The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
Herschell Gordon Lewis has become a staple of my October Horror Movie Challenges. In previous years, I’ve reviewed and enjoyed Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and The Wizard of Gore. Looking to continue the run, I picked The Gore Gore Girls simply because it has a daft name (although the title card calls it Blood Orgy).
While no one could accuse Lewis of good taste, his films are usually filled with a goofy charm that plays against their excesses, making them feel more weird than sadistic. The Gore Gore Girls turned out to be something different, however. Be warned, this review could get bumpy.
The Gore Gore Girls is currently streaming on Shudder in the UK.
There’s no waiting around here. We open with a gory murder even before the titles roll. The aggressively 1970s free jazz theme tune then tells us when this film was made better than a mere date ever could.
The Globe newspaper sends one of its reporters, Nancy Weston, to offer private detective Abraham Gentry a simply ludicrous amount of money to solve the murder we’ve just witnessed. The victim, we learn, was a stripper known as Susie Cream Puff.
And you know what? I don’t really feel like summarising any more of the plot. It’s not like it makes much sense anyway.
Let’s just say that there are a bunch more brutal murders of strippers, while Gentry wanders around annoying supporting characters and interfering with a police investigation. He follows leads such as a man who draws faces on fruit before smashing it with his hands, and a bunch of grotesque caricatures of feminists who hate women for being “lewd”.
At some point Henny Youngman turns up to crack a few jokes, organise a stripping competition and wonder how his career has come to this. He divides his time between blatantly reading cue cards and staring into the camera as the life ebbs from his body.
Eventually, there’s a sort of resolution that no one will find satisfying and then you get to go on with your life.
The gore in The Gore Gore Girls is awful, and not in a good way. Lewis’s films were all micro-budget productions and you’d be a fool to expect decent special effects. They were cutting edge in their own weird way, but only by dint of what they were willing to show rather than their ability to deliver it. Still, even by Lewis’s standards, this one is rough.
Early on, we have a face reduced to pulp with a hammer and knife. What we see is clearly a couple of pounds of minced beef with sheep’s eyes and a wig arranged around it artlessly. A few fragments of what I assume is animal bone can’t stop this looking more puzzling than grotesque. Perhaps it is a cubist sculpture in the medium of meat.
Later, we see another face burnt off with an iron. This would work better if the face weren’t made of latex stretched over meat. Bubbling plastic doesn’t look a lot like skin. The only actual horror comes when the combination of these rubber faces and real animal eyes results in some kind of uncanny valley effect.
The weirdest moment comes when the murderer mutilates one victim’s breasts. They cut the tips off the woman’s nipples with scissors, making one spurt milk and the other something that may be blood but looks more like chocolate milk. Again, the ineptitude of the special effects softens what is otherwise an unpleasantly sadistic scene.
Abraham Gentry is presented as a master detective, worthy of fame, adoration and the staggering fee The Globe offers him. While Frank Kress, whose sole acting credit is playing Gentry, comes across as charismatic enough, the character is loathsome in almost every other respect. Maybe the screenwriters thought they were aping the arrogance and capriciousness of Sherlock Holmes, but Gentry comes across more as Bugs Bunny without the charm.
The most off-putting aspect of Gentry’s character is his treatment of women. For this to stand out from the overall level of misogyny in the film is impressive. He demeans every female character he meets so thoroughly that I was hoping one would snap and kill him. Instead, with this being the 1970s, such behaviour just makes him irresistible.
Nancy Weston, the reporter, takes the worst of all this. Not only does Gentry constantly put her down but he manipulates her, spikes her drinks, uses her as bait, and strings her along romantically when she inexplicably becomes attracted to him.
At the same time, Gentry seems to be a terrible detective. His approach to detection is played for laughs it never actually gets. When he encounters a dead body with a lit cigarette tucked between its toes, his reaction is to take the cigarette and smoke it. Gentry licks the meat tenderiser used to smash another victim, determining that the killer put salt and pepper on the wound. Any time he encounters a police officer, he gives them false leads and actively interferes with the investigation.
For a while, I wondered if the film was setting us up for the twist that Gentry was the killer. There seems little other rational explanation for how thoroughly he was sabotaging the police. While you might argue professional rivalry, it comes across as petty dickishness at best. I was disappointed when the killer turned out to be someone else, if only because I wanted to see Gentry hauled off in cuffs.
Honestly, anyone watching The Gore Gore Girls as a murder mystery is in for a bad time. I suppose that’s the case for anyone watching it for any reason, but it’s doubly true here. This is less a whodunnit than a whocares.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another mystery story in which there are no actual clues. Gentry eventually explains everything with a massive, steaming infodump, but every clue he mentions either happened off-screen or relies on background knowledge only he has. It’s a good job we already hate Gentry or this might have turned the audience against him.
I know it’s hardly the point, but the dancing in this film is awful. Considering how much time we spend watching these women dance, you’d think they’d have found some who could actually do so. That said, the young lady who opted to strip to a Sousa march gets extra points for imagination.
It has been a while since I last saw a horror film I so utterly loathed. Plenty have disappointed me, a fair number have bored me, but The Gore Gore Girls made me feel actual visceral hatred. It feels mean-spirited in a way Lewis’s other films aren’t. His work may be gory but it’s rarely cruel. While there is broad, sometimes absurd comedy here, it feels like it comes from a different film that just happens to share celluloid with the more unpleasant parts. It’s certainly not enough to offset the misogyny and sadism.
The Gore Gore Girls comes from that weird age where taboos were falling away, leading to an explosion of sexual expression. Unfortunately, society’s treatment of women had yet to catch up. Everything about The Gore Gore Girls is so painfully misogynistic that it’s hard to watch. This is the kind of film where a woman can’t walk past a mirror without fondling herself and performing an impromptu striptease before getting brutally murdered.
The violence in The Gore Gore Girls is so highly sexualised that it feels fetishistic. As the title suggests, every victim is a woman, and the focus of the attacks is always their faces, breasts or backsides. It’s hardly unusual for the plot of a gore film to be a mere pretext for a series of kills, but this still feels more like watching porn than horror. The terrible production and acting may be its salvation, distancing us from what feels like pathological sadism.
Every technical aspect of the production is as rough as any other Herschell Gordon Lewis film. The sound levels vary wildly within scenes, the lighting sometimes makes it hard to see what’s going on, and the editing seems to have been done using a food processor. This was especially bad in the penultimate scene, where the killer meets their fate. It was so incoherent I had to rewind and watch it three times to work out what the hell had just happened.
Normally, I try to find something positive to say about even the worst of films. The best I can manage about The Gore Gore Girls is that it ends. And now so does this review.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker/The Mutations (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!
I started a postscript about how grumpy it makes me that the review sounds prudish. Fuck, I grew up in the age of the video nasty. Kensington Gore was my mother’s milk. I love, sleazy, violent films. Just not this one.
But the review was long enough already.