Posts Tagged ‘2013

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

 

 

24
Nov
13

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!

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*Turn Down the Lights, Where Applicable.*

Hey Gang, if you will humor me for just one post I would like to make an attempt to express my love and admiration for a television show that served as one of the primary inspirations for The Trash Cinema Collective and The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews. One of the funniest and most inspired comedy series to ever grace the boobtube. An unholy amalgam of science fiction, puppet show, Saturday horror matinee and sketch comedy show. It’s influence is still felt to this very day and it’s legend  continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, this show turns 25 years old.

Of course, I am speaking of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So, excuse me while I turn into a drooling fanboy and make a lame autobiographical post about how the show changed my life, shaped my entire being and  get all sentimental. Read on if you dare…

When I was in first grade my parents decided to uproot us from Winter Haven, Florida, the town where I was spawned, and move us up North to the capital city of our rotted penis shaped state, Tallahassee, Florida. It was a pretty abrupt and unexpected change of scenery for me, one I resisted and revolted against with all my might. Having to leave behind my friends and everything I was so familiar with was a terrifying prospect.  The idea of starting all over again in some new town, in a new school, with a bunch of new kids was enough to evoke the first panic attack of my young life.

Of course, as life teaches us, everything changes whether we like it or not.  I adapted fairly well to my new environment thanks to my family, primarily my younger cousins Steven and Patrick, who I started hanging out with habitually just about as soon as I arrived, and some understanding, supportive teachers. There was also one other element that eased my transition and helped me to forget my woes over having been tossed headlong into this awkward, new phase of my life; a television show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

joel and bots

Flipping through the channels one Saturday or Sunday morning I came across some cruddy old b-movie, with these funny little silhouettes in the bottom right corner. It looked like some regular Joe and a couple of funny looking monsters, or robots…maybe aliens? I had no clue. But as I listened it dawned on me that these little guys were doing what my Mom, Steven, Patrick and I always did over such cheese-ball entertainment…they were cracking jokes! And great ones! Sure, many of of them flew over my head, but a lot of the appeal had to do with their delivery.  Soon, the little people in the movie theater row got up and walked out of frame and the camera pulled back through a colorful, fun assortment of doors and hallways leading back to a room where the three folks in the theater were suddenly right in front of me. I was soon acquainted with three captives on Dr. Forrester’s diabolical Satellite of Love (The S.O.L., for short) Joel Robinson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.  My life would never be the same.

Needless to say, I was hooked. My cousins and I would watch it just about every weekend and laugh our elementary school aged asses off at just about everything these jokesters said.  I was never quite sure of the shows schedule in those days, but the chances were if I tuned into The Comedy Channel, later Comedy Central, during Saturday or Sunday, they would eventually be on the air. The premise was simple and spelled out brilliantly in the show’s opening theme song, here, I will let Joel explain…

The show was unapologetic in it’s  silliness, boundlessly creative and unabashedly intelligent. To watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 you had to actively pay attention to the action on screen while simultaneously listening to Joel and his robot friend’s riffs and out two and two together in your own head. Sure, many of the jokes reference things you might not know about or not be in the vein of comedy specifically catering to your liking, but as Dr. Forrester and Crow T. Robot himself, Trace Beaulieu has stated in the past: “Hey, if you don’t like that joke, there will be another one in about 3 seconds.” The humor, jokes and references span an enormous spectrum  so that there will always be something for everyone in each episode.

Across the board, the characters, puppets and all, were brought to life with such manic creativity and energy, you couldn’t help but pay attention. The host segments, the parts of the show taking place between the stints in the theater, often mocked the film’s themselves in the form of skits and small productions Joel and The Bots would put on for The Mads back down at Gizmonic Institute, later Deep 13…later Pearl’s VW van, later still, Pearl’s gothic castle.  These segments also treated the viewer to the “Steampunk over a decade before Steampunk existed” set created with what looked like nothing more than garbage,  junk purchased at the flea market, Styrofoam pillars and hot glue. It was the epitome of bargain basement, do it yourself creativity. They had a budget, they worked with the scraps they had and they ended up putting together a show with a unique, one of a kind appearance that looked like a million bucks, but probably cost as much as a dinner for two at Red Lobster.

Mystery movie

Between elementary school and high school MST3K came and went in my life as I moved around a lot after my parent’s divorce. I collected episodes on VHS as I spotted them and would watch as often as I could depending on who our cable provider was. Call it luck or call it fate, I got the pleasure of seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during it’s initial run when it played in Dallas, Texas. I just happened to be in town for my older brother, Trey’s, college graduation and got to see this milestone in MST3K history in the company of my Mom and my  late Grandmother affectionately known as Bobo. Hearing Bobo laugh as hard as I did through MST3K: The Movie, I often think she might have just been laughing at hearing me laugh, is one of my fondest memories I have with her.

I have since had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with  many of the creators and talent behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as experienced their riffing skills live and in person. I only wish I could put into words just how much their creation means to me.  Some folks, their passion might be Dr. Who, others Star Trek or Firefly maybe even  Battlestar Galactica. For me, my science fiction television allegiance will always belong to Gizmonic Institute, Deep 13 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. A show that has always had it’s heart in the right place, filled my life with laughter, brought my friends and family closer,  influenced and inspired me in countless ways and always reminded us to “breath and just relax”. Not to mentions they had TWO final episodes and neither one of them sucked.

I am now an adult with a  fireplace mantle decked out with every box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino and Shout Factory have so far released and not a week goes by that I don’t watch at least one episode.  Those guys and gals can still make me laugh all these years later. In fact, I would say they keep on getting better with age, which is no small feat.

MST3K

To Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff,  Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl and the rest of the Best Brains Team, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re show is an even bigger part of my life now than it was when I was a child.  I’ve shared and introduced your creation to so many great and wonderful people who mean the world to me. Heck, the love of my life and I finally got together after months of being “friends” thanks to your outstanding short “Assignment Venezuela!” Who knew your brand of zaniness would inspire such a romantic evening with my very own Creepy Girl?

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!  May your legacy live on forever.

Love,

-Kevin (The Primal Root)

PUSH THE BUTTON, FRANK!

05
Oct
13

Mistress Veronica; October Devil Girl of the Month 2013

Hello there, Gang and HAPPY OCTOBER! We’ve got an early treat for you this Halloween season in the form of our exquisitely beautiful Devil Girl of the Month, Mistress Veronica.  A close comrade of ours here at The Trash Cinema Collective, a familiar face to anyone keeping up with The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews, and one of the founding members of the Boobarians, it is my pleasure and my sincere honor to unveil Mistress Veronica’s spooky, sexy and badass “Phantom of the Opera” inspired Devil Girl spread. BUT FIRST! Let’s ask Mistress Veronica a few questions, whatdya say?

The Primal Root: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Mistress. Where might your interests lie? tickles you fancy? Tell us what you’re into.

Mistress Veronica:  By day I’m your regular every day secretary-type lady. I also teach bellydance and I bellydance around the US – I love it way more than anyone should. What kind of stuff am I into?….on a good day fishnets and restraints Ah, who am I kidding, I’m the one in charge (hence the name). I am ALL about the classic pin-up, burlesque, costuming of all kinds, and girls in roller derby (PS loved Devil Girl Carrie A. Hatchet). Also anything pumpkin.

Root: As our Devil Girl for the month of October, I was wondering if you might recommend a couple of your favorite Trashy Halloween themed flicks you like to break this time of year.

Mistress Veronica:  Sure!  Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a childhood favorite along with the Leprechaun movies, the Evil Dead series, Beetlejuice, and newly added to my list Troll 2. Less trashy classics include Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus. It’s also a great time for all of the Universal classic monster/horror films.

Root:  What song would you recommend The Gang listen to while admiring your lovely Devil Girl set?

Mistress Veronica: “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by Bach – when you think of pipe organ, this is probably the music that plays in your head. Nice and creepy and ominous. For something less classic, “Shit Men Say to Symphony” by the Living Deads.

Root:  What’s the scariest damn movie you’ve ever seen? What made it so frightening?

Mistress Veronica:  Hmmmm….No movie is as scary as what’s inside my own noggin, so this is hard to answer. The scariest thing I can think of right now is the tree attack scene in Evil Dead. You know things are wrong when trees are raping people. I couldn’t camp again for months after seeing that.

Root: When you’re out Trick or Treating  what sweet is sure to put a smile on your face?

Mistress Veronica: Hard liquor of any variety! Oh wait, something sweet…put some Coke or Pepsi in it. A Snickers bar is also acceptable.

I think we can mange both, Mistress.  Well, let’s not keep The Gang waiting any longer, without any further a due, feast your eyes on the seductive, the lovely, Mistress Veronica!  Just a heads up, you might need a drool cup…  Stay Trashy! -Root

Photography by Marina Pecorino

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25
Aug
13

You’re Next (2011) Warm Blood & Rich People…plus a short essay on slasher cinema history

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

The late 60’s  through the 1970’s were the golden years for American horror cinema. Not only were young, truly talented filmmakers delivering inspired pieces of art, they gave cinema indispensable time capsules of the days troubled times and the lasting, horrifying impact of our actions on not only the inhabitants of our nation, but the world. films such as Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left”, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and many others illustrated , the brutality both at home and abroad as peaceful protesters were gunned down by our National Guard in cold blood, blacks in our country were beaten and murdered by our police officials, our brothers, sons,  husbands and Fathers were being drafted to serve in a wildly unpopular war and the hippie movement had given way to disillusionment in the wake of Charles Manson and Free Love regrettably spread venereal disease like wild fire through the loins of our nation.  Independent horror cinema had never been more vital, more important in our country as it was during this era.  Horror was the purest illustration, the unfettered subconscious, of our society.

Soon the 1980’s were ushered in and movies such as “Halloween” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, which had proven incredibly profitable, gave way to a sub-genre known as the “slasher” genre, which gained a foothold in this decade and squeezed as much blood out of the concept as  possible. John Carpenter’s Halloween became a franchise, Sean Cunningham’s “Friday the 13th” spawned a series of films repeating the same formula for over 20 years, and Wes Craven delivered a trail blazing, brilliant, post Vietnam horror film in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, but it was soon watered down into a franchisable commodity.  Slasher horror films became a staple of the decade as they proved to be resoundingly profitable for studios, and sequels that regurgitated the story on repeat could be relied upon to turn a profit. It was fun while it lasted, and some pretty damn great slasher films were produced during the decade, but   gradually, a form of horror that had once shown us how fucked up our system was, had been yuppified and sold out. The films became less of a societal rorshach test, and more like a series of Saturday morning cartoon adventure. Hell, it was the 1980’s in a capitalist country! As George “Buck” Flowers said in John Carpenter’s 1988 science fiction masterpiece, “They Live”, “We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team!”

But by the end of 80’s the slasher formula had grown as stale as a year old box of opened and then forgotten about croutons in the pantry, and by 1990, many folks deemed the sub-genre dead.

BUT THEN CAME POST-MODERN SLASHERS!  Ushered in by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and to a much greater extent, his “Scream” franchise, which replaced the usual gang of teenagers ready for the chop, with teenage characters who have been raised in the VHS generation and are completely aware of the slasher formula, it’s cliches and it’s caveats and are loaded up and ready with quips, jokes and references to horror movies history!  The resurrection of the slasher genre was given life thanks to the ever increasing knowledge and awareness of the audience who had spent their youths combing through video rental stores and boning up on their horror movie knowledge.  Two decades earlier, it was Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” who had been savaging the cinema while wearing the remains of his victims. Now, in the 1990’s, the filmmakers were the one’s wearing the remains of the genre’s past and exploiting it as a joke and laughing at the power these movies once, and to the viewer willing to watch without a jaded eye, still contain.

But, there are only so many in-jokes you can make about the genre before Post Modern gives way to straight up spoofs like the Wayans Brother’s brain dead “Scary Movie” franchise.  Oh, what has post modern horror wrought?

In the mid 2000’s, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the War in Iraq marched on with seemingly no plan and no end in sight under the George W. Bush administration, the slasher genre got a heavy, dark, deeply mean spirited and cynical makeover in the form of James Wan’s “Saw” franchise, Now audiences were thrust into morality games where victims and victimizers alike were suddenly forced to endure and try to survive brutal and disturbingly painful forms of grueling torture in order to survive and are expected to walk away having learned some kind of life affirming message. Assumign they survive at all. (Spoiler: most folks end up splattered across the linoleum.)  Also, taking hold in this decade, was a sudden popularity in remakes. Classic horror films like Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” were open game for modern retelling and face lifts. These proved successful as money making ventures since the titles were already well established and could be relied on to turn a profit, but many folks took this as a sign that “Hollywood” had, indeed, run out of ideas and that set of balls they once relied on to give up and coming filmmakers a chance at showcasing original product, had now finally been cut cleen and tossed int he waste basket. The studio now only seemed interested in “sure things.”  Young filmmakers who came of age during the slasher heydays were now creating their own slasher movies…but more times than not, for cynical laughs and nastiness rather than genuine scares or fun.

With the exception of a few sporadic, slasher films produced independently, with varying degrees of success, the blood in the veins of a once extremely popular genre has been cooling down and slowing to a coagulated halt as it’s once thriving body withers up and passed away. Them’s the brakes.  I had very little hope in ever seeing a slasher film worth a piss again on the big screen.

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

A kind of home invasion slasher film that’s done the impossible and taken a tired formula, one that’s been played to death, and made it feel fun, interesting and new again. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun watching a slasher film in…well…YEARS! I know there’s been quite a bit of hype surrounding this flick over the last couple years since it’s premiere in 2011, and although I do feel the praise this thing has gotten is, indeed, a bit overblown, “You’re Next” does a dandy of a job showing it’s audience a good time.

The premise comes across as fairly standard. A very wealthy family reunites for a weekend at their secluded mansion in the middle of winter. It;s cold, it’s snowy, and if a band of crossbow shooting, axe wielding maniacs happen upon their house, they are more or less trapped and/or completely fucked.    One thing I greatly appreciate about “You’re Next’ is that the family and other assorted characters are written as actual human beings, characters and players in the drama at hand rather than just jokes and punch lines ready to be cashed in.  Sure, some situations come off as comical, but never because the characters are anything more than flawed, damaged and mistake making human beings. Things are tense before any psychopaths even show up! Hell, I haven;t seen a dinner scene this tense and uncomfortable since The Sawyer clan sat down to dinner in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” (No, Tobe Hooper’s not paying me to drop that title as many times as possible in this review) The family dynamic feels like a bomb just waiting to go off as it seems some siblings cannot be near one another for more than five seconds without anger and resentment rising and an argument breaking out.  One cannot help but feel bad for Erin (Sharni Vinson) who is there to meet and spend some quality time getting to know her boyfriend Crispan’s (AJ Bowen) family.

Things go from awkward to “Aw, fuck” as family dinner is violently interrupted and suddenly everyone is scrambling to survive. To the amazed wonderment of the family, Erin seems to have the survival instincts of a wild cat and, once the rich families plans are all proven to be disastrously moot, takes control of the situation and ends up being on the the very best, if not the quintessential Final Girl.   Rarely in the slasher genre have I ever witness a final girl so aptly and efficiently tackle with her antagonists.  She turns her aggressors into bumbling idiots over the course of the film and it drew much appropriate applause form myself and the rest of the audience.  This is no screaming, lame-o final girl running around in her panties and hoping to fight the killer to a draw. no, Erin is out for blood and she’s honestly one of the greatest assets “You’re Next” has.  Many folks have labeled “you;re Next” a “feminist” horror film.  Hell, I thought most horror films, especially slashers, featured strong female protagonists besting and hulking male antagonist. By definition, isn’t the majority of slasher films feminist?

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

But, I digress, “You’re Next” also delivers some excellently executed gore set pieces that seem to escalate as the films closes in on it’s graphically violent, over the top conclusion.  People meet their end in brutal, uncompromising fashions at the end of axes, arrows, knives, screwdrivers and countless assorted implements of destruction and kitchen accoutrement.  Those looking for and carnage candy will not leave disappointed.  Another thing I was impressed with was the film;s dark, yet fitting, sense of humor. Unlike other recent slasher films that slowly devolve into “Not Another Teen Slasher Film” over the top, slapstick gore and gags (Hatchet & Hatchet II, I’m looking at you.) or post modern slashers that draw laughs from our knowledge of horror film history,  “You’re Next” keeps things serious and to the point, but manages to draw comedy from it’s bloody situations. The jokes are dark, but the levity is appreciated and doesn’t feel out of place.

On the negative side, once the shit hits the proverbial fan,  “You’re Next” invokes some of the most annoying shaky cam I’ve ever endured. I;m not exactly sure if I got used to it after it’s initial use or if the filmmakers decided it was only necessary for this one moment of panic, but my God, it was distracting and pointless. The actors were doing a fine enough job portraying their shock and horror at what was occurring, the last thing we needed was some guy shaking the camera around like he’s being mauled by a grizzly bear during the shoot.  Seriously, have some faith in your on screen talent. I wanted to watch their performances and not gain a migraine headache for my efforts. Also, sadly, the central question underlying the whole flick is pretty easy to figure out. Boots and I knew what was up as soon as arrows began flying. But, in the end, this didnt diminish my enjoyment of the film at all.

meow.

meow.

Any other gripes? Not really. “You’re Next” is a shockingly solid piece of slasher entertainment in a genre I thought had been bled totally dry by 80’s over exposure, 90’s postmodernism, and new millennial remake dookie splatter.  It was treat being able to watch a fun, TRULY old school style slasher film with an appreciative, loud, and lively audience just as into it as myself and Bootsie Kidd were. Not nearly as revolutionary as many critics and supporters have hyped it up to be, “You’re Next” is still one of the very best times I’ve had seeing a down and dirty slasher flick in ages. It has a keen awareness of the genre itself  which allows the filmmakers a chance to play around with our expectations, passes itself well, contains serviceable performances and has one very cool throwback synth driven score. Almost sounds like John Carpenter himself could have done the music for this sucker.

This is not the second coming, but it is proof that you can play with slasher formula without turning it all into some masturbatory joke. “You’re Next” has given me a smidgen of hope for a long flailing sub genre of horror and I am hoping filmmakers interested in working within it take note of what “You;re Next” has done right. Because there are few roller coaster rides as fun as a fun, well executed slasher film with the right audience. I only wish I got to take the ride more often.

If you’ve ever held even a drop of affection for the slasher genre in your horror nerd heart, you owe it to yourself to see “You’re Next.”

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Aug
13

The Conjuring (2013): Home Ownership: a Cautionary Tale

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a Primal Root written review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

I’ve always loved a good ghost story. I was raised on the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” anthology, watched Tobe Hooper’s  “Poltergeist” on a near constant loop, on the weekends talked my Mom into renting copies of  black and white classics like “The House on Haunted Hill” and “The Haunting”, and looked forward to the segments of TV’s Unsolved Mysteries featuring “true tales”  of the poor crackers who crossed paths with nocturnal spirits and ghastly apparitions.  The chills were plentiful, but as you grow up you realize just how cheesy a lot of this stuff can be, and it only really gets down to spooking you once it sinks in on a cerebral level much later… when you’re at home, going down that darkened hallway you’ve walked down countless times before  and your mind suddenly begins wondering what inexplicable, otherworldly presence could be lurking behind each door, just biding its time before it springs out and cause you to shit your pants, lose your grip on sanity, and keel over dead from cardiac arrest.

It’s been a long damn time since I’ve seen a movie about a haunting that has actually frightened me beyond the terror felt over wasting money on a movie that promised chills and delivered yawns and moderate chuckles at the lameness of it all. From “Paranormal Activity” and its endless sequels, “A Haunting in Connecticut”  to James Wans’ own “Dead Silence” and “Insidious”, they all just come across as either lazy and predictable or over the top, cheap student films.  I usually wind up joking with my viewing buddies and waiting for something to happen rather than having my pants scared off of me, a rare occurrence that always leaves me breathless and fellow viewers stunned, as I typically go commando.

Okay, where's the fire place?

Okay, where’s the fire place?

I’m getting side-tracked. Okay, “The Conjuring” begins on an creepy-enough note telling the tale of The Warrens’ encounter with what a group of roommates assume is a possessed doll from Hell going by the name of Annabelle. This thing looks like the aborted, fossilized remains of Bozo the Clown and post-face-tightening Nicole Kidman’s love child. Why in the world would ANY schmo would bring this doll home is beyond me. But hey! you get what you pay for, and the doll begins writing on the walls in blood-red crayon, seeming to running around the place on her own (although, unlike your favorite Good Guy and mine, we never get to see her scurry), leaving little love notes of “Miss me?” around the house to be found by the horrified occupants, and banging on doors so loudly your testicles would probably rise into your throat with abject terror.  Anyhoo, we never see these three moron roomies, again, and it’s on to establishing Ed and Lorriane Warren,  the real life team of hardcore paranormal investigators (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and the unfathomably lovely Vera Farmiga) just now decided their most terrifying tale of a supernatural encounter is ready for public consumption.  Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, they present to us, “The Conjuring.”  Ed and Lorraine are leading a pretty action-packed life, as they traverse the country ghostbusting, debunking red herrings as rusty pipes, and giving lectures while leaving their little daughter at home… with an entire stock of possessed and evil artifacts from their many ghost hunting expeditions. But don’t worry! These artifacts are locked behind a door, because nothing keeps the power of evil at bay like a bolted door… It also becomes apparent that Lorraine has in the not-too-distant past encountered something during one of their investigations that has shaken her to her very core. Something that her ever-loving husband, Ed, concerned about bringing his highly sensitive telepathic wife into the ghost hunting fold again.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

To be honest, the story of ‘The Conjuring” is a pretty well-worn tale. A couple and their herd of children (in this instance, all little women) decide to relocate to a beautiful, rural fixer-upper that they purchased for a steal, in the bygone days before full-disclosure was a legal necessity and this particular home’s blood-spattered, demonic, psycho-bitch history was kind of left out of conversation.  The family is loving, always smiling, and ready to play games at the drop of a dime. It might sound like a trite Hallmark card, but as a viewer, I couldn’t help but genuinely like this family. Sweet people brought to life by some very talented folks; Lila Taylor as Carolyn, the sweet, southern, ice tea Mother of the clan, and Ron Livingston as Roger (yes, of Office Space fame) as the hard-working, average dope Dad.  On their first night in their new home they experience a few minor disturbances, many of which we might encounter in our own home from time to time, but, ultimately, nothing too serious occurs. Besides finding a boarded-up, dusty, creepy old basement under the stairs. Everyone is super happy about the discovery (YAY! MORE SQUARE FOOTAGE!) but things very quickly go to Hell as whatever was tucked down in the basement is now roaming around the house offing the family pooch and playing chilling games with every member of the family. Also, a Burtonesque, antique music box happens to present itself right next to an ancient, gnarly oak tree in the back yard.  One of the daughters adopts it, and (que Amityville horror score) unleashes her new imaginary best friend! Her buddy can only be glimpsed in the mirror of the music box once the music within finishes playing. It’s a story we’ve heard and seen countless times before, but to my own shock and amazement, filmmaker James Wan (“Insidious”, “Dead Silence”, “Saw”) uses a slow, old school pace and a nice, subtle touch to really let the suspense and dread sink into the viewer.  I was genuinely impressed that James Wan has grown up so much as a director. Make a few more films as intensively creepy as “The Conjuring”, and I might just become a fan!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn from my wife and our half a dozen daughters!

Some deeply disturbing incidences start to occur in their new  home. The utmost of which involves one of the young daughters seeing something in the darkness behind her bedroom door which, really, might be one of the most horrifying and suspenseful sequences I’ve experienced in a movie theater in years (not a drop of blood spilt, no score, all acting and cinematography). Finally, Carolyn heads to a community college where The Warrens are lecturing, and literally begs them to come check out their own private House on Haunted Hill. The Warrens, initially skeptic, and not-a-little ghost-worn grudgingly but compassionately agree to check it out.  Dressed in their Mod Squad 1971 ensembles, and looking quite fetchingly groovy, the two step into the house and instantly know this place is a deadly death trap of death.  Lorraine has visions, Ed gets nervous, and the once the two investigate the history of the house, whose past tenants were all possessed child murdering evil-doers all in the wake of the original tenant, a witch who, to get in good with The Dark One, sacrificed babies to Satan, and ended up hanging herself from said gnarly oak tree in the backyard… Like I said days pre-total disclosure realtor ethics.

Of course, The Warrens take the case, and decide to rescue the family and exorcise the house of whatever evil is present there.

You smell something?

You smell something?

“The Conjuring” is really the best of both worlds as far a supernatural horror flick is concerned. The first half is expertly crafted horror in which the audience is left holding on to the edge of their seat, completely at the mercy of the increasingly crafty James Wan. The story he is unfolding, waiting for the beast to finally show itself.  And, much to my delight, Wan keeps us guessing and waiting for most of ‘The Conjuring”‘s run time, allowing it to effectively chill our bones and build a truly sinister house of cards around us.  Then, once the other shoe drops, we find ourselves in the eye of an ever-mounting storm of blood, horror, and chaos that, in a lesser film, would probably come off as disenchantingly goofy. Here, however, we have grown to appreciate every one of our central characters so that, once the proverbial ghost shit hits the fan, our pulse rises and we are actually fearful for our new kin. Keeping in mind that the haunted house genre relies heavily on people being too lame-brained to get out of the house the second disturbing shit starts befalling everyone in the family, but this is coming from a guy (and an audience) raised on horror and its tropes. A family in 1971, plagued by this steadily-rising level of creepy encounters might just try and explain things away until things got so bad they have to reach out for help. Plus, a family this size with only one working parent and all their money invested in this house on the edge of Hell hardly has the kind of money to be spending on stays at the local Motel 6.  I guess in most horror films you have to suspend your disbelief, but “The Conjuring” is such a goddamn great spookshow you won’t waste your time questioning such things as little girls are claiming to see creatures in the darkness and the simple clapping of hands send chills down your spine.

“The Conjuring” is by far and away the best horror flick I’ve seen in the theater so far in 2013. It plays it cool, takes its time, and before you know it, you’re sitting in your theater seat, heart thumping in your chest, awaiting the next horror show to befall this poor family and the heroic Warrens.  After the film was over, I found myself sitting with Bootsie Kidd totally worn out, as if stepping off a roller coaster. Both of us, catching our breath and totally awestruck by what we’d just seen. We chatted through the end credits which featured the effectively eerie score by Joseph Bishara, which rivals Lalo Schifrin’s timelessly nerve jangling score to “The Amityville Horror.” And then…we had to go home, where the evens I had seen on screen just minute prior suddenly weighed pretty heavily on my imagination. “The Conjuring” stayed with me long after I left the theater and if that’s not the mark of an effective horror film, I’m not sure what is.

Of course, this is the flick we see just as we begin looking to purchase a home together. Good timing! Jeez…

“The Conjuring” is a smartly executed , old school ghost story excellently told and well worth checking out. Hopfully it will be available to own once Halloween rolls around. 😉 I’m awarding this puppy FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This one is a keeper!

Till next time,

Check your home’s history before moving in and Stay Trashy!

-Root

21
Apr
13

Carrie A. Hatchet: Devil Girl of the Month, April 2013

Hey Gang! It’s your pal, The Primal Root here, and I am overjoyed to introduce to you  our April 2013 Devil Girl of the Month, Ms. Carrie A. Hatchet! A long time friend of  The Primal Root’s, Carrie A.  hails from Central Florida but now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii and  has come through in a big way and delivered an astoundingly fun and sexy spread for The Trash Cinema Collective to enjoy.  I wouldn’t have expected anything less.  Enjoy and be sure to let Carrie A. Hatchet know what you think, Gang!

The Primal Root:  Carrie, would you mind telling The Collective a little about yourself? What you’re into? What you’ve been up to lately?

Carrie A. Hatchet: Well, most recently, I’ve been working hard at my job as an informal educator while trying to learn how to surf and play women’s flat track roller derby. Not at the same time, of course! I have a background in theatre, a great love of movies great, terrible and so terrible they achieve greatness and I’ve done some modeling for a friend’s clothing line so it seemed natural to contribute to the Trash Cinema Collective’s Devil Girl of the month.
In my spare time (what’s that?) I enjoy hiking, traveling, living in exotic locals, reading comic books and catching up on movies and my favorite TV shows. Sci-fi, action, fantasy of any entertainment medium and general geeking out on the internet are some my favorite past times.

PR:  Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of your Devil Girl set? What was your inspiration?

CAH: My inspiration for my Devil Girl photo shoot was DERBY! Surprise, surprise. There were some great roller films back when roller derby was in the height of it’s popularity in the ’70s. Kansas City Bomber starring Raquel Welch, Rollerball with James Caan and Unholy Rollers. I should also mention that at the time, the sport was out for more blood than it’s more recent incarnations. 1970s roller derby was all about the spectacle: outfits, cat fights and even some staged events. These days, the sport has gained more legitimacy by being dedicated to rules, athleticism and a strong sense of acceptance and community. I highly recommend that everyone catch a bout of their local roller derby league. These ladies and gentlemen are dedicated to a sport that they many times have to pay to participate in. It’s a labor of love, so get out and support your local derby team!

PR:  Carrie, it’s story time. Do you have any strange, bizarre or trashy stories you can share with us?

CAH: I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and I’ve been on several ghost tours or ghost hunter experiences throughout my years of living in the South. In all my years seeking out a ghostly encounter, I’ve never actually experienced anything more than goosebumps until very recently. Sometimes I work in a museum at night giving people tours, helping with events, or directing sleepover for massive groups of children. The buildings in which I work range from 4 to over 100 years old and house many human artifacts and sometimes remains. The other night, I was alone in a courtyard between several buildings preparing food for a group that was in another building. I was enjoying a snack and the quiet of the night when I heard knocking coming from one of the buildings. We had had warning of a derelict wandering museum grounds the previous days so I called security to check it out (I’ve seen this movie!). There was no one else in any of the buildings around the courtyard and it sounded like the knocking had come from the cabinets where we keep some of our artifacts which also happens to be right next to my office. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that something strange has happened on the museum grounds.

PR: As you well know, we have a passion for movies the majority of film goers consider nonredeemable filth that no rational human being should ever watch. We call it Trash Cinema. What are some of your favorites?

CAH: Last House on the Left (the original), Sleepaway Camp, Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, VHS, Rec, Strippers vs. Zombies, She-devil, Death Becomes Her, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Escape from New York. Just to name a few!

Root: Well, Carrie A. Hatchet, thank you again, from the bottom of my filthy heart, for contributing such a great and doing us the honor of featuring you as our April 2013 Devil Girl of the Month.  you’re welcome back anytime! Keep it Trashy, lady! I know you will. 😉

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

Photography, hair and make-up by:  Katimus Prime

 

Hadley edited

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11
Apr
13

Werewolf on the Moon: The Howl Story

Werewolf on the Moon

Created by Perry Gilbert

a Dirty Thought with The Primal Root…

edited by Bootsie Kidd

By now,  I’m sure most of our Trash Cinema Collective regulars are well aware of The Collective’s most recent project, “Werewolf on the Moon’.” A mock 1950’s style Roger Corman-esque trailer to be entered into a competition held at a 24 hour film festival in Chicago on Saturday, March 9th, 2013.  The competition was going to be judged by audience applause,  so as out-of-towners our chances of “winning” this thing were pretty nil from the get-go.  Still, the idea of The Collective coming together and creating something outside the realms of our usual “The Primal Root’s Rotten Review” and, instead, making a short film of sorts to be shown on the big screen in front of hundreds of people as part of a friendly competition between other amateur filmmakers? I began scribbling down ideas…

Being the overly excitable and eager fellow that I am, I came up with about a dozen ideas and contemplated creating all of them for the competition. Keep in mind, we only had about a month to get ONE trailer finished let alone six… So, when I brought these ideas to veteran filmmaker and The Trash Cinema Collective’s go to collaborator, John Thursby,  he thankfully managed to talk me down and into shooting just one trailer.  Out of all the concepts, ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ struck me as the most doable project of them all. It presented its own distinct challenges, including a rocket trip to the moon, creating uranium rods, and convincing a woman to get naked in the shower and be gawked at by a menacing, blood-thirsty werewolf. We had our work cut out for us. At least I thought. Then I realized  we had The Trash Cinema Collective’s unrivaled pool of talent supporting us every step of the way.

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Our unparalleled cast of actors including whom I am hesitant to name, seeing as they are all very respectable, contributing members of society who just so happen to also be incredibly creative and willing to go all-out for such projects over and over again, giving of themselves and their time in order to bring these ideas to life. I am forever grateful for their contributions and reliable eagerness to be a part of these projects.  Thank you for the support, inspiration and friendship.

Also, our behind the scenes crew were amazing, as well. Laura Henry was remarkable as ever as our hair and makeup designer.  Perry Gilbert, who created our computer generated-effects and made his acting debut as “The Man” in the trailer has become a valuable player and an excellent addition to The Collective’s production crew.  Having cast myself as The Werewolf I wasn’t able to be behind the camera as often which meant it relied mostly on the talents of John Thursby and Bootsie Kidd as cinematographers and both did an astounding job with this project and making it look as wonderfully cheesy as possible.

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Also, we must give special mention to Steven Torres, who responded to a total strangers cry for props inviting us over to his home, and lending us an entire garage full of cool, strange, unique pieces and original art to be used in our trailer.  This was a HUGE help on Werewolf on the Moon.

We shot the trailer in 3 days on weekdays, once people were available after work. Our biggest day was our first as we gathered a large group of our cast to shoot the scenes involving our initial werewolf attack scene, the Moon Marines battling the werewolf, our scientist explaining the perils of battling a werewolf on the moon,  and the harrowing werewolf shower attack sequence. It was a fairly nice-sized shot list, but through concentration, professionalism and plenty of beer and vegan pizza, we managed to conquer it. John Thursby, always a fun performer, knocked the character of our 50’s chain smoking, oddly aggressive scientist, out of the part.  Carpenter as the head of the Moon Marines was pitch perfect in his aggravated, manic, blood thirsty portrayal of a man who cannot comprehend of a situation where he can;t just kill his enemy instantly.  His Moon Marines, played by A.D. and Bailey, were both hysterical onscreen, bringing to life their characters in ways I hadn’t even comprehended.  Bailey performed his own stunts when the Werewolf rips his face open, and A.D. gave his character that great Dudley Do-Right vocal quality that, at first, seemed goofy but quickly felt pretty damn perfect. Keep in mind, most of these scenes were shot against a white wall in a two car garage.  I cannot forget to mention L.A. whose willingness to strip down to a tiny pink bikini and, in the case of a shot or two, stripping totally naked in order to make her werewolf attack seem more sever and legit. Oh yes, the nudity was ABSOLUTELY crucial to the trailer.

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Our next day of shooting took place at Kleman Plaza in downtown Tallahassee where we primarily shot our Werewolf’s rampage sequence. The werewolf attacked a little girl playing hop-scotch by snatching her up, throwing her over his shoulder and making a break for it. Our little girl was played by the always game Tara B-M, who didn’t mind getting rammed into by a beefy guy with impaired vision about a dozen times till we got the right take. Also of note, Tara’s shoes would fly off on every take and in one instance nearly hit a homeless man directly in the face.  Rachel M. played the young girls hop scotch companion and took played the roll of an over enthusiastic youngster to the hilt. I kind of wish that shot lasted long so you can really take the time to admire her incredible performance. Seriously, next time you watch the Werewolf on the Moon trailer, pay attention to her.  Perry Gilbert then made his screen debut as The Man, He’s the gentleman holding up the ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ newspaper who is then brutally assaulted. It was the scene where we went full on goofy and it came out wonderfully. The kid’s a natural. We shot a few scenes with Jennie C. as a gypsy who has relocated to the Moon and speaks of a prophecy that said “the curse would follow us to the stars.” Sadly, this moment had to be cut from the competitive cut to fit the time limitations, (you can still see her getting attacked in a quick cut during the competitive cut) however, we restored it in the extended cut.  We then shot some scenes in the parking garage of myself climbing on board an elevator to the ship to the moon as I transform into a werewolf and a shot of me disembarking from the elevator as a full blown lycanthrope.  We did some impromptu shooting around Kleman Plaza that ended up on the cutting room floor but will make it’s way into the extended cut.

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Our very last day of the shoot took place in Panacea Florida, in a small aircraft provided by  aviator, scholar and gentleman, Steve Faultz This would have to pass as our shuttle to the moon where I transform into a werewolf as my attention is drawn to the approaching moon by Ms. Bootsie Kidd who is seated next to me.  Thanks to some creative photography and the ingenious idea of using black construction paper with holes punched in it to create the illusion of our aircraft flying through the vacuum of space, it all looks better than we ever could have expected.  We managed to shoot the remainder of the footage we needed in only a couple of hours, including some unscripted footage of the werewolf hijakcing the moon shuttle that will be added to the trailer’s extended cut.

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Last, and certainly not least, we featured twice past Devil Girl and recurring actress in The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews as our 1950’s Devil Girl in our Trash Cinema Collective Pictures logo. 😉 When that logo popped up in Chicago in front of  about 800 sci-fi fans, you should have heard the wolf whistles and cat calls! I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for the font we used…

The editing process went remarkably smoothly and was an absolute joy to piece together. The performances and handy work of my friends and partners in crime were a blast to watch and piece together into what shaped up to be a very fun, very funny, ridiculously entertaining little trailer. I am incredibly proud of what we made over those few days and what we were able to accomplish with no budget and little time. It’s a testimony to the talent and creativity we have here at The Trash Cinema Collective as a collaborative force to be reckoned with.

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Our trailer was one of the last of fifteen trailers to be shown in Chicago during The Portage Theater’s Sci-Fi Spectacular Movie Marathon. The audience reaction spoke for itself as people laughed from start to finish and applauded raucously at its conclusion. The crowd loved it. However, when it came time to be judged, it was the local Chicago folks who took home top honors as it was judged by applause and they were able to get their entire casts, crews and extended family to show up and cheer them on. And rightfully so! It was apparent that every single filmmaker, performer, and crew member had poured their creative juices into making these oddball shorts, and in the end everyone supported the hell out of each other. From me to you, it was a damn fine sight to behold.  But honestly, I think we truly won that night. Werewolf on the Moon, this project we all worked so hard to create, played on the big screen and garnered a huge amount of laughs, applause and praise afterwards. We created something people enjoyed and appreciated. for those 90 seconds, us Tallahassee kids, The Trash Cinema Collective, filled a theater full of movie lovers with laughter, with light, with something that touched people. And if we can put all our talents together and create something  that brightens the lives of those who watch it, even for a short while, isn’t it worth it?  I certainly think so.

Thank you all for making this project possible. Without your love, friendship, and support none of this would see its way into our version of reality.

So, without any further a due, here are the fruits of our labors. Enjoy “Werewolf on the Moon!” A Trash cinema Collective Mock Trailer.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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