Wizard of Gore, The (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Crispin Glover, Bijou Phillips, Kip Pardue, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif, The Suicide Girls
Directed by Jeremy Kasten
Distributed by Dimension Extreme
While growing up loving the horror genre, there were times when I'd seek out films based upon their titles alone. Herschell Gordon Lewis flicks were at the top of that list -- Blood Feast, Color Me Blood Red, 2000 Maniacs, and of course The Wizard of Gore were damned near irresistible if only because of their off-kilter namesakes. Though not the best movies out there, H.G.'s balls-out filmmaking style lends an ample amount of ghoulish charm to them, so much so that here we are decades later, and more and more of these vintage splatterfests are getting the remake treatment. Such is the case with Jeremy Kasten's take on The Wizard of Gore.
Montag the Magician (a perfectly cast Glover) is selling out shows amidst L.A.'s seedy underworld night after night. He has found his success because he's not your ordinary card trick shilling illusionist. You see, he preys upon his audience's love for the darker side of life, opting to pull entrails out of stomachs instead of rabbits out of hats. As his popularity grows, his crazed demeanor and outrageous tricks catch the attention of an underground reporter (Pardue) who becomes captivated by Montag's special brand of blood soaked mayhem. Especially when all of his volunteers keep turning up dead, killed exactly as they were during the show. Can our hero solve this mystery before those he cares about end up on the wrong side of the Saw a Person in Half trick?
For a remake to be successful, it has to bring something new to the table, not just rehash past events. You simply cannot outdo a film that has already become a classic. Even bizarro flicks like this. You have to build upon them. Take the audience in a new direction while still paying a loving homage to the source material. It's a pretty scary tightrope to have to walk, but thankfully that is exactly what director Jeremy Kasten has done with this film. In place of the campiness of the original, what we have here is an acid trip of uber-violent proportions. One that is riddled with ambiguity, dark satire, over-the-top performances (Dourif and Combs are in rare form), and grue by the gallon hurled at you at a near relentless pace. If Jim Morrison had lived to be a director, this would have been his type of movie -- sex, death, blood, and drugs, baby. It's pretty fuckin' nuts, and I applaud it for its overall insanity.
Of special mention here is Crispin Glover. This is a Glover fan's dream. You just can't take your eyes off him (or his huge overstuffed codpiece) when he's on screen. In this role he oozes perversion and gives audiences every single creepy thing that we could possibly want from him. Despite everything that goes on, there's no denying this is his film.
Yet, for all the praise I can lavish, there are some areas that needed a bit more cooking in the old brazen bull oven. The story at times becomes a bit too muddled, borderlining its way into near incoherency; some of the bit players' acting gets a bit sketchy; and I'm sorry to say there are a couple of moments when CGI enhancements muck up the otherwise solid physical effects. Still, nothing gets derailed for long, and none of these shortcomings should stop you from enjoying an otherwise wonderfully sleazy experience.
Even the DVD is packing. Things kick off with a truly lively and entertaining commentary with director/editor/producer Jeremy Kasten, writer Zach Chassler, producer Dan Griffiths, cinematographer/producer Christopher Duddy, and assistant editor/associate producer Maxx Gillman. The only negative here is that given the amount of people present, sometimes you'll lose track of who's saying what. From there we get three making-of featurettes: The Making-of The Wizard of Gore, Behind the Curtain: A Look at the F/X of The Wizard of Gore, andFrom Volunteer to Victim: The Suicide Girls in The Wizard of Gore. Each one runs around thirteen to twenty-five minutes each, and though they sound self-explanatory, I can assure you there's nothing cookie-cutter about them. Honestly, they are each a blast, brimming with energy, and not once did I feel the urge to fast forward. These behind-the-scenes looks are really, really good stuff.
Next up we have eight deleted scenes including a verbatim new take on the ending of the original Wizard of Gore that clock in at about the half an hour mark, four storyboard sequences, and ten still galleries. Never mind Blood Red; color me Satisfied.
While this remake is certainly not for everyone (fans of the original expecting an updated but just as silly take on the material will find themselves on the disappointed side of the fence), but if you're in the proper frame of mind and looking to dig on a really dark and at times disturbing trip, then step right up. Montag is waiting, the crowd is lusting, and this is one trick I'd like to see turned over and over again.
4 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
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