Worth A Look: 8%
Pretty Bad: 2%
Total Crap: 30%
2 reviews, 38 user ratings
A film of no merit. A Troma classic.There is absolutely nothing that is remotely defensible about Bloodsucking Freaks.
"Sorta' works like SURVIVOR III"
It is relentlessly poor and unremorsefully violent and misogynistic and yet here I was, sitting in the comfort of my own home, watching this piece of exploitation dreck with rapt attention and guilty fascination. There is something oddly intoxicating about a film that is so dedicated to being as offensive as possible to as wide a demographic as possible – it is the same kind of feeling as one gets from pornography, or, similarly, from watching “Survivor” and pretending that there’s some purpose behind it other than caging a bunch of semi-rational simians and playing cruel mind games on them involving food and rank.
In its way, then, Bloodsucking Freaks acts, outside of its text, as an example of the kind of disgusting sideshow that people will watch if given the opportunity to do so. For all the condemnations against video games, German industrial music and so forth, the thing that really niggles me is the proliferation of voyeur television that can only culminate in televised executions or Running Man-like game shows. We’re only a step away (with a Scandanavian game show that features a contestant in a car being chased by police at high speed through real city streets), from the coliseum.
There’s a problem with indulging the masses’ base instinct for the horrific and the depiction of the unspeakable – note the success of Silence of the Lambs and the impending success of Hannibal that makes my point more eloquently than I. Still and all, I am loathe to speculate as to the exact nature of that problem. I don’t believe that media inspires violence, but, like any vice, it magnifies itself through repeated exposure until the addiction to that sort of pleasure of the text becomes increasingly unmanageable for certain already disturbed members of society. So the theory goes, anyway.
That being said, Bloodsucking Freaks is what it is and it makes no apologies for it. If you rent the film, you’re buying a ticket for the ride – if you look on the back of that ticket there’s a smack in the middle of your forehead that tells you that you’ve given up your right for a spin on the righteousness merry-go-round. If you have somehow imagined that a film called “Bloodsucking Freaks” is anything but extreme camp exploitation cinema, then you have a really poorly developed reality filter and I’m surprised that you’ve survived in the wild for this long.
the low, low, low down
Sardu (Seamus O’Brien) is the master of ceremonies of an off-Broadway Grand Guignol sado-masochism show that features on-stage murders and dismemberments that its terminally stupid audiences believe to be faked. Sardu is assisted in the kidnapping of prospective performers by the evil midget Ralphus (Louie de Jesus – star of midget/puppet porn including the classic Let My Puppets C-um – in a role that Herve Villachez originally agreed to do, but ultimately backed out of due to nothing relating to reason or sense) who, using some kind of midget blowgun, incapacitates lovely young ladies that are dragged off by other lovely young ladies somehow in thrall to the evil Rasputin, Sardu. It’s Skinnerian behaviorism crossed with Pavlovian response – but, mostly, it’s just unlikely and stupid.
The bulk of the film is dedicated to the torture of a snooty theater critic whom Sardu wishes to impress, and a ballerina that Sardu wishes to brainwash - a stunningly poor excuse to show all manner of entirely unforgivable atrocities perpetrated on women with no excuse other than “boys will be boys.” I would go further with my condemnation of the film but for two things – if you rent a Troma film called Bloodsucking Freaks, you’re probably not expecting The Grand Illusion, and with its vague suggestion of the culpability of spectatorship, it is already superior in purpose to Verhoeven’s The Hollow Man.
The score by porno-composer Michael Saul is disturbing - not disturbing in a “hmm” way, but disturbing in a “dead clown” sort of way. It alternates between synthesized toccata and fugue and a tinkly toy piano that is entirely inappropriate for the hacksawing of limbs and the extraction of brains using a power drill and a glass straw. I was reminded more than once of the upbeat banjo score of Wes Craven’s exploitation shocker Last House on the Left - that’s not good, by the way, although if you weren’t sure, you would probably like Bloodsucking Freaks.
The performances are uniformly awful – the torture/murder/rape victims can’t even manage a vague simulacrum of authenticity while they’re screaming. It is an ensemble of such uniform ineptitude that it is ironically notable for that ineptitude. The best of the bunch is the hideously over-acting Seamus O’Brien as Sardu – his absolute seriousness is a sort of ironic counterpoint to the flubbed lines and the butchered speeches. More could be said, but nothing could really adequately describe it.
There are unspeakable levels of female nudity in the piece – so much so that there is never any danger of titillation. If there is a woman that appears in this film with her top on for more than ten minutes, you have a sharper eye, than I. A bad thing when you become more interested in the appearances of clothed women.
If you listen to the commentary track by fanboy Eli Roth, you will be asked to believe that Bloodsucking Freaks was intended as a comedy. Roger Ebert would also have you believe that his script for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a satire of. . . umm, of something. The commentary track is lively and sort of interesting, but it appears as though Roth has literally been watching a different film – as he describes the unfolding scenes and actions it is extremely clear that what he describes has little relationship to what actually happens. It’s an odd disconnect that suggests to me that he’s done the wise thing and not watched the film again for the commentary.
Upon further reflection, however, Louie de Jesus’ triumphant murderous cannibal dwarf celebration dances are pretty funny.
Bloodsucking Freaks is a rite of passage – a pain ritual like tattooing or piercing that separates the herd between “people who have seen it” and “people who have control over their knee-jerk impulses.” It is a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination – one that reminded me a great deal of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos in its jubilant dedication to wallowing in filth to expose the baseness of the human pleasure principle. Does it possess as much subversive genius as Waters’ magnum opus of the obscene? That’s debatable.
So do I recommend Bloodsucking Freaks for being a film that inspired Starship Troopers’ brain-sucking scene while featuring a subterranean cage full of cannibalistic naked women called the “caged sexoids?”
Are you nuts?
All the same, I can at least be mildly sympathetic with a few critical journals like American Cinema who have hailed the film as a counter-culture classic. I will most likely never extend the same courtesy to Paul Verhoeven who, frankly, doesn’t possess the wit, such as there is, of a Joel Reed (the director of this chunder).
Bloodsucking Freaks is a horribly made, amazingly fake-looking gore/exploitation exercise that vacillates unpredictably between bad drama to senseless gore to excessive nudity. It is a film that is very obviously dedicated to making a few bucks by being as socially unacceptable as possible; making a play for cult status with as much manic fervor as Tracy Flick makes a play for student body president. Most surprisingly, though, it is really very boring for long stretches as the exposition unfolds at a snail’s pace.
Watch it, if you must watch it, with the DVD’s commentary track playing. Roth’s comparison of Bloodsucking Freaks to Olivier’s cinematic work, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and Scorsese’s Taxi Driver provides a great deal of humor while distracting nary a bit from the visual excrescence. Roth is so engaging and eloquent, in fact, that if you’re drowsy, you may become convinced by his line of reasoning. That, in itself, is already more frightening than anything in the film (save for the very fact of it). An anecdote concerning Troma sending several dozen actresses portraying themselves as feminists and picketing the film around the country did, however, give me a moment’s pause. Here’s a production company taking a page out of the William Castle-school of shock/stunt cinema – maybe there’s something to Roth’s sociology after all?
Ultimately, Bloodsucking Freaks isn’t entirely unlike Rocky Horror Picture Show - if you can imagine Rocky Horror with eyeball-consumption, a midget making love to a guillotined noggin, about thirty breasts unsheathed, and a rump employed as a dart board. Come to think of it, the film more isn’t entirely unlike Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. To the extent that Rocky Horror and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls deserve their cult status, Bloodsucking Freaks also deserves its cult status.
It’s an original, it’s cheesy, and it’s disturbing – fans of exploitation cinema will most likely mark this as the high-water mark of the form in the United States. For the merely curious, Bloodsucking Freaks is a fitfully (guiltily) amusing curiosity – and for the sanctimonious, Bloodsucking Freaks is a cautionary tale and a rallying point. You know where you fall – you know best how much you need to see it.
(Originally called Sardu’s House of the Screaming Virgins, the film was released in 1976 as The Incredible Torture Show.)Sort of mortified to have seen it - but not entirely sorry. Mangiotto's been a sick monkey.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2540&reviewer=248
originally posted: 02/21/01 18:14:49