Review – The Wizard Of Gore (2007)
February 24, 2014
THE WIZARD OF GORE
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Kasten
SCENARIO: Zach Chassler
STARRING: Crispin Glover, Kip Pardue, Bijou Phillips, Jeffrey Combs and Brad Dourif
The 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Hershell Gordon Lewis, a director who owes his popularity to fans of subversive cinema who see him as the inventor of gore. In 2002, the filmmaker who many thought was dead, came out of retirement to direct Blood Feast 2, the sequel to his 1963 classic. In 2006, Eli Roth produced 2001 Maniacs, a remake of the cult classic Two Thousand Maniacs!. Before the possible release of a 2002 Maniacs, it’s Jeremy Kasten’s (All Soul’s Day, The Thirst) turn to rub shoulders with Lewis’s filmography by adapting The Wizard Of Gore, one of the filmmaker’s most obscure works.
Edmund Bigelow is a journalist who specializes in the strange and the absurd. One day, he goes with his girlfriend Maggie to an unusual magic show. In this one, Montag the Magnificent literally butchers pretty young women on stage, even going so far as to gut them! After the audience goes hysterical, the lights come back on to reveal the supposedly healthy victims. When these same women are found dead in strange circumstances, Edmund begins to doubt Montag’s magic techniques. By trying to demystify the “magician-gore” shows, Edmund will become totally addicted to them, to the point of no longer being able to differentiate between reality and his dreams and magic from reality!
At one point in The Wizard Of Gore , it is revealed that the magician alternates the perspective of the spectators drugging them at the start of the show, when he greets them with a handshake. Well, I must have shaken Jeremy Kasten’s hand without knowing it, since watching this film is akin to a visual hallucination!! What is clear from this remake is that director Jeremy Kasten only kept the storyline from Lewis’ film. Kasten leaves aside the amateur style and avoids glorifying the film’s gore. Indeed, both visually and thematically, this remake is in no way similar to the style of its creator. Aside from the bland visuals and basement backdrops, goodbye amateur actors… here comes The Wizard Of Gore like you’ve never seen!!
Jeremy Kasten unashamedly takes possession of Lewis’s film to make it his own. His version is super slick, sophisticated and just bloody enough to appeal to purists. Contrary to what one might expect from a re-release of a Lewis film, gore is not the focus of the film. On the other hand, it goes without saying that with such a premise, The Wizard Of Gore contains it fully. Visually, Kasten takes a lot of risks, some of which don’t necessarily pay off, but his approach goes hand in hand with the complexity of a seemingly simple script. The latter, written by Zach Chassler, is comparable to a narrative labyrinth from which it is difficult to get out. When the journalist approaches Montag before the start of a show, he replies: “Who said the magic trick hadn’t already started? “. This sentence perfectly represents the state of mind of the script, which subtly builds its traps and its mystery, long before the main plot begins.
One of the most interesting attractions of the film is the contrast established between the universe of the journalist and that of the magician. The latter, always dressed in white, is surrounded by a punk and gothic audience. By its content, but also its decorations, his show takes on the appearance of an unhealthy “freakshow”. As for the hero, dressed in black, he seems to live in the 1950s. From his apartment decorated with antiques, his old car, his hat and the way he publishes his newspaper, Edmund seems straight out of the past. The alternation between the Gothic visual and that of Middle America of the 50s not only brings an interesting contrast between the characters, but ends up making the spectators doubt on the real time of the narrative.
Since Lewis was despised by both critics and the artistic community, it is surprising to see the actors Kasten was able to attract for this remake. Although youngsters Kip Pardue ( The Rules Of Attraction ) and Bijou Phillips ( Hostel Part 2, Venom ) deliver the best performances of their young careers, it’s mostly the veterans who stand out. Crispin Glover ( Willard, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter ) is downright insane as Montag the Magnificent. The actor recognized for his eccentricity demonstrates a craziness subtly buried in his facial expressions. As for Jeffrey Combs ( Re-Animator ) and Brad Dourif ( Child’s Play), they have been assigned roles that are the opposite of what we are used to seeing them in.
If The Wizard Of Gore is one of the most successful remakes of the new wave, that does not prevent the film from being bumpy, the finale come. Kasten’s primary goal was to make his film a real headache for the viewer. The filmmaker has accomplished his mission too well, so that the last moments appear almost incomprehensible. The many twists and turns overlap each other and leave the viewer in an unpleasant confusion. The Wizard Of Gore is definitely a film that needs to be watched more than once to grasp all of its subtleties, but this approach is not fully mastered by Kasten and his screenwriter.
Nevertheless, despite a shortness of breath at the end of the course, The Wizard Of Gore is a daring remake that dares to think outside the box. During a minor filmography, Jeremy Kasten was able to impose a style of his own and The Wizard Of Gore comes to culminate his efforts. The film is distributed in its unabridged version in Quebec by VVS Films .