Friday, 5 September 2014



Well, it's a horrible film. Will that do? No? Right then, deep breath: it's a crass, charmless, vile, tedious and depressing parade of cheery misogynist sleaze aimed squarely at the kind of pathetic maladjusted wanker who gets off on watching naked women being (in no particular order) tortured, slapped, starved, chained up, humiliated, dismembered, brutalised, and decapitated (or otherwise killed), pass the popcorn. It's one of the most famous grindhouse splatter titles of the 1970s: a straight tits and gore offering with absolutely no artistic or aesthetic merit whatsoever, that's somehow survived on the strength of its titles (it's also known as The Incredible Torture Show, a hilarious joke for acronym buffs) and its balls-out refusal to balk at anything on the grounds of questionable taste.

Moralistic? Censorious? Try bored to tears. In as much as Blood Sucking Freaks (yes, it is three words) has a plot, it concerns a grotty New York Grand Guignol show in which naked women are tortured and killed: third-rate MC and white slavery tycoon "The Great Sardu" takes issue with a theatre critic unimpressed with the show, so abducts him to appear in his forthcoming self-composed ballet that will climax with his onstage murder. He also kidnaps a ballerina to take the lead role, whether she wants to or not. In between all this, he and his dwarf sidekick abuse and maim some of the naked women he keeps locked up in the basement.

Look, I enjoy the occasional torture movie. I love the Saw movies and the first two Hostels. And I know that you couldn't make a grindhouse exploitation movie in the 1970s without boobs and pubes because that's what they were for. It was a different time; we don't do that sort of thing now but we did then. But that's only a historical justification: we stopped it and that's a change for the better, the way we stopped burning witches and sending children up chimneys. To see something as tiresome as Blood Sucking Freaks dug up after nearly forty years and presented to us now as an entertainment frankly feels as wrong as a DVD boxset of The Black And White Minstrel Show. It's a product of its time and that time has gone. Quentin Tarantino and Frank Henenlotter can wax nostalgic over 42nd Street fleapits and inner-city triple bills of cheap garbage as much as they like, but the sad fact is that watching these films a generation later is just not a rewarding experience: later grindhouse movies like Henenlotter's Basket Case and Abel Ferrara's Fear City are far better glimpses of that world.

Given the amount of violence dished merrily out to - let us not forget - naked women, it's surprising the film has been waved through the BBFC without so much as a trim. They're obviously going through a lenient patch right now, as the deeply upsetting Nekromantik sailed through as well. (Yet at the same time, a film as generally restrained, and substantially better, as Axelle Carolyn's Soulmate gets pulled up!) It's almost beside the point that the performances in Blood Sucking Freaks are uniformly terrible, the plot is stupid and the music score is an abomination; indeed, it wouldn't be an authentic grindhouse film without them. That's no defence: it's a thoroughly horrible, mean-spirited and technically shoddy piece of sadistic softcore with no redeeming features. Despicable.


No comments: