Monday, October 22, 2018

"Ice Cream for Breakfast?" - Blood Frenzy (1987)

In 1987, most of the horror genre had moved beyond wilderness slasher films, but that does not mean that several classics in that subgenre were not still to be made. Case in point: Blood Frenzy, a formidable slasher set in the desert near Barstow, California featuring Lisa Loring, Wednesday Addams herself.

Reviewer Zbigniew_Krycsiwiki writes that "the characters are all so very annoying, and the gore effects are all so underwhelming they aren't worth waiting for." Reviewer ofumalow writes, "This is a mediocre low-budget slasher with poor gore effects (that it inexplicably dwells on, so you really have time to appreciate how unconvincingly rubbery that neck-slashing looks) and dumb characters." And reviewer obscurecinema101 writes, "Unfortunately, BLOOD FRENZY became a little too repetitive for its own good....During the climactic showdown, it just turns to all out goofiness, which really doesn't work in the film's favor."

Continue reading for an unbiased look at the quality of the desert survival slasher Blood Frenzy...

A boy plays with a jack-in-the-box on the floor of a garage. The clown pops up and the boy starts poking it. Then his father enters the garage, clearly drunk. “Where did you get that?” he asks, referring to the jack-in-the-box. “We ain’t got no money for that crap. Did you steal this? Beg for it?” He takes off his belt to hit the boy, but ironically he trips on a gigantic roll of Life Savers and falls to the floor.

The boy picks up a gardening implement and cuts his father’s throat.

The boy continues playing with the jack-in-the-box.

The main narrative of the film occurs years later. A large RV full of belligerent, beer-swilling people drives through the California desert. The driver, Rick, seems obsessed with driving as fast as possible, to the point that he is accused by another (balding) passenger of being suicidal.

The RV pulls into Barstow, where the occupants find a restaurant. “Eat hearty, fellow nutbars,” says the balding man. “This is the last real meal for 72 hours.”

The drunkest of the passengers, a bearded man wearing a logo-free baseball cap, says incredulously to one of the women, “Ice cream for breakfast?”

She informs him it is yogurt she is eating. “It’s fun,” she says. “Sensuous.”

It turns out the group is undergoing “confrontational therapy” for the weekend. The leader of the group, Dr. Barbara Shelley, lists some of the defects of her patients. Rick has PTSD from Vietnam, Dory (played by Lisa Loring, the actress who originated the role of Wednesday Addams) is a bitter lesbian, Jean refuses to be touched, open-shirted Cassie is a nymphomaniac, Dave Ash is macho and belligerent, and Stan Crawford is an alcoholic. All of these problems, it seems, can be cured by a weekend of confrontational therapy.

They get back into the RV and drive through the same stretch of desert again for no apparent reason. Their destination is off the “old ghost town road.” Eventually, the RV stops in the middle of what appears to be a dry riverbed. The doctor and Ms. Loring look around while the others set up tents. They find the entrance to an abandoned silver mine. Ms. Loring says, “My pop told me there used to be an old ghost town out here. All we ever found was old boards. Nails.”

Rick, the Vietnam vet, believes people are watching them. “I don’t see anybody,” Dr. Shelley says.

“You don’t see them,” Rick says. “You feel them. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?”

In a brilliantly subtle filmmaking touch, we see Rick fondling his dogtags and we hear the sounds of machine guns and helicopters.

Later, he demonstrates his PTSD by grabbing Dr. Shelley for no reason. “I climbed out the window,” he tells her. “I don’t want them to see me.”

Later, in the tent they have set up, they practice confrontational therapy by yelling at each other and insulting each other. Rick and Ash get into a physical fight in which Rick pulls a knife on the other man.

The group takes a break and splits up.

“Rick, where are you going?” Dr. Shelley asks him.

“Disneyland,” he says, walking away.

Cassie heads off to the middle of nowhere to work on her tan.

She also attempts to seduce Rick, but he wordlessly walks away to find a more secluded place—the abandoned silver mine. Just inside the entrance, he finds a lantern, mining tools, and of course dynamite.

Returning to the RV, Rick hears the jack-in-the-box music (“Pop Goes the Weasel”) from the opening scene.

At night, most of the patients sleep outside in the desert. At the 36-minute point, Ash’s throat is cut with a knife. He gags and gurgles, but nobody hears him as he dies.

In the morning, the women find Ash’s body. “Where’s Rick? He said he wanted to kill him, and he did!”

They discover all the water is gone from the RV, and the only remaining food is four carrots from the refrigerator.

To make matters worse, the RV refuses to start. Rick, without opening the hood, diagnoses that the distributor cap is gone.

Crawford accuses Ms. Loring of the murder. “If looks could kill, you know. And we know you don’t like men anyhow.”

“I don’t like puppies either,” Ms. Loring said, “but I don’t go around slitting their throats!”

Thinking carefully, they decide to move Ash’s body into the shade underneath the RV so it doesn’t start smelling. Cassie seduces Rick with the age-old invitation, “You’ve got nice hands. I’d like those hands on my body.” Rick succumbs to her seduction now, after the murder, despite the fact that he ignored her yesterday in the desert.

Thinking carefully again, the group decides to split up into pairs, with two pairs walking around the desert and the other pair staying at the tent. One of the pairs is Rick and Cassie. As they are walking, Cassie asks, “Rick, do you love me?”

Rick replies with the age-old retort, “Lady, you’re weird.”

Meanwhile, Jean and Crawford find another abandoned mine. This one does not seem to be as abandoned as the first one. She sits him down at the front of the cave, where he drinks from a puddle of water, while she explores the well-lit cave. Unfortunately for Jean, she finds her throat on the business end of a knife.

When Jean fails to return, Crawford explores the cave, only to find the jack-in-the-box from the opening. As he is playing with it, someone stabs him in the back, splattering the jack-in-the-box with his blood.

From outside, we hear the chilling sounds of “Pop Goes the Weasel” inside the cave.

When night falls, Rick carries an unconscious Cassie back to the RV. When Ms. Loring applies a wet washcloth to Cassie’s face, Cassie says, “Oh God, yes! This is so good. I feel like a new man.”

Ms. Loring says, “You mean a new woman.”

Cassie replies, “You feel what you want, Dory. I want to feel a new man.”

They are startled to see a grubby man staring into the RV.

Later, in a surreal sequence, a bloody Crawford returns to the RV carrying the jack-in-the-box.

Then he falls down and dies (again).

Surprisingly, Dr. Shelley recognizes the exact jack-in-the-box. “No,” she says. “It’s been fifteen years. A mental defective named Lonny Talbot. They found him standing next to his father’s body, holding a toy like this.”

Rick says, quite logically, “There can’t be too many jack-in-the-box killers  running around.”

It becomes clear that the murders are motivated by revenge because Dr. Shelley committed Lonny, though the group deduces that Lonny couldn’t have planned everything alone. (Their suspicion does not turn to Ms. Loring, whose character chose the therapy site in the desert, however.)

In an odd sequence, Rick’s PTSD kicks in again, and he tragically commits suicide by lighting a stick of dynamite and running to the top of a hill.

Later, Ms. Loring sees Cassie wandering around. For some unknown reason, Ms. Loring asked, “Are you all right? Are you sure he’s dead.”

Cassie lifts up a disembodied hand, presumably proving Rick is indeed dead.

Ms. Loring uses this opportunity to attempt to seduce Cassie. After they make love, Ms. Loring drags Cassie deeper into the cave (so to speak). Ms. Loring appears to feel ashamed of her lesbianism. “I’ll show you what happens to bad girls,” she tells Cassie. She shows Cassie that she killed Jean while Lonny, now a hunchback in a leather jacket, enters the cave. They tie Cassie to a table.

Somehow, back at the RV, Dr. Shelley hears Cassie screaming from the faraway cave, so she grabs a crowbar and runs toward the sound of the screams.

Ms. Loring watches with a charming bug-eyed expression as Lonny carves Cassie’s stomach. Fortunately, the knife only causes minor, though bloody, flesh wounds.

Ms. Loring then slashes Cassie’s throat.

With Dr. Shelley the only remaining camper, she and Ms. Loring face off, mano a mano (or, more accurately, crowbar a knife).

After Lonny appears, Ms. Loring, in a tour de force performance, explains that she is Lonny’s sister, which is why she and Lonny want revenge on Dr. Shelley’s father, who committed Lonny to a mental institution. “‘Congenitally insane,’ he said,” says Ms. Loring. “A pathological maniac who killed in a blood frenzy. Fifteen years, doctor. Shock treatments. Beatings, locked up like an animal.”

The shock ending shows that it was not Lonny who killed his father in the garage, but Ms. Loring’s character, a little girl who was also in the garage, unseen in the first sequence of the movie. “He was protecting me,” Ms. Loring explains, four times.

In the end, Dr. Shelley, unable to save herself, is rescued by the surprise appearance of another character, the only one whose death we did not see onscreen.

Are the villains defeated with dexterous wrestling moves? Does Ms. Loring get a taste of her own medicine? You will have to watch the film to find out for sure.


According to author Francesco Borseti in It Came from the 80's!, Blood Frenzy director Hal Freeman was a successful producer and director of pornography when he decided to expand into the field of horror movies. The credited writer of Blood Frenzy, Ted Newsom, indicates that the film was based on a script by the legendary Ray Dennis Steckler called Warning--No Trespassing. The final film was shot on location outside of Barstow, California.

If nothing else, Blood Frenzy earns its title. There is blood. There is frenzy. There is blood frenzy. What more can we ask for?