Date of publication)
2022 (October 25, 2022)
Gatorblade Films (Terror Vision/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Movie/Program Rating: B-
- Video rating: C+
- Sound quality: AND
- Extra Class: C-
Although Hollywood is the center of film production and has been for decades, many low-budget and exploitative horror films have been made across the country. In his document Blood, guts and Sunshine: The History of Horror Made in Floridadirector Sean Donohue introduces us to local filmmakers from the Sunshine State and the horror films made there.
Donohue uses a lot of “talking heads” — filmmakers who have shot movies in Florida, such as William Grefe, Chris Woods, Tim Ritter, Marcus Koch and Joel D. Wynkoop. There are also interviews with the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis (A bloody feast), which practically created the genre known as splatter horror with its graphic images of dismemberment, gushing blood, and torture. Lewis, formerly a maker of nude films, shifted his focus to graphic gore when Hollywood was still hesitant to go that route. After A bloody feast in 1963, such films as Two thousand maniacs, My color is blood redand The terrible twos followed. Lewis is pictured behind the scenes on the set of his latest film, The Uh-Oh Show.
The documentary opens with a brief overview of pre-exploitation era Florida filmmaking with an odd nod to Jack Arnold. Creation Ffrom the Black Lagoon and then focuses on films made in the 1980s and later. Through interviews and film clips, director Donohue shows how many of Florida’s filmmakers have influenced a younger generation. A special section is dedicated to Florida horror host Dr. Paul Bearer, portrayed by Dick Bennick, Sr. Creature Features fondly remembered by directors who watched him and were inspired to follow their dream of making their own horror films.
There are also fond memories of pre-Facebook and YouTube websites with the name Crazy Fanboy hosted by Nolan B. Can, who reviewed films, discussed the filmmakers, and made guest appearances. Considered “ahead of its time”, it was a forum that attracted lovers of low-budget horror films.
Grindhouse Video, a small shop in Tampa run by Mike Standlin, moved into larger premises, specializing in horror films and stocking VHS, Blu-ray, DVD, LaserDiscs and collectibles related to the genre. It has also expanded to include online sales. His store was an oasis for low-budget exploitation films and served as inspiration for aspiring filmmakers. In 2021, Standlin moved Grindhouse Video to Knoxville, Tennessee.
Short appearances by directors John Waters (Pink flamingos), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and Joe Dante (Gremlins), who discuss their connection to the Florida Film School. Only Waters gives a real insight into how his work relates to Florida horror – “I was making art house horror and Florida directors were making grindhouse horror.”
The documentary is full of clips from the films discussed, but Donohue – a filmmaker himself – devotes too much screen time to the filmmakers’ often disjointed recollections. The subjects speak unplanned and to the average person, they are brimming with their affinity for the horror exploitation genre. It’s clear they’re passionate about making movies, but more judicious editing of their interviews could have made the point more succinctly. One of the difficulties Donohue may have faced is cramming so much history into a single film. Perhaps splitting the documentary into two parts would allow him to cover directors and key films in more detail. Because it covers so much territory, the films tend to run together and their distinctiveness is blurred.
Blood, Guts and Sun was shot digitally by Sean Donohoe and Chris Woods, who also did the lighting design, for the intended aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There is no specific information about the cameras used to film the documentary, but the original sources for the film clips include video, 16mm and 35mm. The film is being released on Blu-ray for the first time by Terror Vision Records. The visual quality of the documentary varies from sharp, pristine interviews shot digitally to film clips that range from subpar to sharp. Director Donohue doesn’t shy away from graphic images either, and there’s plenty of it. The subjects interviewed are mostly filmed with posters, memorabilia and various horror related items clearly displayed in the background.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. SDH English subtitles are available. All interviews are perfectly recorded, so we never miss a word. The film clips contain screams, music, liberal sound effects and bits of dialogue. Wins are shown when the end credits are rolled. Toshiyuki Hiraoka’s score is upbeat and not typical horror music, capturing the film’s loving relationship with Florida exploitation horror.
Bonus materials include:
- Satan’s Children panel (21:11)
- Grindhouse video tour (9:54 a.m.)
- Scott Tepperman’s Home Video Rental (10:06 a.m.)
- Trailer (1:46)
- Trailers for horror movies made in Florida (13:22)
Satan’s Children panel – This is a meeting of several people who worked on the film Satan’s children (1975). Participants include actors Rosemary Orlando, John Edwards, David Mendoza and sound mixer Bill Dudley. The actors discuss their roles and provide a brief overview of their careers. Dudley discusses the limitations of working with not the best equipment.
Grindhouse Video – Mike Standlin welcomes us to his video rental store Grindhouse Video as he opens the door. Once inside, the camera pans through the aisles to show the store’s extensive collection of videos in many formats, posters, t-shirts, models, comics and other collectibles. The tour is accompanied by music without words.
A tour of Scott Tepperman’s video store – Unlike the Grindhouse Video tour, owner Tepperman shows us around his little shop, shows videos, talks about how the items are organized, and notes a few of the collectibles on display. (Limits collectibles as they take up a lot of space). Tepperman proudly points out working Betamax VCRs and players and a 300-pound wooden TV cabinet.
Trailers for horror movies made in Florida – Contains twelve trailers: Die, die, Delta Pi, The American Holocaust, Death Score Service, Death-Score Service Part 2: The Naked Dead, Taste Me: Death-Score Service, Part 3, Chaos AD, Cannibal Claus, Naughty, dirty, ugly, Naked cannibal campers, Kill-Cam, Hart-Break Killerand Sushi’s Sex Session.
Blood, guts and Sunshine is clearly director Sean Donohue’s labor of love. He has put together a comprehensive look at a horror subgenre that has never been explored in such detail. The documentary shows that guerrilla filmmaking involves hard work, ingenuity and passion.
– Dennis Seuling