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1 review, 1 rating

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Wizard of Gore, The (2007)
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by Jay Seaver

"You already know whether or not this is your thing."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: You've got to love how the title "The Wizard of Gore" puts it right out there, both for the Herschell Gordon Lewis original and Jeremy Kasten's new remake: This is one for the folks who like blood and guts. It does have ambitions beyond that, sure, but like the title character, it knows you've got to sell the visceral.

Said title character is Montag the Magnificent (Crispin Glover), a stage magician whose underground magic shows feature a woman being pulled from the audience, horribly mutilated, and then restored to life. The next day, though, she is found dead of wounds like the ones she apparently suffered during the show. Underground newspaper publisher Edmund Bigelow (Kip Pardue) and his girlfriend Maggie (Bijou Phillips) have been going to these shows, and team up with Edmunds coroner friend Jinky (Joshua John Miller) to investigate.

As befits a mystery story centered around a magic show, much of what we and Edmund see and learn is lies and misdirection, a challenge to figure out what is really going on. As mysteries go, it's not bad, although it does hinge on a somewhat fantastical element that, while it is revealed early enough to be considered fair play, still requires a bit of a leap of faith from the audience. The setting is a little peculiar, too - a subtitle early on reminds us that the film takes place in the present day, since one might get the impression from Edmund's vintage suits, printing press, and apartment decor that it takes place in the past, while the industrial-goth style everywhere else might suggest "bleak (near) future" to us boring middle-class suburban types.

The cast, at the very least, is a bunch of fun. Pardue comes across as a sort of lower-cost Matt Damon, not quite managing the charm but convincingly deteriorating as the film goes along. Bijou Phillips and Joshua John Miller are fairly likable as his partners-in-crime-solving. But it's the familiar faces in supporting roles that are the big draw: Brad Dourif as a local herbalist and acupuncture practitioner who uses leeches to cleanse his blood makes exposition fun. Jeffrey Combs is almost unrecognizable at first, but does well in his creepy part. And then there's Crispin Glover, spending almost all his time on stage, playing the creepy showman as funny and threatening as few others could.

But what, you may ask, of the gore? To be honest... It's a little disappointing. Kasten and writer Zach Chassler come up with imaginative ways to dispatch a series of Suicide Girl models and various others, and there are a couple of nasty money shots, but if you've got "gore" in the title, you should probably be raising the bar or something. Also, most of the bloody scenes during the magic shows are kind of difficult to see - there's a prop that consistently gets in the way, the lighting is low, and the quality of the digital projection wasn't that great. The latter means it might look better in another situation, but I don't get the rest - if you're selling gore, let us see the gore.

Clearer shots of the viscera probably wouldn't make this new "Wizard of Gore" a good film, even with the genre's frequently lowered expectations - the story's kind of a mess, for starters. Still, it's a decent enough effort, and not really a bad choice if you're in the video store looking for a bit of blood, camp, and nudity that you haven't seen before.

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originally posted: 03/22/08 02:36:03
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2008 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/14/08 Random This was a craptacular gorefest...but not enough gore to redeem the impenetrable plot. 2 stars
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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2008



Directed by
  Jeremy Kasten

Written by
  Zach Chassler

  Crispin Glover
  Jeffrey Combs
  Brad Dourif
  Kip Pardue
  Bijou Phillips

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