Posts Tagged ‘80’s

04
Apr
20

Don’t Mess With My Sister! (1985) Stanky Lad’s Junkyard For The Human Spirit

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a Primal Root written review

“YOU FUCKED A BELLYDANCER, YOU BASTARD!” – Clara, Don’t Mess With My Sister!

There’s no denying Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave aka: Day Of The Woman from 1978 is a milestone is exploitation cinema. Among the most notable in the brutal rape/revenge genre that is, for obvious reasons, incredibly divisive. With it’s legendary ad campaign, “THIS WOMAN HAS JUST CUT, CHOPPED, BROKEN AND BURNED FIVE MEN BEYOND RECOGNITION…BUT NO JURY IN AMERICA WOULD CONVICT HER!” and it’s taboo nature, it has become a legendary dark destination in our American Trash Cinema landscape. It’s what Meir Zarchi will go down in history for.

However…There is another.

Oh yes, 1985 Meir Zarchi finally came out with a sophomore effort entitled, Don’t Mess With My Sister! A film that answers the burning question of what would happen if Martin Scorsese got in a horse riding accident, suffered severe brain damage, but once recovered decided to craft a movie for Lifetime Television. It was not the explosive action revenge film I had imagined in my head looking at the poster art, no, far from it. It’s instead, a heavy clunkster of a marital drama about an immensely unlikeable dipshit named Steven (Joe Perce from 1987’s The Hidden and 1989’s Black Rain) who is married to his sweet wife Clara (Jeanine Lemay in her only acting credit), has a little daughter named Candy, is about to graduate from the Columbia Business School in New York and moonlights as the accountant at his brothers-in-law Roberto (Jack Gurci, who went on to never act again) and Dino’s (Peter Sapienza whose only other film credit is 1986’s Osa) junkyard “Stinky Lad’s Salvage (okay, that’s just a name I made up, but it feels fitting since these guys never change their all denim wardrobes), who we find out, are PAYING Steven’s college tuition. Not only that, but we meet Steven on his birthday and his brothers-in-law surprise Steven with a $20 dollar raise! Steven bitches, they raise it to $30! Steven still bitches because he wants to be a partner and it nearly breaks down into a fist fight. Yes, this movie takes place in New York and the characters are all New Yorkers.

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So, Steven is a little bitch with dark rings around his eyes, talks like he took several blows to the head with a lead pipe and gives off the most unsympathetic creeper/ghoul vibes I’ve ever come across outside a vampire film and we, as an audience, I assume are meant to root for this horse’s ass.

His wife throws him a surprise birthday party where it’s apparent there are some animosities between the mothers from both sides of the family, the brothers-in-law and Steven, and Steven’s Mom and Steven’s wife. Anyway, everyone is complaining, drinking and at each other’s throats until the belly dancer Clara hired, Annika ( Laura Lanfranchi, again, her only on screen appearance), who manages to entertain everyone, even manages to get Steven’s wine swigging ancient mother up and dancing like it’s Spring Break on Panama City Beach, and catches the illicit gaze of dipshit Steven.

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The very next night, Steven returns Annika’s costume bra to her at school after receiving the worst advice ever from his shrimpy man best bud, Jerry, who tells Steven that girls leave bras behind so that men will sleep with them and that he shouldn’t let this one get away! Oh, brother, hunker down, because here comes the litany of terrible decisions and events that just pour over till the end credits roll. Steven returns the costume bra to Annika and offers her a ride to a private gig of her’s where she performs the dance of the seven veils, or what have you, for an over weight millionaire with NO BACK, and NO ONE there to protect her if shit goes wrong. As wealthy men typically do, he attempts to force himself upon her, when she tries to shove him aside, he lashes out with the typical rapist catch phrases “What did you THINK I invited you here for?” Before Steve hears the struggle all the way outside, in his car, and rushes in the beat the shit out of the guy before Annika murders him with a well placed bottle of wine to the cranium.

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So, what to do after murdering an incredibly wealthy rapist, leaving your prints all over the fucking mansion and squealing out of his driveway in front of a woman walking her dogs? What else? You go back to your accomplices apartment, do a culturally insensitive African tribal dance in her living room replete with spear and soundtrack album then fuck in her shower.

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Steven eventually makes it home to find wife asleep and levels the excuse that his tire blew out and it took all night to fix. Of course, as these things do, people start talking, who saw what and where people actually were and the next thing you know Steve is getting his ass caved in by Clara, Roberto and Dino in the junkyard. Everyone continues to do violent, terrible things to one another, the murder makes the front page and is all over the news, Clara slices open a stuffed monkey, Steven shoots a shotgun at his brothers-in-law who, now that Steven is packing heat and trying to kill them, wants to make Steven a partner at Stanky Lad’s. It all ends as abruptly as it began and we are left with our heads spinning after witnessing an all-you-can-eat buffet of loathsomeness from a full cast of terrible fucking characters.

What lesson should we take away from Don’t Mess With My Sister? What exactly was this film even about? Who the fuck were these people and how was I supposed to care? It’s an exercise in the most heinous and selfish of human behavior where there’s no good guys and no real payoffs. It’s like an episode of Seinfeld directed by Lars Von Trier with no laugh track. I think it might be trying to say something about the greed of men and how it leads them to covet and do terrible things in the name of getting ahead and trying to seek pleasure where they can and how this lead to a world of hurt to everyone involved. Also, I can imagine that Clara is the sister of the title we should not be messing with? Basically, Don’t Mess With My Sister is a baffling slice of unfiltered shittiness that will leave you pondering what in fucking Hell you just experienced. You’re dropped into a world of scumbags and left with no meaning or ending.

Hey, at least Meir Zarchi was trying to shake the stigma of his greatest achievement and try something new. It really feels like he’s reaching for a Mean Streets vibe here, but he just doesn’t quite have the knack for it. If we were given more history for these characters, some kind of back story, perhaps the drama elements would have worked. It’s difficult to mix straight ahead drama with elements of exploitation and really make a tasty concoction. The drama elements don’t work because the focus is a bit to heavy on all the conflict, but without the base understanding of where everyone is coming from, it just doesn’t congeal and we are left with a bunch of raging, screaming, violent assholes spraying verbal diarrhea that is worthless, meaningless shit to the audience. And the exploitation cinema vibes are there, but there’s no fun to be had. No real over the top excess, besides the constant “fucks” and “Shits” this could easily be a Lifetime Movie of the Week.

Here’s to you, Meir Zarchi, for taking the risk. I only wish it had paid off better.

I am awarding Don’t Mess With My Sister ONE AND A HALF STARS out of FIVE.

Meir Zarchi would not dirrect another film until 2019’s I Spit On Your Grave: Deju Vu. I will get around to checking that one out soon.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

23
Jan
20

(NSFW) Mausoleum (1983): Demonic Wife? Run For Your Life!

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a Primal Root written review

“I haven’t been this nervous since I’ve been black!” – LaWanda Page as Elsie in Mausoleum

Marriage can be trickier than the Double Dare obstacle course. Yes, it is fun and there are prizes, but you can also end up covered in bizarre substances that are somehow both liquid AND solid and are probably rancid and no matter how many times you reach up that giant nose willed with bright green frosting snot you just CAN. NOT. FIND that fucking orange flag to move on to the brown icing slide! Sure, it should be a piece of cake, but when two people come together and make the decision to spend their lives with one another, they also bring with them their lifetime of emotional baggage as well that shaped them deep down into who they are today.  That stuff will manifest and a test of the strength of a marriage often boils down to how both partners in the relationship react to these issues when they manifest. We all have our demons. And then there’s Susan Walker Farrel and the literal malicious, flesh carving, pussy popping demon residing in her cerebral cortex.

That’s right, at a very young age, Susan (Julie Christy Murray) loses her mother and is so traumatized  by the loss she decides to take off in a sprint from her Mother’s funeral (whose only attendees were her and her Aunt Cora) and seek solace within an old mausoleum which produces it’s own yellow steam and is lit up like cheap haunted house inside replete with lightning and thunder effects despite it being a sunny, gorgeous day outside. If you ask me, there might be some deep symbolism here that this mausoleum represents the place we try to lay to rest and repress traumatic memories where we hope they will be forgotten the rest of our days and we can pretend it never happened. Okay, yeah, probably thinking far too deeply into this monster movie, but at least I like to think the creative minds behind Mausoleum are trying.

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Susan goes into this mausoleum, removes a crown of thorns from a tomb filled with glowing fog and something living within…something…with razor sharp claws. Bestowed upon Susan are telekinetic powers which make her eyes glow neon green, which she puts to work immediately when a homeless man enters the same mausoleum to see if she needs help. Being a strong, independent person who needs no help, she proves this point by psychically exploding the top of his skull off and squirting out a nice gush of brain matter across the Los Angeles cemetery as he is running away in terror. Teach that mother fucker to ask a woman if she is in need of assistance. Susan bows to NO MAN!

Fast forward twenty years or so and Susan (Bobbie Bresee, a blonde, voluptuous, mature bombshell from Surf Nazis Must Die and Evil Spawn)  is married to the lovable Oliver (who is played by Marjoe Gortner whom Trash Cinema fans will probably recognize from 1978’s Star Wars knock off Star Crash, but was also the subject of the 1972 documentary Marjoe, an expose on the business of religion and a documentary about Marjoe’s upbringing as a child evangelist preacher, it’s pretty outstanding and led to a life of eclectic Trash Cinema roles, such as Mausoleum, here…anyway, I digress… ) and they are living their best lives in a fucking ENORMOUS mother fucking mansion for just the two of them in the middle of nowhere. I believe this was early 80’s middle class living…

 

Susan and Oliver decide to go to a local dance club to have a few drinks and dance the night away! They’re not there five minutes before some drunk off his ass, Kenny Rogers doppelganger begins rubbing his only slightly unflacid tube steak all over Susan on the dance floor, rudely interrupting her and Oliver’s fantastic middle aged white person disco gyrating thereby nearly leads to fisticuffs between to two 1980’s prototypical male suitors trying to flaunt their stuff for Susan.  Cooler heads prevail as Susan and Oliver head outside, but the drunken beardo stumbles outside, belching, farting and fondling around in his pockets for his keys. He makes the mistake of bumping into Susan and Oliver before getting into his sagging piece of shit Chevy and…Susan’s eyes go bright green as the Kenny Roger’s look alike get roasted alive in his own car as Susan psychically sets it alight! Oliver tries to save the drunken moron, but to no avail. The car explodes like a tater in the microwave and the charmless scumbag is now a smoking husk.

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Aunt Cora (Laura Hippe) is becoming anxious about Susan’s well being as it is soon to be the anniversary of Susan’s Mother’s demise and she also has a lovely, leather bound book all about the Nomed Family history that spells out demon possession and blood rage for every woman in the Nomed family at the point in their lives. Aunt Cora pleads with Susan’s therapist, Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton) but it falls on the deaf ears of science and he refuses to believe there is anything wrong with Susan besides the lingering trauma of Susan losing her Mom at such an early age. But it isn’t long before Susan begins her demonic midlife crisis when one morning the couple’s lecherous gardener, Ben (Maurice Sherbanee)  starts moving in on her and getting VERY sexual harassment/rapey when he notices Oliver is gone for the day.  It’s like flicking a switch, Maurice is allowed in and she is immediately terrified of him and cowers away. But then, as soon as Ben leaves to go chop the shit out of a stump with an axe,  Susan gets those sexy glowing green eyes again and decides to go upstairs and get totally nekkid for the audience, and Gang, Ms. Bresee is stacked like a can of Pringles. She then puts on a towel, heads out to her balcony, makes sure to get Ben’s attention…AND DROPS HER TOWEL AGAIN revealing her lovely mammaries. Now, I have to ask, why the towel? I guess it was to hide her bush from the camera on the six foot journey over to the balcony, but she isn’t shy about showing of her hedge maze later in the film! Again, thinking far too much into this movie…

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So, of course, Susan fucks Ben’s brains out in the garage a time or two (excellent stamina, Ben, you over the hill rapey gardener, you!) and then proceeds to till Ben’s head and chest regions with a rusty hand rake, spraying blood and gore all over the garage and strategically placed U-Haul packing blankets that are no doubt also covered with the steadily crusting sloppy pleasure plunger drippings from their recent concrete floor garage sexcapade. So long, Ben, you were a piece of shit and a terrible landscaper as evidenced by a montage from earlier showing him eating lunch, spitting on his tools and sleeping by the couple’s enormous private lake.

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The next morning Aunt Cora heads over to the house with some paperwork pertaining to Susan’s inheritance she is due to receive now that she is thirty, of course, she finds Susan upstairs totally transformed into a hideous, glowing green eyed demon! Susan levitates Aunt Cora over the railing from their third floor bedroom and uses her telekinetic powers to rip poor Aunt Cora in half. You don’t get to see it all, but the effect is pretty brutal, none the less, as Aunt Cora’s chest begins to slowly but surely come open. It’s pretty fucking mean and I have no idea who Susan kept blood from getting all over the plush carpeting downstairs. I suppose we can just chock it up to the powers evil. Evil makes everything possible, doesn’t it?

That night Oliver wakes up to find his wife sitting in a rocking chair in their bedroom fully transformed into the hideous she demon and, instead of screaming in abject horror at the absolute, unspeakable nightmare that this reality would be to wake up to, he quietly sneaks out of bed and heads down to their posh basement bar to call Dr. Andrews and calmly, casually discuss the fact his wife suddenly has glowing green eyes, the complexion of an enraged hemorrhoid,  and a gob full of shark teeth forcing her to be a drooling mouth breather, rather than grabbing the keys, bolting out the door and driving off into the sunset at top speed to start a new life with a woman who ain’t in league with Satan. As you might expect, the doctor says there’s no such thing as demons and asks Oliver to tell Susan to go see him. Which he does, and Susan agrees. The next morning, their housekeeper, Elsie (LaWanda Page) heads upstairs to check on Susan only to find the room glowing green and the fog machine on overdrive. Elsie, rushes downstairs, takes a couple shots of “the good stuff” which she hasn’t had a drop of “since she found religion” and mentions “I haven’t been this nervous since I was black!” Both humorous and strikingly poignant bit of dialog reminding us of the dangers of simply being African American in our society, even in 1983. Elise downs her liquor and proves herself the only sensible soul in the movie and heads for the hills never to be heard from again and, I presume, is living the good life on her own private island in the son. Elsie, we hardly knew you, but you brought a special light into our lives through the schlock shake that is, Mausoleum. We bid you, adieu.

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During her trip to Dr. Andrews Susan undergoes hypnosis. After a pretty impressive breakdown over her Mother’s death proving those cars are still pretty deep and easily torn open, the demon emerges and Susan transforms right before the doctor’s eyes taunting him that “I WAS HERE THE WHOLE TIME AND YOU NEVER KNEW!” Needless to say, those green eyes, freaky face and gnarly ass teeth make a quick believer out of Dr. Andrews. Believing this is no longer a mental illness medicine can alleviate, Dr. Andrews researches the family history in that handy dandy leather bound book poor, old, ripped into pieced Aunt Cora gave to him earlier in the film, and it turns out every first born daughter of the family Nemod (IT’S DEMON SPELLED BACKWARDS! THIS IS THEIR KINGDOM!) and, in the meantime, Susan decides to kill another landscaper she seduced into their mansion with her boobs and then telkinetically crushes his skull which squirts out one of his eyeballs into his hand and leaves blood all over the kitchen for Oliver to clean up when he gets home. Seriously, Oliver doesn’t even really question the blood, just whether or not Susan is okay. She shrugs of the blood all over the kitchen and says she’s too tired to discuss it and goes to bed. Oliver seems okay with this somehow…

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Susan steals a painting from the mall after levitating the gallery’s owner from the top floor of a mall and impaling him on an umbrella below before heading home to take a bubble bath and sweet talk her perturbed husband and treat us to some slightly hidden full frontal nudity before transforming and giving us full frontal she demon action and revealing her gnarly, flesh hungry demon tits! Will Dr. Andrews make it to the stately mansion in time to put an end to this foul demons reign of gore drenched terror or will Susan be lost to the ancient inherited evil forever? Also, enjoy one head scratcher of a twist int he last shot of the film. If you have any theories as to what that final shot means, please, let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance!

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Mausoleum is silly, schlocky and often hilariously over the top and bizarre. It plays like a really well constructed carnival fun house with plenty of fun visual flourishes, imaginative gore and make-up effects as well as a cast who takes the whole story and their performances seriously. It all adds up to a highly enjoyable, well produced but very bad and highly pleasurable piece of Trash Cinema. It has everything you could possibly want, Blood, Breasts and Beasts, a stable of actors willing to give it their all despite how silly it all is and they end up looking and a story that tries REALLY hard to bring some new shit to the demon possession table and sometimes manages to pull it off. I love the idea of burying your emotions and never truly expressing them or letting them out can manifest into something absolutely horrible later in life to the detriment to everyone around you. I mean, who the Hell knows if that’s what filmmaker Michael Dugan of Super Seal (1976) and Raging Hormones (1999) fame or writers Robert Madero (Camp Utopia (2002), Battered (2014) had in mind, but it feels like they were reaching for something legit to say with this film. But whether you want to read into this thing or not, it’s filthy, freakish pleasures will be enough to sustain those looking for a simple, mindless, cheap thrill heavy trip through the spookhouse. Mausoleum is a strange horror film oddity that’s well worth raiding the crypt for.

 

I’m awarding Mausoleum FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

21
Jan
20

(SFW) Spookies (1986) or Billy Learned The Truth at age 13

 

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“Uuuuuuhh, look at me: I’m Duke, the horny ghost!” – Duke, Spookies (1986)

a Primal Root written review

As an only child of the 80’s my mind is littered with memories of weekends spent at local video stores in the town where I grew up, Tallahassee, Florida. Nothing beat the thrill of an early Friday evening after school, ordering up a cheesy, greasy, sloppy pizza and heading to the video store to peruse the shelves for a new VHS adventure to waste my weekend with either with a fried over or totally on my own.  I would head past the New Release section and head straight to the Horror shelf where the most lurid, colorful and creative covers were. I would pick up every single box, gaze at the covers and their suggestive artwork and just let my imagination run wild simultaneously psyching myself up for what I might choose to take home with me that weekend. In the halcyon days of the video rental store era, when there was money to be made and stores were a dime a dozen and each store had THOUSANDS of titles to choose from, the cover art of a movie could make or break a tape. Just like the posters for Drive-In films of the past, you had to reel your audience in with artwork that promised something truly astounding.

One such VHS cover that branded itself on my brain and was always around at every damn video store I’ve ever been to, the 1986 nightmare fever dream…SPOOKIES.

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Direct your eyes to the poster heading this review created by comic artist Richard Corben. Imagine your tiny eight year old hand clutching the tape that contained the movie THAT artwork was based on? The lovely woman with huge breasts straining to pop out of her white dress as she is surrounded by a variety of creepy, weird creatures that seem to have no real connection to one another. There’s a grim reaper looking guy, a little goblin creature, someone with light popping out of her head and other undefinable atrocious monstrosities that leave your young mind spinning at the possibilities! And then there’s the bizarre face looking over this scene, with glowing red eyes and mouth that looks like it might be full of blood and what looks to be a bloody would to the middle of his forehead. What the Hell are Spookies and what in the world could it ever possibly be about. All I knew was that if the case contained Blood, Breasts and Beasts, it was going home with me, because that was the promise of an unforgettable late night and a fantastic story for the kids at school Monday morning. “Guess what I watched this weekend?”

Full disclosure, Spookies freaked me the fuck out when I was a kid and I think it’s due almost entirely to the face that it’s two movies in one. It began life as a film entitled Twisted Souls written and directed by Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran. However, during post-production, creative differences flared up between the filmmakers and their producers, and ANOTHER director, Eugenie Joseph, was hired on to film additional scenes with new actors which would change the film into something else entirely. He added several different subplots and excised over 45 minutes of the original film to create what we now know as SPOOKIES. And, to be perfectly honest, it gives the film a kind of unhinged nightmare logic quality that three me off entirely as a child. It did not follow the rules established by countless other horror films I had seen, so you just never knew what was going to happen, and to me, that is certainly a strength.

The film begins with a little kid named Billy (Alec Nemser) running away from home through the forest. His parents forgot his birthday, so he’s ditching them for the life of a homeless teenage idiot. He, of course, ends up getting stalked by a werecat guy in a golden vest who moves his face around as much as possible to make the latex creature stuff attached to his face seem like his actual face, but it instead just makes him look like a spaz. Billy meets a creepy drifter guy who instantly reminded me of Kiefer Sutherland from Lost Boys, who mocks Billy for being a stupid teenage runaway with nice shoes, clean clothes and an optimistic outlook on life. You think this drifter character is going to come in handy later as either a hero or villain, but as soon as Billy wonders off deeper into the woods, the drifter’s face is shredded into coleslaw by the ever present werecat. Billy ends up in an old, seemingly abandoned mansion and finds a room all decked out for his birthday…but there’s no one there. Not only that, but the balloons don’t have helium and are ties to the ceiling, there’s a moaning baby doll in a chair and teleporting toy robots and being the idealistic idiot that he is, Billy thinks this is a surprise birthday party his parents planned…even though there’s no one there and it’s creepy as shit. So, Billy opens a large present he thinks might be a bowling ball, only to find the severed head of the sorcerer sitting there waiting to wish him a happy birthday. Kind gesture? Sure. But it understandably terrifies Billy who runs off in the wilderness where is is pursued, once again,by the cat man who eventually corners Billy, slashes his face to ribbons, tosses the little boy into an open grave and buries the struggling boy alive, killing him.

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This scene fucked me up as a kid who loved playing in the woods at night living in the heavily wooded suburbs. I could easily put myself in his shoes and wanting to expect the best from my situation only to find myself missing most of my face and being suffocated to death on mouthfuls of heaping shovel scoops of dirt. See what I mean about the nightmare logic of SPOOKIES? It makes about as much sense as your standard childhood nightmare, only you’d wake up as soon as that first fling of dirt hit you in your bloody, stupid, face. In any other film, that kid would have ended up becoming the sidekick of some adult character who showed up. or would end up being the star, booby trapping monster and shit. No. Not in Spookies. In Spookies the 13 year old child dies along and afraid. His parents obviously don;t care about him or love him and he is now gone forever. Dead and buried in an unmarked grave by a catman, never to be mentioned, thought of or cared about for the remainder of the film. Now children, what do you think THAT felt like? It’s cruel, and awesome to 37 year old The Primal Root, but when I was just a Jim Henson’s Trash Cinema Baby, that whole sequence fucked me up real good and proper to the point I lost sleep over it and would get REAL nervous in the woods I used to play in without hesitation. Anyway, enough about me. Lets get back to SPOOKIES!

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We are soon introduced to our cast of victims who are driving around looking for a party out in the middle of nowhere, where do they end up? Of course, the old haunted mansion where Billy came upon the most surprising surprise party of his short life.  The mansion is inhabited by The Sorcerer whose name is Kreon (Felix Ward) and is on the verge of bringing his beautiful dead wife, Isabelle (Maria Pechukas) back to life once the final victims are sacrificed, namely, this new group of “teenagers” and adults looking to party. There’s the three piece suit wearing elder statesman of the group, Peter (Peter Dain), who is constantly butting heads with the “teenage” tough guy, horndog, and bizarrely placed zipper enthusiast, Duke (Nick Gionta) who also happens to take them to this haunted death trap mansion in the middle of nowhere. Along for this trip to Hell is Linda (Joan Ellen Delaney) Duke’s poor girlfriend, the ginger in the tiny periwinkle blue top with the massive tits she never pops out of the chute for us, Meegan (Kim Merrill) who is attached to Peter and I assume is his wife. There’s another couple, Dave and Adrienne (Anthony Valbiro & Charlotte Alexandra) who suffer from Rich being highly insecure and freaking out all the time over Adrienne controlling everything he does even though all she does is watch him freak out. There’s the obligatory joker/idiot Rich Peter Iasillo Jr) who spends the movie tripping over thing, dropping things, making poor jokes and even poorer decisions. My favorite character, Louis, who as I recall has two lines before being sucked down into own grave and dying before the action even really gets started and is never mentioned or again, let alone, mourned.  Also, odd lady out, Carol (Lisa Friede) Who starts not feeling well at the mansion, gets possessed by Kreon and uses a special Ouija board to unleash a bouquet of highly creative and vicious practical effect monsters to track them down and kill them one by one.

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The Gang knows their lives are in mortal danger and decide to split up to find a way out of this death trap. Some search around while others find secluded rooms to stay fully dressed and fall asleep in before being savagely gnawed upon by Hell beasts. Spookies quickly becomes a cornucopia of freakish blood thirsty hellions dead set on killing off every last cracker in the house. There’s a legion of little reptilian snake demons, a seductive, blood draining Arachnid Woman, a giant lizard man that shoot out head melting electric tentacles, a scythe wielding Grim Reaper and even a trio of chronically flatulent Much Men who rise from the floor of the win cellar and fart like Grandpa after Christmas dinner, you know, fast, furious, loud and with a vengeance.  Not only this, but there’s a legion of zombies surrounding the mansion, making escape impossible.

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People get lost, massacred, tempers flare, fights break as these characters fight for survival in this colorful, bonkers house of blood lusting horrors and it’s just as much fun as it is absolutely baffling. Add in that tacked on subplot about Kreon and and all his various creatures including CatMan and the Jawaesque Korda (A.J. Lowenthal) Son of Kreon and Isabelle, and Isabelle herself, who NEVER interact with the characters from the original film, Twisted Souls, at all despite being shot in the same location and always appearing nearby. It’s actually fun watching how they edit around two totally different stories being told but having to be meant to interact with one another. Towards the end of the film, the plot is left hanging when it comes to our group of party animals that must all be killed in order to give Isabelle life. Some supernatural event occurs where they all begin to age rapidly, an item is thrown, lightning enters a character’s eyes and that’s the last we see of them. Are they dead? Wounded? Senior Citizens? Monsters? What the Hell happened? Instead of us ever finding out, we are treated to an extended zombie chase scene where Isabelle’s clothes get torn off (though she never shows off the goods) as she tries to escape the clutches of the ghoul who resurrected her, the evil warlock Kreon, after she has seduced him and driven a knife deep into his forehead. Will we get any form of closure or will Spookies leave us wondering what happens next? Because if there’s one thing we know…ambiguity is scary.

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Spookies, man, what a fucking ride. It’s a film that feels like a sugar rush nightmare fueled fever dream filled with wild ideas that head down colorful hallways before being utterly forgotten and left for new ideas down even more colorful hallways. It’s like a horror film with A.D.D. and darkly sadistic sense of humor. Where Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm has a similar fantasy/unreality feel to it, Spookies, to it’s detriment or gain, depending on how you like the movie, due to the production issues and different hired hands and stories being mixed together, proves a much weirder concoction. Is the movie good? Absolutely not, it’s total Trash Cinema. But is it entertaining? Gang, Spookies never lets up. It’s balls to the walls ideas, throw it against the walls to see what sticks creativity mayhem. It;s colorful, it’s sloppy and it SHOULD. NOT. WORK. Seriously, this should have been a failure of the highest order. But it is so goddamn unabashedly manic and willing to do anything and go anywhere, you can’t help but join in the glee and stick with it to see just what insane shit will happen next. To me, that’s a Trash Cinema win of the highest order.

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Spookies is a VHS Video Rental store gem that’s well worth tracking down. If you, or someone you know, is even just mildly curious in cult Trash Cinema, Spookies is a great place to start. It’s a deranged and absolute delight. Unless you’re an overly sensitive and imaginative child living in the woods. Then it’s just good, old fashioned nightmare fodder.

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I’m awarding Spookies FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

18
Dec
19

To All A Goodnight (1980) or Why Is There No Holiday Orgy at The Finishing School?

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“Lock your door, too. I want you to be safe, Nancy. There’s evil here, I can feel it. The Devil’s here.” – Ralph the Caretake, To All A Goodnight

Merry Trashmas, Gang! Man, there’s nothing that gives me the warm fuzzies this time of year like huddling in front of the dumpster fire, roasting rats over an open flame and popping in a classic holiday themed horror film, of which, there is a veritable plethora to choose from. There’s one I’ve always tried to make it through, however. But the bootlegs have been so terrible, I never quite made it to the end due to me being unable to make out just what the Hell was happening through the dark, muddy pictures. It’s a slasher film from 1980, right when the slasher film boom was really taking off entitled To All A Goodnight. It’s a Christmas slasher which takes place at a finishing school for girls over the holiday break. So, having seen a slasher or two over the years I know exactly what to expect. Women bickering, some tits and ass and good, old fashioned splatter. But what really caught my attention was that this film is directed by none other than Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left alumni, David Hess! Yes, the man of a million exploitation horror flicks. If there’s one guy who knows how twisted the horror genre can be, it’s David Hess, so naturally, my imagination soared and my expectations grew…

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Prolific exploitation horror actor David Hess, how could this man NOT make a great slasher film?

With the recent release of an official blu-ray I decided to finally hunker down and give To All a Goodnight a go. And, man…it’s a pretty stripped down and bare bones affair, almost a prototypical slasher film with all the trimmings you’ve come to expect. The isolated location, a holiday setting, teens getting laid, smoking the wacky tabacky, the old crazy harbinger who warns of impending doom, inept law enforcement and a handful of red herrings. Even in 1980, the rules were just about commandments chiseled in stone where just about literally anyone could follow the formula and make a slasher formula that would make it’s money back and perhaps some profit.

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But, I digress, what To All A Goodnight lacks in originality, it makes up for it with an absolutely inept script, hilariously bad effects, and some actors that are either chomping the scenery or are lost without a map which makes for one of those peculiar viewing experiences where you are fully aware that what you are watching is sub-par, but you cannot look away because the film is littered with preciously stupid moments of non sequitur that are just as funny as they are baffling. It’s all these little misfires from a first time filmmaker that make To All A Goodnight such an interesting watch, even if it’s not a hugely successful piece of Trash Cinema.

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To All A Goodnight begins with a an inciting incident taking place two years ago where a girl is chased through the finishing school by her classmates chanting “SORORITY! SORORITY!” while wearing Santa hats. She runs out to an upper balcony and looks genuinely afraid of her fellow girls in finishing, before she leaps from the balcony when startled, turns into an obvious dummy, hits the ground and dies. The sequence literally takes all of 90 seconds and is so shoddy it looks like a backyard movie made one Sunday afternoon by bored teenagers.

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The leftover residents at Calvin Finishing School For Girls, which consist of five ravenously horny girls (one with an accent) and one younger girl who has never been kissed and is played Jennifer Runyun, you know, the woman who played Female Test Subject in the original Ghostbusters that Dr. Venkman calls a “legitimate phenomenon”? Yeah, this was her very first film and is the obvious final girl. There’s also a motherly figure in the cook who is looking after them as well as a tall, blonde, harbinger of doom who creeps around the enormous mansion these lucky girls inhabit carrying a huge bare of gardening sheers and constantly telling the girls the pray and that he can sense evil in the house. There’s also this woman who drops by who proclaims to be acquainted with death after losing all three of her husbands. She show up, drops off some cannoli, mentions how everything dies and then vanishes into the night never to be seen or heard from again.

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Mystery Girl

Oh yeah, and there’s one other girl who doesn’t eat dinner with the other girls and has no lines. She is seen in her bedroom stripping nekkid for a fellow in the yard yelling her name repeatedly. They are both stabbed to death by the killer quickly, quietly and without much fanfare. Again, the super cute blonde nekkid girl basically gets nekkid, gets dressed, goes outside smiling and is stabbed immediately without uttering a single line or being mentioned, ever, by the rest of the girls. Anyway, thanks for the mammaries, mystery girl!

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So, the fiery redhead among the group has a fuck buddy who is super wealthy and flies in for the weekend at the finishing schools private runway under the cover of darkness. This rich guy is so thoughtful he brings along a batch of studs with him to entertain the other girls as well. But, wouldn’t you know it, there’s only enough for the experienced girls, Nancy the virgin is left out entirely. If only they had brought the pilot with them up to the house, who is played by none other than legendary porn actor HARRY REEMS! You may remember him from Deep Throat!  The only genuine talent in the whole film and he is hardly in it. Gent had MORE than enough to entertain all the ladies up at Calvin House. Now THAT Would have been an entertaining movie…

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Harry Reems, here to stuff those stockings!

Cut to the the den of this stately mansion and one of these jocko’s is playing a guitar and can’t sing worth a shit and everyone is sitting around not talking, not looking at one another, as if they’re ashamed to be there. It could be pre-orgy tension, but I have a feeling it’s just dreadful direction and bad actors. Quick sideline, can someone tell me WHY these slasher flicks don’t contain orgies or group sex of any kind? These people sit around, bored out of their minds, yet obviously horny and willing to swap partners (which becomes apparent later in the film), so why, if you are in a tight space filled with other horny folks, do you not just drop your drawers and starts getting it on with the whole crew? Then again, I guess then you can;t pair people off to be killed around the property…maybe this is just my own personal preference/fantasy. Well, enough about me…  The boredom doesn’t last long as one character has her throat slit by someone in a Santa costume, and two more are murdered using a crossbow and an ax wielded by someone dressed in a suit of armor who had been watching them diddle one. The killer had to stand there, perfectly still, for hours just hoping someone would come fuck in front of them, and then would have wait for the ideal moment during the pork session to strike. Talk about commitment!

As the sun rises the survivors have a casual breakfast and seem to not give a shit about their vanished comrades. They’re too busy basking in the afterglow of one another’s late night pee squishing to care about almost half a dozen missing people. Even the cook who is watching over the girls seems nonplussed by the fact that there are now boys here she is having to cook for, too. It’s not long, however, before the virignal Nancy, while being chased around by a nerdy guy in glasses who wants to bang her, trips over the bloody, bug eyed corpse of Ralph the caretaker, whose body shoots up out of the shrubs like a goddamn whack-a-mole! It’s so close to being a moment of genuine shock, and in it’s cartoon lunacy has all the trappings of a true bit of nightmare imagery, but it left me with only giggles.

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The cops are called and everyone is told to stay indoors and look the doors and windows and there is a rift between the survivors. Some are sure that the missing members of the posse are surely dead, too, while the others refuse to believe they are in any real danger whatsoever. So, the swap fuck partners, some go outside to die, others go upstairs to fuck the cops and then strip nekkid, giving us full frontal, and when confronted with dead bodies, severed heads and a knife wielding killer Santa which SURELY spells dismemberment for the victim only leads them to put on a kimono and begging dancing and singing around the house. Huh?

And it’s all down to the final girl and nerdy boy to fight for their lives against the blood thirsty Santa Claus in the labyrinthine mansion. There are some twists and turns that even the most unversed horror fan will see coming a mile away, but it’s still quite a bit of fun watching To All A Goodnight stumble, fall, get up and then trip over their feet again as they hurtle themselves towards the film’s climax.

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It’s no wonder why David Hess never made a full length feature again because it looks like he had a tough time crafting this awkward chunk of strange, alas, his legacy will always be a captivating rape/revenge exploitation film heavyweight. The narrative of To All A Goodnight is all over, the dialogue is clunky, the gore effects are phony, but you get the feeling everyone is giving it what they can and no one really knows just what the Hell they’re doing, which gives To All A Good Night a sweet sort of homemade quality to it, which I really dig. There a nice couple moments of ladies getting nekkid with a bit of full frontal, which always helps liven things up, but the whole this is such bizarre hodge podge of tropes that were all, just at that moment in time, beginning to coagulate into the slasher formula that it nearly feels like a spoof…only it’s never intentionally funny, although unintentionally hilarious at times.

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To All A Goodnight is a Trash Cinema oddity, one worth checking if you are curious or a completest and might test the patience of the general movie going public. But for those of us who can see the bright side of a chunky, clunky, forgotten slasher film, To All A Good Night provides some holiday sugar to help was down the boring parts.

I’m awarding To All A Good Night TWO AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

22
Nov
19

The Dark Power (1985): Whip It Good With Lash LaRue To Show You How!

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“Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!” Lash LaRue as Ranger Girard in The Dark Power

a Primal Root written review

Whenever Thanksgiving starts creeping closer I always find myself contemplating the many attempts over the years to make horror films based around that specific holiday. Flicks like Blood Rage, and Home Sweet Home (which never explicitly states that it is taking place on Thanksgiving, but the family gathering, turkey dinner and football seem to suggest that it is), the awesome Eli Roth helmed trailer for a nonexistent 80’s slasher entitled Thanksgiving which gave us a taste of what COULD have been if someone decades ago had applied themselves to making a Turkey Day Slasher, and, of course, there’s the Thankskilling movies which blend blood, breasts and beasts with ample amounts of black comedy.

But I tend to veer more towards films which feature the most tenuous of connections to Thanksgiving, things that remind me of the basic elements of the holiday going wrong, primarily family dysfunction. Stuff out there like Desperate LivingThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Parents, and Pet Sematary. But there’s this one hunk of cinematic dog food that has always stuck out in the back of my mind as an unofficial Trash Cinema Thanksgiving film. I say unofficial because it doesn’t take place on Thanksgiving at all…it doesn’t even feature a damn turkey. Okay, shit, it has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving REALLY, but it DOES have to do with Native American Spirits killing off dumbass white crackers who do not respect the heritage which was protecting their uneducated asses since before their great grand parents we even born. So, with my own warped logic, the idea of this land’s native inhabitants coming back from the dead to kill spoiled ass white people who committed genocide against them just rubs me the right way this time of year. It’s a film entitled…THE DARK POWER.

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When a local Native American medicine man passes away, he leaves his estate to his money hungry, yuppie grandson who immediately decides to rent his grandpappy’s old homestead out to a bunch of sorority babes who were recently kicked out of their dorm. Of course, everyone has heard the local legends that Grandpa Medicine Man’s homestead is haunted by four vengeful, murderous, Native American spirits, known as The Toltec Sorcerers, which he had been protecting the area from for years with numerous safeguards and ancient rituals. Sure, some might be creeped out, but no one REALLY believes the stories of this old house. That is, with the exception of  old timer, and close personal friend of the deceased medicine man, Ranger Girard played by none other than the legendary western whipping boy, Lash LaRue! Girard does his damnedest to warn folks, without sounding like a Crazy Ralph, that they’re messing with powers…DARK POWER beyond their understanding and that his old friend has been guarding his game and keeping everyone safe for decades. Sure, it’s all superstition, all these modern, shaved vagina hipsters, say…But Lash LaRue is holding on to that mystical whip the recent worm food medicine man gave him just a little bit tighter.

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It isn’t long before the house is full of half nekkid nubile young women, one of which invited her younger brother, who excels at sexual harassment, to live with them, too. The home is frequented by rowdy friends, overweight plumbers and truck stealing 8 year old boys, all of which seem to remove or misplace an artifact set in place to ward off the evil four spirits which will bring unspeakable horrors down on the land they haunt once removed. The girls are all likable enough, one is the main girl, who really doesn’t do a whole lot but survive, there’s the one who is really into fitness and self defense with a good sense of humor and never wears pants, the one that looks like Julia Roberts and is an outspoken racist and future Trump supporter (she’s the one who invited her obnoxious creeper brother to live with them) and there’s the incredibly friendly black girl who ends up having to deal with the Julia Roberts look-a-like’s constant racist bullshit.

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But not for long! Because soon the four evil spirits of The Toltec Sorcerers are awakened and they emerge from the ground in their expressionless Spencer’s Gifts Halloween masks doused in K-Y Jelly and begin slowly, methodically killing all the assholes int he house and whittling through the least enjoyable characters, to the most and then to the boring ones? Will modern means be able to stop this ancient…DARK POWER, or will anyone be able to WHIP into action and  send this…DARK POWER back to Hell?

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This one is a doozy, Gang. First off, let me just say this one is exceedingly cheap looking, which gives it a charming, kind of made at home vibe. That sort of feeling of watching a movie some friends decided to make one afternoon on a budget of $50 which all went to pizza and beer and their cast and crew consists entirely of their friends and ONE Hollywood legend, Mr. Lash (scene stealer) LaRue. This instantly adds to the appeal for me as a fan of low rent film making.  The acting is adorably bad. You can tell these folks are REALLY trying to sell these characters and their bizarre motivations. The standouts are Mary Dalton as Mary Dalton, a local TV reporter, who is an okay interviewer and an A+ horn dog who is constantly hitting on Lash LaRue who is old enough to be her Grandfather. Cynthia Bailey as Tammie, the superstitious and incredibly kind hearted and tolerant young black woman who moves into a house where she will cohabitate with a racist and a racist’s racist sexual harassing brother. Suzy Martin as Suzy, the work out freak, who is forever upbeat and without trousers, even when getting chased by horrifying, bloodthirsty Toltec Sorcerers. Paul Holman as Uncle Earl Coleman who is a pretty solid piece of exceedingly hefty comic relief with a THICK southern accent, a heart of gold and delivers the line “It smells…like a FART!” with perfect diction and excellent comedic timing. Also, there’s a character who just shows up to get in a bathtub, chug a can of Budweiser and show off her boobs, I think her name is Page? Anyway, thank you for providing the ONLY shot of bare female breasts in the entire film with your only moment of screen time.

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And, of course, the MVP is Lash LaRue, who shows up when all hope is lost and whips the fuck out of anything that looks like it’s intent on hurting someone. The movie even opens with this strange scene that has absolutely no connection to the rest of the film which features a little kid getting berated by his mother about the haunted property the medicine man lives on and how he shouldn’t go near it. Well, the kid sneaks out and starts wondering some trails in the woods near the property where he is chased by a pack of vicious dogs. The kid runs for his life with the adorable, I mean HORRIFYING dogs nipping at his heels. The kid gets to a clearing and BEHOLD! LASH LARUE! Who cracks the fuck out of his whip and sends the raging rovers back into the woods they emerged from. The kid weeps with his face in the dirt, Lash puts his whip away and stares at the kid, emotionless…SCENE. WHAT DID THIS TEN MINUTE SEQUENCE HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? 1. It pads the film to make it feature length. 2. It established Lash as a force for good against that…DARK POWER in those woods. Seriously, anytime Lash shows up on screen, his charm and good nature come shining through and just make every moment a pleasure to watch. Especially in the final confrontation at the haunted house where he takes on all The Toltec Sorcerers, whipping the fuck out of them and taunting them the whole time. It’s great watching this old timer do what he does best, crack that whip, and be a hero.

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The effects are effective, but again, pretty cheap. Lots of folks getting shot with arrows, but one death really stands out, there’s this one ginger kid who gets yanked off of a pontoon boat, has his arm slowly pulled off and then has his face, again, SLOWLY ripped off. It’s gruesome and painful, but also delightful in it’s cheesiness. Also, when The Toltec Sorcerers are finally sent back to Hell, their demise is a lot of gooey, melty fun.

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This was the first feature directed by Phil Smoot, who has spent most of his life working behind the scenes as producer or Production Manager of other independent films like Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, Kevin Smith’s Tusk, and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I would LOVE to know more about the making of The Dark Power, but, unfortunately, there’s not a whole heck of a lot out there. One of it’s main claims to fame is being made fun of by Rifftrax.

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All and all, The Dark Power is a tale about the white man’s lack of respect for Native American culture, their people and their rich heritage. It’s easy to shrug off someone’s ancient beliefs as hogwash, but, it’s never a bad idea to just leave some trinkets in the ground if there’s a slight possibility it will keep you from having your entire face ripped off by a malevolent The Toltec Sorcerers raised from the dead because you thought your front yard looked better without the eagle on the skull decoration left there by the medicine man devoted his life to protecting your dumb, ungrateful white ass.

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So, this Thanksgiving, I recommend you pick up this hot, smoked turkey for you trash cinema fans to chow down on. It goes down easy, fills you up with cheap, trashy goodness and doesn’t disappoint. Oh yes, there’s plenty to be thankful for, especially this 1985 slice of Trash.

I award The Dark Power THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. Low-Rent appreciating Trash Cinema devotees, like myself, will adore it. Grab some friends, a case of beer, and have filthy Thanksgiving feast!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

26
Dec
18

(NSFW) Cannibal Holocaust (1980): Buffet of Brutality or Eat your Heart out. And your liver and your spleen.

 

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a Primal Root written review

“Here we are at the edge of the world of human history. Things like this happen all the time in the jungle; it’s survival of the fittest! In the jungle, it’s the daily violence of the strong overcoming the weak!” – Alan Yates, Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

*DISCLAIMER* Cannibal Holocaust does feature several sequences of onscreen animal cruelty. I. Kevin Cole, The Primal Root, do not in anyway condone the animal cruelty present in Cannibal Holocaust. That being said, I refuse to let that keep me from watching a piece of our cinematic history, which I feel lis important. That being said, I fully support your choice to NOT watch Cannibal Holocaust due to it’s cruelty to animals. I totally understand. 

Like the character Trash says in Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 living dead classic, The Return of the Living Dead, the worst way she can imagine dying is being eaten alive. It’s an honest, primeval statement that is part of our most basic animal instincts, one that still holds firm ever since our primitive ancestors hid from razor toothed beasts with flesh ripping claws intent to turn us into Sunday. What could be more horrifying that that? OF course, the thought that our own species would resort to such barbarism, hunt us down as food, take their time in killing us, and then devour what remains.

It’s a subject that has been well worn in the brutal and exhaustive cannibal exploitation genre that began in the mid 1970’s and remained popular through the 1980’s. The films of the cannibal genre would typically involve a batch of technically savvy contemporary young people looking to exploit the stone-age natives within an Asian or South American rainforest, only for things to turn violent with the young people raping, murdering and terrorizing the natives, and then having the tables turned and being met with horrifically grotesque retribution. These exploitation films also share an attempt to deliver accomplished and startlingly real gore effects as well as genuine on screen animal cruelty. What I’m saying here, is that this genre is aimed at a very small segment of society and would never be made in the same fashion again. However, for a small period of time, this films were being churned out by Italian filmmakers year after year and playing for months on end at grindhouses across America to audiences eager to see if these films actually delivered on the sensational claims their advertisements boasted.

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Few films of the genre have maintained as as much notoriety as Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato’s 1980’s cannibal epic, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Upon it’s premiere the graphic violence garnered so much controversy that the film was seized my a local Italian magistrate and Deodato himself was arrested on obscenity charges and, later on, he was charged with with making an actual snuff film, as rumors began circulating that the main stable of actors were actually murdered on camera. To make matters worse, the supposedly deceased actors had signed on to contracts before filming to ensure that they would not show up in any type of movie, commercial or other media for at least one year after Cannibal Holocaust’s release as to keep the illusion that the film was a genuine found footage documentary. Thankfully, the actors were all contacted and interviewed on Italian television to prove they had not been murdered and eaten in The Green Inferno. Deodato also explained how all the effects worked and provided behind the scenes photos of the cast and crew interacting jovially, and the court dropped murder charges. Still, due to the genuine animal slayings and cruelty, Cannibal Holocaust was banned in Italy, Australia, and reportedly over 50 other countries.  If anything, I feel all this controversy is quite the testament to the power of a truly unique, frenzied, bleak and genuinely horrifying cinematic experience.

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Which brings us to the movie that raised this enduring brouhaha that has left a mark on this piece of entertainment forever more, Cannibal Holocaust. The story focuses on a much acclaimed and celebrated American documentary film crew, known for their brutal, ground level realism and unflinching portraits of bloody reality,  that goes missing in the Amazon rainforest in 1979 as they are filming a new documentary on the indigenous cannibal tribes. The film proper begins with strapping, mustachioed, anthropologist Professor Harold Monroe (played with all the masculine charm and gusto in the world by the legendary trained actor and Adult film Hall of Famer, Robert Kerman)  agrees to put together and lead a rescue team into the “Green Inferno” to find the documentary film crew, or what’s left of them, and recover any footage so that the investors can try and make their money back.

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After days of trekking and several grisly discoveries, clues and encounters with various cannibal tribes such as the Yacumo tribe, Shamatari tribe, and the Yanomami tribe, a picture begins to form that the American film crew brought great unrest to the people of these tribes. The rescue team manages to save a group of Yanomami warriors from certain death and then bathes nude in the river to gain their trust, showing his willingness to be vulnerable in front of them. Once the women of the tribe strip nekkid, hop in the river with him, mess around and inspect his white boy wing-ding for a few minutes, they then lead Professor Monroe and his team to a shrine the tribe has erected. A shrine made of the remains of the American documentary film crew.  Monroe trades a tape recorder with the tribe for the surviving reels of film the crew shot.

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Once back in New York city, Professor Monroe along with the investors screen the footage obtained from the Yanomami tribe, and it becomes apparent how shockingly amoral and inhumane this four man film crew was to the natives in the Amazon rainforest. They are seen staging horrifying mass incinerations of men, women and children, disgusting rapes of native girls where they then impale the woman on a pike, the killing of their livestock for shits and giggles, all in the name of good, usable footage, the filmmakers are willing to maim, murder and desecrate whoever they must in the quest for the perfect footage that will make their film a controversial smash hit with audiences, staging whatever carnage they so deem necessary.  That is, until the tribes turn the tables and come after the film crew in a blood drenched, shaky cam, parade of absolute unflinching brutality, it must be seen to be believed.  There is rape, penises are hacked off, people are drawn and quartered by the bare hands of the tribe. The American film crew has reaped exactly what they have sewed, and proved themselves just as uncivilized, monstrous and depraved, if not, more so, as the cannibalistic tribes themselves. Needless to say, the investors are deeply disturbed by the footage and the executives order the footage be destroyed. As Professor Monroe leaves, he ponders just who the real cannibals are, before the camera pans up to the high rises of New York City, our societies own concrete inferno, and the film fades to black.

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In all honesty, when the film ended, I had to look up the actors who we watched getting torn to pieces, hacked to death, raped and eviscerated just to make sure they weren’t actually murdered on screen. The final reels of Cannibal Holocaust are, without a doubt, some of the most effective and visceral horror set pieces I have ever witnessed. The shaky came, the effects and the performances feel so damn genuine and real, that the illusion of it all being true is a hard feeling to shake. Some have said this is the Grandpappy of the found footage genre, if that is the case, Grandpappy has yet to be topped.  I honestly think the key element is, as weird as it sounds, subtlety. There is plenty of gratuitous violence, but the blood isn’t spraying across the jungle like a cartoon. It is dark crimson, real, and isn’t the focus of what’s happening. The performances and camera work are what sell the horror of what occurs in Cannibal Holocaust. And I think that’s a lesson filmmakers should take away from it. We see horrible things being done to other human beings, but it’s focused on for mere seconds. It’s the frenzied rush of horror as people are trying to survive their own grotesque demise at the hands of those who so richly deserve their revenge. The feeling of horror that you know you deserve this and you’ve brought this fate worse than death upon yourself.

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I would say, despite many of the films exploitation elements, and their are many, including the actual killing of several actual animals, Cannibal Holocaust cuts to the darkest corners of human nature, and in doing so, is one of the most potent and effective horror films ever made. But, hey, funny piece of trivia: When screened for the tribes they filmed with, the tribes thought the film was hysterical and considered it a comedy!

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This is a MUST SEE for horror aficionados and filth fans alike. Even if you fast forward past the animal cruelty, you will be left shocked and in disbelief by the end.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

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29
Jul
18

(NSFW) Just Before Dawn (1981): Rise and Die

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a Primal Root written review

“There’s nothing out there but God’s little creatures, more scared of you than you are of them.” – Warren, Just Before Dawn

Tales of backwoods hicks slaughtering city folks is as old as the hills themselves. Freshly showered kids in their L.L. Bean disco survival boots, shaved vaginas and cans of Pringles head off to hike and pitch their tents fully exposed in the elements and figure, oh yeah, nothing’s going to happen to me out here among the trees, wildlife and lack of of immediate assistance from someone who knows what the Hell they’re doing. From The Hills Have Eyes, to House of 1,000 Corpses, to Deliverance, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; white-bread, Nike wearing, pink, privileged idiots with six figure incomes load up their campers and right into certain death despite there nearly ALWAYS being some old coot standing by the side of the rarely traversed, nearly grown over dirt road saying the same old speech “You’re doomed if you stay the night up that road!”

And what do those idiots do? Crank up the Def Leppard and rush forward into painful, bloody oblivion. It’s an old yarn always looking for an invigorating new take, or at least a competent hand to at the very least, make it interesting.

Enter the forgotten 1981 backwoods camping slasher gem, JUST BEFORE DAWN, and film that I’d heard a few people mention in decades past, but never in the same sentence as well worn genre fare. Upon finally getting a chance to watch it, I was not only blown blown away by how solid it was, but I would put it among my all time favorite slasher films of this backwoods sub-genre.

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Our pre-credit inciting incident takes place in a rotten, weather worn church where two older hikers are joking around and acting like goofballs trying to make one another laugh as they wonder through this holy relic. By the way, one of these old hikers is none other than Mike Kellin who played Mel, the owner of Camp Arawak in another excellent summer slasher film, Sleepaway Camp from 1983. When one man notices a freakish inbred redneck peering through a hole in th church’s roof and eerily backlit by the sun, he steps out slowly from the church, and in a real dick move, doesn’t mention it to his friend who is too busy being a comedian to notice. Well, as you might imagine, the man left in the church ends up getting possibly the most brutal death in the film and has a massive, multi-pronged machete stuck though his pee hole and right out his poop chute. And the film doesn’t cut away once this happens, oh no, we see the poor hikers horrified, pained reaction to suddenly find his cock and balls forcibly filleted in half and probably shoved right out his own asshole. He reached behind himself to feel the machete blade sticking right out through his jeans…it’s a nightmarish moment and one where the viewer cannot help but imagine the unfathomable agony that bastard must be experiencing as he slowly begins to bleed to death among the pews of stink, mildew encrusted old church.  This poor bastard’s bud, Ty, who just left him to die, runs off into the woods and down the side of the mountain with the giant, massively overweight bloodthirsty mountain man in hot pursuit.

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From left to right: Constance, Jonathan, Daniel, Megan & Warren. Who will survive and who will inherit the R.V.?

 

We are then immediately introduced to our core group of young folks headed up the side of the mountain in their camper to spend a long weekend hiking, skinny dipping, and mellowing out in the woods. There’s the fun loving couple Jonathan (Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon) and Megan (Jamie Rose, from Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and a billion TV Shows), the nerdy photographer who didn’t bring a date and will probably be spending the majority of the trip, when not taking photos, masturbating into the bushes, Daniel (Ralph Seymour from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Killer Party, Meatballs part II) and our main course couple, our blonde alpha male and guy steering the RV, Warren (played by none other than Greg Henry who starred in James Gunn’s Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy flicks) and his worry wart, uptight, girlfriend, Constance (Deborah Benson from 1941, 2 Days in the Valley).  On their way up, they are warned by none other than the late, great, George Kennedy as Roy McLean, an old timer plant doctor and horse whisperer who knows there’s something terrible up in them mountains. Not only that, but the kids bust the shit out of a deer with the R.V., and run into Ty, who at some point came across a massive jug of whiskey as he was fleeing for his life, drank three quarters of it, and slurrily begged the kids to take him down the mountain before he is turned into a dick and ass kabob by some horrifying fat fucks in the woods. The kids leave him some food and head up the mountain, as they go, Ty watches as the Mountain Man hops from a nearby tree onto the back of the camper to pursue more nubile and fuckable victims.  Ty laughs his ass of and continues stumbling down the mountain.

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Soon our rag tag group of fresh faced youths have set up camp, hiked behind waterfalls, and noticed some peculiar whistling coming from the woods…the crew even noticed a young woman singing beautifully down by a stream, when they approach her, the girl goes running into the woods. All these strange omens mean little to the young folks as they starts letting loose. The most notable is Constance, who ditches her waist high khakis and long sleeve denims short, and slips on some tight fitting daisy dukes that let her butt cheeks hang out and the ties her button down shirt up to expose her mid-drift and tease at the subtle breasts bouncing around underneath. It’s a transformation that doesn’t go unnoticed by her camping buddies and seems to coincide with the five friends descending deeper into the woods, as if she is becoming a bit more wild herself. She even paints her toenails while sitting on a long. It’s cute, it’s hot, and it’s a little weird, but you know me, I’m down with weird female transformations, especially the wild and sexy kind.

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Before long, the kids find themselves down at the base of the waterfall where Jonathan and Megan decide to go skinny dipping and fool around a little bit while the other’s make breakfast. It’s all fun and games as Megan splashes water around and giggles while Jonathan goes under water, gropes her and floats up pretending to be dead, but soon the scene becomes one of the creepiest in the damn film, as we see one of the filthy, gigantic mountain men descend into the water in the background and go under… Jonathan dips under the water again and vanishes. Megan, assuming Jonathan is playing around, continues to giggle and call out to him. That’s when a filthy big old pair of hands start groping at her above and under water. She assumes Jonathan is playing around and getting frisky and it is really uncomfortable as these hands slide across her skin, and are most certainly poking ad probing some intimate places just below our field of vision. Soon, Jonathan surfaces and walks out of the water at the shore line and waves at Megan as she is being molested. As expected, she begins screaming and running out of the water. It’s a truly freakish moment brimming with suspense and unease, we know what these nasty backwoods killers are capable off and how perverse their methods of dispatch can be. The terror of the moment is only made right by the sight of Megan’s lovely body running out of the water, sopping wet, nekkid, running and beautiful. The moment was absolutely horrifying, but he coming out of the water surrounded by the lush forest sure makes you contemplate the beauty of nature.

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Now, what blows my mind, is the next time we see these kids they’re dancing all sexy like by fire light RIGHT AFTER THIS INCIDENT! Let me tell you, if my wife or anyone I was comping with came to me hysterically crying about being molested, I’d be loading up the camper and booking it down the side of the mountain. But even Megan seems to have gotten overt her trauma in no time and is clapping her ass cheeks on Daniel the nerd boy’s wang doodle like it’s Spring Break at Panama City Beach. Everyone is gyrating the love bits and shaking their money makes when a three piece family of rednecks (Papa, Mama, and the little singing girl from earlier)  bash the fuck out of their radio, emerge from the darkened woods and are now the THIRD people to warn these kids that they’re going to die.  You kids are “Gonna wake up THE DEVILS!”  Time to load up the camper and head to civilization right?

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Of course, the kids don’t listen, and the next day decide to go messing around in the woods in separate groups which leads to some of the most horrifying and suspenseful shit in the movie, with each murder being set up masterfully and pulled off with maximum suspense, which is not exactly the hallmark of the slasher genre. Nine times out of ten I find myself bored to pieces as someone is walking down a dark corridor, or walking around the woods calling out for a friend. But Just Before Dawn knows exactly what TO show us and what NOT TO show us in order to actually give us that sense of dread, or knowledge that something terrible is occurring. What’s also impressive is that the film doesn’t rely on gore effects to sell it’s shocks and scares, instead leaning on it’s actors to make us feel the fear, the pain, the struggle they’re in, which, again to my amazement, the cast fully delivers. Not only do they create characters we believe and genuinely like, but the film take the time to let the actors deliver what they need to in order to bring the audience with them into the horror they’re going through. Also, the score composed by Brad Fiedel is far eerier than most genre entries ever get and creates a nightmarish atmosphere of solitude and doom.

Jeff Lieberman wrote and directed this lean, mean, fucking slasher film which relies on subtlety, allowing the terror to build, and once the shit hits the fan, doesn’t shy away from laying it on us with harrowing set pieces, nail biting suspense and making us witness to some nasty fates. Lieberman’s a name I never hear mentioned when it comes to cult horror film makers, but the brother directed another fantastic down home horror fest, 1976’s Squirm, the LSD shock fest Blu Sunshine in 1977 and even directed the vastly underrated Halloween horror film, Satan’s Little Helper. Also, looking at his IMDB page, the guy directed a documentary about the mysterious death of boxing legend Sonny Liston and wrote, of all thing, The NeverEnding Story part II… Huh…

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Just Before Dawn is a slasher film that NEEDS to be recognized and HAS to be seen by fans of the genre. It’s a standout among a genre that was just at the beginning of going stale, even as early as 1981. Lieberman and company made a flick that pulls no punches and creates a real nightmare scenario. The killers themselves are a little goofy when you finally get a good look at them, but the actors trying to escape from them do a damn good job of selling their menace, even when the killer’s goofy unibrow and giant beer bellies, do not. The final battle at base camp is fucking astounding and in it’s execution, and in it’s final moments, just before dawn, we see a new dawn and the final transformation. It has to be seen to be believed.

I award Just Before Dawn FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

You have got to see this sucker!

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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