Blood Soaked
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Blood Soaked

The vast majority of movies that we enjoy our opinion of the film are typically dependent on a set of criteria that can reasonably quantify elements of the production such as the quality of the script direction, and the level of the acting talent along with a myriad of other factors. There were several genres that while still responsible to their audiences the aforementioned standards are in some ways exempt from them, at least to a degree. The ineffable qualities that make for a fun movie, specifically one that falls into the categories of horror action and to receive greater latitude in critical examination and a more liberal degree of acceptance with the fans. usually find it necessary in any consideration of a film, to properly place it in the context provided by the filmmaker. The ultimate criteria for gauging the effectiveness of a movie is basically twofold; movie achieves the artistic vision set by the auteur creating the movie and whether it was honestly able to provide an enjoyable experience for the fans. There are naturally fans present in every conceivable genre film with a greater tolerance concerning the technical merits of a movie but there is undeniably something special about horror fans. I’ve enjoyed this type of movie for most of my life, like millions of others, especially for those in my generation. Arguably, the horror film has been subject to the constant changes in technology and social acceptability that other categories of film. The movie considered here, ‘Blood Soaked’, is actually an especially good test case for this hypothesis. As it turns out my mindset has recently been particularly attuned to a certain era of the horror genre. A couple of all the films I have been asked to review in the last few weeks focused on a very specific time that affected how and what the diehard horror fan would watch. From the late 60s throughout the most of the 70s, one of the major distribution venues for independent horror films was the grind house movie theater. Their mainstay of offerings tended to be flicks made on extremely tight schedule and often on less than shoestring budget. These old theaters, long past their prime, became the major venue for some of the most extreme horror films of the time and shown alongside exploitation movies that will be bread-and-butter of the theater owners of these often dilapidated showcases. Then in the early 80s a major paradigm shift happened at home entertainment that rippled through all types of film and television, but exerted an especially pronounced influence on the horror flick; the VHS tape.

The ability to rent or purchase a horror film on videotape, and watch it at home was an amazing opportunity for the fans an incredible financial boon for the film distributors. Movies that would be considered untenable in the theatrical market were made as direct to video releases. The rating system established by the MPAA was an agreement between the studios and the theater owners, it did not have any weight regarding direct to video releases. This ushered in a period in horror movies where most of the traditional restrictions could be disregarded. Material that would’ve forced the MPAA to issue the dreaded capital X-rating could now be readily included in films that would bypass the theaters going directly to the shelves of the neighborhood video store. Hot on the heels of the growing market for exploitation films, this new ilk of filmmakers were able to build on that audience demand while offering them the safety of watching their favorite films in their living room, rather than a dilapidated theater frequently located in a less than ideal neighborhood. Gratuitous nudity, excessive bloodshed, torture and outright disgusting special effects not only could be used up became the backbone of these films. Even today, some 40 years after the golden age of the VHS tape these movies are highly sought after by the collectors. I know it took a while to get to this point, but there was no way around it. The only way to properly understand the outright strangeness of this film, ‘Blood Soaked’, were to thoroughly discuss what obviously the influences on the movies director/writer, Peter Grendel. This is the type of movie. I found it necessary to watch a couple of times before I could understand what the artistic intention behind it. In fact, I had to contact the distributor to make sure some of the elements included in the film were intentional and not the result of a bad screener disc. When I was reassured these applications will indeed the stylistic decisions of the filmmaker, my opinion of the movie increased warranting another viewing.

The movie begins with a disorienting montage of old newsreel clips interspersed with newspaper headlines; a classic technique used from almost the beginning of filmmaking to condense the exposition into an exceptionally short burst. Dominating the images of those of Adolf Hitler, particularly at pro-Nazi rallies where the audience is reminded of the almost religious zeal this most heinous world leader inspired. Two young girls have lost their father, a former Nazi officer and eventually find their way to a deserted American military installation the desert. As the daughters, Sadie (Heather Wilder) and Katie (Bailey Key), care for their father’s corpse reverently as the color palette ships from the black and white of the montage to one that is almost completely washed out of colors. We then moved to a modern college campus where full color is restored. This is one of the points I had to take up with the distributor; but this claim with color saturation was artistic choice made by the director, it was. While back. It was not uncommon for screeners to turn to black-and-white randomly throughout the film as a means to dissuade bootlegging, so I felt it necessary to be sure. This is also what prompted the second viewing of the movie; trying to discern the motive behind this artistic choice style. About 20 minutes into the film. The movie returns to black-and-white and remain that way with color only returning during the final credits. At that point I was reasonably certain why this was done.

A perspective moves to a college orientation a young woman, Piper (Heather Wilder) and her mother, who was not at all pleased with the door the leaving home or the accommodations of the dormitory room arrive. Once mom leaves Piper does her best to fit in with the other students. At an orientation exercise she meets a young sophomore, Ashley (Rachel Corona). The two hit it off rather quickly as friends. It decided to take a drive an experience some car trouble in the middle of the desert. Sure. Things like this to happen in real life, but in the hall a film like this possibility is quickly turned into certainty. As they try to get the vehicle running Ashley, was been actively flirting with Piper, escalates matters by kissing her passionately. Just then grownup Kate and Sadie appear extensively to help but liberally peppering their comments with homophobic slurs. Not quite so subtle hints as to the political affiliations of this pair of desert dwelling sisters can be found swastikas and SS insignia adorning their clothing. Piper and Ashley managed to get array but true to form the neo-Nazi sisters jump in their truck, chased them down, driving them off the road. Ashley is killed fairly quickly, but Kate pulls out the while the strange liquid and old-school glass syringe. She injects a solution directly into the heart of Ashley’s corpse and begins counting down to 10. At the final count Ashley has what looks like a seizure and comes alive, well, sort of, it’s more case of turning into a zombie. Zombie Ashley fortunately has been tethered the course will first action is to try to consume Piper’s flesh. They are then taken to the deserted facility that Katie and Sadie have been calling home.

In that facility are several zombies in various states of decay with the painted in red on their chest. Kate begins to espouse the exposition to the audience by relating her tail to the audience through Piper. The tenuous pieces of the plot are pulled together to semblance of the story. Before he died their father indoctrinated them into the Nazi cause and manifesto. By the time they’re on their own. The world view has collapsed into a myopic, all-consuming need to form a fourth Reich. In order to do that they plan to utilize an experimental sealed. They found in the deserted facility. It was able to bring the dead back to life but consistent to the context of the film. The dead returned the zombies. Piper is the horror archetype known as the survivor girl, the one with sufficient resourcefulness and almost preternatural endurance was somehow able to make it to the end credits. By overcoming every predictable obstacle she somehow manages to accomplish just that.

I originally thought that this is just some hodgepodge of clips spliced together until they reached 70 to 80 minutes in length. At the hearing that this was the intention of the filmmaker, I realized it was homage to the videotape all films prevalent in the 80s. As a direct descendent of the grind house exploitation horror these direct to video releases will created by connecting scenes of blood spray, the living dead eating stringy human meat in what has become daily routine for this genre, a lesbian love story, albeit that last element received only a minor amount of attention that the gore more than made up for it. Now for my hypothesis as to switching to black-and-white, during the second viewing, I noticed that the black-and-white sequences framed what could only be described as Piper’s nightmare. Starting just after Kate and Sadie show up in extending throughout their torturing about survivor girl, the color was literally removed; a visual manifestation of the loss of pipe is hope. Piper’s point of view, a life has imploded into black and white decisions. She had to do the unthinkable in order to try to survive. This is a variation of how the color palette is played in flashbacks and dream sequences will it is not uncommon to see the color saturation diminished or the contrast greatly increased the give the feeling of hyper reality. This transition to black-and-white is exactly the type of visual ploy a filmmaker of that era would rely on. I do recall movies of that where they just ran out of money and couldn’t afford color stock anymore and rent the black-and-white. After all, in the grind house movies and their descendent, the direct to VHS horror flick, excellence in production values was not exactly the top priority. They just wanted to get something out into the stores that could be sold to teenage boys looking for a film that will gross them out. ‘Blood Soaked’ is exactly the type of movie you would find on the shelves of those little neighborhood stores.

More youthful members of the audience will not be able to fully appreciate what is going on in this film. The considerable amount of the enjoyment I found in the movie came from a nostalgic sense it provided bringing me back to the time before Internet and cable with such forms of entertainment was seen in old, dank movie theaters on a friend’s basement with his brand-new top loading VHS recorder. Those of us who know about this period from first-hand experience watching this flick is akin walking through time portal to an era before spectacular CGI effects that even the most modest budget could afford. This movie has the same look and feel as those old cult classics; made in less than 10 days on a budget that covered little more than the cost of cigarettes and a couple of cases of beer. People of my generation will realize I do not mean this in a derogatory sense, but I am alluding to a time independent filmmaking when unprecedented freedom in what material could be shown spark a landslide low-budget flicks. Certainly, many people are going to complete the pan this film, but I would be reasonably sure that none of those opinions came from somebody old enough to have watched the Apollo 11 moon landing live. This movie was made in the same fashion as the ones from so long ago. You take a bunch of different genres told them in a blender and Paul whatever comes out into a VHS tape series considering this movie contains Nazis, zombies, cannibalism, lesbians and sadism. It would’ve been a natural for those long forgotten venues.

Posted 06/20/2014

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