I’m terrible at writing about a filmmaker that I adore quite like Martin Scorsese. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the hyperbole. And I’m afraid I can’t avoid that pitfall here. His latest, “The Departed” is an electric experience, scurrying back to the violent streets that once made him famous. This is Scorsese at his most playful. Like “Bringing Out the Dead”, “The Departed” throws caution to the wind and belts out a wildy energetic pace that’s matched in strong, calculated performances from all involved. That’s all I can muster to write about this one so far. I watched it twice over the weekend and can’t wait to experience it again. If only every year I could have a Malick film and a Scorsese film top out my favorites of the year.
Exploitation Pick! Blood Sucking Freaks
I’ll lay my intentions bare- I love exploitation and grindhouse flicks. I think one has to take into consideration two aspects when one watches these types of films: 1) they’re usually a product of their environment. What I mean by this is that you cannot expect more than a limited budget, horrendous dubbing, poor acting and a diabolical (if not cheap) sense of humor. These types of films were often produced with little funding, limited equipment and actors on loan or leave from more mainstream projects. In fact, this crudeness derived from minimal means often lends an air of perverse sleaze to the entire project. 2) They hardly ever take themselves seriously. The best future for a grindhouse film was to find an interactive audience in a New York slum theater and play for 2-3 months to the lowest common denominator of the movie-going public. That was the measure of success with this genre. With that in mind, the overwhelming goal of the grindhouse film was not to make explicit any political or social messages (although that was a joyous byproduct of some of the best) but to simply entertain. The reason that Troma films are more entertaining than say, films such as “See No Evil” or “The Darkness” is that they don’t ever take themselves too seriously. The emphasis is on entertaining rather than scaring. So, with that said, I’ve made it my pre-new year resolution to see as many of these flicks as possible. Films like “Blood Sucking Freaks”, “Don’t Go In the House”, “The House on the Edge of the Park”, “Thriller, a Crude Picture”, “The Candy Snatchers”, “Isla films”.. the list is endless. And what better way to initiate this resolution than with Joel Reed’s “Blood Sucking Freaks”. This film epitomizes the above criteria- filmed in 10 days in the basement of Reed’s house with actors on loan from soap operas and various other low budget projects and using every last bit of film (i.e. certain exterior shots giving off that sputter that indicates the cameraman was using ends of film reels). Seamus O Brien plays Sardu, the ringleader of a troupe of rejects that orchestrates off-off-Broadway shows of the macabre using real life victims. His right hand man, Ralphus (played by a black midget with an afro named Luis de Jesus) is sheer delight from start to finish, whether he’s enjoying a decapitated woman’s head giving him oral pleasure or throwing pieces of chicken into the cage of naked women held hostage, de Jesus is a walking comedy, sincerely playing up the weirdness of his character. And I wonder if this is where the inspiration for the character played by Dennis Hopper in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” springs from? Black midgets with afros aside, “Blood Sucking Freaks” rolls along with little regard for consistency or logic. In one scene, while a police detective talks to a famous football player (played by Niles McMaster) about the disappearance of his girlfriend, why does the football player have his shirt off, combing his hair in front of a mirror? And why doesn’t the detective question this? Because in the world of exploitation, you learn to question nothing. “Blood Sucking freaks”, filmed in New Jersey in 1976, capsizes the mores of decency and explodes across the screen with giddy dementia. Isn’t that what exploitation is all about? Rent it now.