EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the expectations are so low. All you need to do is show up, eat food and fall asleep watching football, which is way less pressure than Christmas. While you lounge, here are some movies to watch and upset your entire family and start the holidays off right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn
In 2004, I stumbled across a copy of Blood Freak released as a special edition on the Something Weird Video label. I knew nothing about the film before I watched it. 90 minutes later, as the credits rolled, I held up the packaging to the heavens and proclaimed, “Every film I ever watch from this moment forward will be compared to Blood Freak.” Is it good? That depends on your point of view. Do I love it? Absolutely. It is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the best “worst” movie ever made. Not because it’s slow or boring. But because it’s a film that defies all logic. Made equal parts enthusiasm and technical ineptitude in Florida by nudist director Brad F. Grinter on a $25,000 budget, and star Steve Hawkes, it’s positively dripping with WTF moments. Blood Freak exists in a genre all its own somewhere in the center of a “Cult Movie” Venn Diagram featuring Sting of Death, Blood Feast, Reefer Madness, and the collective Christian works of Kirk Cameron.
The plot involves a biker named Herschell (in a nod to fellow Florida filmmaker H.G. Lewis) played by the box-bodied, pompadoured Hawkes himself. Herschell has just finished his service in Vietnam and needs to figure out the rest of his life. After assisting a girl on the Florida turnpike named Angel with her car trouble, she invites him home. There, we find Angel’s polar-opposite younger sister Ann toking up and sniffing poppers with her friends. Ann likes Herschell, who rejects her for an evening at Bible study with Angel and her elderly friend who just happens to need “a husky guy” to help out on his poultry farm. To mellow him out, Ann gives Herschell a laced joint by the pool, causing him to become addicted after one dose. The two quickly fall in stoner love.
Herschell gets a job at the old man’s turkey farm (where the sounds of real turkeys are augmented by human voices gobbling and whistling on the soundtrack) and agrees to eat some experimental samples injected with chemicals. The combination of the spiked weed and the spiked turkey causes him to pass out. He awakens a while later to discover he has transformed into a giant turkey monster. Well, more like a guy with a papier-mâché turkey head and feather scarf, but you get the idea. He’s a mutant game bird dependent on the blood of drug addicts. When he’s not out killing junkies and drinking their blood with his toothy beak, he goes home to Ann and gobbles softly to her about his plight. In response she ponders, “Gosh, Herschell, you sure are ugly. I love you. But if we stay together, what will the children look like?” Then they make sweet, sweet turkey love.
If it sounds insane, it is. It is the only film I’ve ever seen where the director periodically interrupts the proceedings to explain what the hell is going on. It doesn’t help but it sure is entertaining to watch Grinter glance down at his script every few seconds.
Fortunately, Herschell wakes up to discover the entire episode was all a hallucination. It turns out our hero was already addicted to pain killers from injuries sustained in Vietnam. Angel, Ann and the poultry farmer get him the help he needs and he and Ann walk off happily ever after.
Just prior to the conclusion, director Brad Grinter pays his audience one last visit to warn us of the dangers of chemicals in our food. All while chain-smoking and coughing. The message couldn’t be clearer. Grinter knows he’s a hypocrite. It’s an apt description given that he taught filmmaking at the same time he made a literal turkey of a movie comprising underlit, out-of-focus shots. Me? I love turkey. I searched for many years to find a gem worthy of the “Best of the Worst” title. Blood Freak is the reigning Gobbler.
Trivia: Blood Freak is filled with a lot of big cat imagery. Actor Steve Hawkes was rescued by a lion from a fire while shooting a Tarzan film in Europe. He spent the rest of his life rescuing big cats. Steve was the original Tiger King.
To find out more about his life, which is worthy of a film on its own, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Sipek