Posts Tagged ‘88

30
Sep
13

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988) Should Have Stayed Dead

If only this movie were half as cool as it's poster.

If only this movie were half as cool as it’s poster.

a Primal Root written review

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Thom Mathews as Joey in “Return of the Living Dead Part 2”

1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”  was a cynical, bleak, hilarious gory, nihilistic balls to the wall reinvention of the living dead zombie tropes,  “Return of the Living Dead part 2” is not a step back in regards to quality and creativity, but a disastrous leap backwards over a cliff onto a landfill full of busted whiskey bottles and used up ideas .  “The Return of the Living Dead’s” horror began with a shambling, rotten, corpse pleading for “More Brains!”, which is exactly what the film delivered. An intelligent, fresh and uncompromising vision of what the living dead could be when you break free from all the steadfast rules and restraint set in place by George Romero in his  1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.”  Return of the Living Dead is fierce, brilliant and everything you could ever want from a horror film of it’s breed. It’s a one of a kind and to make a sequel would be pretty goddamn tough…especially with the ending it delivered.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned such a horrendously bad, wet fart of a sequel than “The Return of the Living Dead Part 2.” Rarely has a cinematic follow up missed the mark so widely, it’s pretty astounding. Long gone is the wit and dark sense of humor that poured forth from the original, in it’s place are lame jokes, Three Stooges Gags and cast members from the previous film, James Karen and Thom Mathews, returning  as grave robbers with nothing to do but recite their funniest lines from the original film and literally succumb to the same fate they did on the first go round. These jokes were great and worked the first time we heard them, but when you lift the best material from the first movie and reuse it line for line, it’s stale and depressing.

That's what the original "Return of the Living Dead" was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

That’s what the original “Return of the Living Dead” was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

Here’s the low down, there’s a little ginger kid named Jesse (Michael Kenworthy who also appeared in the excellent 1988 remake of “The Blob”) who lives in a developing suburb that looks eerily similar to Questa Verde from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” or that suburb where Elliot lived in Speilberg’s “E.T.” Anyhoo, the kid is chock full of quips and one liners which he unleashes on some neighborhood bullies who he ends up getting picked on by and, eventually, discovers one of those  “corpse in a can” barrels the military likes to lose all over this great nation of ours., which has come to rest in a sewage runoff near the local cemetery. Noticing a decomposing body through the barrels glass lid initially has the kids running for their lives, but as you and I both know from “Stand By Me” young boys cannot stay away from dead bodies and the lure of this corpse barrel proves to be the undoing of the two bullies picking on Jesse. Two head back later that day, bang on the barrel a little bit, and for their efforts are greeted with a nice juicy blast of 2-4-5 Trioxin, the reanimation juice introduced in the original, when the canister opens spraying the boys right in the kisser. hold on to your brains, ’cause we all know just where that leads, don’t we?

As night falls in our little hamlet, the Trioxin makes it’s way to the nearby cemetery and, as if Mother Nature is in on the joke, the sky opens up and a downpour begins soaking the soil and the corpses it contains, priming these cadavers for a night of brain skull cracking and brain slurping. Also in the cemetery are, as I mentioned before, a couple of grave robbers who happen to be the two very talented character actors, James Karen and Thom Mathews, who are for the most part just going through the motions and spouting their greatest hits for the run time and earning their paychecks for appearing in such lazy bullshit. Well, the dead come back to unlife right on cue, but this time they rise from their tombs to a goofy, Looney Tunes style score and are prone to slapstick and pratfalls as they try to pull themselves out of their graves. It’s all painfully unfunny, uninspired, and far from exciting.

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Soon the movie gets into the scream-a-thon where in place of the originals frantic, insane pace and sense of panic, director Ken Wiederhorn decides to just have the characters scream nonstop for about thirty minutes. Again, this is tedious and boring. As the core cast goes on screaming and wailing, on and on and on, as they run around the suburbs, peel out in a cherry red convertible and freak out as a disembodied hand wiggles around in the back seat is enough to make you start wondering just where in the Hell you put your handgun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy and the epitome of shitty film making.

As you can guess, Thom Mathews and James Karen both turn into zombies and Thom manages to seduce his girlfriend into letting him eat her brains in an awkward scene where she appears to get some kind of sexual gratification as her boyfriend’s teeth crunch open her skull…Just as this occurs and ROTLDp2 dangles the possibility of getting interesting in our face, it unceremoniously yanks it away from us and we find ourselves stuck with Jesse, his sister (whose bouncing breasts during her workout routine early on hypnotized me when I was in third grade) and the dashing cable repair man (played by Dana Ashbrook from TV’s Twin Peaks) as Jesse solves every problem and saves the day…that’s right, an 8 year old kid halts the zombie apocalypse.  In a matter of hours. By luring them into a power station and then simply electrocuting them all…Ooooh, I don’t know…

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

I cannot express enough just how unfunny and uninspired this shitty Speilberg wannabe hunk of shit is. Replacing bold social satire, dark humor and genre innovation with claptrap kid’s movie nonsense  is a disgrace to the former film. It’s pointless, dull and only succeeds in being exceedingly forgettable. This series is, as of 2013, five films long and every single sequel manages to completely miss the point of what made the original so special. I understand that ROTLDp2 has a kind of cult following, but for the life of me, I cannot find a single person who genuinely likes this movie. If you do, I would honestly love to hear what it’s appeal is because I just can’t figure it out.

The acting is serviceable (Everyone, scream a lot! Little kid, say something sarcastic and obvious that sounds like a screenwriter wrote it as opposed to a child speaking naturally!) , the punk soundtrack and excellent score has been replaced by bargain basement hair metal and a score that would not be out of place in a Woody Woodpecker short, the set pieces are fittingly cheesy and crafted to be as comical and none threatening as possible, and the film and the story itself are lacking any teeth whatsoever which is truly saddening when considering the source material.  At the end of the day, trying to follow up “The Return of the Living Dead” with a worthy sequel is a fool’s errand. Still, to see it spawn something so half hearted, unimaginative and shockingly boring really left this fan of Trash Cinema feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as "Return of the Living Dead Part 2" ended!  Woooooah...

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” ended! Woooooah…

If “The Return of the Living Dead” is lightening in a bottle,   “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” is more like poop in your pants.

I give this shit smear 1/2 out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.  Approach with caution.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

brain-damage-poster-4

a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

brain_damage_poster_02

Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

11
Nov
11

Action Jackson and The Art of Catching a Cab

a Primal Root written review

“How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson

Action has never really been my genre.  I can’t exactly tell you why, but it’s not really one I go out of my way to watch unless it’s got some kind of hook to it like The Road Warrior, Predator or the greatest action film ever made, Robocop. However, I am beginning to change my tune a little bit and give this genre a bit more attention. What changed my mind and get the action film on my Trash Cinema radar? Two words…

Action Jackson.

Carl Weathers (Predator, Happy Gilmore) plays a badass police Sergeant, Jericho Jackson. Better known as…ACTION JACKSON. The man’s exploits are legendary and purse snatchers simply faint when the man simply looks into their greedy, thieving eyes. However, Action Jackson was demoted from the rank of Lieutenant some time early after a scandal involving a local big wig car magnate named Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson-Poltergeist, TV’s Coach). See, Jackson nearly tore the arm off this rich, therefore, important member of Detroit’s 1% during an investigation. Don’t garner too much sympathy for Delleplane, see, hie a sexual deviant, sociopath who own a nightclub, kills his competition, enslaves women with heroine and knows kung-fu.  Yeah, the guy’s a major league asshole.

Whenever I think "master of martial arts" I instantly think of Craig T. Nelson.

One such enslaved dope head is his club’s band’s spastic lead singer and sex pot, Sydney Ash, played by none other than 80’s pop star and and ex-Prince fuck buddy, Vanity (The Last Dragon, Tanya’s Island), who bring much believability to her role (*ahem*) and is surprisingly fun to watch on screen as she gets all naked with Criag T. Nelson and ends up having to be saved by Action Jackson as she is targeted for death by Delleplane. These two unlikely allies bond as Jackson is framed for the murder of Delleplane’s ignorant wife, Patrice (played by a pre-stardom Sharon Stone who they still manage to get totally naked for the flick)  and Sydney begins going through what seem to be pretty mild withdrawal symptoms for someone who is supposed to be totally reliant on the drug…

Delleplane's "Boobs for Smack" program in action.

Action Jackson ends up being a balls to the wall, cheese-ball, action flick. The film doesn’t take itself seriously at all and neither should the audience. The cast does a fantastic job of playing off one another , especially Weathers and Nelson who try to steal every scene they have together from one another. Carl Weathers is such an insanely likable actor who exudes a kind spirit as well as a very serious “don’t duck with me or I will crush your bones into powder” aura that you can;t help but like the guy. The character of Action Jackson is reasonable, intelligent, and honorable. Not only that but he forgoes his car during a car chase sequence which was easily one of the highlights of the film for me. That’s right, he RUNS DOWN a cab hurtling full speed down a busy Detroit city street. No, really, he even manages to jump on top of it, punch through the windshield and send the damn thing hurtling into a building…and walks away totally unscathed.

That’s Action Jackson.

Craig T. Nelson…you know, I will never get used to him playing a villain. I thought it was weird in The Devil’s Advocate, and here he’s and out and out psychopath which is even stranger to me. I grew up on Poltergeist so I will always see T. Nelson as a father figure.Still, to my surprise, he managed to pull off the sociopath kung-fu expert, Delleplane, commendably well and you can tell he’s having a blast playing such a scuzzy, irredeemable character. He plays the part with gusto and, in the end, might even steal the show…

Now that's a 200 dollar stunt, right there!

It’s not excessively exploitative, never gets too nasty, and all the elements that need to work do! There are some mind blowing stunts in Action Jackson and some full body burns that are so epic in scale it’s kind of astonishing. Especially early on when a man explodes into flames and goes sailing out an upper level high rise window in slow motion. And that shit happens about 5 minutes into the film! From that moment I was hooked.The fight scenes are really well done, expertly choreographed and edited together and shot very well. Never too choppy that you can’t tell what going on, but just quick enough to make us feel each and every skull cracking blow.

The critics pretty much turned this movie into their bitch and even garnered a  Razzie Award Nomination for Vanity as Worst Actress, which is a real shame, because I really enjoyed her time onscreen. And, no, not just because she shows her tits and runs around with bouncing cleavage for most of the run time. I really felt she did a decent job with the material and played her part pretty damn well.

I'll catch Vanity, you catch Carl, okay?

I think most critics missed the boat with Action Jackson. This flick is supposed to be a fun, B-Movie, action. This isn’t Platoon, gang, this is Action Jackson! Just look at the title! the whole film’s a blast to sit through and I dare you to walk away from this flick without a smile on your face. The action is great, the TnA is plentiful, and the fun is non-stop. There’s electrocution with Christmas lights, a car chase inside a mansion, hilarious one liners, jars of cut off testicles, barbecued ribs, Biff from Back to the Future getting a foot-job, the of the stars of Predator reunited, and the greatest cab catching scene ever committed to film.

In L.A., you don't catch the Christmas Spirit, the Christmas Spirit catches you.

So, if you are in the mood for some fun, non-pretentious, over the top, action fun accept no substitutes. Action Jackson is the real deal.

“There ain’t been any pussy at your pad since your mother helped you move in. They oughta call your place the House of Wax.” – Officer Lack

05
Dec
10

Two Moon Junction: The Perils of White Privilage or These are the Problems You Want to Have

a Primal Root review

You know, I always wondered what the way to a gorgeous, sexually repressed, southern debutante’s heart would be. How in the world could I ever get such a woman nekkid and in the sack or living room carpet? Well, believe it or not, the path is easily traversed. All you need is a cute dog and penchant for breaking and entering.

That is, if the 1988 soft core sexploitation flick Two Moon Junction is to be believed. Written and directed by the mastermind  behind The Red Shoe Diaries, Mr. Zalman King (remember his awesome acting skills in such Trash Cinema greats as Trip with the Teacher and Galaxy of Terror?), Two Moon Junction is the tale of a gorgeous  blond, nubile, southern bell named April (played by the supernaturally gorgeous, Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame) who is being married off in a kind of arranged marriage to some white bread, yuppie guy mere weeks after they both graduated from their posh, exclusive deep fried southern university.

April lives in a world where everything is white. The houses, the walls, the clothes, the cars, and just about the entire populace. With the exception of the hired help who are all black. Did I mention this movie takes place in modern day 1988? Anyway, April is complacent in her little world of white privilege and arranged nuptials, but she ( of course) yearns for more as evidenced by a buck naked steamy shower at the exclusive gym where she reveals not only her remarkable and perfect bosom but a hidden peephole that leads over to the fella’s side of the showers that’s far too well hidden for us not to assume she hadn’t known about this thing from previous experience. It’s like that scene in Porky’s but in reverse and trying to sell it as a meaningful moment, when really, we just wanted to see some nekkid people. She takes a look at the swinging wang doodles, rubs her Raspberry pop-tart and the Circus comes to town. Literally.

Alice takes her tweenage sisters to the bargain basement traveling fair where she is hit on clunckily by a shirtless, greasy, pockmarked carny hunk by the name of…Perry. The guy is kind of a jerk but he is a hard working, blue collard muscle head  who wants to stick it to April so they exchange the obligatory sexy looks, Perry mocks her fiance, and thenPerry stalks her down and breaks into her house to take a shower while April’s family and fiance are away. Yes, he BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE and takes a shower. At first, April does what any human being with an ounce of smarts would do and threatens to call the cops. He counter-threatens to run out the front door nekkid.  What? She did ask him to leave, right? How is this a threat? Now she’ll have a free pair of smelly acid washed jeans!

Needless to say, after Perry mocks her lifestyle, busts out a video camera and talks a little dirty carny to her she’s just aching for this guy to shake her dust. It’s knees to the sky and the two embark on a whiny, manipulative, vapid, depressing love affair that will have you begging that these two just pull a Romeo and Juliet and end this damn thing.

Now, I am not saying the love scenes aren’t hot. Most of them are. And the ones that work are all due to the ravishing beauty that is Ms. Sherilyn Fenn. Sure, Ms. Fenn gets completely buck naked in Two Moon Junction, but she’s the kind of woman that you can look at fully clothed and still melt. Just look at her face and into those eyes. Hell, just look at her in Twin Peaks. The woman is in a sweater and a long skirt and she still just oozes temptation and sexuality.  She is, really, the only strength Two Moon Junction has. Sadly, she can’t get a bit of chemistry going with her leading carny, Perry, played with very little lunk-head charm by the meaty Richard Tyson. He looks like a romance novel cover come to life and is just about as fulfilling and cliche ridden as the novel itself. Long story short (too late) the guy stinks.

Okay, now that I am thinking about it, the film has one other thing going for it. There are some seriously cute dogs hanging out with Perry. *SPOILER ALERT* Don’t get too attached to the first dog. Booze fueled angry carnies and defensive canines never ever mix. Ever. Especially in soft core porn.

So, does Alice go through with her marriage to her filthy rich, clean shaven white boy or does she choose the rugged, womanizing, bourbon swilling, unemployed carnival worker? Will Alice’s family execute Perry Creepshow style ( it’s hard to say he was a deer when he’s behind the wheel of a Mack Truck)? Will there be a sex scene in the film that doesn’t end with Sherilyn Fenn sobbing her eyes out (is this a turn on to someone? Hell, I’m sure it’s got to be.)? How does beating the hell out of a truck shut down the power to an entire carnival? Does Perry ever get his bourbon? You’ll just have to check out Full Moon Junction and see for yourself!

For whatever reason, I felt incredibly depressed when the movie was over. And I think the ending was …happy? I dunno. You kind of get the sense that Sherilyn was kind of uncomfortable doing this flick which she was told would be her big break. Nope, that came a couple years later thanks to David Lynch, Mark Frost, and the murder of Laura Palmer.  And she didn’t have to take a stitch of clothing off to prove her star power.

It’s a female driven southern sex fantasy with plenty of soft focus, oiled man chest, and unchecked lust, and naked women. There’s not a lot of joy to be had in the proceedings. None of the key players here ever seem entirely happy with any of the options their lives have. Even the ending seems questionable.  It’s the perfect sleazy, soft core movie date for you and that special trashy someone in your life. Especially if you love hearing your lover ray after you have sex.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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