Blood Sucking Freaks

3 out of 5

Directed by: Joel M. Reed

What even is this movie? I mean, clearly, with all of its full-frontal naked women and the constant bright-red blood torture and spanking, it’s exploitation, but it also has more plot and acting than such things usually do, and for every indulgent shot lingering on T&A, director Joel M. Reed will include an artsy or surreal shot, or interestingly let the camera drift such that the nudie stuff is actually cropped off screen. It’s not especially complex, mind you, but it does start out with a mission statement – looking into the camera, even – of meta-positing that you can dress up the worst depravities and sell them as art, in the right context. This is what seems to lead theatre of the macabre owner Sardu (Seamus O’Brien) to chortlingly maim and kill helpless blondes on his off-Broadway stage, with the assistance of mesmerized, nigh-nude female helpers, and his fellow sadist buddy – though also sort of an Igor character – Ralphus (Luis De Jesus). Sardu keeps reminding his applauding audience that it’s all real, while hecklers maintain they’ve seen better tricks elsewhere, and others nod at how good the “actresses” are at showing their pain. Backing this concept up is where Reed actually tries to insert more script than one would expect, tying the funds that supports Sardu’s efforts into selling off his will-do-anything-you-want transfixed prisoners to other countries as slaves – insert some more offhand, surface-level commentary there – and his ability to skirt the law thanks to greasing the right hands (all government being corrupt, of course), as well as generally only plucking his victims from a pool which doesn’t have the money or clout to cause enough of an uproar. And then this is all actually ‘building’ toward the conclusion of Sardu’s initial “I can sell you anything” m.o., by wrapping another public murder around a concept of the art – represented by a popular ballet dancer – destroying the critic – represented by, y’know, a kidnapped critic. People applaud.

Clever? No, not really, I mean, it’s all incredibly surface level, and pointing at your exploitation movie as being an example of how easy it is to sell trash to people doesn’t make it not an exploitation movie, but at the same time, Reed has this funny score (Michael Sahl) running over the whole thing, and there’s some ridiculous “slapstick” – playing a board game by betting fingers they’re chopping off of slaves – and then off- and on-camera depravities galore, including headless fellatio, and a doctor who drills a whole into someone’s skull and drinks their brain juices, which gets a “can you believe this guy?” glance from Sardu and Ralphus, the latter of whom likes to eat eyeballs. And that final show they put on comes bundled with Nazi jokes, apparently; there’s a whole layer of this thing which is poking at transgressive stuff, but again, it’s also entirely just splatter and nudity. It’s like a low budget, comedy (?) version of A Serbian Film; I do wonder how much more Reed would’ve wanted on camera if he’d had the money and effects ability to do so.

While I was tempted to knock this up a star or more, thanks to the final shot, Blood Sucking Freaks is definitely an average film. The things I’m appreciating are more in comparison to its genre than as standalone elements, and whatever points it thinks its making are not delved into beyond soundbytes. At the same time, these elements, and some folks actually acting, and a director actually sometimes directing, make it a watchable 90 minutes, more than the sum of its gore and boobs, if only just for its status as a curiosity.