10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

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a Primal Root written review

Sam Elliott and Peter Weller are my guys. I’ll see just about anything featuring either of these two actors due to their excellent body of work , both Trashy and Embraced by the Masses. Come on, Elliott’s the main reason to visit Swayze’s “Road House” (1989), not to mention his turn as the enigmatic Stranger in the seldom seen lost classic, “The Big Lebowski (1998)  and Peter Weller’s filmography is basically a who’s who of sci-fi cult cinema, from Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 action  masterpiece, “Robocop” to 1984′s bomb-come-cult flick, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”  And, as we all know, when two legends cross paths, one must always pay strict attention.

To my own shock and amazement, “Shakedown,” a film featuring two icons of cinematic strangeness, and strange plot that takes your from the heights of wacky action to the morose happenings of a court room drama and every imaginable place between, is not heralded as I had originally imagined upon hearing of it’s existence. I am hoping to correct that issue with this review.

Shakedown takes place on the tough, unforgiving streets of New York City and it’s tough, unforgiving courtrooms. It’s a tale of police corruption, murder and badass action sequences. The film begins with a big time drug dealer having to defend his life from a crazed cracker who shows up, asks for a fix, then pulls a gun on him. The cracker ends up dead as rat shit while our drug dealer, Michael (Richard Brooks), ends up wounded and on trial for the murder of a cop who never identified himself and was obviously looking to steal the gentleman’s crops and money. Thankfully, we see Michael press the REC button on his ghetto blaster, but the film forgets all about that until the last act of the movie once it becomes a life or death situation.

Thankfully for Michael the drug dealer, he has two of the coolest mother fuckers ever to live in New York City on his side. We’re talking public defender and avid Jimi Hendrix fan,  Roland Dalton (Peter “Don’t Call Me Buckaroo” Weller) and grimy, greased up, 42nd street undercover cop, Richie Marks (Sam Elliot, as grizzled and awesome as ever.)  Upon hearing of the case, Roland swoops down to defend Michael against the Good Old Boys club of the NYPD who are more than willing to make people disappear in order to cover up their own crimes and deceptions. The thing Roland doesn’t realize is that he will be facing down his old flame, Susan Cantrell, (Patricia Charbonneau) the new District Attorney in this murder case. And wouldn’t you know it, this is all happening on the eve of Roland’s marriage to the young and wholly unlikable Gail Feinberger (Blanche Baker) whose Father just so happens to head the biggest law firm in the city, which means Roland will become a partner and spend his life defending the rich and powerful and making sure those with the money get to keep it. Thankfully, this recent case, plus late night discussions with his district attorney ex-girlfriend, who acts as a cock riding Jiminy Cricket, has led to Roland’s reevaluation of the whole situation. Does he want to continue taking on cases for those who are innocent of any wrong doing but society wants them punished anyway, or to live a life with a woman who scolds him for listening to rock and roll too load in the morning while blending home made Orange Julius’s and wiping the asses of spoiled, rich old geezers? Decisions, decisions…

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To help uncover any evidence pertaining to the case and delve into the police corruption itself, Roland meets up with his old pal, undercover cop, Richie in the shit stained, syringe covered restroom of a dilapidated 42nd Street grindhouse. Over a few drinks in one of New York’s many watering holes, the two decide to team up and put the hurt of the NYPD’s most crooked cops, when Michael’s case and hopefully put away some scumbag pigs in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the law and order proceedings that take place in the court room and are discussed in between the opposing legal team’s fuck sessions are really interesting, but the real stars of “Shakedown” are the go for broke, mind blowing, action sequences scattered throughout the film to keep you from being too mellow. While Roland is either defending or banging, Richie is chasing and beating the snot out of New York’s nastiest criminals and cops on his quest for the truth. The man is willing to use 42nd Street theater neon lights as means to leap onto the top of moving busses while opening fire on suspects! The guy chases a man onto a carnival roller coaster before starting it up and ensuring the car derails thereby sending the criminal soaring to his hysterical death! And, in probably, the greatest action sequence I have ever witnessed, Sam Elliot, as Richie, with the aid of Roland and his Porsche, manages to chase down a private jet. climb onto the jet’s landing gear as it takes off, ride that landing gear to a height where the roof of the World Trade Tower’s are visible; toss a grenade inside and then leap into the ocean before the plane lands and explodes. Yes, Richie survives with no damage worse than a wet pair of Levi’s.

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It’s that combination of serious, intelligent courtroom drama and Gonzo, batshit crazy action that really makes 1988′s “Shakedown” possibly one of the strangest yet endlessly entertaining action films of the 1980′s. A lot of the appeal is derived from watching the film’s two leading men bring the big bad guys to justice as well as watching Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, two very likable cult actors, pal around and makes jokes with one another. These gentlemen never ascended to the pantheon of great action stars like Arnold, Sly and Bruce. No, Peter has become more well known a a science fiction character actor and Sam, outside of The Big Lebowski, is a bit more recognized as a western cinema staple. But here, watching the two unlikely actors turned action stars, one cannot help but marvel as they spray gun fire, make death defying leaps from buildings and spout witty retorts and villains burn to death. It’s like watching the high school A.V. geek and the guy in shop class who never bathes joining forces to crack down on high school crime. To put it bluntly, it’s a mother fucking hoot to behold.

Also, another highlight of the film for me, is that “Shakedown” features New York’s 42nd Street RIGHT before gentrification took hold, the theaters were dismantled, and the strip steadily became home to Disney stores and McDonald’s and attracted more tourists than locals. It’s a final swan song to what was once a sleazy, filthy, dangerous playground, A place of legend that is no more. Watching some good goddamn action sequences explode across this neon sodom is quite a spectacle to behold, but also a lovingly rendered final look at a place that now only exists in memory and cinema.

“Shakedown” is a one of a kind action film. Feeling like Law and Order by way of Robert Rodriguez and Michael Bay’s love child, “Shakedown” mixes together ingredients that should by no means make a tasty concoction, but manages to deliver something unique, exciting, fun and shockingly entertaining. You will be pulled in by the human drama and then blown out of your seat with astonishment and laughter as one rock ‘em sock ‘em action scene after another pummels you over the head with it’s bizarre and warped sense of reality. My friends, “Shakedown” must truly be seen to be believed.

“Shakedown” will shake your beliefs in action cinema to the ground. Watch it brace yourself for an awakening and an injection of pure, undiluted Trash.

I give “Shakedown” THREE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

29
Jun
14

Trash Cinema Nights presents The Burning (1981)

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Who: The Trash Cinema Collective
What: a screening of  1981′s “The Burning”
When: Saturday, July 5th at 10:00pm
Where: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
Why: Because we love you.

as always…NO COVER!

MATURE CONTENT WARNING: Leave the fruits of your loins at home! Blood shed, full frontal female nudity, um…lots of female nudity and general slasher movie butchery goodness. With garden shears.

Hey Gang! As I am sure you’re well aware with the might of the current humidity situation and temperatures in the mid 90′s, it’s glorious summer time in Florida! What better way to celebrate this warm, moist, sweaty season than with a special Trash Cinema Night screening of one of the meanest, nastiest little summer camp slasher flicks of the 1980′s, 1981′s “The Burning?” Sure, it sounds like a PSA about genital herpes, but it’s one damn fine low budget horror show.

Gratuitous blood, breasts and one nasty disfigured psychopath who looks like his head is made up of a gnawed on wad of Big League Chew. I can think of no better way to continue celebrating our nation’s independence than by wallowing in the complete filth that is the 1980′s American slasher flick.

So come on out, sink your teeth into the best damn burger in Tallahassee, order up a pitcher of your favorite ice cold brew and let’s rot our brains together as we watch the likes of Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter get terrorized by Cropsy, the summer camp legend who got roasted like so many marshmallows during a really badly planned prank and is now transforming teenagers into meat mulch.

We’ll see you Saturday, July 5th at 10pm over at Bird’s aphrodisiac Oyster shack for an evening of utter mayhem you won’t want to miss!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

27
May
14

The Big Bird Cage (1972): Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned and Horny

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a Primal Root written review

Folks in the late 60′s and early 70′s must’ve loved to imagine somewhere out there in the Philippines there are prison/labor camps filled with gorgeous, violently horny American women wearing nothing but the tiniest of shorts and shirts that hang open so their ample, sweaty bosoms simply pour out of them as they sweat and work in the baking hot sun.  How did I come to this conclusion, you ask? Because Corman and Co. were pumping these flicks out like chicken nuggets. One thing’s for sure, they tapped into some strange, dark fantasy of the time that proved profitable and a wonderful showcase for gonzo politics, dark satire, even darker attempts at comedy, and bizarre perversions of all kinds.

Among the grandest touchstones to come from these scantly clad and brutalized women in exotic prison movies was the steady appearances by the sassy, energetic,  Ms. Pam Grier, who would go on to become a legend in her own right. In 1972′s “The Big Bird Cage” Pam Grier and Sig Haig play two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django (in possibly my favorite pairing of the two in their long history of working together), who end up dragging a gorgeous social climber by the name of Terry ( the lovely Anitra Ford of TV’s The Price is Right and the forgotten and highly underrated “Messiah of Evil” from 1972) into their crime wave as a hostage. It’s a short lived affair that end with Blossom and Django getting away and Terry going to a brutal concentration camp run by a sadistic warden and his army of burly, homosexual guards. Terry and the rest of the girls are put to work in the sweltering Philippine heat harvesting the sugar cane crop in the fields and within a giant wooden contraption of the prison warden’s own nefarious design known as…THE BIG BIRD CAGE.  His device crushes, maims, and kills the perky, naked women just as efficiently as it brings sugar to market. Hell, most of the prisoners would rather commit suicide than work within…THE BIG BARD CAGE.

BBC Pam

When the ladies aren’t working nearly completely nude they’re showering, making sexual advances towards their gay captors and each other or plotting to escape.  These women are all perpetually horny and lusting for hard cock and much of the film’s lighter moments are derived from their attempts to seduce the guards who have no interest in them whatsoever.  It;s a strange mishmash of politically incorrect humor (back when that was the acceptable norm. Ah, the good old days…) and brutal revolt, punishment and death. You’ll be laughing your ass off as a tall, skinny blonde covers herself head to toe in Crisco and runs after her nemesis and fellow inmate stark nekkid so no one can stop her, and the next second you’ll be staring in disbelief as a woman is gang raped by a horde of sweaty, butterfly knife toting Filipino men before a gay prison guard can make a bizarre joke about how he never gets that kind of action. This is the kind of filthy, off the wall tone shifty comedy Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Coffy, Switchblade Sisters) seems to really go for in his film, and frankly, I love him for it. It’s sick, it’s sleazy, and it sure as shit is like nothing else you will ever see in cinema. It’s so vulgar and eye wideningly weird that you cannot help but laugh even though what’s left of your heart which is not black tells you that you’re going to Hell for finding this humorous.

During a botched act of revolution where Blossom attempts to explode a gathering of politicians at some kind of public art Chautauqua with a grenade her lover and fellow revolutionary Django gave her. The grenade lets out a sizzling spark fart rather than exploding and Blossom is sent to the same sugar cane Hell hole Terry was imprisoned in.  As you might expect, Blossom establishes herself quickly as the Queen B of the women’s concentration camp as she kicks ass, tears off clothes and generally shows everyone who’s boss. But soon the Evil Warden is suspicious that Blossom is one of the jungle’s revolutionaries and begins beating and torturing the head strong and drop dead gorgeous Blossom to try and get her to talk.

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In the meantime, Django begins posing as a fellow homosexual in order to seduce the prison guards and land himself a job within the women’s penitentiary so that he can rescue Blossom and get his revolution going.  It isn’t long before the entire prison camp is in flames, women are gunned down, guards are stabbed and hacked into pieces and much time is spent on a gang rape scene where about a dozen women tie down one of the gay guards, force him to get his cock hard and then ride it like the proverbial pony. It’s an odd, uncomfortable scene that’s trying to play itself for laughs. Again, the laughs are of the “what the fuck is this? Am I meant to laugh?” variety.  It plays as retribution for this guard making lite of a gang rape that happened earlier, but it’s still pretty fucking uncomfortable listening to this fellow struggle and whimper as a group of sexy, sweaty, naked women suck on his wang and start straddling.  I did laugh out loud when one women has to think fast and muffles the guard’s screams by placing her pussy squarly on his mouth before letting out a “WOAH!” of surprised ecstasy. Now THAT’S funny. Jack Hill is one of the last true rape joke artists.  See what I meant when I told you this thing is politically incorrect and deeply inappropriate? This ain’t no Shawshank Redemption, Gang.

The women who survive the initial riot make their way into the jungle as they are tracked by vicious dogs, and guards packing all kinds of heat and out for blood. Many are killed, few are spared, and the only folks to survive are saved by gentlemen revolutionaries who send the survivors off into the sun set on a little schooner sure to capsize and kill them all before they ever make it to dry land. THE END.

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“The Big Bird Cage” is one fantastically off the wall film filled with gratuitous nudity, torture, blood shed, and ruthlessly mean spirited, dark, offensive comedy. I say offensive because the sensitive rubes out there would certainly find this film to be vile and despicable with little to no socially redeeming qualities. To those rubes, I say sit and spin. These are the exactly reasons I enjoy “The Big Bird Cage” so much!  It feels like a satire of the entire women in prison genre and has it’s sleazy little tongue planted firmly it’s slimy cheek.  The Big Bird Cage is a wild mother fucking ride and one Trash Cinema Connoisseurs will lovingly embrace.

What lesson did I take away from “The Big Bird Cage?” Never keep a woman horny and sugar cane is an excellent cash crop.

I’m giving this slice of sleaze FOUR AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

27
May
14

“Tremors” (1990) A Trash Cinema Nights Event!

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WHAT: Trash Cinema Nights screening of Tremors
WHERE: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
WHEN: Saturday, June 7th at 7:00pm
WHO: The Trash Cinema Collective
WHY: Because we love you

as always, NO COVER!

Tremors is rated PG-13, so bring your impressionable spawn!

Hey Gang, it’s your pal The Primal Root here inviting you all out to an evening of fun in the sun (?) as we visit the residents of Perfection Valley, Nevada. A small, isolated ex-silver mining desert town where the residents live a simple, peaceful existence in the middle of nowhere. That is…until the a new breed of monster is discovered hiding just below the ground and intent on sucking every breathy, meaty, screaming human down into their monstrous gobs for a quick and delicious meal. The town is long dead, but will the residents survive? Handymen Val (Kevin Bacon), Earl (a scene stealing Fred Ward), and a young geology student named Rhonda (Finn Carter) must bring the town together to fend off and survive the rampaging terror just under their feet. Featuring an excellent supporting cast, Michael Gross (Family Ties), Charlotte Stewart (Eraserhead, TV’s Twin Peaks) Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness) Ariana Richards (Jurassic Park) and country music SENSATION, Reba McEntire! and some of the best practical monster effects of the era, Tremors is a fun, hilarious and horrifying monster, action, B-movie that gets better with each viewing. Come on, let’s ring in the summer with some big, juicy worm monsters!

Some come out and join your friends from The Trash Cinema Collective, sink your teeth into a juicy burger, slurp down some oysters and gulp down an ice cold adult beverage as we enjoy an evening of none stop Trashy, low rent, monster action!

Hope to see you there!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

15
May
14

Godzilla (1954) My Favorite Monster

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a Primal Root written review

His career spans sixty years. His exploits are legendary. The casualties? Countless. The property damage? Immeasurable. The beast’s name? Of course, we’re talking Godzilla (or, Gojira, as many folks are always at the jump to correct me because otherwise they would have no idea who I’m talking about) the radioactive, prehistoric, fire breathing titan who, on one hand, is a deeply horrifying monstrosity intent on wreaking as much havoc as possible, and on another, might be regarded as a complete innocent and product of our own insidious nuclear testing. No matter hoe you slice it, we brought this gigantic, people broiling, city crushing mother fucker down on us through our own technological advancements in ways to kill one another.  A good message to take home, you fuck with nature and nature will gladly fuck you right back in the brown eye with a Godzilla sized strap that breaths fiery death from it’s scaly plastic dick hole.

Sure, over the years Godzilla eventually became a hero of sorts, coming to the aid of our planet earth and all it’s inhabitants when bigger, badder monsters showed up on the scene the dominate. He fought such intimidating foes as Megalon, Destroyah, Mechagodzilla, Hedorah, King Ghidorah, and countless others head on, without fear, without hesitation. Surely, in Godzilla’s later career, we would have been totally fucked without his help and support.  But in the beginning, Godzilla was the ultimate in radioactive monster terror. Especially when it comes to the 1954 original Toho production.

Out at sea, military vessels and fishing boats are vanishing, being burned to embers by what seem to be blinding white flashes of heat emanating from the ocean itself. The mystery grows as soon, terror strikes the rocky beach shores, demolishing houses and crushing people into meat patties during a violent storm in the middle of the night. The reports come in and survivors testify to seeing some enormous, living, terrifying creature stepping on their humble abodes and their families within. The government is at a loss as the casualties in and around Tokyo begin to pil up, but soon, during a daylight attack, the people of Tokyo come face to face with what’s been causing this devastation. a 164 foot tall, fire breathing lizard spoken of in legend as…GODZILLA (or Gojira, right, right)!

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Thanks to mankind’s penchant for testing their nukes in the Pacific Ocean, this radioactive shit-kicking reptile from the Jurassic Period is back on the scene and looking to reestablish itself as master of all he tramples under foot and roasts to an ember. It doesn’t take long before this guy rises from the depths of the ocean and reduces Tokyo to a pile of smoking rubble during a terrifying, grueling, none stop violent attack on Tokyo where men, women and children flee for their lives, many to no avail, as Godzilla stomps his way through every damn thing that stands in his way.  Sure, this stuff has been parodied to Hell and been used for laughs over the last fifty years, but watching it now, and keeping in mind the recent history in Japan, more specifically Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the detonation of15-megaton American H-Bomb on Bikini Atoll…which irradiated 7,000 square miles of ocean, what Godzilla represents, and the scars Japan was still coming to terms with at the time, these scenes of mass death and destruction are no laughing matter.  In one harrowing moment we see a mother comforting her young daughter as the city burns and collapses around them, no help on the way and no escape. She tells her daughter that they will be with Father soon and that everything is okay. Gang, this is some dark shit and far cry from those days in the seventies when Godzilla was teaming up with dip-shits like Jet Jaguar or playing basketball against Charles Barkley to sell Nikes. This is the real deal. The foundation that would establish one of the most iconic monsters we will ever have. Godzilla. Or Gojira , if you want to get all anal about it.

The original 1954 film still stands as a titan of horror filmmaking. Filmmaker Ishiro Honda manages to harness the horror and tragedy of  Japan’s recent past and uses that as the very root of his creation.  Bringing to life a deeply meaningful and fantastic story that brought those harsh memories it’s audience recently captured to the surface.  Godzilla serves as a warning in the atomic age, that mankind has open a Pandora’s Box of horror with such technology. One that, as the film suggests through the character of Serizawa, can only be closed by individual choice and sacrifice.  Serizawa has created a new weapon of mass death and destruction he has named The Oxygen-Destroyer, a weapon more deadly than the H-Bomb, a weapon sure to have world governments drooling over and eventually becoming the love-baby in a new arms race. At film’s end, he chooses right over wrong, Godzilla is stopped,  and a new age of atomic war is averted by Serizawa’s heroic final actions.

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But we are warned at film’s end, that not all of humanity is as brave and noble as Serizawa and as long as nuclear testing persist, Dr. Yamane warns us, other monsters could rise to threaten civilization. Godzilla ponders some pretty big philosophical questions as Godzilla lays waste to Tokyo and burns images of the scorched, dying city and it’s populace into our mind. This is what man’s inhumanity towards man looks like. Giving these images the fantastical backdrop of a giant monster lizard only provides a modicum of escape. Because behind this horrific monster a more devastating and shameful reality is revealed.  Godzilla is a film of fire, suffering and death, and remains a remarkable and harrowing viewing experience.

I give Godzilla aka: Gojira (1954) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets. This film is a masterpiece.

 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

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“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

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At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

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Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

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I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

27
Apr
14

Trash Cinema Nights presents “The Lost Boys” & “From Dusk Till Dawn” double Feature

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DOUBLE FEATURE!
The Lost Boys (1987) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
Saturday, May 3rd starting at 8pm
at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
as always, NO COVER!

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here and I remember a time, not so long ago I might add, when vampires were awesome. Back when they had wonderful bleach blonde mullets, lived on the beach or in bars just over the border into Mexico and danced half nekkid while adorned with a very large snake before ripping some grizzled bikers head off and chucking through the air. Yep, those were the days all right.

WELL THOSE DAYS ARE BACK for one glorious night of vampiric Trash Cinema excellence at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack as The Trash cinema Collective presents The Lost Boys (1987) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) back to back for a reminder of the down and dirty carnage this blood suckers are capable of!

The Lost Boys (1987) directed by Joel Schumacher: Sam and Mike (Corey Haim and Jason Patric) just moved to Santa Carla with their Mom and have a fine time adjusting and fitting in to the beach side community. That is, Mike is initiated into a hair metal group of vampires led by a charismatic, Chinese food terrorist, David (Kiefer Sutherland) and Sam ends up getting befriending a couple teenage comic book store owners and part time vampire hunters, The Frog Brothers. It’s a whacky and horrifying time as these two boys learn the meaning of family while skinheads get their scalps savagely ripped off, body builders viciously play the saxophone while clad in purple spandex hot pants, and Corey Haim sings int he bathtub.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) directed by Robert Rodriguez: Seth and Richard Gecko (Goerge Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are violent criminals on the run from Johnny Law. Their goal? Make it to Mexico where they will meet their connection and start a new life for themselves living on the beach, sipping margaritas and swimming with dolphins. However, it’s a long road to Mexico, and the two volunteer a family of three by taking them hostage so they have a decent cover over the border. Once there, they must spend an evening at a cantina known as The Titty-Twister which happens to be run by vampire scum. rag-tag group of criminals, low lives and bible thumpers must band together in order to survive this dark night of slaughter. Who will survive? What will be left of them? Who will pay the tab? Featuring performances from Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Selma Hayek in a bikini, Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin, John Saxon and Michael Parks!

So come on out and see what happens when two sets of brothers go head to head with some legendary blood suckers! This is a damn fine double feature of incredible cult vampire films you certainly don”t want to miss! See you at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack Saturday, May 3rd for burgers, beer and blood spattered mayhem!

See you there!

Stay Trashy!
-Root




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