Herschel Gordon Lewis in 2009's Smash Cut

Something Weird Video reports Herschell Gordon Lewis, the director credited with inventing the “splatter” sub-genre of horror cinema, has died. He was 87.

Lewis began in the film industry by producing and directing exploitation movies featuring nudity, a profitable endeavor that nonetheless limited their ability to be marketed and distributed, thanks to censorship by the Motion Picture Production Code. However, he soon became known as “the godfather of gore” for his gruesome and sometimes silly outings released throughout the ’60s and ’70s. 1963’s Blood Feast (which featured some great ad copy for the movie) is arguably his best known film, showcasing gore effects that included an actual sheep’s tongue. As Lewis told Film Journal, “I’ve often compared Blood Feast to a Walt Whitman poem. It’s no good, but it was the first of its kind.”


Blood Feast kickstarted a run of cult classics, like Two Thousand Maniacs! and The Wizard Of Gore. His films delivered full-color splatter effects that soon were adopted by low-budget and exploitation filmmakers throughout the world. As Lewis told the Bright Lights Film Journal in 2001, “I see filmmaking as a business and pity anyone who regards it as an art form and spends money based on that immature philosophy.” In 1972, after releasing The Gore Gore Girls, Lewis left filmmaking to begin a second career in advertising, focusing on direct marketing and copywriting. When Adweek asked him for advice for young marketers entering the profession, Lewis explained that you have to “analyze and think, ‘If this was aimed at me, what would my reaction be? Would my heart beat a little faster?’” Lewis also wrote several books on the subject of advertising.

The director returned to filmmaking with 2002’s Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, which featured a cameo from fellow trash filmmaker John Waters. Up until his death, Lewis continued working on films in one capacity or another, and appeared in Terror Toons 3 from his directing protégé Joe Castro earlier this year. When asked about his legacy last month, Lewis explained to Daily Grindhouse, “I’m telling you this, if you live long enough, you become legitimate.”


He most recently hosted a retrospective of his work last month in Philadelphia. The world of horror cinema just got a little less delightfully disgusting.