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Blood Bath

Directed by Joel M. Reed

Written by Joel M. Reed

Starring Harve Presnell, Doris Roberts, P.J. Soles, Sonny Landham

Produced by Anthony Fingleton

Rated PG

83 minutes

***

I’ll freely admit that, when I saw this one arrive from Subversive Cinema, I had my concerns.

“Blood Bath”? What kind of a name for a movie is “Blood Bath?” It’s not hard to look at this sucker—look at the box, and the little passage on the box that says it comes from the director of “Bloodsucking Freaks”—and think, dammit anyway, yet another exploitation hackjob from the School of Gore for Gore’s Sake filmmaking. And it made me wonder, why would Subversive Cinema bother to resurrect this old canard.

But then what I found was something rare and unique, and it was like stumbling on a lost Renoir original while cleaning out my dead grandmother’s attic.

What I found was one of, quite possibly the, first ever anthology horror movies. With no less than a complete wraparound story attached.

I have always been fond of the anthology horror movie—it’s like getting three or four (five in this case!) horror movies for the price of just one. They’re quick, they’re usually fairly decent, and if you don’t like one, another one will be coming up shortly, so take heart!

And that’s sort of the case here. We’ve got a nice little irony feast to kick things off as a mad bomber gets a nasty surprise at a diner, followed up with the less-than-stellar story of a dreamer who gets a rude awakening as his dreams of glory in the Napoleonic Wars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. We then segue into a nifty little piece about a modern-era Ebenezer Scrooge (I don’t think it took place on Christmas, which is sad in its way because it would’ve been so very fitting) who runs into a surprise visitor from the past at the worst possible time. Finally, we get this spiffy little kung-fu movie with a bizarre ending.

The overarching story, meanwhile, revolves around a dinner party hosted by a horror movie director with a strange home life.

Now, already, we’ve got a lot to deal with here, and it’s got its ups and downs. For instance, all of the stories have surprise endings. Which means you’re getting regular surprises—over an eighty minute movie, you’re getting roughly five surprises. Do the math and you’re averaging one shocking revelation every sixteen minutes. That’s better than most movies have to offer, especially from a movie that was filmed better than thirty years ago. Plus, check out the cast! Doris Roberts from “Everybody Loves Raymond” used to do horror. That revelation alone was worth the price of admission. Throw in early appearances from “Predator” and “Halloween” and “Fargo” cast members and it’s a seriously mind-blowing moment. Even better, there’s almost no blood in this movie at all. If they wrung out all the bloodied clothing they had by the end of the movie, I don’t think it would fill a small juice glass. That’s frankly amazing given the content.

Which isn’t to say it’s all sunshine and lollipops. A thirty year old movie has an unmistakable dated feel to it, and “Blood Bath” is no exception. It looks old. Granted, it doesn’t get too much in the way of the enjoyment, but you still feel it. And check out the awkward kung fu going on in the last story. Yipes almighty that’s awkward. When your formative kung fu viewing involves Jackie Chan as Drunken Master, you get a bit spoiled. But this stuff is worse than “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist” kung fu.

Special features include a making of featurette entitled “Taking A Blood Bath—Making 70s Indies In New York,” cast and crew bios, and trailers for “The Candy Snatchers,” “Metal Skin,” “Blue Murder”, “The Gardener”, “Blood Bath”, and “Funny Man”.

All in all, while “Blood Bath” suffered from a dated look and a few awkward moments, it earns serious bonus points as a curiosity. It’s one of the first of its kind, and so it’s worth a look for that alone. But the constant surprises and twists of the irony knife will also improve its watchability.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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