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.
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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
Blood Sucking Freaks is often considered an exploitation classic, and is one of the select few Troma films to receive a reputation anything like that. It's not hard to see why this film is so well revered among fans of wayward cinema - the gore is disgusting, the torture scenes are extended and make for highly unpleasant viewing and there's an extremely misogynistic tone running throughout the film; something that is very popular with many fans of this sort of cinema. I definitely consider myself an exploitation fan, but I'm only going to rate this film as a must see for people like me; as in it's own right, Blood Sucking Freaks really isn't all that good. The film reminded me a lot of a HG Lewis movie, and the plot seems to take some influence from the "classic", The Wizard of Gore, as it follows a stage act. The stage act here concerns S&M and torture, and the "magician" at the centre achieves his realistic effects through actually killing his actors on stage while his crowd watch. Furthermore, the girls are put to use again for his own sick pleasure, and he has a cage full of rabid, meat-eating naked women in his basement...
The main problem with this film as far as I'm concerned is that it gets too caught up in the sadistic acts and the plot doesn't move fast enough, so after a while it starts to get boring. Director Joel M. Reed clearly has an eye for nasty torture, however, as this film features some of the sickest sequences I've ever seen; chief among them being the guillotine scene, and the part where someone drills a hole in someone's head and proceeds to suck out their brains with a straw! Seamus O'Brien is the lead actor, and it's not surprising that this was one of only two roles for him. His acting is campy and silly, and I really couldn't see him fitting into any other kind of film...which is both praise and a criticism. The locations and special effects all look very cheap, and it's clear that this film was shot on a very low budget; but this grittiness creates a very unclean atmosphere, which helps the film overall as it bodes very well with the nastiness of the action on display. Overall, Blood Sucking Freaks isn't exactly a classic film for my money - but it is mandatory viewing for exploit fans.
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