a Primal Root written review
When I think of monsters larger than life a number of creatures come to mind. Of course, Godzilla, King Kong, Cloverfield…Hell, even Bruce from JAWS and the graboids from Tremors make appearances. And then there’s Rawhead Rex, the red headed step-child of all giant monsters. Yeah, while Godzilla is off crushing noodle factories in Japan, Rawhead Rex is stomping around rural Ireland ripping the heads off teenage love birds and literally pissing in the faces of local priests. Now this is The Root’s kind of monster. Sure, Rawhead’s not nearly as tall as some of the other monsters on the block, but he makes up for his mere 10 or 11 foot tall stature with plenty of murderous spunk and personality. Unlike other monsters who are brought about by man’s experimenting, or are simply Mother Nature’s own killing machines, Rawhead is just a mean mother fucking demon. He’s not here for sympathy or for us to see ourselves reflected in him…no. This guy just wants to bite your face off and smear his shit on the bloody mess beneath. I doubt you will find a sicker, meaner, more sacrilegious monster in 80’s cinema. I feel it is my duty, as ambassador of the Trash Cinema Collective, to shine a light on one of the nastiest, meanest, most atrocious cinematic monsters ever brought to life, Mister Rawhead Rex.
Our movie takes place in a dreary farming community in Ireland where a group of men try to remove and ancient totem from one of their fields. Soon, the sky darkens, red lightening rains down and the totem falls releasing a horrifying demonic monster older than the Christian faith whose only purpose in existing is to destroy any and everything in it’s ugly path. At the same time, an American family has come to town headed by historian and writer, Howard Hollenbeck, who is traveling the countryside compiling research on pre-Christian sacred sites and is interested in the local church’s unique history and stained glass windows. All the while, Rawhead is painting the entire countryside rd with the grue and entrails of the local villagers, twisting off heads, terrifying children, setting people on fire and tearing ladies blouses off to expose their breasts before tossing them into trees. How can Rawhead be stopped? The clues and secrets to the creatures destructon are all held within the walls of the towns ancient church. Can Hollenbeck get aid from the incompetent local authorities, deal with the psychotic Reverend Coot’s and unlock the mysteries to defeating Rawhead Rex before he destroys the town and Hollenbeck’s family?
Rawhead Rex is based of a short story by Clive Barker, the man who brought us Hellraiser and Nightbreed. not only boasting source material from Clive Barker, but a screenplay by the man as well, Rawhead Rex isn’t a very good movie. However, it is a ridiculously fun and entertaining one. The movie actually follows the original story pretty closely but is also devoid of just about all the thought provoking, serious pagan/spiritual concepts that made the story such a brilliant, philosophical read and, instead, just goes berserk and delivers a fucking crazy ass monster movie that delivers all the goods. That is, if you don’t mind a generous helping of cheese with your cinematic entree.
The film itself is competently made and pretty well acted all around. Director, George Pavlou, does an excellent job of keeping the pace up, composing some fantastic shots and utilizes them to their best affect, and even takes some risky chances with his subject matter. Keep in mind, Rawhead Rex was released right in the midst of the British “Video Nastis” fiasco, so Pavlou had to walk a very fine line in order for his film to see the light of day. In all honesty, the violence here works rather well. It’s kind of muted in parts but it’s still gets the point across. But where Rawhead really scores points with me is that it has the brass balls to put kids in mortal danger, and even goes out of it’s way to kill a few! Yes, Rawhead completley destroys a kid or two in his rampage. It happens just out of camera shot but with some great post production foley, the sound of these kids getting folded in half and ripped into meaty chunks drives the point home.
Now, I know everyone’s gripe about Rawhead Rex is how shitty his costume is. You know, I love the way Rawhead looks. It’s cheesy as all hell and nearly destroy the credibility of the film, but there’s something about it I find really endearing that keeps this whole affair on a B-Movie, Drive-In level. Really, the the monster looks like a cross between a dog, a horse, and The Ultimate Warrior. He’s goofy enough to make you laugh, but strange enought that you don’t want that fucker within 1,000 yards of you. I, for one, appreciate Rawhead’s fantastic dark sense of humor and that so much of the violence is delivered tongue in cheek. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy ideas at play here, a legitimate sense of dread, and a hand full of genuinely shocking scenes… but you cannot deny the film i a Hell of a lot of fun. There are moments when Rawhead runs after people where he looks like a little boy skipping and hopping after them, moments where he celebrates turning over motor homes where he begins dancing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he even whips it out and pisses on a kneeling, willing, Reverand Coot’s in a kind of demonic Golden Shower baptismal cleansing, in what is possibly the film’s most notorious scene. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Within all this bizarre-o action, blood thirsty monster mayhem, and religious nose thumbing, is a pretty interesting story. Sure, it’s not at all what Clive Barker probably envisioned but it still manages to please as crazed, no holds barred, monster movie sporting a larger than usual set of testicles it drags through the dirt behind it. There are so many aspects of Rawhead Rex that are worth praising. I especially loved the ending conceit the Rawhead Rex can only be destroyed by that which he can never be…and finding out exactly what that means. It’s a rather poetic and lovely idea tossed into an otherwise wild, and grotesque mix. But it’s moments like these where the air is cleared of the action and horror campiness and a little bit of heart shines through.
I highly recommend Rawhead Rex as pure, unadulterated B-movie love. If you come across a copy for cheap, snatch it up as quickly as you can. As the runt of the larger than life monster litter, Rawhead is about as fun and lovable as they come and well worth bringing into your home. Even if he’s not house broken.