For the last four years, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has hosted a late-night horror movie celebration called Terror Tuesday and if you are a lover of horror, both esoterically brilliantly and obscurely awful, this night was invented just for you. The Terror Tuesday Report will dissect the movie shown as well as provide a barometer for the audience's reaction; as many of these films demand to be seen with an audience, this proves a vital component to the evening.
This week's film: Blood Bath, directed by Joel Reed, 1976
After completing shooting a horror film, the cast and crew have dinner on set. Over the course of the meal, they exchange "scary" stories in an effort to spook their stalwartly skeptical director and convince him of the existence of the supernatural. Will they succeed? Nope. But at least there's an ending. That's all I got.
I set myself for disappointment with Blood Bath. I was standing in the lobby prior to the doors opening and chatting with a friend about the film. I hadn't realized until earlier that day that Blood Bath was an anthology horror film. When I read that, on the giant cyber bathroom wall that is the internet, my anticipation level shot through the proverbial roof. I stood there, pleased as could be, discussing my love affair with the subgenre with one of my favorite Terror Tuesday cohorts. It was about this time that I uttered the sentiment that I had never seen a bad anthology horror film.
And then I watched Blood Bath. Understand, I was not asserting a belief that bad anthology horror films were nonexistent. It's just that I apparently have been spoiled on the cream of the crop and didn't understand how atrocious they could be in the wrong hands. Be forewarned if you count yourself a fan of titles like Creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, or Nightmares (the subject of last week's Terror Tapes), I would steer well clear of this disaster. If you find that the Amicus anthologies like Asylum, Tales from the Crypt, or and/or an amateur appendectomy before I would recommend watching Blood Bath.
The immediate argument in defense of this film would be that it was made with a budget in the neighborhood of eighteen dollars; a valid point. I am all for cutting little films some slack. But for me the technical snafus of Blood Bath are its one saving grace; the low-budget totems bordering on charming. But what really bugged me, what really made Blood Bath such a chore, was the writing. Does the classification of low budget have to preclude any half-decent thought be displayed in the story? Hell, I would have been pacified by generic genre tropes being rehashed instead of a cadre of stories serving as awful setups to miserable twists.
As Zack pointed out, the writer (a.k.a director Joel Reed) decides to skirt actual scary things like ghosts or vampires in favor of far more frightening elements like kung-fu, Napoleon, and bombs. From thence are bred the god-awful twists. In a rare change of pace from the standard, the segments do not seem as if they were worked backwards from the twist. Rather, it feels like the writers trudged through the exposition hoping that an effective twist would fall into their laps. Sadly, most of the endings belie the slightest understanding of what could even possibly be scary...or entertaining.
That being said, some of Blood Bath's biggest failures serve as its most unintentionally winning moments. In the segment with the greedy man in the safe, the African-American ghost who appears in order to dispassionately mutter "boooooooo" for long spans of time is side-splitting. He never lets up despite having no discernible stock in what is going on. Hey, did you know that eating money for a month not only makes you desperately thin but also ages you thirty years? Twist! I also love the hippie cruising around in a stolen car whilst doing his own colorful, almost unrecognizable, rendition of Tutti Frutti by Little Richard. Terrifying! But I think what keeps Blood Bath from being so-bad-it's-good is the wrap-around story comprised of a bunch of actors who could not be more clearly convinced of their own acting skills which are, in fact, painfully absent. The lead actor is a giant walking Christmas ham whose every line read is drenched with talentless self-satisfaction.
Overall this was a monumentally boring, confoundedly stupid anthology horror film that kind of deserves to be forgotten. Though, despite my initial sentiment, a contradictory thought strikes me. Anyone who does overly-enthusiastic, wholly unnecessary research will recollect that I reviewed anthology film for Terror Tapes called The Uncanny that impressed me none too much. But in hindsight,in full acknowledgment of Blood Bath's existence, I would gladly move to Vermont with The Uncanny, marry it at the justice of the peace, and live it out my days selling maple candy to tourists if it meant I didn't have to sit through Blood Bath again. I'm just kidding...my wife is far too pretty and Peter Cushing smells like hot dogs.
As this movie is rated PG, the automatic assumption was that it scaled down the violence and nudity in order to appeal to kids as well as adults. Apropos of this marketing ploy, there were two children sitting next to me in the theater. I decided to, in a totally uncreepy way, observe their reactions to the film to see if it did indeed reach its target audience. They were asleep by minute ten. I don't feel I need to say anything else.