Archive for September, 2010

24
Sep
10

Rotten Review Ep. 15: Return of the Living Dead 3


Hey Gang,

The Primal Root is back after a month off and to celebrate I am showcasing a piece of Trash Cinema featuring one of my all time favorite zombie femme fatales. That’s right, Ms. Julie Walker as brought to glorious undead life by the unfathomably gorgeous Melinda Clarke.

Get ready for a Special Guest Appearance from Ms. Jessica Critten (in her final appearance), grotesque body self mutilation, angry Latinos, tortured sewer dwelling do-gooders, half naked dancing zombies in chains and lederhosen, 2-4-5 Trioxin, dumb scientists, brain freeze bullets, teenagers listening to lite rock, necrophilia, terrible government security, brain munching and plenty of slimy, freakish canned zombies.

It’s a wild, bloody, stupid ride with Julie and Curt as they tamper in God’s domain and end up paying the price. It’s not quite Bride of Frankenstein…hell, it’s hardly Bride of the Monster. But Return of the Living Dead cracks me up every time and you cannot deny the appeal of a beautiful  re-animated redheaded  zombie girl with metal stuff shoved through her flesh.

Well, I think I’ve sufficiently creeped you all out enough. Enjoy the latest offering from yours truly, The Primal Root, and The Rotten Reviews.

Stay Trashy!

– Root

13
Sep
10

To The Limit: The Epitome of Trash Action

a Primal Root review

Whoever thought a person possessing a pretty face could be counted on to be a convincing actress was sorely mistaken. Never more so than with Anna Nicole Smith, the legendary Guess Jeans Girl and Playmate of the Year of 1993. The woman had a one of a kind look. Tall, striking facial features and a buxom body unlike most of her contemporaries at Playboy magazine. She was a fully stacked young woman, bred in the dirty south, and bringing that mentality into pop culture. A kind of trash glamour. There was a strange progression in the 90’s of models  making the leap from photographs to motion pictures. Cindy Crawford did it with Fair Game and never made that mistake again. Milla Jovavich took a stab at it and has been gainfully employed ever since. And then there was Anna Nicole…

Smith had an appearance in the Cohen Brother’s film The Hudsucker Proxy before going on to co-star with Leslie Neilson in the 3rd Naked Gun movie. She was pretty and spoke her lines…well, but these appearances did little to further her career. It wasn’t until 1995 that Anna Nicole landed her first starring role in the craptastic action extravaganza, TO THE LIMIT! It didn’t do anything to further her career either, but hey, she was the star. I’m pretty sure this thing went straight to video and late night Cinemax.

Anna Nicole plays ex-CIA Agent Colette Dubios who is tracking down the man who murdered her husband and also gunned down mobster Frank DaVinci’s (Joey Travolta)  wedding party with the aid of his trusty band of expert assassins who are willing to die for him. And have their tops ripped off and their breasts groped before being shot in the head by him. This militant Manson-esque psychopath, Arthur, is played with gusto by Jack Bannon. A couple years later Colette and DaVinci cross paths and reluctantly decide to join forces to take down the dick head who killed their respective spouses.

To The Limit is actually a pretty entertaining movie. Between the video game graphics passed off as actual footage, to te $200 dollar stunt work and passing off the dining room of a Shoney’s as a high scale Las Vegas Casino’s VIP room there’s a lot here for a Trash Cinema fan to love. Possibly my single favorite sequence is our dignified introduction to Colette, the CIA agent. The first time we ever see her she is stark naked in a warm bath masturbating. The sequences goes on for at least seven or eight minutes before her husband calls for her off screen and she utters her first line. “I’M COMING!”

Now that’s class.

Directly after this, Colette gets out of the bath and we are informed that she and her husband are late to DaVinci’s wedding. So they hurry, get dressed and head out…right? WRONG! No, they have an extended sex scene with Anna writhing and bouncing her massive chesticals all over the place. Hey, you cast Anna Nicole Smith in your movie, you damn well better get your moneys worth. Once they finish up, her hubby hops in the car and is blown to smithereens . The blast throws Colette back into the house where she coughs up blood upon hitting the ground (???) and lets out a couple yelps of sadness.

To the Limit is an excellent piece of garbage, and what makes it that much better, it doesn’t try to be anything else. There are hardly any breasts that go unrevealed, no ambush murder too obvious, no death too undignified. A perfect example of this comes in the form of the contract hit of womanizing mobster, Joey Bambino. The guy is holding auditions for dancers up in his hotel suite when he brings in this cute asian girl. She not only claims to be a dancer, but a masseuse. So, of course, the attractive, nubile young woman and the hairy, saggy, pock marked mafioso undress and get to the rubbing. The scene goes on longer than it should before she breaks out her special massage oil which, only after totally doused in it, does Joey realize smells an awful lot like gasoline. You can guess what happens next. That place starts smelling like charred hair and Italian sausage.

Along the way Colette and DaVinci end up bonding over the deaths of their spouses. They shed tears and then their clothes as they start banging the hell out of one another. It’s made all the more uncomfortable by the fact that DaVinci is a white haired fellow five years shy of being a senior citizen. But, hey, I guess there’s no better way of getting over your spouse’s horrific and haunting death than giving or receiving some deep dicking.  Soon after the two make the sign of the double backed wombat they are ambushed by Arthur’s gang of hard boiled professional assassins. All of which are killed in less than five minutes by a playboy playmate and an over the hill mobster.

It all leads up to a climactic face off at the top of a dam where DaVinci comes face to face with the man responsible for crashing his wedding and also must decide if he can truly trust Coletta, the woman he dunked his doughnut in the night before. Now, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but the climax is one of the greatest moments of sheer action goofiness I’ve ever seen unfold. Remember CD Face from Hellraiser 3? Yeah, let’s just say someone expected us to take this kind of fatality seriously outside the horror fantasy genre.

To The Limit hits the bullseye of the “So Bad It’s Good” term. Really, it’s a terrible, terrible, film but I can’t help but enjoy everything it doesn’t have going for it. And you know what the best aspect of the film is?Anna Nicole Smith. The woman is one of the worst actresses of all time. But unlike Julia Roberts, Anna Nicole Smith knows she is terrible. And there’s a sincerity to everything she does on screen. She’s trying, man, but she just can’t do it. She has a serious face, a sultry face and a happy face and they all look completely clueless. The most endearing moment of Anna’s arrives somewhere in the half way point of the film where she realizes an important file has gone missing. She looks at DaVinci so sadly and exclaims, “It’s been STOLDID.” Yes…stoldid. I rewound and listened to this scene a dozen time and  she really does say “Stoldid.” Did director Ray Martino just not have time for a second take? For my money, I am glad he left this little treasure in the film. I mean, the dialog is pure nonsense anyway, you may as well let Anna Nicole spice it up and make it a little bit engaging with her mispronunciations. I still have no idea how she didn’t, at one point or another, show up in a John Waters film. It seems the two would make a natural fit.

Anna Nicole Smith is a Trash Cinema Legend for the ages. Her brief film career gave us some of the funniest and most outlandish action films ever made.  It really is a shame Anna Nicole didn’t have the opportunity to make more of these hilarious action films. It was a blast watching her kick the shit out of some hired goons, flubbing her lines and getting naked in every other scene. Anna Nicole Smith was the trashiest of stars. She brought a sense of  sweet, backwoods, naivety to everything she was a part of and it’s something I miss. I have a feeling it will be a long, long time before we ever have a sex symbol as trashy as Ms. Anna Nicole. Thank you for your contributions to down and dirty, low budget action. You may not have been the greatest actress but you sure were fun to watch.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root

09
Sep
10

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. A Sweet Sadness.

a Primal Root review

We live in a world of turmoil and sadness. We live lives of quiet desperation. We work none stop as we try to make ends meet with the meager salaries we’re paid and our happiest moments seem so fleeting…where sadness and bitterness feel ever present.

But, what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if with one single pill, just one dose, you could relive and exist with the same feeling of jubilation you experienced during the happiest moment of your life? It sounds wonderful. To feel the way you did during that first kiss, or when the kids visited for the holidays or that time you strutted your stuff to Funky Town by Lipps Inc…wouldn’t it be magic?

This is the basic premise surrounding the 5 piece comedy troupe, Kids in the Hall’s, one and only motion picture from 1996.  The troupe had become wildly popular with it’s HBO comedy sketch series produced by Lorne Michaels. With an odd, dark, outsider type of comedy, Kids in the Hall is kind of an acquired taste. But enough people loved their brand of humor the show stuck around for 5 years before airing it’s final episode in 1994.

That is how in 1996 the extremely talented gentlemen behind Kids in the Hall put together what I consider to be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and darkly subversive trash cinema comedies of the 90’s.

To save his crumbling pharmaceutical company, Don Roritor (Mark McKinney, playing the evil CEO as a not so subtle  jab at Lorne Michaels) rushes a still experimental antidepressant named GleeMONEX into production. When a patient ingests the drug their brain seizes and feeds off the feeling of joy from their happiest memory…chemically. Our main character is the inventor of this miracle drug, Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald, at his wiry and hysterical best), who achieves rock star celebrity status upon the masses lovingly accepting his drug.

It all happens quickly, and before you know it, the drug is being sold over the counter. Elederly woman are feeling better than ever and moving out of retirement homes, gloom and doom rock stars are writing upbeat ditties about Happiness Pie and husbands in denial about their otherwise obvious homosexuality are finally able to come out the closet.  Three months later the side affects begin rearing their ugly head. Those taking the drug are locking into this happiest memory and going into a sort of coma.

And it’s up to Chris Cooper and his team to find the cure and put a stop to their wonder drug which has flooded the market and is being gulped down as readily as Tic-Tacs. Brain Candy gives us a glimpse of a dystopian future where everyone is either happy or in a coma due to this drug. Eternal happiness may seem pleasant, but shit, if everyone is happy all the time it can quickly turn into Hell.

Brain Candy is a tasteless jet black satire of the human condition and manages to make some wicked observations along the way.  But the Kids in the Hall have always been social satirists which might have been the biggest down fall of the film and why it completely bombed upon release. It’s hard to sell a film that points the mirror back at the audience who knowingly and willingly buy the “happiness” sold to them.

And the troupe itself really gets to illustrate their versatility as individual actors. Bruce McCulloch gets to play an obnoxious corporate marketing executive while also playing a mousy high strung female lab assistance. Scott Thompson plays a sweet old woman in one scene and a mustachioed  repressed homosexual married man the next. Everyone gets their due here and shows off their own hysterical methods of comedy in style.

Brain Candy is a mix of both cerebral comedy and sure fire belly laughs in equal measure while also managing to deliver a message. That life sure can be a shit pile sometimes, but you know, without the dark times the truely sweet moments don’t mean nearly as much. We have to suffer sometimes. We have to live through the drudgeries of life so we can find our way to those ever so short lived glimpses of utter happiness. But it is useless to live for these memories alone. We must keep moving forward and keep our hearts and minds open to these moments in life that make it worthwhile.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is not a safe comedy. This is not a cookie cutter work of cinema. this a motion picture concocted by five immensely talented sketch artists and comedians who know how to make us laugh. Well, those of us who can laugh at ourselves and our own vulnerabilities.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root

08
Sep
10

Frank Henenlotter: The Trash Cinema Collective Profile

Thanks to our friends over at FromDuskTillCon.com, I got the chance to interview one of my heros, Frank Henenlotter. The creative genius behind some of my all time favorite films including Basket Case Brain Damage and Frankenhooker. He’s also responsible for helping keep trash cinema alive through Something Weird Video. Here., we take a look back at his classics, his most recent work, and what he has in store for his fans.

The Primal Root: As a young man I know you spent your formative years taking in the thrills to be had at the 42nd Street grindhouses. For those of us born far too late to take in these legendary theaters could you describe the experience for us? What was it like going to these theaters and taking in what are now beloved trashy exploitation classics?

Frank Henenlotter: Try to imagine a block in New York City in which both sides of the street were lined with movie theaters, one after another, and every one of those theaters was showing double or triple features promising sex and violence. In between the theaters was a scattering of stores, most notably porno stores (or, before the days of porn, “adult bookstores”). It was, of course, absolute paradise.

TPR:  Growing up on a steady diet of these films which titles come to mind as your major influences? What movies or filmmakers got you interested in creating your own pictures?

FH: It was all of it. Not just a couple of memorable movies, but memorable moments in hundreds and hundreds of movies. And, just as exciting as the movies, were the come-ons: the one-sheets, the photos and, most notably, plywood archways that were fitted around the entrance to the theater lobbies decorated with blown-up photos from the film, usually enhanced with painted-on blood, and simple words like “Shock!” “Lurid!” and, of course, “Sex!” Gateways to the soiled treasures unspooling within.

TPR:  The first time I saw Basket Case was on an old worn out VHS tape. I was a kid at the time and it immediately turned me into a fan of excessive violence, toilet humor and deformed freaks of nature. Needless to say, the effect was profound. What was the genesis of this project?

FH: Edgar Ievins had seen a couple of my homemade movies and suggested we do a feature-length film. And we decided to make a horror film since that seemed commercially safe at the time. Meaning, no matter how bad it turned out, it could at least play 42nd Street.

TPR:  What still amazes me about Basket Case when I go back and watch it is not only how well it holds up but there’s still a very touching emotional core to the film. Basket Case is a film with a lot of heart. Was this part of your plan all along or did it develop as the movie went into production?

FH: It wasn’t really a plan. I just had a good visual in mind: a man carrying around a basket from which a monster would leap out when people opened it. The trouble was, *why*? Why would anyone carry around a monster in a basket? One night, while eating hot dogs in a Nathan’s in Times Square, it occurred to me that maybe they were brothers. That provided the answer and the hook and whatever emotion the film has.

TPR: Rex Reed’s quote from his review of Basket Case, “The Sickest movie I have ever seen…” was used in the marketing campaign for the film itself which was a stroke of genius. Was this your idea to turn what some might call bad publicity into a selling point?

FH: I had nothing to do with that. Analysis Films, the first distributor of Basket Case, had a good relationship with Reed and simply asked him for a quote since they knew he had seen the film at Cannes. And he provided that quote which, of course, was a great one.

TPR:  Some have said Basket Case was the last great Drive-In / Grindhouse film. Did you have the pleasure of watching your film with a 42nd Street crowd? How was the experience?

FH: By the time Basket Case played 42nd Street it had already been in release for two and a half years on the midnight circuit, and slowly playing around the country for another two years, and I was sick of seeing it so I didn’t see it play on The Street. Instead, I was thrilled with how the theater was dressed with a garish plywood archway, full of spattered blood, which also gave away the plot: “His brother is a deformed twin!”

TPR:  Kevin Van Hentenryck is really a stand-out as Duane. He makes the character completely believable despite his insane predicament. Did Kevin get the character right away? What kind of direction did you give him?

FH: Kevin immediately got the character of Duane. I don’t remember giving Duane must direction other than us working out individual shots and bits of business. He nailed Duane immediately and I remember constantly chuckling at how hilariously innocent he played him.

TPR: I’ve heard rumors that your crew walked off the set during the filming of one of Basket Case’s more grisly scenes. What exactly happened? Have you ever had to deal with a crew walking off the set since?

FH: Yeah, that’s true. We were shooting the scene where the monster humps the girl at the end. At first, nobody on the crew seemed to be bothered by it. Actually, just the opposite since Terri Susan Smith was lying there naked. But when I added the blood to Miss Smith’s groin, everyone got upset and pissed off and… I don’t know. It seems as crazy now as it did then. But they ended up walking off which was fine with me ‘cause I wasn’t about to wipe the blood off. So it was shot with just me, the two actors – Terri Susan Smith and Kevin Van Hentenryck – and Edgar Ievins under the mattress making Belial work. Virtually the same thing happened on Brain Damage with the “blow job” scene. Fine. Leave the set. And while you’re at it, go fuck yourselves.

TPR: So there’s a big Basket Case reunion coming up in September as part of the Horror Realm Convention. Beverly Bonner, Kevin Van Hentenryck and Terri Susan Smith will all be attending. How long has it been since you’ve hung out with the original cast? Do you have fond memories of working on the film with this group?

FH: I’ve always stayed in touch with Kevin and Beverly. As you probably know, Beverly’s appeared in every film including the latest, Bad Biology. Earlier this year, I was even a guest in one of Beverly’s “Gloria Glitter” comedy shows which was my first and last stab at live theater. And both Kevin and Beverly came to my 60th birthday party this past August 30. I wish I was doing a project I could have them both in again.

TPR: Your follow-up film was 1988’s Brain Damage about a young man named Brian who becomes dependant on an evil, blue, well spoken parasite named Aylmer. The film packs a pretty heavy message about drug abuse and addiction while also mixing in the gory, sick, toilet humor elements that make your films so enjoyable. What was the inspiration behind Brain Damage?

FH: Well, I liked how Duane and Belial interacted and I thought I could do a variation on it, this time with a monster that lives on the young man’s body rather than in a basket. But the same question arose: why would anyone willingly let a monster live on them? Even creepier, why would someone *want* a monster living on them? Came up with dozens of reasons I hated until one day I thought of addiction, especially since I was having problems with a nasty cocaine habit.

TPR: Rick Hearst gives a tremendous performance as Brian. How did you end up casting him and how was he to work with?

FH: Frank Calo, the casting director on Brain Damage, found him and, yes, Rick was perfect. This was his first film and he nailed it beautifully especially since it wasn’t a particularly easy part to play. I’d love to see him again. These days he stars on soaps and keeps winning Emmys.

TPR: Aylmer looks to be a bit more complex than the Belial puppet from Basket Case. Did this present you with a whole slew of new challenges during the production?

FH: Belial was basically a hand puppet. But Elmer (yes, technically “Aylmer” but I’m used to calling him Elmer by now) was an animatronic puppet that was operated by various cables and levers, all put together by Davd Kindlon and Gabe Bartalos. The main problem with Elmer was that it made all sorts of metallic noises, so much so that we had to dub all the dialogue when Aylmer was onscreen. Dave and Gabe also built an oversize Elmer head for closeups.

TPR: I’ve heard rumors that some scenes were cut out of the film altogether on its initial release. What scenes were the MPAA having issues with? Is the current DVD release of the film your cut?

FH: Well, the producers wanted an alternate unrated version for vhs release. That’s why I shot the blowjob and ear pull scene. I never expected that to get an R. But when the film was acquired by Cinema Group Pictures, they hated the film, wanted nothing to do with an unrated version and, anticipating trouble with the MPAA, made a whole bunch of cuts before even submitting the film. Once the MPAA saw it, they wanted more cuts. So the theatrical version as well as the version initially released on Paramount vhs was heavily heavily cut. The version currently on dvd is, finally, the uncut unrated version.

TPR:  John Zacherle as the voice of Aylmer was a perfect piece of casting. His voice is so good-natured and disarming you can’t help but feel like you can trust the little guy. Not to mention, it also provides some comic relief. Did you have John in mind all along? What did he think of Brain Damage?

FH: While writing the script, I kept hearing the voice of veteran actor Ronald Colman – a friendly, intelligent, soothing voice that someone might blindly follow. However, Colman was long dead and certainly wouldn’t have done it even if he were still alive. So I went to an agent that specialized in voices. He asked me if I’d ever heard of Zacherly and I almost passed out. I grew up with Zacherly on TV. His show was where I watched my first horror films. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of him at first. Naturally, I jumped at working with him and it was a joy. He’s an absolute delight. So much so that I also had him do an on-screen bit in Frankenhooker. I never asked him what he thought of the film. I never ask any of the actors because… well, it’s kind of moot.

TPR: The ending of Brain Damage is still one of my favorite endings of all time. Just thinking about it gives me chills. Where did you come up with this image and how did you know this was how the film had to end?

FH: While writing the script for Brain Damage, I wasn’t sure how to end it. One night I was listening to the album Real Life by Magazine. When I heard the song “The Light Pours Out of Me,” I thought, “Yes! That’s my ending!” So you have Howard Devoto to thank for it.

TPR:  Frankenhooker is one of the sleaziest exploitation titles I’ve ever heard. So, did the title come first and then the script?

FH: Edgar Ievins and I were up at Jim Glickenhaus’ office discussing another project with him. But he thought that project was extremely uncommercial so asked me what other ideas I had. I didn’t have any other ideas so I just started making up the plot to Frankenhooker. And Jim kept laughing so I kept making it up until finally he asked me what I wanted to call it. I panicked and quickly started running titles through my head at lightning speed: “Frankenwhore? No. Frankenslut? Awful. Frankenprostitute? Hell, no. Frankenhooker? Uh… yeah! Frankenhooker!”

TPR:  When I watched Frankenhooker for the first time I couldn’t help but notice some overtones of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. Was there a little bit of an influence there as well as some others?

FH: Well, I loved Re-Animator and From Beyond. But we tried to go in a non-graphic, non-bloody direction in the vain hopes of escaping an X rating. So in some ways, I was consciously going in the opposite direction of how Gordon may have done things. It was all rather pointless, of course, since the MPAA still gave Frankenhooker an X rating. In fact, they hated the film. Richard Hefner, then the head of the MPAA, famously called executive-producer Jim Glickenhaus’ office and said to his secretary, “Congratulations. You have the first film rated S.” The secretary was confused, “S? You mean S as in sex,” she asked. “No,” replied the head of the MPAA, “S as in ‘shit’”! Which gives you some idea of the kind of ugly bullshit operation the MPAA was in those days.

TPR: Patty Mullen in the title role is a fucking hoot to watch and has become a bit of an icon in trash cinema circles. How did you end up casting Patty and how was she to work with?

FH: Patty heard about it, came in to audition, and I loved her right away. She was sexy and, at the same time, had that girl-next-door innocence. Plus, she could play comedy! And she was a joy to work with. Every so often she calls me out of the blue and she never says, “Hi.” Instead, she says, “Wanna date? Going out? Looking for some action?”

TPR:  The infamous Super Crack sequence. How was that to film and did it turn out as well as you had hoped? Because that scene, exploding hookers and all, is pure magic.

FH: It turned out great. We really didn’t know what would happen. I mean, the artificial bodies Gabe Bartalos created were filled with explosives and what happened happened. At times, flaming hooker debris rained down on me and the crew while filming. The exploding hookers is the favorite scene from any of my films. I never tire of watching it.

TPR: Bad Biology marked your return to film after a decade of absence from the scene. How did you know this had to be your comeback project?

FH: I didn’t. It just happened to be the script I wrote with producer (and legendary rapper R.A. The Rugged Man). Once we decided to go non-mainstream, it just flowed.

TPR: Bad Biology seems to bring your full circle back to body deformation. First it was Siamese twins in Basket Case, now it’s a woman with seven clitorises and a man with an enormous detachable cock with a mind of its own. When and how did you come up with the concept for the story and its religious angle? What were you saying about faith by giving Jennifer a divine purpose?

FH: That’s somewhat complicated. But I’m sick of hearing the Holier-Than-Thou’s out there tell us what isn’t sexually permissible, who cannot marry who, and what can or cannot be done in the privacy of one’s own bedroom. They make it sound as if God is anti-sex which can’t be true since God created the world’s first penises and vaginas. The whole flow of nature is based on procreation so God is very very pro-sex. Taking that a step further, I thought what if a woman born with seven clits is not an aberration but, rather, a deliberate and holy act of God. The next step in human evolution. Hell, if He can make Adam and Eve, He can make a Penis Baby.

TPR:  It seems like there might be more to tell with the story of Bad Biology. Can we expect to see a sequel or have you sworn off those? Will Penis Boy one day run into Belial?

FH: Basket Case 3 permanently ended the thought of any sequels in my future.

TPR: Where can fans find a copy of your retrospective film Herschell Gordon Lewis: Godfather of Gore? I can think of no person more fitting of paying tribute to the man who changed cinema forever with Blood Feast.

FH: The documentary will be released next year through Image Entertainment. In the meantime, it’s playing various festivals: Sept. 24 at the Somerville Theatre in Boston; Sept. 26 at the Philadelphia Film & Music Festival; October 10 at “It Came from Schenectady”; October 12 at The Cinefamily in Los Angeles; October 23 at the “Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival” in Buffalo; November 12-13 at the “Buried Alive Film Festival” in Atlanta. And probably some others I don’t know about.

TPR: Exploitation and sleaze fans owe you a huge debt of gratitude for helping keep our favorite films alive with Something Weird Video. Can you tell us about the company and what you have in store for the future?

FH: I was recently pulling clips for a new documentary Something Weird is making, That’s Sexploitation, and a friend came over. I was sitting on the floor surrounded by pages and pages of notes and on the TV monitor were naked girls. My friend just looked at me and said, “You’ve got the greatest job in the world.” And he’s right. The company belongs to Mike Vraney but I got involved with it in the early 90s doing all sorts of things. In addition to two new documentaries we’re making, we’ve also got some new projects in the works with Image Entertainment including Blu-rays of Blood Feast and Basket Case. I’ll be doing a Hi-Def transfer of Basket Case early next year from the original 16mm camera negative which we thought lost. So the film should look a lot brighter and cleaner than it’s ever looked before.

TPR:  The majority of your films were ridiculed by most mainstream critics but over time your films, Basket Case, Brain Damage, and Frankenhooker have all grown into cult classics with impressive followings. Do you feel a bit of vindication knowing now that your films are loved and understood by so many?

FH: What’s more important to me than the critics is how many people still love the old films. I honestly thought they were forgotten about. I was very reclusive for a good many years but making Bad Biology brought me back to the world of the living. Part of my reemergence was to go to festivals with the film. And I was floored when fans showed up with posters and videos and photos for me to sign. What I had forgotten was that a whole generation grew up on vhs and my films were part of that. So that really surprised me. Stunned me, actually. So I’ve made an effort to be more accessible which is why I’m attending Horror Realm, Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, and going on Facebook.

TPR: What do you plan on working on next? Now that you’ve made Bad Biology are there any other stories you would like to tell? Because your fans are always champing at the bit for your next film.

FH: I don’t like to talk about future projects other than to say there are two I’d like to do and both are extremely different from the others I’ve done. In fact, one isn’t even a horror film.

TPR:  Do you have any advice for young filmmakers setting forth and trying to create their own strange, sleazy film epics? Any words of wisdom to the new generation of filmmakers you’ve inspired?

FH: Oh, God. The last thing they need is advice from a guy who took 16 years between films. But, unlike me, if they’re serious, they’ve got to keep busy. Which means you’ve got to keep making things. And not just on video. Film is a very different medium and far more rewarding than video. But whatever you’re shooting on, keep shooting. Keep making ‘em.

Frank, it’s been an honor and an absolute pleasure talking with you. Take care of yourself and thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at the Trash Cinema Collective.  Stay Trashy!

04
Sep
10

Taking a trip with HBO’s The Hitchhiker

a Jess Part 2 Review
Ah, the heydays of HBO: the epitome of trash in a time when American popular culture was brimming with it. I remember HBO being perms, tight pants and boobs under the glossy neon lights of ‘80s nightlife. Despite it being off limits for a kid like me back in the 80s, rediscovering it now and seeing how terribly it has aged is probably much more fun. The Hitchhiker was a thriller/chiller series of morality tales and karmic vengeance, not unlike Tales from the Crypt or The Outer Limits, but the Hitchhiker preceded these two far more successful programs by a few years. Debuting 1984, the show featured multiple directors, and a different star actor or actress featured in the lead role; all set to a hip, synth-pop soundtrack. The narrator of each episode was an unnamed hitchhiker with a thick, luxurious mullet and pants so tight it’s no wonder he always walked in slow motion. The hitchhiker introduced and closed each story with some generic warning about the dangers of the flesh, etcetera, just with no groan inducing puns like the crypt keeper.

The DVD contains two discs with five select episodes on each. The episodes are not in sequential order, and are by different directors. The episodes are so different in feel from one to the other, the incongruity is noticeable. One thing they all have in common is plenty of sleaze. Naughty characters get their due with plenty of blood, nudity and death to go around. The real reason to pick up this DVD is that each episode stars one or more fan favorites and surprisingly big name talents who may or may not have been slumming it, or just found cutting their teeth on trash cinema. Most enjoyable are Margot Kidder, Willem Dafoe and Gary Busey among many others.

The episodes are all irresistible – Margot Kidder as a greedy nurse at an invalid home, Willem Dafoe as an author who fakes his own death, Brad Dourif as a hermit rock ex-superstar, and Joey Pantoliano as a sexually deviant cult leader. But if I have to choose a couple to highlight for you…

My personal favorite of the episodes is one entitled WGOD. It features Gary Busey as a radio televangelist with dark secret. Busey creates his character so classically; complete with trademark hand gestures and a southern-drawling machismo. His character, Reverend Power is the voice of WGOD and the “Tower of Power,” a Christian radio program. He offers righteous advice to callers dealing with such salacious problems as infidelity and carnal urges. Powers cares for an invalid mother who pines for her deceased younger son, who was much more popular, talented and well liked. Living in there the shadow of his brother makes Powers start to lose his grip…. Or is he truly being guilt-tripped from beyond? Here’s where the writing gets a little incongruous. Powers receives a call from a creepy, strangely effeminate, angry voice that states things like “I’m older than God!” and “All songs are about me,” along with scripture about resurrection while lighting up the dial pad in the shape of a cross. I was excited by what might turn out to be an epic battle between good and evil – an opportunistic televangelist and an angry, thieves-in-the-temple kind of Jesus. Who it really was on the phone was a bit less exciting, sadly. What makes this episode unique is that Busey’s character is not fully painted as a bad guy. He is actually authentically devout from what we see. Yes, he eventually has to face his inner demons but the reveal at the end conjures more pity than terror.

“I want you to take it back to Washington, New York or Buddha-land, just stay off God’s case!” – Gary Busey’s character to an Asian reporter.

The most disturbing of all in this set is the abstract and oddly artistic “Homebodies” featuring Helen Hunt as a beautiful, rich young debutante whose inner pain and loneliness are numbed by her late-night heroin use. A washed up, coked up, D-list celebrity hosts a reality show about “the nightlife” and searches for the most extreme, taboo breaking behaviors in the way people party. He isn’t having any luck as the people at the club identify him immediately as a phoney. Things turn around in the men’s restroom when a primping, snorting, giggling male friend of Helen Hunt’s character finds him and invites him to document “the princess” and her evening. From there he is led by Hunt and her posse of thrill-seekers to a back alley where a man lay dying. One of Helen’s posse of worshippers shot him so that Helen could expand her collection of quotes before death. The episode spirals downhill into a frantic evening of obtaining drugs and doing them; watching The Princess degrade to a tearful heroin junkie amongst her pink, plush teenager’s bedroom. Getting more and more inebriated, it isn’t long before the fearless reporter is left too stoned to defend himself against becoming a contributor to Helen’s sick collection. This episode is disturbing, and it took me a few more attempts to have felt like “I get it.” It’s actually pretty powerful.
If you enjoy seeing hidden gems of the work of your favorite actors and actresses that star in these episodes, you definitely should buy this DVD. Volume 2 and 3 also are available, as well as the complete seasons on both VHS and DVD, though rare. If you are lucky like I was, you may be able to find them for $3.50 in the DVD bin at TJ Maxx, but if not, keep looking. And for god’s sake, if you see a hitchhiker with nut cameltoe, do pick him up – he won’t get much farther without a truckload of baby powder down there.

*Author’s note: Hulu.com features a number of episodes of The Hitchhiker available for free, albeit with commercials.

01
Sep
10

DeLisa, Devil Girl of the Month: September (NSFW)

Photography by DeLisa Maria Sanders & Laney McLean

Vampirism is a hot topic these days. From the dull, chaste, teenage hipsters of the Twilight series to the hyper sexual southern friend fangers of True Blood. Seems everywhere you turn there’s someone being seduced and drained by a creature of the night. It’s a legend as old as time itself. A story of immortality, blood, lust and penetration. There is something timeless and seductive about these tales of vampires and their eternal hunger for the warm blood of those whose time on earth is fleeting. DeLisa’s spread is a testament to these legends. She is an embodiment of these fables passed on from one generation to the next. The risk in finding what lurks in the shadows. Losing one’s self to temptation. The thrill of giving yourself over to the most primal of urges.

Enjoy DeLisa’s set as she debunks many long held beliefs regarding vampires and make sure to let her know what you think!

-Root





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