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The Wizard of Gore (2007)

Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/19/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/23/2008

Despite the fact that John Waters and movies like Juno have trumpeted his name, the vast majority of the population has no doubt not heard of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis is credited with inventing the "gore film" and in 1963 he made Blood Feast, sealing his place in horror film history. Following this, Lewis made a string of these movie through 1972. They all had shoestring plots and basically existed to show off (even for the time period) technically inept blood and guts effects. As silly as this sounds, the movies were often hits. Today, these films are looked upon by many as novelty pieces, yet, it's undeniable that the movies influenced a generation of filmmakers. Thus, it's not surprising that we would get a remake of a Lewis film like The Wizard of Gore.

Kip Pardue stars in The Wizard of Gore as Edmund Bigelow, an eccentric man who publishes an underground newspaper about the alternative side of life in Los Angeles. He wears vintage suits and drives an old car, and is completely absorbed in this world. While at a party, Edmund and his girlfriend, Maggie (Bijou Phillips), hear of a new magic show in the area. Curious, they go to the show and witness Montag the Magnificent (Crispin Glover) in action. Instead of doing traditional magic, Montag invites a woman on-stage and then proceeds to mutilate her. Just as the crowd is fleeing the scene, the woman re-appears, unharmed. Edmund is impressed by this and returns the next night to see the show, as he wants to figure out how Montag does it. However, things get odd when Montag's on-stage victims are later found dead, with their wounds resembling those which were inflicted in the magic act. Edmund begins to investigate the murders, and once he learns how Montag does his illusions, he must discover why the women were killed.

Typically when remakes are discussed, most people are against them. My stance has always been that there's nothing wrong with remaking a movie that wasn't very good the first time around. (Of course, the question of "why remake a bad movie?" can be debated.) While I have seen some of Lewis' films, I have not seen the original The Wizard of Gore. However, if it a zero-budget curiosity like his other films, remaking it may not have been a bad idea.

The central premise, where the "victims" in a stage act are later found dead, is actually a clever one. The reveal of how Montag performs his illusions is interesting as well (if not a bit telegraphed). Therefore, it's a shame that the rest of this update version goes completely off the rails.

Again, the main premise of The Wizard of Gore could have led to a cool mystery. But, Writer Zach Chassler has decided to turn the story into a film noir, and Edmund Bigelow, with his period clothing, becomes a throwback detective. As if that weren't distracting enough, the last act of the movie turns into a mish-mash of double-crosses and plot twists that would make James Ellroy's head spin. Each of these twists become more and more convoluted to the point that the viewer no longer cares. However, I'll guarantee that you've never seen a movie which mentions Blowfish toxin as much as this one. Blowfish toxin documentaries don't mention Blowfish toxin as much as this one.

The problems with The Wizard of Gore rest squarely on the shoulders of Director Jeremy Kasten. If you were to ask me who that is, I would have told that I didn't recognize the name, but I've actually now seen all four feature films that he's directed, and none them are any good. Kasten has a terrible time with pacing and he often confuses slowing down the action with suspense. For example, during Montag's first act, instead of showing the performance, Kasten stretches it out by showing random shots of the audience. Kasten gets full blame for this, as he edited the film as well. (The irony here is that he's edited far more things than he's directed.)

While a remake of The Wizard of Gore could have been fun and trashy, this movie is a complete waste. Crispin Glover is cast as a magician who kills people and he's hardly in the film! The same goes for genre vets, Jeffrey Combs and Bard Dourif. Instead we get scene after scene of Edmund moping around. The DVD box makes a big deal of the fact that the Suicide Girls are in the film, and if that's your cup of tea, they do appear in the film sans clothing...but that doesn't make this worth seeing. The biggest crime is the lack of excessive gore! Again, Lewis' films reveled in the overly red fake blood, and while there is some gore in this unrated version of the film, it's nothing spectacular. Do yourself a favor and don't go off to see this wizard.

The Wizard of Gore slaughters on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, although for a film which was reportedly shot HD, there is a notable amount of grain in some shots. The image is always annoyingly dark at times, making the action difficult to discern. However, bright colors, such as neon lights, look good here. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some surprisingly good stereo and surround effects. These work well because they are never intrusive and blend naturally with the audio, making the sound more realistic. Musical cues fill the speakers and louder music provides a nice bass response.

The Wizard of Gore DVD contains a bounty of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director/Editor/Producer Jeremy Kasten, Writer Zach Chassler, Producer Dan Griffiths, Cinematographer/Producer Christopher Duddy, and Assistant Editor/Associate Producer Maxx Gillman. This is an OK talk, as the group gives fairly general information about the film. However, I did enjoy their candor as they touched on the delays in getting the film released and the challenges of shooting on a low budget. "Making of The Wizard of Gore" (24 minutes) features comments from the cast and filmmakers, who discuss the various actors and characters. We then got a look at the special effects, the locations, and the costumes. (Judging by his moustache, Jeremy Kasten wants to be John Waters.) In "Behind the Screen: A Look at the Effects of The Wizard of Gore" (13 minutes) special effects make-up artist Jason Collins shows us how the make-up and gore effets were done. There is an abundance of behind-the-scenes footage here. "From Volunteer to Victim: The Suicide Girls in The Wizard of Gore" (13 minutes) profiles the internet stars and contains interviews with them. The DVD contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 26 minutes. Kasten provides intros for the scenes. There is a 4-minute "Outtakes" reel. We get "Storyboard Comparisons" for four scenes. The final extra is a series of "Still Galleries".

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long