Freak: The only film that goes well with stuffing and gravy.
There are a lot of "holiday" themed horror movies out there. Even if we ignore the hordes of films that Halloween has spawned, that still leaves us with a good number of movies inspired by Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, July 4th, and even Easter. When I realized Thanksgiving was coming up, I thought it would be a good time to find one that fit the holiday bill, as it were. Sadly, there is a distinct lack of turkey-themed horror films. That doesn't mean that I failed, it just means that I was disappointed that there are no "zombie pilgrim" horror films, or even a slasher film that takes place during the Macy's Day parade (which would be totally awesome somehow). So what did I find?
I found Blood Freak, made in 1972. Of all that is holy, I found a film about a killer turkey monster. There's more to it, but I don't want to give away too much yet. Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: This film is god AWFUL. Still fun in that charming "SWEET MOTHER OF CHRIST MY BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE" kind of way, but it really is pretty painful to watch. Even worse, you find out the whole thing was a dream right at the end. I don't know why that pisses me off, but it just does. Since I've already established that this thing sucks on toast, let's dive right into the burning ring of fire that is Blood Freak.
Meet Herschell. Herschell's a a drifter (and also one of the film's writers/directors, because we all know it takes two people to make a terrible film about a killer turkey monster) who gets taken in by the kindly Christian girl who happens to live with a whole mess of orgy-loving drug addicts. In case that didn't clue you in, there's a MORAL to this film: Don't do drugs or a killer turkey monster will kill you and guzzle your blood. Druggies, you were warned. Herschell, because he's the director as well as a "beefy hunk/road scholar", gets hit on by a random slut. He spurns her, quoting the bible in his defense. She goes back to her boyfriend (keep in mind this is the 1970's, so the whole wife-swapping thing was still going strong) and pouts until her boyfriend vows to avenge her dishonor. The druggie couple put their brains together and come up with a plan to get him back. So what do they do to Herschell?
They get him really, really stoned so the girl can sleep with him. Apparently, that wasn't the entire plan, as whatever they gave Herschell got him totally addicted to drugs with one puff. Still, it's an ingenious plan involving giving someone a chemical dependence just because they wouldn't have sex with you. I guess if you're a drug dealer that's not a bad plan at all. It sort of explains that period of my life that I don't like to talk about where I danced on stage for the cocaine my manager would give me after the set. I'm joking, but I know two people who've had that exact experience. Maybe I've got some morally corrupt druggie friends, or maybe this whole "get someone addicted so they'll do what you want" thing isn't that funny.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention another reason why this film will make you pee blood for a week after you watch it:
That's the narrator. He's more of a bad news anchor, really. Every 15 or so minutes, he gives us a long monologue about the fickleness of fate, the repercussions of toying with God's plan, or just rambles on like that too talkative guy who sits next to you on the bus. He sits there, looking down and reading his script to you while he smokes cigarette after cigarette. Apparently, the director (the narrator is the OTHER writer/director of this train wreck) didn't want to remember his lines or even do a second take if needed. During his final monologue he literally has a coughing fit where he spits and sputters all over the screen. It's not intentional. It isn't poetic and subtle in it's meaning. It's just the director coughing cigarette smoke on camera. The fact that they left it in confirms the obvious: The directors didn't really care. Hell, if I was making a killer turkey movie, I'd at least TRY to do it right. Then again, these guys did know they were making a KILLER TURKEY MOVIE. I guess at some point you realize you're not working on the next Casablanca...or even the next Free Willy 2.
You might have noticed that there's not much Thankgiving going on yet. That quickly changes about a half-hour into the film. Herschell's Christian girlfriend gets him a job. Not just any job. The job that makes this THE Thankgiving horror film. He gets a job at a turkey hatchery, which is pretty much a fancy name for a turkey farm. Of course, because this is a horror movie, it's a turkey farm that has an experimental lab that's working hard at genetically modifying turkeys so that Americans can enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners even more. Herschell's job requires him to chase turkeys, clean their cages, and EAT ANY EXPERIMENTAL TURKEY MEAT the scientists put in front of him. And he does, proven by the far too detailed scene of beefy Herschell eating the entire turkey. I'm glad he ate the whole thing because sometimes the mutated flesh is on the bottom.
God damn, is Herschell a retard. Still, his desperation for money and his lack of common sense let this film really get off the ground. While if you or I were to eat experimental meat, we'd just walk away with cancer and maybe bowel dysfunction, Herschell gets a much more rewarding side-effect.
You might not be able to tell from the horrible pictures above (it's very hard to capture "good" images of a lumpy turkey mask that's only shown in dark, dark scenes lit only by a glow-in-the-dark wristwatch), Herschell has turned into a turkey monster. Well, to be fair, he's exactly the same, except he has a big ol' monster turkey head. Of all the animals to get stuck with the head of, Herschell really got screwed. Herschell runs off, scares his Christian girlfriend, and then suddenly remembers that he's addicted to drugs. Since he can't casually get drugs due to the social awkwardness of trying to explain why he suddenly has the head of an ugly bird, he decides that the only way for him to get his fix is by murdering and drinking the blood of every drug user he can get his hands on. He assaults people shooting up in cars and smoking grass...who are easy to find considering there seem to be only three characters who DON'T do drugs in this film....and guzzles their blood to get his fix.
Take a moment and reflect about exactly what this film is giving us. This is a movie about drug-addicted turkey monster that drinks the blood of druggies to get it's fix. A giant turkey monster that drinks blood. Don't tell me that doesn't make you laugh. Some films are so ridiculous, that you can't help but realize how retarded they are the moment you put them into you VCR (or DVD player). Others, like Blood Freak, start out smoking pole and slowly build up to pure psychotic lameness. The film's tagline was "A Dracula on Drugs!" It would have been more accurate as "A TURKEY Dracula on Drugs!" It's so lame it amuses me. You can go to hell if you don't find that funny.
Sadly, there isn't nearly enough blood guzzling in the film, as Turkey-Herschell only kills a handful of people in pretty mundane ways. (So no, there isn't a scene where the monster pecks someone's eyes out.) In the end, someone gets the best of Herschell by sneaking up behind him and cutting his head off.
Instead of seeing the monster killed, we're given footage of a turkey with his head cut off. While I admit the "severed turkey head" is almost poignant, I have to say that the footage of the "turkey's headless body running around and flapping like crazy" is nothing short of hilarious. You know that expression "like a turkey with it's head cut off?" Pure comedic gold. Who knew? There's also a shot of people enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner over Turkey-Herschell's severed head, but the less said about that the better. Why? Because here's where we find out that the whole "killer turkey monster" was a bad hallucination caused by eating the fricking mutant turkey meat. Duh.
There you have it. Potentially the only Thanksgiving horror film out there, and my god, is it awful. It is in times like these that it's important to declare what you're thankful for. So what ARE you thankful for this year? Personally, I'm thankful that I can put my purchase of Blood Freak on VHS on my taxes. Somehow that makes me feel less dirty and foul (but not fowl).
So when your father/husband/wife/mother/sex slave places the turkey on the table this Thanksgiving, make sure you ask/demand to know/spank them until they confess as to where they got the bird. Of course, that's assuming you don't want to be turned into a mutant bloodthirsty turkey monster.
Copyright 2005 jared von hindman, expect for the images from Blood Freak which are use purely for review purposes. Really. Why the hell else would I post such terrible picture of Herschell?