Sardu, master of the Theatre of the Macabre, and his assistant Ralphus run a show in which, under the guise of 'magic', they torture and murder people in front of their audience. But what the punters see as a trick is actually real.
A psychopath, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree?
In New York's Soho district, the master of ceremonies Sardu runs the Theater of the Macabre, which specializes in acts where people are tortured and dismembered. The audiences dismiss it as fakery but the gore is real. Behind the scenes, Sardu and his dwarf assistant Ralphus torture and mutilate women for their own pleasure, as well as sell girls they have abducted into slavery. When the critic Creasy Silo contemptuously dismisses the show, Sardu has him abducted and tortured. At the same time, Sardu also abducts the ballerina Natasha Di Natalie and determines to break her will in order to make her agree to perform in his new show. Written by
The brains in the infamous brain sucking scene were made out of oatmeal. See more »
During a conversation between Natasha and Tom - where he is in the bed and she is standing at a mirror - the sequence is made up of shots of Natalie at the mirror with Tom reflected in it. And shots of Tom on the bed. Tom swaps from one side of the bed to the other between shots. This was obviously done deliberately to keep Tom consistently on the left of the screen but it would have been less obvious if he didn't change his position in relation to the pile of books behind his head. See more »
There's something wrong here, even for an exploitation film
Anyone whose tastes run towards exploitation films kind of knows "the drill," the recurring themes, methodology, and clichés of the genre. We embrace them, and an exploitation film which effectively "plays the game" can get away with a multitude of since which would be unforgivable in mainstream cinema (bad acting, bad writing, bad production values, etc.).
By those standards, "Bloodsucking Freaks" should be hailed as a masterpiece of the genre, and, judging by its enduring cult popularity, it is. Still, there's something about this film which limits the viewer's ability to enjoy it for what it is, and, thus, limits itself. At first, it's hard to put one's finger on exactly what it is, but I think I've finally worked it out. Simply put, filmmaker Joel M. Reed made a film whose spirit is as mean-spirited and diabolical as what we see up on the screen.
"Bloodsucking Freaks," as often as not, plays its numerous horrors for laughs. (Indeed, Sardu and Ralphus occasionally come across as a kind of nightmarish stand-up comedy act.) The trouble is, the intention behind the humor is anything but good-natured. Any viewer with any kind of decency at all can't relate to the motivations behind what they see, and this diminishes the fun of watching this movie to a great degree. For exploitation fans, there is a fine line between brutal and unwatchable, and there are many times during which "Freaks" sinks below that line. And so while this film is an absolute must-see for fans of the genre (although how many such fans have not seen this movie?), it's not going to be one of the films in their collection which can be revisited often.
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