Controversial Horror Director Joel M. Reed Passes Away

by Thomas Tuna

His cult horror films were considered over-the-top by some, but screenwriter and director Joel M. Reed this week is being mourned by fans and colleagues alike.

Reed, probably best known for his 1976 film Bloodsucking Freaks, died at age 86 from complications from COVID-19, according to his brother Elliott and several websites, including

His brother posted on Facebook that Reed “would be missed by his friends, fans and family. He had a remarkable career as a writer and filmmaker.”

Several contemporaries and admirers also took to social media to remember the filmmaker.

Actor and director Eli Roth wrote: “RIP Joel M. Reed. I weirdly did the commentary for Bloodsucking Freaks when I was 25. One of the most bizarre films ever made. Joel…was so nice and told great stories.”

Another actor and filmmaker, Anthony Mann,  called Reed “a legend in the industry, a very nice man.”

Reed, a New York City native, began his career in film in the 1960s, writing and directing such horror movies as Blood Bath and Night of the Zombies.

And then came 1976 and the controversial–but memorable–cult classic Bloodsucking Freaks. Released (or maybe it escaped) by Troma Entertainment, the film was described as a “horror-comedy” that dealt with a theater director and his assistant who tortured women on stage.

In the film, the audience at the gruesome show thought it was simply bizarre entertainment, not the actual torture it was. Reaction to the movie was mixed, with the film being upbraided in some corners for its blatant and gory torture scenes.

In later years, Reed stepped out from behind the camera and acted in several films, including a starring role in the 2011 horror movie Dead Eye. He also appeared in Catch of the Day and Killer Waves.

Horror News Network sends out condolences to Reed’s brother, family and friends on his passing.

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