Saturday, March 10, 2018

Blood Frenzy (1987)

... aka: Bloody Frenzy
... aka: Frenesia sanguinaria (Bloodthirsty Frenzy)
... aka: Sede de Sangue (Bloodlust)

Directed by:
Hal Freeman

In stark contrast to all the fun stuff, another thing that helped define the 80s era was the Moral Majority, which began in 1979 with multi-millionaire minister Jerry Falwell and eventually infected all manner of politics, law, art and culture. The organization set goals that included all the usuals like overturning Roe vs. Wade, making sure gays remained second class citizens, opposing equal rights measures and affirmative action, censoring or trying to ban things they didn't like, trying to force prayer into schools and saturating the media with propaganda / scare tactics in an effort to convert people over to conservative Christianity. They also really had a bone to pick with all manner of popular entertainment that didn't propagate the Christian lifestyle and their vision of “values” / the “traditional” family. The Moral Majority were extremely successful in helping to shape the minds and goals of many in the following decades, as well as influencing those at the top in politics. They sunk millions of dollars into eventual president Ronald Reagan's campaign, with 10 million going solely toward slanderous ads falsely stating his opponent was a traitor and not really Christian like he claimed. Morals indeed.

As you can imagine, the Moral Majority were given quite a bit of power in the Reagan administration because, frankly, they were owed as much for helping him get in there. What followed was downright bizarre to those of us who try our best to keep overzealous religious wackos at arm's length most of the time. There was a sudden rash of "Satanic Panic" in the media with "rumored" (bullshit) stories of small town Satanism run amok, animal killings and impressionable teens falling into Satan's grasp. Many murders were falsely attributed to Satanic cults despite zero evidence. Actual murderers and criminals used Satanism as a scapegoat to try to skirt heavier prison sentences. Covers of heavy metal albums and lyrics were endlessly criticized, with some musicians being dragged into court to defend themselves after being blamed for the criminal activity of others. There were countless stories speculating about child sexual abuse in Satanic cults while a blind eye was turned to real child sexual abuse being committed by Christian and Catholic religious leaders. All of this went on well into the 1990s and even spread to other countries like the UK.

Not content with just spreading fake stories, the Moral Majority and the politicians who pandered to them were also suddenly having hissy fits over things like horror movies, rap music, fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and, perhaps most of all, depictions of people seeming to (gasp!) actually enjoy having sex. The "Porno Chic" of the 70s quickly did an about face into our government starting an all-out war on sex films. That resulted in laws twisted to trap pornographers under the pandering and prostitution umbrella. Porn sets were raided, many were arrested and lives were ruined in the process. Director Hal (Harold) Freeman was among those targeted. In fact, he was one of the very first people to ever be arrested for making porn when the set of his film Caught from Behind 2 (1983) was invaded by authorities. After being convicted of five counts of pandering by a lower court, he was thrown in jail, put on probation for years and had to go through numerous costly appeals and court battles. Freeman's case finally went all the way to the Supreme Court; a case that ended up effectively legalizing hardcore porn for good in the state of California. Freeman was acquitted by February 1989, but the damage had already been done by that point. His savings were depleted and he passed away in October of 1989.

In the midst of all that, and like many others during this unsure time when the government was coming down hard on the adult industry, Freeman was attempting to go mainstream. He even created an offshoot of his X-rated Hollywood Video label called Hollywood Family Video for the sole purpose of releasing non-hardcore films. Their first effort was Blood Frenzy, filmed in the deserts around Barstow, California. It was shot on 35mm, had a budget of around 100,000 dollars and was completed in just 12 days. Most of Freeman's adult film crew also worked on this, including writer Ted Newsom, who was given a story titled “Warning – No Trespassing” written by Ray Dennis Steckler to base his script upon, and cinematographer Richard Pepin, who'd shot most of Freeman's adult films under the name “Rick Christopher.” Pepin would soon join up with Joseph Merhi to form City Lights Entertainment Group, which would later turn into direct-to-video action specialists PM Entertainment Group.

Psychologist Dr. Barbara Shelley (Wendy MacDonald) is into something called “confrontational therapy” and decides to take six of her nuttiest patients into the Mojave desert to a secluded location to try out her techniques over the course of three days. Among her patients are Rick (Tony Montero), a Vietnam vet prone to zoning out, hallucinations and sudden bursts of violence and anger, Dory (Lisa Loring), an extremely angry, abrasive, loud and bitter lesbian fashion model, passive aggressive instigator Dave (Hank Garrett), pretty blonde nymphomaniac Cassie (Lisa Savage), drunk Crawford (John Clark) and neurotic Jean (Monica Silvera), who doesn't like being touched. Going by the opening sequence, one of them had an abusive drunk for a father... until they decided to rip out his throat with a garden claw.

Doctor and patients arrive at their desert location around some old abandoned silver mines and hours from the nearest town. There, they set up their tents and immediately get to work on their intense therapy sessions, which usually end in screaming and crying. However, this time one of the sessions goes beyond that and starts a physical confrontation between Dave and Rick. Later that night, someone takes it upon themselves to put on a pair of gloves and slash Dave's throat. Not only that, but the killer also throws out all of their food and most of their water, steals the microphone to their CB radio so they cannot call for help and swipes the distributor cap from their RV so they can't leave the desert. Since they're 50 miles from the nearest highway, they're pretty much screwed as someone starts picking them off one by one. A jack-in-the-box playing “Pop Goes to Weasel” ties together the murder seen in the opening sequence with the new series of killings.

A mixture of slasher and mystery, Blood Frenzy is utterly average in execution with extremely static camerawork not alleviated any by direction that's both unimaginative and thoroughly uninteresting from a visual standpoint. That said, this does have a few entertaining perks. For starters, there's a decent amount of latex gore and, after much slogging around in the middle, a lively enough finale. And then there's Newsom's script, which may poorly disguise the identity of the killer but does offer up some hilariously crass dialogue. Finally, most of the actors really throw themselves into this thing. Freeman wanted to avoid porn connections so he didn't hire any adult actors for the film and instead opted for a mixture of pros, friends and decent newbies from a local theater program. Even the blonde bimbo in this one really isn't too bad of an actress.

I'd be remiss if I didn't single out Loring's contributions. A former child actress best known as Wednesday from the original The Addams Family TV series, Loring goes wayyyy over the top in her portrayal of an incredibly unlikable character who seems to scream out every other line of dialogue. This is one go-for-broke performance which could be deemed either brilliant or awful depending on how you view it. Either way, she's very entertaining and makes the slow-moving mid-section more watchable. Loring landed the role because she had porn connections of her own as she'd worked behind the scenes on a number of them (like Traci's Big Trick) and was dating porn actor Jerry Butler at the time. The two eventually married but divorced five years later.

A few other trivia notes: According to a producer, former model Savage had agreed to do nudity when she was hired but, with a lot of footage already in the can, refused to do her nude scenes when the time came. Not only that, but she reportedly locked herself in her hotel room, called her lawyer boyfriend and threatened to sue them or walk off the set if they kept pursuing the issue. Being the pro she is, Loring stepped in and did the topless scene for her. * Clark was married to (and the agent of) Lynn Redgrave when he appeared in this and Redgrave actually visited the set on several occasions. * Chuck Rhae, who appears in a small role as Lonnie, was the husband of X actress Danica Rhae.

Freeman, Newsom and producer Claire Cassano planned a second horror film to be titled Judgment Night, a slasher set in a courthouse, that was never made because of Freeman's death. The only other video produced under the Hollywood Family label was the documentary Earthquake Survival (1988), a tape sold at grocery stores that was written by Newsom and Brinke Stevens and hosted by Shelley Duvall. Like Blood Frenzy, it reportedly made a lot of money.

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