Blood, Guts & Sunshine is a 2021 documentary about the legacy of horror filmmaking in Florida from the '50s through today’s digitally produced streaming titles. Filled with interviews from the likes of John Waters and Tim Ritter, the film is a chaotic rush of bizarre clips and stories surrounding this outlaw hub of regional filmmaking. Terror Vision and OCN Distribution bring the film to Blu-ray with a solid A/V package and enough special features to make any horror fan happy. For Fans Only.
“Florida’s got something in the water..there’s too much jealously and bullshit.”
For fans of regional horror films, we are living in a renaissance with boutique labels resurrecting titles barely screened for audiences before falling into obscurity. Even with the convenience of streaming services offering countless features at our fingertips many films fall into the cracks or are lost due to distribution rights. For me, the joy of taking a leap of faith with an unknown regional horror film is the introduction to the community surrounding the production. Blood, Guts & Sunshine introduces us to the legacy of exploitation horror produced in America’s wildest state.
The film begins with the Universal horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon, considered the first major horror film shot in the Sunshine State. Director Sean Donahue (Death-Scort Service) shoehorns in an archival interview with Ricou Browning who famously wore the monster suit underwater. It’s an excellent start to the documentary because all horror fans can meet on common ground with the beloved monster classic. Establishing the early days of filmmaking in Florida sees a montage of 50’s era nudie cuties and swamp-set actioners promising thrills and danger. From here Donahue launches into the strongest section of the film highlighting the work of The Godfather of Gore Hershell Gordon Lewis. Archival interviews and clips accompany a look at the production of his film Blood Feast in 1963. Here Donahue establishes the impact HGL had on filmmakers and their desire to find exciting places to produce their outlandish drive-in-friendly horror films. Now this documentary is firing on all cylinders showing parallels between the crazy horror productions and the lawless frontier of shooting exploitation flicks in Florida.
Interviews become the glue of the film once established productions are filmed in the state. Director Tim Ritter speaks about Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Deathdream, and She-Man: A Story of Fixation becoming classics within the Sunshine State’s production community and beyond. In the '80s cult icon Joel Wynkoop dominated the VHS market with Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness, Killing Spree, and Dirty Cop No Donut which would become the new classics of Florida exploitation. Here, a new generation of filmmakers would mold themselves after Wynkoop’s unhinged style. These ambitious filmmakers would bring an aggressive tone filled with hypersexualized violence that would become the established style of independent horror in the state.
When Donahue finally gets to the early 2000’s the steam has all but run out of Blood, Guts & Sunshine. Digital filmmaking has exploded along with internet content aimed squarely at fans with video reviews, roundtables, and blogs galore featuring the new class of gorehounds. The string of talking heads promoting their features all run together in a bickering fest of shameless self-promotion accompanied by clips of their microbudget efforts. It’s dizzying, to say the least. My patience waned as titles like Amerikan Holokaust, Death-Scort Service, and American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore covered the screen with blood, guts, and sleaze with little regard for context or pacing.
Poised to be an enormous undertaking the film falls flat once the bickering between the old guard begins. I had such high hopes for this one to be as exciting as a “Florida Man” story trending on my feed, but sadly my joys came from the gory film clips inserted between interviews. Blood, Guts & Sunshine may not be an exhaustive document of Flordia horror filmmaking but Sean Donahue has taken a real stab at the material leaving viewers inspired to at least seek out new films and discover something exciting.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Blood, Guts & Sunshine arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Terror Vision and OCN Distribution. The BD-50 Region A disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with a two-sided artwork. Loading the disc presents the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
Blood, Guts & Sunshine bleeds out in an AVC encoded 1080p image presented in 1.78:1. Archival film clips range in quality from tattered 16mm nudie cuties to contemporary films in crisp HD. Graphics, title cards, and images range in quality from magazine clippings to highly textured and well-detailed images with bright colors. Digitally shot interviews are presented clearly with fine detail and dynamic primaries highlighting the talking heads and their backgrounds. Archival interviews are presented in the best possible quality though most appear to be untouched since their production. Overall a pleasing presentation given the various sources used for the film.
The sole audio track offered is a bright and well-defined 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Interview dialogue and other exchanges are presented clearly without hiss or pop detected unless the archival material used contains a lackluster mix. Scoring elements accompany the various clips and interviews giving levity to the subjects while providing an amusing love for exploitation silliness.
Terror Vision compliments this documentary with some interesting features worth checking out after the credits roll. Start with the Grindhouse Video tour before moving through the other featurettes.
Blood, Guts & Sunshine has a compelling idea within its grasp by introducing the Wild West of regional filmmaking in Florida to an unsuspecting audience. Unfortunately, the film loses direction and veers into the tedium of ambitious directors pushing their newest product. If anything this documentary has given me a whole list of utterly bizarre horror films to check out. Look out watchlist! Terror Vision and OCN bring the film to Blu-ray with a solid A/V transfer and enough bonus features to make any horror fan excited. For Fans Only.