Lewis, Herschell Gordon (Grim Fairy Tale)
If it wasn’t for Herschell Gordon Lewis, the horror world might be a very different place. Known to many as the “Godfather of Gore,” his 1963 gorefest masterpiece Blood Feast changed the face of horror forever by giving audiences their first ever taste of bloodlust on the big screen.
“Blood Feast is a prime example of why you don’t necessarily need a huge budget to have an enduring film,” explained Lewis. “We made it for next to nothing and over 40 years later, Blood Feast is one of those films that people still talk about.”
Lewis added, “These days, some of these so-called horror movies come along and all they do is strut around for a bit and then they vanish. They don’t endure because a lot of them are missing the entertainment value to them. The reason Blood Feast has lasted so long is because we knew how to entertain audiences and we made something that no one else at that time even fathomed making.”
Blood Feast was certainly a watershed moment in horror as it was the first time ever that a film really gave audiences a birds-eye view of blood-soaked effects and grotesque kill scenes.
Lewis said, “Blood Feast was an unprecedented film because the ratings board had no idea what to do with it. We didn’t use any four-letter words and there weren’t any rules against what we were doing so it definitely gave a lot of people reasons to be upset, which to me was completely great.”
Upsetting audiences might be somewhat of an understatement as Blood Feast caused more of an uproar on the West Coast where it was screening. Floods of angry letters came in protesting the then-taboo content of Blood Feast and many more protested it while it played in San Diego. Lewis relished the responses because they only helped fuel the business that Blood Feast did.
With Blood Feast, Lewis realized he had tapped into something very unique in the movie industry. From there, he went on to direct 2000 Maniacs! and Color Me Blood Red, which would complete his “Blood Trilogy.”
Now, some 40+ years later, Lewis is stepping back behind the camera with his latest film Grim Fairy Tale and is bringing his unique brand of entertainment back to the forefront of the horror industry.
Grim Fairy Tale is a tongue-in-cheek look at both the classic fairy tales we all grew up with as well as the idea of a game show where contestants can either win big or lose body parts if they fail. The film stars Brooke McCarter, Krista Grotte, Nevada Caldwell, and Joel Wynkoop.
“What I love about Grim Fairy Tale is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and really has fun with a lot of conventions that we have always seen from one perspective - especially with the fairy tales part of it,” explained Lewis. “Then with the TV show- “Truth or Uh-Oh”- was a great way to look at our fascination with game shows and just how bloodthirsty we all are deep-down that fulfills our need to be entertained.”
For Lewis, working on Grim Fairy Tale has been a dream come true and more than exceeds the conditions he worked in throughout his career.
Lewis said, “Normally, the type of films I make don’t require a high-level of acting abilities but everyone on this cast is just stellar. It makes my job as the director that much easier. We’re also shooting on RED cameras which are a luxury for someone like me. Despite a grueling schedule, Grim Fairy Tale really been a dream shoot for me so far.”
Lewis will be the first guy to tell you that creating a successful film lies solely on the ability to entertain viewers and that entertaining people boils down to running a successful business. He scoffs at anyone who says otherwise.
According to Lewis, “Making a movie is 100% about business. Anyone who says differently is just kidding themselves. These days pretty much anyone can pick up a camera and make a movie, then they complain when it goes nowhere. You have to have a sense of salesmanship when you start a project because if you don’t, you are dead in the water.”
“I love making movies but everything boils down to having a business plan for each film. People pay good money to go see movies and other people put up the money to distribute those movies so it all comes down to knowing that a movie will be profitable for everyone involved, including viewers who pay their hard-earned money. They need to get their money’s worth too,” Lewis added.
In terms of movie and marketing salesmanship, there probably isn’t anyone more qualified to explore that topic than Lewis. He’s written 31 books during his long career on the topics of direct marketing and still runs Lewis Enterprises, which specializes in direct marketing strategies, at age 83.
Despite his age, Lewis isn’t slowing down any time soon. In fact, he’s hopeful that Grim Fairy Tale will be successful enough to warrant a sequel.
“We decided to make the title of this film into singular form so that if we are able to create a sequel, it won’t be confusing for audiences. It’s been such a great joy to make this film, I’d love to get back behind the camera again for a follow-up,” said Lewis.
Looking back on his career, Lewis has come to realize how fortunate he has been with the opportunities and success he has celebrated beyond his modest start in exploitation films.
“I am always appreciative of my place in the legacy of horror,” said Lewis. “It’s amazing to me that I am a footnote in major picture history. So much of my success has depended on luck. And I consider myself more than lucky.”
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