Released in 2007, Juno is the story about a 16-year-old girl who becomes pregnant. The movie tells a compelling story, boasts strong performances and was a critical and commercial success. Juno won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay while being nominated for several more.
Released in 1970 and directed by the Godfather of Gore Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Wizard of Gore was not a critical success. The movie is about a magician who may be murdering unsuspecting women. Critics were not impressed and the film was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
The two movies are almost polar opposites. Juno tells the story of a young independent woman dealing with heady issues such as abortion, adoption, and love. The Wizard of Gore is about dismembering women in the most horrific ways possible. Still, the movies have a bond.
It is established in Juno the titular character loves horror movies. When looking through a pile of DVDs, she comes across The Wizard of Gore. Her initial reaction is to mock the title and talk about how stupid it looks. When told how bloody and scary it is, she goes on a rant.
Juno proceeds to talk about the greatness of Dario Argento, even going so far as to refer to the Italian director as the “ultimate master.” She also considers Suspiria the goriest film of all time. While it can be debated where Argento belongs in the Horror Hall of Fame, there is no questioning his placement. He is an absolute legend whose influence is still felt today.
Suspiria is a landmark achievement. It is atmospheric, filled with great music, and has its fill of brutal moments, but it is not the goriest film of all time. (AiPT!’s Michael Compton wrote an excellent review of the movie.) The Wizard of Gore is a splatter fest that revels in blood and guts and does everything it can to live up to its name. There is a disembowelment, people being burned alive, and the creative use of a chainsaw. Each scene is shot with painstaking detail that in 1970 could rightfully earn a film the title of goriest ever.
Juno eventually has a change of heart. After watching the Lewis splatterfest, she acquieces it is the goriest film of all time. However, she does not go too in depth about The Wizard of Gore. This may be because there is not much to discuss. Montag the Magnificent is a magician whose act involves performing acts of mutilation on female volunteers from the audience. The women appeared unharmed after the trick but are eventually found dead.
Like any good magician, The Wizard of Gore uses misdirection to confuse its audience. Reality is constantly called into question. The ending is a fourth wall breaking monologue ending with a joke that adds to theme. It is a neat idea, but it is clumsily done and at times looks to have been added in after the movie was finished.
Unfortunately, The Wizard of Gore has little else aside from its graphic special effects and reality bending story. The acting is bland even during its best moments while the story starts to get tedious. The movie has a lot to look at but little to say.
The Wizard of Gore is an uneven movie that is only for horror completionists. The acting and cinematography leave a lot to be desired while the attempt at a deeper story comes off as silly. Juno was right though – it is gorier than Suspiria.