Blood Freak (1972)
Directed by Brad F. Grinter & Steve Hawkes

Artistic Value: *
Entertainment Value: * * *

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While driving his motorcycle down a Florida turnpike, Herschell (Steve Hawkes), a severely burned Vietnam veteran with a dramatic pompadour, stops to help a devoutly Christian young woman, Angel, who is having car trouble. She takes him back to her house, where he meets her sister, Anne, a free living and sexy young woman who loves using drugs (even though Angel does remind her that her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit). Herschell, at first, does not want to have anything to do with Anne or her habits, but she eventually convinces him to try some drugs (by accusing him of being a coward). Herschell promptly becomes addicted and goes to bed with Anne. Though he oversleeps the next day, he still heads to his new job at a local turkey farm, where he is introduced to a pair of scientists working at the laboratory there. They ask him to eat an experimental, chemically altered turkey they have developed and tempt him with the promise of free drugs. Herschell, naturally, agrees and devours an entire turkey. Unfortunately, the meat of this new sort of turkey reacts with the drugs in Herschell's system causing him to transform into a turkey-headed monster that must feed upon the blood of junkies.

Brad F. Grinter and Steve Hawkes' Blood Freak is an awful if reasonably entertaining movie.

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There is very little in the film for which its makers can be complimented. The acting is universally atrocious and painfully stiff. The editing is inept and choppy. The cinematography is unbelievably bad (a good many shots are not even in focus). The sets are utterly cheap (and just as tacky). The narrative is silly, internally inconsistent, and often incoherent. The special effects are laughable. Even the sound is poorly done. Happily, there is so much in Blood Freak that is ridiculously bad that the movie can actually be entertaining. It is rare to find such a wealth of concentrated incompetence.

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Moreover, the results of this ineptitude are complemented by a number of genuinely loopy elements. Obviously, there is the fact that the story centers on a man's transformation into a murderous turkey monster, the head of which, I have to mention, is clearly made from papier-mâché. This is hardly the only odd detail in the movie, however. The whole thing is a sort of Christian morality tale pointing out the evils of drug use and the need to have faith in Jesus. The director even drives these points home by appearing as a chain smoking, moralizing, and very wooden narrator at several points in the film. Not only is the man painfully awkward, and obviously reading his lines, but, during the last of his appearances, he has a coughing fit (apparently, he did not have the money to reshoot the scene). I could go on about the ludicrous dialogue, the hideous sets, and the warped ideas about drug use, which seem to have been borrowed from paranoic scare films like Reefer Madness. The movie is just packed with nonsense.

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As much fun as it is to watch such weirdness, and to relish the incompetence of the film makers, I have to admit that Blood Freak is quite often rather boring, nonetheless. Though the beginning is hilariously awful, much of the middle is tedious. That said, the film does pick up again towards its ending. In the last act, the viewer is treated to the sight of the turkey monster going on a gory but goofy killing spree. The thing murders one usually female junky after another, hangs the body of each upside down, slits her throat, collects her blood in his cupped hands, and drinks it. Most of these killings are funnier than they are gruesome. There is, however, one that is surprisingly well done and nasty. In this, the fiend cuts off the leg of a drug dealer with a table saw. I was actually a little repulsed by it.

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I can hardly recommend Blood Freak as a good movie, but it is still frequently entertaining. Of course, it is fun to watch mostly because it is absolutely atrocious.

Review by Keith Allen

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