It's a complaint you'll hear pretty often (at least among horror fans) when someone decides to remake a classic. "Why remake Psycho / Halloween / Dawn of the Dead / Texas Chainsaw Massacre," they'll cry, "when you could just as easily IMPROVE upon a lesser-known horror flick?!?!" And that's a fair enough point, I suppose, but there's a bigger chance of selling a lot of tickets to "HALLOWEEN" than there is in something like The Toolbox Murders or, as in this case, The Wizard of Gore. The original is one of schlock-master Herschell Gordon Lewis' most (relatively) well-known films, along with Blood Feast and 2,000 Maniacs (both of which have been remade), and the remake ... hey, it ain't half bad!
By Scott Weinberg
Sort of an old-school gore-fest mixed with a wannabe film noir, Jeremy Kasten's remake offers a few things I didn't really expect. Namely: A few interesting characters, a three-act story that actually goes somewhere, and a few juicy doses of sick, black humor -- just to keep the intended audience entertained. So while this new version of The Wizard of Gore exhibits its fair share of low-budget shortcomings, in this case it's easier to focus on what does work.
Aside from the fact that the movie slides by at an impressive clip (which is important in low-budget horror, remake or not) and dips its toes in both old-school gumshoe stuff and modern-day gory-goth material, the simple truth is that it's just a solid little horror flick. Certainly not great, but Kasten and company deserve a shot in the arm for trying to balance basic gore-slinging with a noir-ish mystery vibe ... mixed with a whole bunch of violence, nudity, and character actors like Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif, and Crispin Glover. (Yes, all three. Which means most horror fans already have plans to give this flick a spin. We're nothing if not faithful to our genre-flavored character actors. Too bad Bruce Campbell couldn't swing a cameo here.)
Lead actor Kip Pardue saunters through the movie in an ill-fitting fedora. He's a "trust fund kid" who runs an underground newspaper, and this guy is always on the lookout for something creepy. Along with his colorfully sassy girlfriend (the always fun Bijou Philips), Pardue's "Edmund Bigelow" stumbles across a decidedly unsavory magic show. The monumentally slimy Montag the Magnificent (Glover, over-playing as amusingly as ever) takes to the stage nightly to "kill" a sexy young stripper -- only to have the girl somehow spring back to life. But then ... oops. The girls start turning up dead (for real), and our suddenly forgetful reporter is, of course, suspect number one.
Although it looks like it was shot for about 50 grand (and the grungy DVD transfer isn't doing the movie any favors), and most of its ideas come from a 35-year-old grindhouse cheapie, The Wizard of Gore offers ample doses of what horror fans dig. It's not really a scary movie, no matter how you slice it, but this remake does offer plenty of the stuff promised in the title, in addition to a divertingly circuitous "whodunnit" aspect that works a bit better than one would expect. Plus Glover's a hoot, Combs is crazy, and it's always great to see Brad Dourif tearing through the scenery.
As mentioned earlier, the DVD transfer isn't all that great, but viewers will be treated to a rather large array of extras. It's a crew party in the audio commentary department. Included on the chat-track are director Jeremy Kasten, screenwriter Zach Chassler, producer Dan Griffiths, cinematographer Christopher Duddy, and associate producer Maxx Gillman. Obviously you won't find many silent spots in this commentary. Then we have three behind-the-scenes featurettes: Making of The Wizard of Gore (24:11), Behind the Screen: A Look at the Effects (13:11), and From Volunteer to Victim: The Suicide Girls in The Wizard of Gore (13:25). These pieces are pretty self-explanatory, but should easily amuse the flick's fans for about an hour. Oh, and did I not mention that the Suicide Girls play the stripper / non-victim / victims in this flick?
Also included are eight deleted scenes, a 4-minute outtake reel, a few storyboard comparisons, and a stills gallery. So we've got a jam-packed DVD of a cheesy remake of a schlocky old horror flick that's actually quite a bit more watchable than I expected it to be. Chalk it up to a game cast, a speedy pace, and a tasty combo of gore and noir, but I kinda liked this one.