Ex-teacher of English Literature Herschell Gordon Lewis single-handedly created the splatter genre back in 1963 with the release of "Blood Feast", a film that heralded a career in the drive-in exploitation movie market and saw he and his then producer, exploitation supremo David F. Freidman, quickly follow up with a further two films, "Two Thousand Maniacs" (1964) and "Color Me Blood Red" (1965). This 'Blood Trilogy', as it became known, became a springboard for the writer-director's subsequent movies in the splatter genre; they saw him into the '70s with such titles as "The Gruesome Twosome" (1967) and "The Wizard of Gore" (1970), before his homespun approach would begin to seem dated in the light of the revolution instigated by the realist approach taken to Horror in the cinema of fellow Pittsburghian, George A. Romero and Tobe Hopper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Lewis's influence on the genre cannot be underestimated, though. Nothing like his films had been seen up to that point. Today, they still retain some interest, despite the inevitable crudity and naivety of their approach: the cheapness of the productions and the dire performances from a troupe of largely non-actors only add an unusual sense of homeliness and a certain quaintness to these films that belies the stark prurience of them when the camera suddenly turns eagerly to linger on lurid scenes of dismemberment and disembowelment! Their absurd gore is often painted in a ridiculously lurid orangey red, of a look Romero himself would turn to when he came to make "Dawn of the Dead" in 1978 -- in some ways a film very much in the H. G. Lewis tradition.
In 2002, Lewis and the erstwhile Friedman unexpectedly teamed up again for a nominal sequel to their original debut, "Blood Feast", creating some degree of excitement in the Horror community. "Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat" arrived to a very different climate, of course, to that of the first collaborations of these two doyens of the exploitation market. Inevitably, the approach is very different. For a start, it quickly becomes apparent that, unlike his previous films which were both written and directed, and often filmed as well, by Lewis himself, the director has been merely 'drafted in' on this indie feature -- the addition of his name above the title becoming more a marketing device than anything else. The film's script frequently references the original movie though, with in-jokes that make light of Blood Feast's infamous misidentification of its plot-central sacrificial goddess, Ishtar, as an Egyptian Goddess rather than a Babylonian one, for instance. In the end though, this is far less interesting than Lewis's original work, playing like a fairly standard contemporary low-budget gore flick, relying on the usual post modern catalogue of bad jokes and self-satirising, deliberately bad, acting -- the self-consciousness of which does very little in the end to assuage the essential tediousness of the whole enterprise.
The story centres on the grandson and heir to the business of food caterer, Fued Ramses: the mad machete-waving killer who supplemented his recipes with the body parts of his clients in the original "Blood Feast". Having just moved into town, Fued Ramses III has inherited his grandfather's bakery business while being unaware of his predecessor's infamous reputation in the local community. Despite the hostility and suspicions of local detective Myers, Ramses is determined to redeem his family name when he finds out the truth of the horrid business that went on before. But almost immediately, he is possessed by the stone icon of the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar (actually a polystyrene prop with glowing red eye pieces) which is still active in a curtained-off back room, and he's soon replicating the sadistic murderous ways of his granddaddy.
With this most basic of storylines in place, pretty much replicating that of the previous film, lead man J.P Delahoussaye indulges in manic, lip-smacking Grand Guignol as he hacks, scalps and skewers his way through a glossy cast of half-naked bimbos, the friends of bride-to-be Tiffani Lampley (Toni Wynne), whose termagant dragon of a mother (Mellisa Morgan) has arranged to have Ramses provide her daughter and son-in-law's post-wedding buffet. Tiffani's fiancé is actually Detective Myers (Mark McLachlan) himself, and most of the film's attempts at humour rely on Myers and his obese partner, Loomis (geddit?) repeatedly failing to draw the obvious conclusion as to what is going on (the remains of the victims are usually covered in white baking powder, which should be a give-away if nothing else!) despite their sure knowledge of Ramses' filial heritage, until the final minutes when all but two of the cast characters remain alive.
The gore is as poor as you'd usually expect to find in an ultra low budget gore flick, and there lies the film's main problem: there is simply nothing to distinguish it from a million such films, the very opposite of what was the case when Lewis first made his name with the genre. There's an enjoyable cameo from John Waters as a sleazy pedophile priest, but even this director long ago gave up attempting to shock with his work. The squelchy gore scenes are scored with upbeat psychobilly guitar twangs and thumping drum beats that suggest a light-hearted exuberance should be taken in the bloody excesses, but this kind of stuff is far too run-of-the-mill these days to raise much interest from anyone but the most persistent and undiscriminating lovers of cinematic gore. The deliberately wooden dialogue and hopeless delivery of most of the cast appears studied in its indifference most of the time, and therefore not half as funny as when the bad acting wasn't necessarily intentional. Nowhere does the film come anywhere near recreating the unique strangeness of the original Lewis films.
"Blood Feast 2" arrives on DVD in a fairly acceptable-looking but unflashy non-anamorphic transfer from Arrow Films. The UK disc sports a number of short extra features headed by a twenty minute overview of the director's career in exploitation, "Gore Gourmet"; a featurette showing Lewis at work on set entitled, unsurprisingly enough, "On the Set with Herschell Gordon Lewis"; "Behind the Gore" is another short behind the scenes look at Lewis directing a specific gore scene and "Behind the Scenes" is a mercifully short featurette in which someone walks around with a camcorder on set and harasses the cast & crew with inane questions, when they clearly are not the least bit interested in taking part.
The disc's non-anamorphic transfer is curious in this day and age, but emphasises the low budget indie nature of the project, the film looking little different from a plethora of similar such indie efforts. Arrow have repackaged the film to fit their current Horror catalogue, complete with reversible sleeve.