengths gone to in the name of shock.  Whether one considers it to be entertaining or not will of course depend on the viewer.  The nastiness forces you to keep your eyes on the screen, whilst the silliness will infrequently instil a laugh or two.  Mostly though BSF earns its place, rather questionably I guess, in film history for being one of the forefathers of torture porn.
Shot on 16mm it was never going to look amazing on any format - on Blu-ray this presentation looks truly 'Grindhouse' and I suspect it's been transferred from a beat-up print.  Scratches and marks are in abundance, though in some way this is how the film is meant to be seen.  Resolution is not amazing but I think if you did see this at a cinema then it would not look vastly different to what you're seeing on this Blu-ray (I'm guessing the DVD will not look hugely inferior, but given the option I always get the Blu-ray for the most accurate representation of the source).  Audio suffers from its origins too, with hiss/crackle noticeable in places.  88 have included many extras, mostly junk from the Troma archives.  Eli Roth (Hostel, appropriately) also provides an audio commentary, whilst elsewhere there are about 25 minutes of VHS quality Troma trailers, which are good for recreating the Grindhouse experience at home.  A booklet has been included and suitably depraved new artwork created (although you can flip this around from one of two other front covers if you want, including original poster art).  The first thousand copies or so also come with a limited slipcase, which is pictured above.  88 Films have put together a commendable release for BSF, continuing a streak (aside from the odd hiccup) that is gradually rising them towards loftier heights.

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