Posts Tagged ‘1987

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

12
Jul
15

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) This time it’s Meh…

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a Primal Root written review

“Oh, shit.” – Michael Caine as Hoagie in JAWS: The Revenge (1987)

The protective drive of Motherhood is a very powerful thing. The lengths a Mother will go to to protect her young, to save her own, is the stuff of legend and a tale as old as time. There is one sequel I can think of that gets this right, that perfectly illustrated the bond between Mother and child and the deep-seated maternal instinct to protect their blood at any cost. That film is James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). A really shitty example of this is is JAWS: The Revenge. The piss poor 4th and final installment in the long beleaguered killer fish franchise.

JAWS: The Revenge starts our promisingly enough with a dark Yule Tide return to Amity Island where we catch up with The Family Brody. Turns out Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider)  died of a heart attack some time ago, his wife Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gray) is still in town and his youngest son, Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson), is now an incredibly whiny deputy on the island. A couple days before Christmas a great white shark plants a large piece of driftwood on a channel marker to lure Sean Brody out on his boat and then proceeds to eat the guy by way of really shitty quick editing that leaps from a bloody yellow slicker to close ups of phony shark teeth and footage that repeatedly switches from day to night. Obviously, the production could not afford to create an on screen struggle between man and beast, and instead must rely on these means in a vain attempt to make it appear a horrific attack is occurring.  Poor little ol’ Sean screams for help all along in the dark as several hundred feet away a group of high schoolers sing Christmas carols totally oblivious to the man munching taking place just behind them in the dark water off Amity Island. It’s a brutal, nasty, promising way to start a JAWS film…but it’s all down hill from there.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Ellen Brody, deeply traumatized to the point she laughs her ass off at her own son’s funeral, who is buried in a full size coffin despite the fact you could fit what was left of him into a Happy Meal box, heads to the Bahamas to spend some time screaming at her oldest son Michael (Lance Guest, The Last Star Fighter) and his family to “GET OUT OF THE WATER!” As she is convinced a great white shark is systematically killing off the Brody lineage. That fucking crazy thing about it is SHE’S RIGHT! There is some fucking great white shark out there with a death wish for The Brody Clan. Now, the family relation between this great white shark and the man eating death machines who starred in the previous franchise entries is never revealed, but this beast can somehow hone in on individual members of the Brody bloodline, create elaborate set ups in order to have them in the right place at the right time to attack and can, in fact, teleport and/or travel at warp speed around the earth’s oceans in order to accomplish it’s mission of eating everyone who had something to do with the death of those other killer sharks.

Everyone dies sooner or LADDER! Wokka, wokka, wokka!

Everyone dies sooner or LADDER! Wokka, wokka, wokka!

It’s sheer lunacy and makes not a lick of sense whatsoever, and I am a guy that can suspend my disbelief pretty goddamn far. Anyhoo, this great white shark manages to travel from the cold December waters of Amity Island all the way to the warm, crystal clear waters of The Bahamas in a matter of days to pray upon Michael Brody and his colleagues as they study the migration and mating habits of conchs. It’s really riveting stuff as Michael and his partner Jake (Mario Van Peebles sporting a ridiculous island accent) banter back and forth about how one another’s work sucks. Before long our vendetta shark shows up and starts lunging and chomping as only the most lackluster of animatronic sharks can. The crew decides to keep this news quite as not to alert their worried wives and mothers to the fact a killer shark is trying to settle a score and is after them all. Beside, Ellen Brody is falling madly in love with a pilot/drug smuggler named after my favorite sandwich, Hoagie (Academy Award Winning Thespian Michael Caine, collecting a pay check and soaking up the rays) and is trying to keep her weird sharky sense that causes her to stare intensely towards the ocean and hear bizarre tiger noises to a minimum.

"I'ma fuck you up, Mother Mother Ocean. "

“I’ma fuck you up, Mother Mother Ocean. “

Romance blossoms between Hoagie and Ellen, much to the chagrin of Michael aka: Oedipus, as Michael’s research team tracks the movement of the killer shark, study it, and get attacked and chased around by it in astoundingly silly sequences where the shark moves with the speed and agility of a retarded sloth. These scenes, much like the majority of the film, are an embarrassment to watch and feel like they belong to some half assed movie of the week as opposed to an installment in a cinematic franchise based upon one of the greatest horror films ever made. It is only after the shark cannot seem to wrap it’s JAWS around Michael in a mind numbingly slow chase through a sunken vessel, that is decides to head after Michael adorable little daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi, RIP) as she cruises the waters on the back of a banana boat during the unveiling of her Mother’s modern art piece entitled “Tourist on the Loose.” Thankfully, our Punisher shark decides to take out little Thea and despite all this intricate planning, the shark beyond supernatural ability to target these family members, manages to fucking miss Thea entirely and devours the stunt woman on the back of the banana boat right behind Thea. WHAT THE FUCK, SHARK? I and others have come to a belief, that your heart is not in this. That you don’t have the belly for it.

Fucking sharks...

Fucking sharks…

After this moment of terror where a woman we don;t know is crunched up into chum, Ellen decides to head out to see and kill that bitch shark once and for all! As the ridiculous tot he point of awesomeness ad line says, “This Time It’s PERSONAL!” Ellen makes way out to see before Hoagie, Michael and Jake find her via small air craft just in time Ellen to spout a half assed retread of Martin Brody’s incredible line from the original JAWS, then it was “Smile you son of a BITCH!” only now it’s “Come and get me you son of a bitch.” which made my eyes roll so hard they nearly fell out of their sockets. Hoagie crash lands the plane into the ocean, everyone swims to the boat and they decide to agitate the shark by shoving some doodad down the shark’s gullet and then trigger the doodad with something thingamajig that makes funny noises. I’m not sure what the fuck is going on for sure, or just what the fucking Hell the plan is, but Jake ends up sticking this thing the shark’s gore hole before getting eaten himself. Michael hits the agitator cycle and Ellen steers the sailboat right into the shark which is in mid-leap into the air for some reason. It’s an incredibly lucky shot of Ellen as the sailboat stabs the Revenge Shark right in the self destruct button and the shark actually explodes. Yes, you read that right. The shark gets impaled and then blows up into a huge spray of blood and meaty chunks without having an explosive device of any sort within it’s body. The film then cuts to stock footage from the original JAWS as the carcass of the decimated monstrosity sinks to the sandy bottom of the ocean floor.

What the fuck am I looking at, here?

What the fuck am I looking at, here?

Even less believable, after being last seen almost entirely within the mouth of a great white shark and pouring blood out of numerous deep wounds caused by the crushing jaws filled with razor sharp teeth of the enormous great white shark that is eating him, Jake swims over to the other survivors, spouts a few witty quips as he bleeds tremendous amounts of blood into the ocean…and survives.  Cut to Hoagie flying back to Amity Island as all the survivors smile and wave. The End.

I'm fine.

I’m fine.

JAWS: The Revenge has the kernel of a cool idea and start off promisingly enough with that cool and mean spirited return to Amity Island. But the ridiculous concept that a shark is on some kind of quest for retribution against those who have wronged it’s species sinks the film under it’s own stupidity. I honestly enjoyed the brief glimpse of Amity Island during it’s Christmas celebration and seeing some familiar faces amongst the Islanders, even the oddly staged death of Sean Brody is pretty nifty. For all it’s countless flaws, JAWS: The Revenge has it’s heart in the right place even if nothing else is.  JAWS: The Revenge desperately wants to be every bit the worthiest of sequels to the original masterpiece, JAWS, evidenced by all the goddamn homages and sepia toned flash backs to the original film that constantly take you out of JAWS: The Revenge and makes you wonder why you aren’t simply watching the far superior JAWS.

Too serious for it’s own good and never campy enough to be enjoyed as a B-Movie, JAWS: The Revenge is a pretty slow and dreary affair when it’s not being totally batshit insane as is the case with the film’s ending. However, JAWS: The Revenge is the one film in the franchise that did what none of the others managed to do; kill off the JAWS franchise once and for all.

That is, until JAWS 19 which should be coming out later in 2015. In holovision, no less.

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I award JAWS: The Revenge ONE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

08
Mar
12

Necropolis (1987): Of Satan, Flattops and Eyeliner

a Primal Root written review

Before we get started, a big THANK YOU to my buddy Aslan for letting me borrow his VHS copy of this sucker. My eyes are open!

The evil ’80s, huh? The golden age of the yuppie, trickle down economics, Marty McFly, and satanic cults. Remember back to the early days of the 1980s when there was a nationwide rumor that grew to a near-hysterical panic over the stories that satanic cults were roaming the countryside looking for infants, valley girls and grandparents to sacrifice in the name of their dark master? Believe it or not, as people were rocking out to Bananrama and Soft Cell they were also all nervous about getting tied to an alter and being slit open to appease someone’s religious figure. All of this panic seemed to stem from the popularity and publicity generated by “Michelle Remembers”, an autobiography that documents a woman’s recollections under hypnosis of being forced to attend rituals performed by “The Church of Satan” back in the ’50s. An entertaining read, sure, but it was also a load of bullshit. No one was being abducted for the purpose of human sacrifice, especially not in the “ME” decade. Official investigations into the phenomenon turned up nothing and everyone in the U.S. seemed to move on when the ’90s rolled in. Well…most of us got over it…http://freewestmemphis3.org/

Still, this couldn’t stop every filmmaker on the block from exploiting the decade’s unbridled fear of falling victim to satanism! Enter “NECROPOLIS”, the bargain-basement tale of a 300 year old, metal head, Satan worshiping, motorcycle riding witch from New Amsterdam by the name of Eva (LeeAnne Baker of “Riot on 42nd Street” and “Psychos in Love” fame)! This lady roams the seedy back alleys of ’80s New York searching for a virgin sacrifice in order to keep her youth, but not before resurrecting her cult members by draining the life force of “young” recovering junkies at a local halfway house and bursting out into random interpretive dance numbers in front of papier-mâché martian masks in back of crummy New York jewelry shops. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of the film…

Our film opens in the late 1800s where two separate ceremonies are taking place simultaneously. There is a goofy looking young couple joining together in that holy union of marriage while our above-mentioned satanist witch is doing some kind of Jazzercise witchey Satan routine at the altar of her cobwebby, Hot Topic-esque lair which looks more suited to a performance on Head Banger’s Ball than it does to any kind of religious worship. Then again, what do I know, I’m not a satanist.

Before you can say “nauseatingly choppy cross-cutting” the bride has her throat slit, people cry and we fast forward to present day (1986) New York, New York where our witchy woman, Eva, now resides with her bleached blonde flattop, long red nails and more eyeliner than was used on all four Pirates of the Caribbean films combined. Really, it’s as if the top half of her head is painted black. I’m sure it’s a statement.

There are two subplots for the audience to chew on here. The first involves a priest running this sort of halfway house for wayward teens (all played by actors pushing 40) overcoming drug addictions, running away from broken homes or trying to give up spreading tail for money. He’s obviously not cut out for the job as just about everyone in his care ends up alone and being murdered by Eva who sucks out the murdered “teens'” souls and spews them forth in the form of ectoplasm from her six breasts (!!!) as she feeds her zombie cultist brethren back to life. Let me tell you, the feeding scene alone is worth the price of your time to sit through this sucker.

Our second plot involves the reincarnated married couple from the opening of the film. One is a crass, dimwitted Brooklyn detective who goes by the name “Billy” (Michael Conte) and the other is a red headed British journalist with grey teeth named Dawn (Jacquie Fitz). They meet and begin flirting at the scene of a halfway house homicide. Their eyes meet over the cold, bloody corpse of one of the local “youths” and they have an immediate connection. It’s like they’ve met before! They decide to get something to eat, because nothing perks up the appetite like crying preachers and dead children, and begin their whirlwind romance as star crossed, unappealing lovers!

The plot, obviously, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny but the film’s overriding cheap goofiness almost makes up for the lack of a coherent story or any method behind, or in front of, the camera. This is the single directing credit for writer/filmmaker Bruce Hickey and it’s kind of a shame. There are few filmmakers alive who make trash cinema with such purity! This thing is astonishingly bad from beginning to end and I love Necropolis for its commitment to being the strangest, most ridiculous movie it can possibly be. So, to Bruce, his cast and crew, we at The Trash Cinema Collective salute you for your strange little contribution to sleazy satanic horror cinema! Let’s face it, your movie is peerless.

The one thing I came away with from “Necropolis” (which, by the way, doesn’t feature a single cemetery), is that Satanists seem like they just want to have fun! Motorcycles, impromptu dance numbers, three times the normal amount of boobage, and dressing up like a Lady GaGa wannabe? Now that’s a woman I want to party with! Not everyday you meet a woman who excretes ectoplasm from her nipples. Is it wrong that I can’t help but imagine what breast ectoplasm tastes like? I like to think it tastes something like Hi-C’s Ecto-Cooler…

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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