Hooptober 2022 #30: Blood Harvest (1987)

One of the joys of watching regional horror movies is coming across something deeply strange. Regional films tend to bring out the unhinged in a particular era of filmmakers. Maybe the film needed to meet the demands of a producer or distributor. Possibly the filmmakers tried to one up another film to get your film noticed. Being made outside of Hollywood allows folks to just indulge their weird.

Blood Harvest is all of those things. Clearly made to cash in on slasher movies, Blood Harvest is deeply weird and sleazy even for that genre. Director Bill Rebane career is full of Wisconsin based horrors. Here he’s in charge of a perfect storm of weirdness . There’s a not fully fleshed out idea for a killer. The film is mostly made of regional actors clearly not ready to be in a film and a young Peter Krause from Six Feet Under. There is however a star here to sell the film. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the full on weirdness of Tiny Tim.

Born Herbert Khaury, Tiny Tim, for the youngsters unfamiliar with that name, was a gargantuan singer armed with a ukulele and a falsetto. If you’ve seen James Wan’s Insidious, you know his version of “Tiptoe Through The Tulips”, a song with a vibrating falsetto and ukulele strums. Saying his presence and voice is uncomfortable would be an understatement. There’s nothing normal about him. But also, there’s a deeply absurd, campy element to what he does. He clearly is in on the joke. Blood Harvest as a film veers wildly between that uncomfortable side and the deeply campy.

In Blood Harvest, Tiny Tim plays The Marvelous Mervo, a gargantuan man in clown make up with a deeply uncomfortable presence. It’s almost typecasting. His brother Gary watches over him but he constantly wanders around a nameless Wisconsin town. He sings nursery rhymes, gives flowers, and enters homes. He spies on his brother. A lot. Mervo does most of this in the home of Jill, a returning college student. Jill comes back to an empty home, unsure where her parents are. Her house is vandalized. Is it because the townspeople are angry at her dad for foreclosing on various farms? Or is some one else committing crimes?

Blood Harvest could almost be titled The Wisconsin Chain Saw Massacre, if it had chainsaws. This film works to create as off putting an atmosphere as that landmark film. People constantly enter Jill’s home without her consent. The foreclosing of the farms gives the town a decrepit feel. All of the victims get hung upside down, their throats slashed as their blood gets drained. There’s a sleazy quality to the killer who takes photos of Jill nude in her sleep. He strips one victim down to her underwear before he slashes her throat. If he actually killed anyone, Mervo might be this film’s Leatherface.

Except Blood Harvest is just so entertainingly goofy to truly be menacing. Things happen for reasons of plot not character. Logic doesn’t seem to apply in this world. All of the actors, and especially Tiny Tim, oversell everything. The audience can guess who the killer is very early in the film. Spoiler, it’s not Mervo. Jill spends most of the film wondering where people are. These questions could be answered if Jill just looked out her window or looked in the very conspicuous barn. There’s eventually a point where so many people drive to her home and disappear, you wonder where the killer puts their cars that also disappear. Jill seems terrified of strangers coming into her home. Jill also seems to forget to lock her door. For someone so concerned about his weirdo brother venturing out unaccompanied, Gary does a terrible job of making sure Mervo doesn’t leave the house. As unsettling as he is when he talks, Tiny Tim plays up the camp simultaneously. Mervo walks around in a suit with balloons on it. Also the character’s name is Mervo. This is a bad movie but it’s far from a forgettable one.

Blood Harvest wildly veers from sleazy menace to pure camp. Tiny Tim embodies this in his performance as The Marvelous Mervo, a character simultaneously off putting and absurd. This is a film that could only have been filmed in middle of nowhere Wisconsin.

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