Color, 1983, 88m. / Directed by Ray Cameron / Starring Kenny Everett, Pamela Stephenson, Vincent Price, Gareth Hunt, Don Warrington / Nucleus (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD5.1

Even in the early 1980s, the booming horror cycle had already churned out its share of silly (and often very troubled) parodies like Student Bodies, Pandemonium and Wacko. At the same time, Britain turned out its own goofy gore spoof, the aptly-titled Bloodbath at the House of Death, which barely made a blip in theaters but earned a decent cult following on home video. American horror kids in particular were drawn in by the promotion of Vincent Price (who basically has a glorified cameo) on the cover of the old Media VHS tape, which became a mainstay in mom-and-pop video shops for years. Thankfully time has been kind to the film, which veers from one target to the next with head-spinning speed but scores a surprising number of hits along the way. It also features some hilariously over-the-top gore, which is always a good thing.

In a very memorable prologue, the residents and guests at remote Headstone Manor are all slaughtered one night by a bunch of red-cloaked cult members, who leave a mountain of body parts in their wake. The police are unable to solve the crime, and years later, a sextet of investigators led by Dr. Lukas Mandeville (late UK TV comedy staple Everett) infiltrate the house after tangling with the superstitious locals and uncover a variety of threats involving satanists, ghosts, psycho killers, and... well, something else in the last scene that won't be ruined here, but Peter Jackson must have been more than a tad inspired by this before making Bad Taste.

Most British comedies relying heavily on pop culture gags never traveled far out of their native homeland, making Bloodbath one of the few happy exceptions. Some of the jokes are still a little too inside to work for many modern viewers, but the tried-and-true horror gags (especially a wild, gory flashback involving a surgery gone horribly wrong) still make this a top-notch cult item. Everett's hit-and-miss performance is a rather iffy way to ground a film, but fortunately he's carried along by a stellar supporting cast including the always-funny Pamela Stephenson (another TV comedy vet best known to US viewers as one of the few good things in Superman III) and The New Avengers' Gareth Hunt, who plays one-half of a gay paranormal-investigating couple. The effects are surprisingly good for the most part, ranging from some Savini-worthy blood gags to ambitious visuals involving a fiesty poltergeist, and the imaginative music score by Mike Moran and songwriter Mark London is dead-on brilliant. Of course, the biggest ace in the hole here is the presence of Price as "the Sinister Man," making the most of his limited screen time with some delicious speeches and wonderful nudgings at his classic AIP horror days. The whole thing's more than a bit disjointed and will never be mistaken for high art, but as a late night party selection, it fits the bill just fine. The packaging touts this as the predecessor to Scary Movie, though in the end it's more of an inspiration to more modern and better-regarded British TV horror spoofs like Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible and especially the brilliant Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.

Considering this film has languished far out of the public eye since the 1980s, it's quite miraculous that Nucleus Films managed to wring a very respectable special edition from it including a much-needed new transfer from the original negative. No one should be surprised that this easily blows away any other editions around, and it even boasts a newly-mixed 5.1 audio version in addition to the original and far more naturalistic mono track, but home theater buffs should enjoy it either way). You also get optional English subtitles, which, even if you aren't deaf, help catch quite a few lines which zing by too quickly.

The biggest new extra here is "Running the Bloodbath," a new 22-minute documentary featuring exec producers Stuart Donaldson and Laurence Myers talking about the making of the film, mixed with archival Australian premiere footage of Everett doing press interviews. Also included are the similar UK and US theatrical trailers (with only the latter capitalizing on Price) and a pdf of the original script. It's taken a long, long time to finally get a respectable version of this film out of the gate, but the film's fans will find the wait more than worth it.

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