Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t


is for Gore

Herschell Gordon Lewis was always ahead of the curve. A few years earlier he had teamed up with famous exploitation movie producer David F. Friedman and started grinding out a series of “nudie cuties” (fake “documentaries” of nudist colonies that attempted—mostly unsuccessful—to justify the sight of busty beauties playing nude volleyball as educational), but the market was becoming over-saturated. A new gimmick was needed, all he had to do was figure out what people wanted that they weren’t currently getting.

With Blood Feast, Lewis found his gimmick and movies were never really the same again.

In the past acts of violence were always either shown off screen or depicted as unrealistically as possible (how man western villains died from gunshot wounds that produced no blood or visible wounds?). Lewis changed all that—well, the first part anyway (no one would ever accuse his films of being realistic). Where once filmmakers were content to merely allow audiences to imagine the carnage their characters had wrought, Lewis filmed it all in excruciating, pornographic detail. If Hitchcock’s famous shower scene featured 77 different shots, but not a single one in which the knife penetrated Janet Leigh’s body, then Lewis’ equivalent would have been done in one long take of the knife cutting through flesh, muscle and bone, causing a geyser of blood to splash against the camera lens.

The result was box office magic. Lewis quickly followed his success with a series of gory movies that became more surreal and strange as it went on (to stretch out the running time of The Gruesome Twosome, for example, he inserted shots of two inanimate wig mannequins having a conversation with each other). Strangely, few filmmakers immediately attempted to replicate his success. It turned out that even hardened B-Movie opportunists had limits.

Still, the floodgates had been opened and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable river of blood flowed through them. As the audience for such films grew, master technicians like Tom Savini developed the artistry required to make this violence as true to life as possible. This resulted in an equally inevitable backlash. To this day when people describe horror films as a form of pornography, they are almost always referring to those that emphasize gore over suspense.


is for Gore