Blood Freak (1972)

Directed by Brad Grinter and Steve Hawkes
Something Weird DVD

On a weekend in 1988, I had a particularly rough day at Sunday school. That night, Jesus H. Christ himself appeared to me in a dream.

“My son, you know why I am here. You have coveted thy neighbor’s wife, lied on your tax returns, and consistently drop one nickel into my offerings basket during mass. The time has come for your repentance.”

“But Jesus, I am a ten year old boy. Yes, I stole a copy of the Creepshow graphic novel from Tommy Shields at school, but I swear I’ll give it back. What’s a ‘coveted’?”

“SILENCE! Although you have yet to covet or cheat on a tax form, YOU PROBABLY WILL. Therefore, the guilt and mumbling must begin now. I order you to 42 Hail Marys, 67 Our Fathers, and a threat that you may burn in hell for placing such a paltry amount in my offerings basket. Follow these guidelines, sinner, or else! Must I relate the story of Herschell to your petty ears?”

“Herschell? Who’s Herschell? Was he friends with Paul or John?”

A decade later I found out. Something Weird bills it as “The World’s Only Turkey-Monster-Anti-Drug-Pro-Jesus-Gore-Film!” Shock Cinema’s Steve Puchalski summed it concisely with “…if H.G. Lewis was a raving Bible freak who made anti-drug films.” They’re both right. This is Blood Freak. It’s a shot-in-Miami, near-home-movie discharge from exploitation dreg Brad Grinter (Flesh Feast) and movie biz casualty Steve Hawkes. Lock the doors and draw the curtains. The neighbors might be watching.

Overgrown Elvis lookalike Herschell (Steve Hawkes) is a man of the world. Plowing down the highway on his Harley, he stops for a woman on the side of the road. Her car works fine. Hersch follows her home and discovers two things: 1. The woman, Angel, is a bible thumper (“Your body is a temple to the holy spirit. Don’t defile it.”) and 2. Her sister, Anne, is a pothead nympho with a love for fake eyebrows and blue eye shadow. Naturally, after a few scenes of refusal, Herschell gives into Anne’s temptations, fully indulging in backroom sex and pot parties. Then, the inevitable: reefer shakes! Pot-needle addiction! Starting a new job at a turkey farm, Herschell is chosen to partake in a taste test. Experimental, chemically enhanced turkey is ingested. Herschell finds himself transformed into a blood-lusting killer with a turkey head. The grit gore flies. The gobbling sound effects persist. Can Hersch save himself through devout worship? Did it really happen? Will on-screen narrator (and director) Brad Grinter spit out those last few words before keeling over from his smoker’s hack? The road to knowledge is a beautiful one.

Blood Freak is a trash film revelation. Peerless, disturbed, and completely stupid, it’s a glorification of all things crooked and perplexing in 70s exploitation films. The sheer concept (and series of events) baffles endlessly, making Grinter and friends’ seeming sincerity a trivial footnote. Blood Freak is here. Blood Freak is now and forever. No further investigation is needed. When Herschell violently twitches in silent, day-for-night grace on a dew-dropped lawn, you’ll feel a chill. When the grainy, out of focus shots capture seemingly real split-seconds of life in 1972, you’ll soak in the love. When the looped screams and nasty gore linger on in dirty grandeur, you’ll squirm in your seat. Most of the time, the people in the film can’t speak properly. You’ll probably like that too. In fact, there’s not much to dislike about Blood Freak. Sometimes, that’s just how these things work out.

The cautionary tome of young Herschell’s dilemma is simple. Do drugs and die. Or, do drugs, become a turkey headed madman, kill all your friends, and later find salvation. That seems like a lot of work to me. Blood Freak makes it seem effortless.

Once again, Something Weird delivers. This is the defining presentation of a film that demands to be seen on its own lo-fi terms. Blood Freak has never looked this cruddily terrific. That’s all you need to know.

We’ll start out slow and snowball from there. First, there’s an eight minute gallery of Eerie Publications magazine covers, all from the 1970s. This is repeated on other Something Weird discs, but never gets old. Next up is a full trailer for the feature (which gives everything away), followed by eight additional trailers for other blood-themed scorchers. I was thrilled to see the spot for The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Good stuff.

Onto the shorts. A whopping six short films are included, all related to either Mr. Grinter, turkeys, LSD, or some combination thereof. Depending on your preferences, you’ll either be wowed by the pop culture charms or lulled to a deep sleep. There’s “Brad Grinter, Nudist,” a 10 minute nudie exercise which finds H.G. Lewis pal Bill Kerwin and a younger Grinter attempting to solve the frigidity of Bill’s wife through a romp in the buff. And yes, they bare it all for the cameras. In the 28 minute classroom scare film “Narcotics: Pit Of Despair,” we follow the story of Mr. Average High Schooler John, as he falls deeper and deeper into the world of “pot needles,” insane dance parties, and beat lingo narration. “Beggar At The Gates” is 24 minutes of documentary interviews with people that find alternatives to the typical ways of speaking with God. You know, like wearing polyester while speaking in tongues and tripping on acid. The 19 minute “Turkeys In The Wild” is a 1970s educational film that follows our scary friend, the turkey, as he frolics, courts the ladies, and gets hunted. The last of the shorts, the 12 minute “A Day Of Thanksgiving,” shows us how whining brats in the 50s were educated on the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Finally, feast your peepers on the 28 minute “skin-noir” short film, The Walls Have Eyes. Starring a much younger Steve Hawkes (Herschell himself, here looking like a buff Vincent Gallo), this droning, black and white softcore featurette consists of a naked girl groping herself in front of mirror before getting it on with Hawkes on a zebra-decked bed. She’s later blackmailed thanks to a two way mirror by a grubby motel owner. Ghost noises fill the soundtrack. There are a few minutes of travelogue footage and then Hawkes kicks the motel owner’s ass. Just remember: “This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” I didn’t catch any names.

Repeat viewings do not lessen the alarming violence and uncomfortable hilarity of Blood Freak. The presentation is outstanding. The extras are piled on, but might bore you aside from the trailers. Obviously, this isn’t about supplements. Blood Freak is a landmark release for Something Weird and a treasure for fans of extremely strange trash cinema. Covet thy copy, not thy neighbor’s wife.