“The only horror film where the aspects of the film-making are far more frightening than the slayings themselves”DVD VERDICT
Who made it? Directed by Andy Milligan | Written by Andy Milligan & Hal Sherwood | Director Of Photography Andy Milligan | Special Effects
Who’s in it? Veronica Radburn | Maggie Rogers | Hal Borske | Anne Linden | Fib LaBlaque | Carol Vogel
If you weren’t watching this, you might have been watching… Rosemary’s Baby / 2001: A Space Odessy / The Thomas Crown Affair
What’s it all about?
So here we go. Next up, I spent about half an hour on Sunday typing “Blood Rites” into various search engines. Does ANYONE still say “search engine?” It’s right up there with Information Superhighway. But I digress. I tried Google and Bing and even asked Jeeves at one point, trying to see if this movie was available online. It seemed not to be. At least not in a legitimate “pay us £3 and you can see it” way. No Netflix, Amazon, NOW, iPlayer, ITunes or YouTube.
But then there is was, nestling in the search results. Under the title “The Ghastly Ones 1968 (watch full movie)”
So I clicked and clicked and opened and closed and opened and closed and yesses and no-ed and accepted and blocked and on and on. And then there it was. A lurid red opening credit sequence. Crackly, grainy, probably tenth-generation old VHS upload. So I made a cuppa, dimmed the lights and pressed play.
The story is a very simple one. Too simple really. I mean a twist or revelation wouldn’t have killed them. Turn of the century New York. All high collars and corsets. A dead man’s will is read aloud. His 3 daughters, now they have come of age and are settled and married, must spend a night or two at his old house on a private island as “married couples.” (Eg, they’re expected I assume to have sex at some point. Not in a group. Just, y’know, as couples). AT which point, the last part of the will shall be read, a trunk brough down from the loft, and the house and estate divided up between them.
All goes well until they all start, one by one, being bumped off in a number of clumsily blood-thirsty ways. But who is doing the bumping off? And so on…
Production, cast and whatnot
Is it any good?
Well it’s short. About 71 minutes. Which is a god send. As I must have checked my watch 40 times during it. It’s not good. I mean it just isn’t. Call it “campy” or “charming” or “delightfully naïve” if you’re that sort of person. But it’s just terrible. The story is competent and not an un-trodden dramatic path (wills and inheritances and murder plots and “It’s mine I tell you! Mine!” style outbursts). Plus revelations of secret children and evil step moms. It holds up.
But the production values and – more importantly, the performances – are so hammy, hackneyed, scenery chewing, stagey, shouty and amateurish as to make one hide behind the cushion UNTIL a murder happens.
Remember Victoria Wood on UK TV. Her spoof sitcom Acorn Antiques? With all the wobbly sets and banging into furniture and blocking each other’s view and cue-card reciting. Well its THAT. Exactly like THAT.
But not on purpose. And with no sense of humour. All done in chintzy period costume under bad lighting so it’s too bright and too dark at the same time.
Well. What I’m learning as I embark on this project is that there is a certain “look.” And it comes up a lot so far (well, in the last 2 movies). I confidently expect it to come up a lot in the next few dozen. It’s this: Imagine you took a lasagne. Mashed it all up with some rubbery entrails. Drowned the whole lot in ketchup. Right? Now hollow out a large fat church candle and pour the mixture in. Paint the candle a fleshy pink. Zoom in close. Chop the candle in half with a big knife so it all spurts and sploshes and jets out like…well, like a waxy candle full of lasagne. If you can get a squeezy washing up liquid bottle in there too, off camera, for some “spurty jets” that’d help.
Perhaps in 1968 this was face-coveringly macabre. But now it’s purile and silly. It might startle a maiden-aunt or a timid grandad. But certainly no worse than an average episode of Holby City or E.R.
The nastiest parts to be fair are the casual face-slapping of “hysterical” women. All of whom are seen topless, wandering about in their bedrooms, getting playful fondlings from their idiot husbands and shifting under semi-see-through night-dresses. It’s sexy, if Kenny Everett and Minder was sexy.
Not in the least. No more pairs of boobs than you’d get in Porky’s Revenge or a feature length episode of The Sweeney. Dull periods of swooning maidens and brandy-swigging menfolk. A backwards/backwoods “Egor” like gardener. And a half dozen jumpy stabbings with household equipment that, as I say, are silly rather than gory. As gruesome as the Great British Bake Off “Sponge Cake Mix” episode.
What does it remind me of?
Victoria Wood’s “Acorn Antiques.” This Fry and Laurie Sketch. And, I suppose, the squirty red paint dismemberment of Blood Feast (1963). See earlier episode.
Where to find it?
If you want to bother, and it’s for completists only. Remember, I’m doing this so you don’t have to, it’s here, if you can wade through the pop ups.
Also available on DVD on Amazon, Ebay and the usual places.