“...a sad chapter of my life.” -Steven Hawkes.
“The only anti-chemical splatter film ive ever heard of” -Shock Xpress magazine.
Before I regale you with my thoughts on the amazing “Blood Freak”, a little history lesson concerning the reason for the existence of this film is required.
Steven Hawkes, the film's co-director and star, had previously appeared in a number of Euro-lensed films based on the Tarzan series of books. During the shooting of Tarzan and the Brown Prince, an on-set accident left him with 90 percent burns to his body, obviously curtailing his career as Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape-man.
When the opportunity came up to appear in Blood Freak, Hawkes jumped at the chance, primarily in order to pay his medical bills. The film was not a success, and Hawkes now lives in Florida on a nature reserve where he resides quietly, looking after the animals and shunning all talk of Blood Freak.
Brad Grinter was a journeyman exploitation director/actor, best known for Flesh Feast (1970) -that was the film starring film icon Veronica Lake, possibly the lowpoint in her career in that it featured, amongst other things, Adolf Hitler and face-melting maggot storms. Grinter was also a film teacher, and it would appear that most of the actors in Blood Freak were his film school students, who participated in the film for free, thereby keeping down production costs.
Anyway, on to the film itself.
Hawkes plays Herschell, a Vietnam vet biker who meets a young hippy chick, Angel. She invites him back to her house, but warns him that some of her sisters friends have taken over the place and they are pretty “far out”. Herschell is not impressed with the debauchery and drug taking that occurs in the house,so begins quoting the bible to the “sinners”. He apparently reads the quotes off “idiot boards”, as his delivery is far worse than a 4 year old child playing Joseph in a school Nativity play.
Needless to say, all this bible-thumping is NOT well received, leading to one of the hippies to say to Herschell, ”Your nothing but a dumb bastard who doesnt know where it's at...”
Hershell is somehow persuaded to smoke some primo ganja (“this stuff is guaranteed to make you fly”), and you know its a “message” film when one drag on the spliff turns him into a giggling pot-head who can barely speak or stand up!!
The joint nearly wrecks Herschell's life, so he decides to take a job at a nearby turkey farm. This doesnt go to plan, however, and the evil turkey farm owners get Herschell off his face on more ganja, and make him eat an entire contaminated turkey.
This doesnt sit well with Herschell's metabolism, and he slinks out to the yard at the rear of the farm. He begins to shiver and shake,and immediately mutates into a giant human turkey. This effect is made by covering Hawkes head with a large shapeless mass of papier mache, sticking two table tennis balls on the mask for eyes, and placing glue on the mask to stick feathers to it. The makeup artist apparently had the eyesight of Stevie Wonder and the dexterity of Steven Hawking, because the resultant mess is undoubtably the worse “special makeup effect” I have ever seen in a movie.
“All we did was give this guy some turkey”, rages one of the turkey farm staff.
Herschell is understandably upset by this turn of events, and goes back to Angel's house where he meets up with a young girl, Ann, who is somewhat sympathetic to his plight (although she does tell him that, “you sure look ugly, Herschell”).
Herschell does not take this vicious criticism too well, but cannot really get his point across as he cant speak anymore - the only sounds emitting from his mouth are raucous turkey noises. Ann decides that they have no future together,”my god, what would the children look like” she somewhat unwisely asks him.
This enrages Herschell to no-end, and after discovering that the only thing that can sustain the raging hunger that has engulfed him is the blood of drug addicts, he goes on the rampage (a turkey trot?), and stalks Angel's hippy friends, dragging them into the bushes and slashing them up, drinking their blood with much gusto.
In a few frenzied minutes he attacks an old man in the back of a car who is apparently giving a young girl a fix of heroin, an old codger who just happens to be walking past, and then a fat transexual lunatic who chases after Herschell with a screwdriver, stabbing him in the ping pong ball (sorry,eye!!). If you think Herschell was angry before, this event sends him into a fury, and he hacks the man to pieces, all the while gobbling at the top of his voice. Ann is understandably perturbed by this turn of events, and she gets cosy with her ex-boyfriend Guy, an all round sleaze bucket and part time drug dealer. Guy takes Ann to see one of his friends, his main supplier, but when Guy can't pay his dues he offers Ann up in lieu of payment for his latest batch of drugs. The dealer attempts to rape Ann, but before he can get down to the dirty deed, Turkey Man arrives on the scene and proceeds to remove the dealers leg with a bandsaw. A real amputee is used in this scene, so the Turkey Man simply hacks off what is apparently a department store dummy's leg from the amputees stump.
Herschell and Ann decide that enough is enough,and, in an uplifting finale, resort to the only possible solution - that's right, they decide to pray to god to remove Herschell's affliction. Loathe as I am to say it, surely it would have been better for Herschell to just go “cold turkey”!!!!!
Words cannot do justice to just how freaky, perverse and entertaining the film actually is. It's crazed anti-drug/anti promiscuity message is delivered with a completely straight face, and the cast and crew are completely unaware of the laugh out loud premise of their creation.
Adding to the fun is co-director Grinter, who appears from time to time as an on-screen narrator, warning us of the perils of drugs. He is very uncomfortable indeed in this role, reading from cue cards and at one stage having to stop his narration to cough uncontrollably - this made me cry with laughter as the man is delivering an anti-drug message and would appear to smoke eighty cigarettes a day!!
Grinter left the production part way through the shoot, due to the finances running out, and Hawkes finished directing the film himself.
I urge all Horrorview readers to immediately track down the Image DVD if they can - it's a brilliant and unknowingly campy movie, which has some laugh out loud moments of sheer absurdity, as well as not skimping on the splatter.
In closing, let this movie act as a cautionary tale to some of our more liberal readers - lay off the drugs or you too could end up with a giant Turkey's head and a craving for the blood of potheads everywhere.