a Primal Root review
Who among my fellow gore hounds has not contemplated the the scenario of watching some poor schmuck getting tossed into a fully functional woodchipper? We’re all seen these machines in action with their intended quarry but just what could that thrasher do to the defenseless human body and just what in the hell would it look like spraying from the other end?
There have been films that feature this scenario, most famously, The Coen Brother’s Oscar winning quirky crime drama, Fargo. Of course, we are seeing the end result after a character has already been murdered, quartered and fed through the human liquefier. We can’t forget Trash Cinema Classic, The Corpse Grinder, where this scenario was experimented with and there’s even Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx where some gang banger is devoured by this hungry, godless, machine.
And then there’s Jon McBride’s (Cannibal Campout) 1989 shot on video low budget opus, The Woodchipper Massacre. The first film to wholly exploit our morbid curiosity to see someone shot through one of these contraptions and do so right in the title! Hell, we’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, why not make the logical step to the woodchipper?
Going into this little film oddity I was expecting it to play much like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as the title suggests. I went in expecting something much like McBride’s previous work, Cannibal Campout, a bunch of psychotic rednecks roaming the woods looking for terrible actors to eat. Except this time around the rednecks prefer their human meals after they’ve been puréed.
Probably the most shocking aspect of the film is how different it is from what one expects. You go in expecting some kind of survivalist splatter yarn and what we get is a strange dark children’s film about three siblings–Jon, Denise, and Tom–who have to spend a weekend being baby-sat by their over bearing and psychotically anal Aunt Tess. She forces the kids into manual labor, won’t allow older brother Jon to go out on his dates, is a horrible cook, and refuses Tom the simple pleasures of rocking out the air guitar in his bedroom.
Aunt Tess’s greatest offense comes when little brother Tom receives his mail-in Rambo Survival Hunting knife in the mail and she makes the mistake of trying to yank it away. Tom and Aunt Tess struggle for control before Tom mistakenly/on purpose stabs the old bitch, killing her instantly. It’s an emotionally heavy moment as all three of the kids must face the reality that their Aunt Tess is now laying sprawled out, dead, in a pool of her own decrepit blood, and at the hand of their little brother to boot!
After some soul searching and crappy comedy sketches involving phone calls from Dad and what not, the children come to a wise and educated decision. They chuck that unholy dead woman into the woodchipper out back. Sadly, this woodchipper scene leaves much to be desired. First off, Aunt Tess’s body comes off looking like a bunch of spare ribs with freezer burn, and worst of all, the only thing that shoots out of the chipper chute is what looks like potato chips. You call your movie The Woodchipper Massacre and you better deliver some fucking meat!
Anyhoo, believe it or not, the kids are not traumatized by their own sadistic and malevolent actions and go about life as normal. There’s not a single moment of remorse over their actions. I guess we didn’t really know Aunt Tess as well as these kids did. And believe it or not, another person gets tossed in the Chipper! Aunt Tess’s son Kim! He was established earlier as being psychotic and shows up on the scene the next day after Aunt Tess’s date with the Chipper Man.
What in the world does Kim want from the kids? Will anyone else gets thrown in the ‘ol wood chipper? And the biggest question of all…will the yard be cleaned up by the time Dad gets home?
The Woodchipper Massacre plays more like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead than it does Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s an astoundingly chipper, quaint…even cute movie. The last thing I was expecting. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all. In fact, it kind of works in the film’s favor. It has the feel of an old home made, backyard movie that the family takes out every Thanksgiving and watches and laughs at. In a way, it reminds me of the hilarious weird films my best buds, cousins, and I used to make whenever we had a long weekend or holiday.
It’s cheap, it doesn’t deliver the gore, and the performances are godawful. But it still manages to be a charming and fun viewing experience. It’s Trash Cinema for kids and would work well on a double bill with Jon McBride’s grislier flick, Cannibal Campout.
-The Primal Root