Journalist Kip Pardue, dressed like a suave 60s private dick, goes with girlfriend Bijou Phillips to see ‘Montag the Magnificent’ (Crispin Glover), a bizarre, seedy, avant-garde magician whose disgusting stage act involves ripping inside a girl’s chest and removing her guts, and then ‘Hey Presto!’ the girl’s OK and it’s all a gag. Or is it? Pardue starts to be adversely affected the more he attends Montag’s shows (to investigate things further), as the line between reality and fantasy becomes horribly blurred for Pardue. And then the stage ‘victims’ start turning up dead for real. Who is Montag and what in the hell is going on? Is Pardue simply losing his mind? Is he getting turned on by all of the sideshow violence? Joshua Miller turns up as Pardue’s coroner buddy (the most normal character in the film, amazingly), Brad Dourif plays the weirdest acupuncturist you’re ever going to come across, and Jeffrey Combs’ mystery role, I think is best left discovered for yourself (Suffice to say, if you spot him, you’re a lot smarter than me!).
Star ratings are entirely irrelevant here, with this Jeremy Kasten remake/reimagining of the infamous Herschell Gordon Lewis ‘gore’ movie from 1970. Is the movie any good? Such questions are irrelevant too. This isn’t a movie, it’s a geek show, an experience. It’s kind of like a Carny sideshow on LSD and drowned in a bucket of blood. All I can say is that it is what it is, and for what it is, it’s actually sorta...kinda...interesting. But I’d certainly give it at least one star for featuring full-frontal female nudity, a rarity these days. And it's probably worth more than that overall. It’s 90 minutes worth of a whole lot of weird stuff, and I acknowledge that there is a definite audience for that.
Glover is...completely indescribable. I honestly can’t encapsulate what it is he actually gives here, performance-wise. You simply have to see it for yourself, if you choose to do so. Meanwhile, Brad Dourif plays the strangest character of his entire career. Look at that previous sentence again, it really says something. Actually the whole cast is appropriately bizarre, but Combs is wasted and unrecognisable behind makeup and neither the uber-bland Pardue or Phillips are any good at all.
The film features the most unbelievably twisted and grotesque sex scene I’ve seen, but because of the camp nature of the film, surely you can’t get offended. It’s just a gag. And besides, if you’re even contemplating seeing this film, you probably know more about HG Lewis than I do and are totally prepared for it. So I guess the difference between this and an HG Lewis film is that it’s probably impossible to be shocked by much these days. HG Lewis films, pioneering exploitation fare (such as the notorious “Blood Feast”), were originally intended to shock with their buckets of blood and gore, but here, if you decide to watch this film you’re probably predisposed to enjoying it. The gore is enjoyably campy (and not meant to be taken seriously like its ancestors were), using really good CGI FX would’ve totally ruined the whole style and mood of the film.
I really can’t treat this as a movie and compare it to others because its aims are wildly different to 99.9% of the rest of cinema. The cinematography by Christopher Duddy is really colourful (it could be called the first-ever ‘neon noir’ film, if not for all the horror stuff), but the lighting is virtually non-existent, ruining some of the good work.
At any rate, this is definitely the film Kasten wanted to make, good or bad, so one can’t really say he failed in what he was trying to achieve. It’s something. Now if you’ll excuse me, contemplating all of this has given me a massive headache...