Something Weird (1967)

By 1967, Herschell Gordon Lewis had cemented his reputation as a guts-squishing, scalp-splitting, tongue-ripping exploitation pioneer. From Blood Feast to A Taste Of Blood, Lewis practically trademarked the art of the $5 gore scene. And then he made Something Weird.

Witches! Melting faces! Karate chops! LSD GHOST VIBES! That’s what happened when an honest-ta-gahd psychic named James Hurley hired H.G. Lewis to direct a sincere expose on the mysteries of ESP. That is to say, this movie is a rat’s nest of ridiculous psychedelic madness, an heavenly tier of faux-artsy horror that Lewis would never reach again.

A killer is on the loose. Two guys are practicing kung fu in a dojo. Cut to one of them making out with a girl. Cronin Mitchell is a construction engineer. One fine day on the job, an accident horribly disfigures his face while simultaneously bestowing him with psychic powers. It’s revealed that no amount of plastic surgery can repair his face. Mitchell becomes a professional palm reader. A witch visits him at the shop and offers to return his face to normal if he will promise to be her lover. She does and so does he. The witch appears to be a voluptuous woman to everyone but Mitchell. Somehow, the government gets wind of Mitchell’s psychic prowess. Remember that killer? Well, he’s still at it, and Mitchell is called in to solve the case. But first, he’s got to prove himself to stubborn Dr. Gordon, who prescribes Mitchell LSD in order to study its effects on a person with psychic abilities. And then someone has a fist fight with bed sheets.

Simply put, Something Weird is amazing. The film contains none of H.G. Lewis’ s usual exploitative elements, and all of his technical trademarks (static everything). But it gets by on sheer bizarre happenings alone. That’s why I like it so much. The acting is ridiculous, some scenes are hilarious, and there’s a lot of talk. But it all adds up and works perfectly. Something Weird also has higher production values than most of Lewis’s films. Plus, where else are you going to see a grown man duke it out with his possessed bedsheets? I’ll tell you — NOWHERE!

With weirdo in-camera effects — just like Georges Méliès! — and unexpectedly “slick” aesthetics,Something Weird is the most overlooked gutter-horror movie of the 20th century. And probably the 30th century.

From the Archives