Posts Tagged ‘90’s

23
Mar
20

(NSFW) Night Killer (1990): Tasty Fright Chicken

Night Killer poster

“FRIED CHICKEN AND FRENCH FRIES!” – Peter Hotten as Axel, Night Killer (1990)

a Primal Root written review

1990 was filmmaker Claudio Fragasso’s year, man. In 1990 his magnum opus, most fully realized and beloved film Troll 2 saw the light of day as a direct to video release. It’s a film that has gained an ever expanding and rabid fanbase with it’s bizarre concepts, lost in translation screenplay, goofball acting and bargain basement effects mingling with it’s genuine nature basically guaranteed it would find an audience over the years to laugh and cherish it for it’s bonkers presentation.

 

But, a far lesser known darker, more adult and, until recently, incredibly difficult to find offering from Claudio Fragasso was released in 1990 under the title Night Killer. It’s film that, too, has gained cult status for many the same reasons as Troll 2, even enjoying a similar retitling to try and sell it as a sequel to something it was never intended to be. Italian producers actually retitled the thing Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, which translates to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, therefore making Night Killer Italy’s unofficial third sequel to Tobe Hooper’s legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre despite Night Killer not featuring a single chainsaw in any shot of the film much like Troll 2 only featured Goblins…and not a single goddamn Troll.

Image result for night killer 1990 gif

Night Killer begins with a spastic and, frankly, embarrassingly bad dance rehearsal for some kind of on stage production. One of the performers arrives late, gets naked and then then punched entirely through the gut by a killer is a strange, creepy fright mask that looks like it might have been left in the car too long on a hot summer day, as it appears more than a little melty. Not only that, but the killer is also wearing a dark trench coat and highly rubbery Freddy Krueger inspired glove on his right hand featuring long corn cob yellow finger nails. When you put all the pieces together, The Night Killer actually kind of looks like Freddy Krueger and The Toxic Avenger’s love child.  So, after we see the late dancer’s bare breasts, she is impaled and dies. Farewell and adieu to you bare breasted lady!

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 6.09.10 PM

Noticing her absence and also having the epiphany that whatever fucking musical dance show she is directing is going to suck goat balls, the musical’s director flies into a bizarre, seemingly unscripted improvised rage where she mumbles a lot, and stumbles over what she’s saying before storming off the stage to find the late performer who went to change. When she finds the dead dancer’s corpse, The Night Killer slits her throat takes his fucking time chasing her off the top balcony of the theater where she plummets to her death. The chase takes what feels like an eternity as the director gasps for air and tries to scream while dramatically stumbling down corridors, up stairs, downstairs and eventually over the railing. It feels like an appropriate death scene for a theater major.

Image result for night killer 1990 gif

We are then treated to an opening credit sequence where a woman hands off her pre-teen daughter and her luggage to an unidentified man, then the man brings the little girl to who I must assume is his wife. Honestly, this happens over the opening credits and I have no idea who these fucking people are, how they’re related or what the situation is. I assumed it was a pair of divorced parents and the little girl was going to spend the weekend with her Dad and her step-Mom, but we find out, later, that this is not the case at all. But this child hand-off opening sequences is totally baffling as there is no dialogue whosoever to establish just what the Hell is happening.

night-killer-melanie-e1581958821690

Turns out, the lady who just sent her daughter packing is our main character, her name is Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman, who you may remember as Billy and Ricky’s slain Mom in the original Silent Night, Deadly Night) who eats what looks like an entire club sandwich for breakfast before lowering the neckline of her oversized sweater to stare at her tits in the mirror and perform the rare horror movie soliloquy about her marriage being on the rocks before being interrupted by a call from her ex-husband who she estimates is “drunker than usual” and explains to him that Clarissa has gone away to the country with Annie, so, again I must assume here that Clarissa is Melanie’s daughter and Annie is possibly the woman we saw in the opening credits. It’s strange having a movie that’s so damn mysterious you have to try and figure just who the characters are. Anyhoo, the phone call with who might be her estranged husband ends with he her screaming “DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN!” into he receiver before slamming the phone down and her possible estranged husband shattering his glass in his hand and screaming “MELANIE!” We never see his face, as his back is turned to us in every shot he is in and his voice sounds a lot like the killer’s. Could it be him?

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 6.09.32 PM

 

Fast forward a second or two and she receives another phone call from the actual killer who tells her “You’re a fine looking woman, Mrs. Beck. You’re just MADE to be fucked senseless.” and “I won’t kill you straight away, first I’m going to fuck your BRAINS out!” She hangs up, calls the cops, but it’s too late. The masked killer reveals himself to already be inside her home with the line, “I can’t wait 5 minutes, Mrs. Beck, I’m too HORNY!” Melanie fights valiantly to kill the intruder, but it’s no use. Once cornered, the killer reveals his face to her, not the audience, and we cut to a week later where she has amnesia and it turns out she was rescued offscreen by a man named Sherman, who is married to Annie and takes care of Melanie’s daughter Clarissa. See, it’s ALL coming together! Sherman even got a deep cut across his face for saving Melanie. And, for whatever reason, only Melanie can identify the man who held her captive for eight hours despite Sherman’s face to face encounter with the Night Killer. I’m sure there must be some logical explanation for this, but being that this is a Claudio Fragasso film, you never know if this is a clue, a red herring, or just inept screenwriting and filmmaking, so everything is absolutely unreliable. We also learn from Sherman that Melanie’s husband was booted off the police for undisclosed reasons. The plot thickens to the point of crusting over as it becomes unidentifiable!

night-killer-freddy-e1581956342537

 

Immediately after Melanie is released from the hospital an asshole in a jeep drives up next to her and begins cat calling her between taking swings of his 40oz. She flicks him off and speeds off, but he stalks her down to a restroom where she pulls a gun, makes him strip nekkid, and dump his clothes in the crapper. He runs out of the restroom and drops this incredible line of dialog…

Image result for night killer 1990 hd

Now, you might think this sweaty, bug eyed creeper with the incredibly active body language will never be heard from again, but this psychopathic stalker actually tracks Melanie down at the beach where she is attempting to kill her herself with a load of pills. This guy actually picks her up, carries her into the ocean, forces her head under water so she is forced to drink salt water so she’ll barf up all the pills she just ingested. This moment of valiant and violent heroics is followed by this guy kidnapping Melanie and keeping her locked in a seedy motel room where he presents her with Kentucky Fried Chicken and French Fries “Nothing does it to me like friiiiied chicken!” before sticking a unloaded gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger and tying her down nekkid and making her say “Pretty Please” over and over again. This bug eyed, vicious rapist is named Axel (Peter Hooten from Orca: The Killer Whale (1977) and Inglorious Bastards (1978)). We are led to believe this guy is the actual Night Killer as we see THE Night Killer impaling voluptuous blonde woman at the local aquarium after hours and killing prostitutes in his art studio after they recite the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and then putting them in identical masks as him and making out with their dead bodies as Axel hold Melanie hostage. Are they one and the same? Are there two separate homicidal rapist scumbags running around this little city? I can only tell you that this film is so absolutely off the wall unpredictable and poorly put together, I doubt you will be able to guess every twist and turn Night Killer has to reveal by it’s laugh out loud what the fuck conclusion.

night-killer grope

Night Killer is actually a pretty impressively devious, dark, demented horror film that doesn’t let logic or any for of real common sense get in the way of it’s hysterically over the top, super imaginative, if completely illogical twists.  What really helps are the no holds barred over the top performances from the entire cast. Top to bottom, everyone is going for the gold and trying to sell this fucking movie. Sure, their performances are wacky and laughable…across the board, actually, as they try with all their mediocre acting might to pull of this ludicrous dialog. There are even some moments of genuine terror, especially during scenes between Melanie and Axel as the actors both play off one another really well. Every scene is pitched to the extreme and it’s something that works in Night Killer‘s favor and makes the proceedings far more enjoyable and engrossing, even if it is in a laughably Trash Cinema way.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 6.10.05 PM

I understand writer/director Claudio’s original vision was to make a psychological horror film with very little violence and gore, but the producers balked at the director’s initial edit of the filmed and hired exploitation legend Bruno Mattei (director of Rats: Night of Terror (1984) and Strike Commando (1987)) to add some gore to the proceedings, hence, all the really out of place moments of Night Killer’s claw punching through people. I honestly think the psychological horror elements are the strongest of the film. You can feel what Claudio was really going for with Night Killer and the gore elements always come off as out of place and make the film feel even cheaper than it obviously is.

punch

This was my very first time seeing Night Killer and I was genuinely impressed by this trashy slice of cheese. It was not afraid to go to some pretty extreme places, took a lot of risks, and obviously not afraid to create a film that was absolutely baffling and send the audience through a dark, nasty tale without a map or even a compass. You literally are thrown in totally blind, with no clue as to who these people are, what’s going on, what the time frame is or how things are connected and you are expected to keep up and fill in the blanks. And it works. It blows my mind to say it, but by the film’s end, being kept in the absolute dark makes it all work. It’s either really tricky and somewhat smart screenwriting, or it’s absolutely moronic and they got lucky. I like to think it’s the work or a Trash Cinematic genius. Let’s face it, Troll 2 shouldn’t work either, but goddamn if it’s not one of the most legendarily entertaining Trash Cinema films ever made. Night Killer is cut from the same cloth and deserves just as much notoriety and recognition among Trash Cinema fans.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 6.09.44 PM

I am awarding Night Killer FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

20
Mar
20

Leprechaun (1993) Fuck you, Lucky Charms!

Lep93

 

“Try as they will, and try as they might, who steals me gold won’t live through the night.” The Leprechaun; Leprechaun (1993)

a Primal Root written review

The realm of mythical creatures is a veritable smorgasbord of imagination fuel and inspiration lubricant. From Trolls, to Goblins even Fairies, Dwarves and Elves. All can be extracted from the whimsical and often deeply unsettling tales and transplanted into a low-rent schlocky monster movie destined to go straight to video and find it’s cult following. It’s all just old world make believe where you can either choose to follow the rules already established in centuries of story telling, come up with your own bullshit to justify your no budget monster movie, or pick and choose some of both, toss them in your screenplay blender, and you’ll nearly make something at least entertaining 95% of the time.

Then there’s 1993’s Leprechaun, the film that sent the elementary school video rental kid into a tizzy as we reeled at the concept of something so absurd being transformed into something absolutely terrifying. It felt dirty, it felt cheap and it was genuinely unnerving to little kid Root, who grew up with children’s programming and sugary sweet cereal that ALWAYS portrayed Leprechaun’s as incredibly sweet creatures. Then you would catch the fucking trailer for Leprechaun and you had to reevaluate everything you once held sacred. It honestly wasn’t until Iw as about 11 or 12 when I finally got around to renting The Leprechaun and, well, it certainly didn’t live up to the unrelenting horror I had dreamed up in my head while looking at the VHS box on the shelf at Video 21. Sure, it’s not a very successful horror film, but it does have it’s…LUCKY charms. Uuughhh…I’m not even a Dad and I made that joke.

LepWar02

The Leprechaun franchise, which runs eight films long and provided Warwick Davis paychecks during those dark days before the Harry Potter film series and Disney hadn’t yet bought the rights to Star Wars and begun shitting out empty husks of nostalgia, and sent the pint sized horror the the far off reaches of outer space (Leprechaun 4: In Space) to the the center of urban decay…TWICE (Leprechaun in the Hood, Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood). But it all began humbly enough back in 1993 with a little farm house in the middle of nowhere, a stolen bag of gold and yet to be known Friend.

The movie starts in 1983 with a sweaty, whiskey drenched old Irish guy named Dan O’Grady coming back home to his North Dakota farm house from his trip to Ireland and brags to his wife that he has stolen gold from a Leprechaun and that this is the last they’ll see of this old piece of shit farm! He goes to hide the gold, The Leprechaun turns out to have followed O’Grady home and murders Mrs. O’Grady by tossing her down the basement stairs before Dan grabs a four leaf clover and traps the Leprechaun in a crate down in the basement. O’Grady pours gasoline on the crate, strikes a match…then suffers stroke and falls to the floor before he gets the chance to torch the little malicious magical monster.

LepWar03

Fast forward to 1993 and and Father and Daughter duo, J.D. Redding (John Sanderford) and Tory (Jennifer Aniston. Yes, THAT Jennifer Aniston) are driving out to North Dakota to live in the old, abandoned O’Grady farm house. As you might suspect, Jennifer Aniston’s character is a none stop whining, complaining, bitch of a character which feels king of like her entire career trajectory. Honesty, could you point me out a Jennifer Aniston character that is actually no a self obsessed spoiled shrew? Seriously, she has been playing the same character for decades with the same inflection, line delivery and mannerisms. She’s unbearable as ever, here, as rich, vegan, Evian water drinking wet blanket, Tory. Get used to it, because you’re going to spending a whole lot of time with her.

LepJen

Tory hates the place (SURPRISE, SURPRISE!) and makes plans to stay in a hotel until she meets a slab of beefcake painting the farm house who goes by the name of Nathan (Ken Olandt of April Fool’s Day & Summer School fame ) who mentions how “Girls are always afraid of spiders and dust” which brings out Tory’s feminist tendencies and, now, refuses to leave because she is a 90’s woman and not afraid of anything despite actually stating that she IS afraid of spiders, dust, dirt and manual labor not three minutes before. But, now she has something to prove to the hunky Nathan, so she will continue to miserable and complain for the length of the film.

LepGang2

We are son introduced to the two most likable Non-Leprechaun characters in the film, Alex and Ozzie, who work with Nathan and his “Three Guys Who Paint” business . Alex (Robert Hy Gorman from Rookie of the Year & Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead) is Nathan’s 10 year old brother and Ozzie (Mark Holton from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure & Teen Wolf) a man-child sort of fellow. These two banter, bicker and end up being the characters in charge of keeping to plot moving forward. Ozzie is the one who unleashes the Leprechaun from the crate while alone in the basement, and is threatened with having his ear bitten off and having it turned into a boot if he doesn’t fork over his stolen gold. It’s a baffling threat, but one I really like and have filed away to use at the proper moment in my own life when someone is giving me shit. Freddy never makes these kinds of intimidating aggressions. His is mostly observational puns, not really “I’m going to rip off this from your body and repurpose it entirely.” But, I digress…

LepWar05

For the first half of the movie we basically get all the character mistaking The Leprechaun for an animal. Someone sees or feels something, claims it’s a Leprechaun, then it is blamed on a rat or a cat. I was personally hoping for someone to blame something on a bat so we could get the “at” trifecta in play, but it never happened, sadly. J.D., Tory’s Dad, even makes the idiotic mistake of reaching his entire fucking arm into a tree to try and GRAB what he thinks is an injured cat only to have his hand nearly bitten of by The Leprechaun. They rush poor old Pop to the hospital and we literally never see him again.

Meanwhile, Ozzie and Alex chase down the end of a rainbow which leads to an abandoned truck where Dan O’Grady stashed the stolen gold all those years ago. After Ozzie accidentally swallows a gold coin while attempting to bite it and prove that it’s real, (oh, Ozzie) they take the sack of coins into town and leave a coin over night with a rare coin specialist. But as the specialist goes to open up his safe to hide gold coin for the night, out busts The Leprechaun with a jig, a laugh, and well placed snaggle-toothed voracious bite to what is either the man’s upper leg for dangling ball sack. One thing must be mentioned about this film, the lighting is absolutely horrendous. Either the lighting it dull and flat as shit or it’s pitch black where you can hardly tell what’s happening. So, either way, Lep bites the shit out of the guy and drop him to the ground before threatening the guy in rhymes and then grabbing and nearby pogo stick, and I shit you not, pogo sticking the man to death. Yes, The Leprechaun gets on the pogo stick and bounces repeatedly on the mans chest while singing, “This old Lep, he played one, he played pogo on his lung!” In all honestly, this movie comes to life and becomes a Hell of a good time whenever Warwick shows up as The Leprechaun. The man is over the top, malicious and funny as shit. You can tell the guy is relishing the chance to play such an animated villainous character and is taking full advantage of the role.

Image result for leprechaun 1993 pogo gif

Soon, that night there is a brutal standoff at the old O’Grady farm house where the Leprechaun is willing to stop at nothing until he gets all 100 gold coins back. There’s even an exceptionally goofy action set piece where the Leprechaun hides out int he kitchen cabinets and Jennifer Aniston is throwing them open to Nathan can blast the shit out of them with his shot gun, only The Leprechaun is too quick and keeps taunting the hapless heroes which leads to Leprechaun reaching his arm out of a drawer and clamps his claws around Nathan’s nuts and squeezes them like a pair of grapes. It’s a hilarious moment and genuinely one of the few comedic moments that really work.

Image result for leprechaun 1993 gif

This final half of the film feels like it consists of none stop chases where The Leprechaun tries out multiple modes of transportation to catch his victims. He tries roller skates, go-carts, hospital gurneys, wheel chairs, modified tractors, etc. They speed up the film to make it look like he just might catch them, but it ends up looking ridiculous and just makes you chuckle.

Towards the end of the film. Jennifer Aniston gives The Leprechaun his sack of gold, only for The Leprechaun to realize there’s a single could missing and it’s currently making it’s way through Ozzies poop chute. The Leprechaun gives chase to Ozzie and begins slashing the hell out of the guy with his boot buckle to try and get his gold back. Will Ozzie end up having his guts ripped out by The Leprechaun? Will Jennifer Aniston’s STOP complaining for a moment and try to help someone? While Nathan perhaps display some simple competence and maybe notice, after shooting The Leprechaun for the 100th time, filling The Lep full of led DOESN’T WORK? With Alex use his cunning slingshot skills to win the day? You’ll have to check out Leprechaun to find out!

Image result for leprechaun 1993 gif

There is one shining, glittering bit of solid gold in the film Leprechaun and it is obviously Warwick Davis. The man has brought to life countless popular characters and his turn as The Leprechaun is truly a treat to behold. The man brings so much life to what is otherwise a shockingly dull, bland and dishearteningly unimaginative slog. Whenever Warwick is on screen, you forget how bored you’ve been for the last several minutes and it keeps you hooked and waiting for his next goofy, fun, nasty over the top appearance. The kills, besides the pogo stick death, are all underwhelming. There’s an extended foot chase with a police office through the woods you anticipate will have a great death scene, but instead, The Leprechaun simply snaps the police officer’s neck. Dude, this scene takes up what feels like fifteen minutes of screen time and all you can deliver is the actor turning his head and adding the sound of someone snapping celery? Shit like that is fucking annoying. You spend that much time chasing someone in a slasher movie, you better make it worth the time.

Leprechaun almost come off like a PG-13 horror flick. There’s literally no sexuality whatsover. Not a pair of bare breasts in sight. The gore is hardly there. There’s some bloody stuff, including an eye removal, but this content would probably be presented on prime time television without even needing to be censored. It almost feels like it was made for TV and has a kind of flat, poorly produced hollow quality to it. It’s the very bare beginnings of a franchise I really feel gets better as it goes and the more outlandish and silly the story devices become. By the time The Leprechaun heads to space, the creative minds behind the ongoing series realized that campiness works REALLY well for the series. Plus they realized sex and violence are ALSO why I’m spending my money and time on this, so they began shoehorning tits and more gore as the series continued and got far more creative with the stories they had to tell.

Image result for leprechaun 1993 gif

Leprechaun (1993) is that cinematic rarity, a first entry in the series that just might be the least interesting. All the elements and ideas are there for the taking, and thankfully, those franchise entries that came in the original’s wake took full advantage of the possibilities this pint sized mythical monster has to offer.

I’m awarding Leprechaun ONE AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

The true Pot o’ Gold is further on this rainbow of a series.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

Image result for leprechaun 1993 gif

 

 

 

28
Jul
16

Nothing But Trouble: A Trash Cinema Dog Days of Summer Event!

13567189_1106465422773560_4676460359092358276_n

 

WHO: The Trash Cinema Collective
WHAT: A screening of the 1991 cult flick, Nothing but Trouble!
WHEN: Saturday August 6th at 9pm (EST)
WHERE: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
WHY: Because it’s about time.

As always, NO COVER!

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here, and I am happy to be inviting you out to our August 6th Trash Cinema Night featuring the strangest of early 90’s cinematic oddities, the Chevy Chase Texas Chainsaw Massacre hybrid as well as Dan Aykroyd’s directorial debut, 1991’s Nothing but Trouble! A film that bombed horrendously upon theatrical release only to gain a rabid cult fanbase later on home video.

Nothing But Trouble is a classic tale of New York yuppies driving through rural America where they come across some backwoods locals who want to skin them alive. Only this time around, they are the local law. After running a stop sign, Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase) Diane (Demi Moore), and their driving buddies end up under arrest and must stand trial in the court/home of the decrepit, blood thirsty Judge Alvin ‘J.P.’ Valkenheiser. As the prisoners soon find out, J.P.’s mansion.prison is filled with secret passages, booby traps and other odd/horrifying contraptions. Chris and Diane must out wit the deranged family in order to survive the night and get home alive!

Be prepared for cock noses! Unskinned sausages! John Candy in drag! Pu Collars! Giant mutant babies in diapers! Awesome roller coaster style death traps! A performance by the legendary Digital Underground! A spectacular cameo by the late Tupac Shakur! And a deep wave of nostalgia for the early 90’s and a time when a once promising career for the then thriving Dan Aykroyd suddenly began to fall to pieces.

That’s right! It’s Nothing but Trouble! A strange blend of backwoods horror, comedy, and awkward social interaction! So come on out, grab a pitcher of your favorite ice cold adult beverage, sink your teeth into the BEST damn burger in town, and let’s check out a forgotten nugget of pure Trash Cinema gold! I’ll see you there, Gang!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

12
Jan
14

Mars Attacks (1996): Carnage Candy

 

Mars Attacks quad

a Primal Root written review

Adapting a notoriously gruesome and controversial trading card series from the 60’s into a PG-13 holiday release for the 1990’s cannot be an easy task.  “MARS ATTACKS!” in it’s original form was a blood soaked Topp’s trading card series created in 1962. Of course, there was parental and societal uproar over the gory, frequently sexual card series which led to the series’ original run first being censored and then being halted entirely. Yes, tell the public they cannot have something because they cannot “handle it” and remove it from the market entirely.  Ladies and Gents, this is how you create a cult following.

In the early 1980’s, “MARS ATTACKS!” began it’s resurgence gaining a whole new generation of young fans while banking on the nostalgia of those who once had this gloriously sick and subversive creation snatched from their grasps by the moral watchdogs that know what is best for us all. Bunch of dick holes, I tells ya! This resurgence culminated in a film adaptation featuring and all star cast and directed by, at that point, creative dynamo, Tim Burton fresh of his biographical film “Ed Wood”, everyone’s favorite cross dressing Trash Cinema film director!

Just how in the world do you take a popular cult TRADING CARD series and transform it into a profitable commercial venture? Well, with the restraints of the imposed PG-13 rating, the best path was to tone down the horror elements and amp up the darkly comical elements which the screenplay by Jonathan Gems delivers in spades. Not only is it a damn funny movie from start to finish, it also manages to be highly intelligent, wickedly mean, and  greatly entertaining. Here, let me lay it out for you…

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male's libido.

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male’s libido.

It is brought to the attention of The President of the United States of America, that flying saucers have been spotted surrounding planning Earth originating from our neighboring planet, Mars. To the best we can translate, the Martians come in peace, but as soon as they land, they being disintegrating every living thing they come across with their awesome Martian hand cannons.  The remainder of the movie is a series of sight gags, action set pieces and nasty comedy as humanity fights for survival through a full  on Martian apocalypse.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is a blazingly dark, subversive, wacky sci-fi flick. Sure, it has it’s flaws, like a sluggish pace and a feeling that Tim Burton had a tough time juggling his impressive ensemble cast, but at the end of the day the movie comes off  just as anarchic as the Martians themselves. The film extends it’s middle finger towards societal conventions, and then has fun laughing maniacally as it exposes the shaky pillars that they all stand upon.  MARS ATTACKS! sets it’s sights on lampooning just about everyone.  Conservative military leaders and Wal-Mart families to liberal scientists and new agers, MARS ATTACKS! takes delight in taking them down a peg or two.

For the most part, every character is played as a buffoon,  a cartoon version of stock characters from B-movies past, contemporary leaders and everyday civilians.  The only folks not played for laughs are the handful of societal outcasts and misfits who are played as entirely human like the president’s daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman, channeling Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice), mild mannered New Mexican donut peddler, Richie (Lukas Haas) and, most impressively, Byron and Louise Williams (Jim Brown and the incomparable Ms. Pam Grier) as a blue collar, seperated African American couple trying to make ends meet and raise two young boys.  Louise drives a bus in Washington D.C. while Byron, once a Heavy weight Boxing Champion, now works in Vegas. They are by far the most honorable, loving and genuine characters in the movie and the ones you end up rooting for in the end. When everything else in the film is a lark, you want nothing more than a happy ending for this family.

But it’s not all touchy feely stuff,  let us not forget the fantastically depicted carnage. Holy shit, is this fun stuff to watch! Martians bowl through Easter Island statues, crush mobile homes with their colossal Martian manned robots,  and in my personal favorite gag, crush a troupe of cub scouts with the Washington Monument. See, you don’t get this kind of flesh pulping fun in crap like “Independence Day”. One of the aspects I admire about “MARS ATTACKS!” is how the Martians use the phrase “We Come in Peace” and “We are your friends” to gain our trust several times over in order to implement surprise attacks. Once, killing off several military leaders and countless innocent spectators and the second time killing off Congress. It worked so well int he past that later in the film we see Martians roaming a burning landscape, guns drawn still claiming that they come in peace and blasting anything living they come across while exclaiming “Do Not Run! We Are Your Friends!”   It’s a great joke, but it’s a goddamn chilling one as well.

mars attacks do not run

By film’s end, Earth is saved by a decent young man who went out of his way to save his Grandmother from her rest home which was under siege and, unbeknownst to them, unlock the secret weapon that will destroy the Martian threat and save what remains of planet Earth and it’s inhabitants.  It’s one of the most absurd deus ex machina’s I have ever witnessed in cinema, but in a campy, B-Movie send up such as this, it feels perfectly fitting.

Finally, when Earth is reduced to a smoldering husk of it’s former self, it’s the underdogs who survive. The blue collar workers, those who risk life and limb to save the helpless, and Tom Jones. And in this I see hope. Early in the film, before the Martians reveal their true intentions, Annette Bening’s character states to at her AA meeting that she thinks the Martians have come to save us. And in a way, by destroying the institutions that have always held us back from truly progressing, leaves us with a clean slate to start from. In a way, they’ve given us a second chance and left our world int he hands of the misfits. The survivors.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is one Hell of a flick.  Sharply intelligent, subversive and damn funny.  This is one film well deserving of it’s cult status. highly recommended!

Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

31
Oct
13

Root’s Top 5 Tales from the Crypt

Tales

The Primal Root’s Dirty Thoughts

Greetings, Creeps! It’s your ol’ pal The Primal Root here, getting into the groove of another Halloween season. Recently Ms. Bootsie Kidd and I sat down to enjoy a marathon of the entire series run of HBO’s original series “Tales from the Crypt” based on the old and incredibly popular 1940-1950’s horror comic book series of the same name. The comics featured gruesome morality plays where evil doers always ended up of the gory end of karma’s comeuppance. The comic book series, including such title as “Tales from the Crypt” “The Vault of Horror,” “The Haunt of Fear,” “Two Fisted Tales” and “Sock SuspenStories” were censored into oblivion by the Comic book Code, which blamed the aforementioned comics as the prime contributors to our nation’s juvenile delinquency problem,  were all resurrected in the late 1980’s as an HBO series entitled “Tales from the Crypt”, which  adapted stories from every horror/action/thriller comic at some point or another. The impact of these comic books left a huge impression on the the talents who came together to breath new life and pay tribute to these once thriving graphic novels.  Filmmakers such as Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, Tom Holland, Mary Lambert, and countless others all were dying to take a stab at their favorite stories and turn them in twenty five minute long short films.  The show didn’t always knock it out of the park, but when it did, it was glorious. and, Hell, even their weakest episodes proved to be interesting, at the very list.

What I did find myself doing, however, was constantly saying “Oh, this is a great!” or “This is one of my favorites!” just about every other episode. That’s when I decided I really needed to sit down, do some soul searching and make a list of my Top Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt. It was a tough process whittling it down to only five, but I must admit, I was chomping at the bit to see which ones would make the CUT!  So, without any further a due, let’s see which Terror Tales made the final CUT!  AAARRRGGHHHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha…

5) “People Who Live in Brass Hearses” dir. Russell Mulcahy (Season 5, Episode 5)

Who knew the ice cream truck industry was this depraved? Bill Paxtion plays a scumbag ex-con Billy DeLuca, who enlists the help of his emotionally stunted younger brother Virgil (Brad Douriff) to pull of a heist that will even the score with ice cream truck driver and excellent puppeteer,  Mr. Byrd (Michael Lerner) and Billy’s old boss  Mrs. Grafungar (Lainie Kazan) after they sent Billy to prison for stealing from the till.  When everything goes wrong  and their heist ends up in a blood bath leaving the brother’s with nothing, they must turn to desperate measures in order to get the money Billy feels he so richly deserves.  But, as per usual with the Tales from the Crypt formula, nothing is as it seems, and this sick puppy has a twist ending that comes somewhere out of left field and pegs you right in the gob.  This is among the strangest episodes of Tales from the Crypt in my book and the fact that it features such an excellent all-star cast makes it every bit stranger. Once our players are established the tale hits an insane pace that feels almost like an action story, but then the meat hooks start being gouged into people’s skulls and folks begin having their skulls chunked all over the dining room from well placed shotgun blasts. Trust me, even with all these gory goodies, the episode still manages to whack you over the head with it’s sleazy, disgusting and inspired conclusion. You’ll laugh in disbelief as soon as you pick your jaw up off the floor.

4) “Four-Sided Triangle” dir. Tom Holland (Season 2, Episode 9)

I’ve always been an admirer of down home horrors and “Four-Sided Triangle” is one fine example of horrific wages of dysfunctional rednecks. This episode is a small, intimate one featuring three players on a isolated farm. Old married couple, the limping, strict, and stern Luisa (Susan Blommaert), her lecherous, scheming and alarmingly horny husband George (Chelcie Ross),  and their young, voluptuous, sexy as Hell captive farm worker, Mary Jo, (Patricia Arquette). As you might expect, the story revolves around George trying to get his monkey tail down Mary Jo’s sweaty bloomers. In fact, the very first scene features George’s wide eyes peering into the chicken coup as Mary Jo bends over and writhes around as she sexily, yet innocently, collects eggs for her white trash captors all while displaying her ample bra-less bosom in a tiny tank top and her robust booty in a pair of well worn, skin tight pair of LEVI’S.  After a failed rape attempt in which Mary Jo gets the living snot beat out of her by George, she stumbles into the corn field where she hallucinates that a scarecrow reaches down to help her. Her brain must be batter, because she becomes obsessed with the scarecrow and declares loudly and frequently how much she loves him while singing songs about how she doesn’t care about chicken pot pie.  Anyhoo, Luisa is on to George’s lustful yearnings for Mary Jo, even going as far as to threaten him with performing the same procedure on him that they do when they want to change a bull into a steer.  As we all know, these threats typically fall on deaf ears when it comes to horny rednecks and “Four-Sided Triangle” culminates in a  conclusion that is both bloody and inescapable.  We can see where the story is headed but the tale is so well directed, staged and acted, you feel every bit of suspense and horror and the doomed “Four-Sided Triangle of the title meet their doom. This was among the first Tales from the Crypt episodes I ever saw and it made a lasting impression on me. And introduced me to Patricia Arquette, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

3) “What’s Cookin’ ” dir. Gilbert Adler (Season 4, Episode 6)  

One of the smartest, sickest, most wonderfully depraved episodes of Tales from the Crypt, “What’s Cookin” features a great comic turn from Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, as a struggling restaurant owner named Fred. See, his restaurant specializes in one thing and one thing only… Squid. Yes, squid. As you might expect, the restaurant he runs along with his wife Erma (Bess Armstrong, from My So-Called Life) is way overdue on their rent and hasn’t seen a customer in weeks, well, with the exception of officer Phil (Art LaFleur) who drops by for coffee from time to time. Their busboy, shady drifter, Gaston (Judd Nelson) keeps prodding Fred to try out his family’s classic barbecue recipe, but Fred won;t stand for it. The man’s got a dream and refuses to give up on it. That dream nearly ends when Chumley (played in a bit of truly inspired casting by Meatloaf), the landlord, shows up and evicts Ed for being over two months late on rent. The following morning, as Fred and Erma begin to shut down, Officer Phil comes in for coffee and eggs. To Erma’s astonishment, there are a half dozen fresh steaks in the fridge than Gaston brought in from his own, private supplier. Erma cooks this up for Phil, and just as he takes his first bit Gaston reveals to Fred just who is supplying the steaks. Yep, there in the meat freezer, to Fred’s dismay, hangs the corpse of Chumley. Soon, Fred and Erma’s Steakhouse is an overnight sensation with everyone in the city stopping by for a bite of their delicious, hand cut steaks. Only problem is, the police investigation into Chumley’s death is paving a pth right to Fred and Erma’s restaurant and as Fred’s feet get colder and colder Gaston begins plotting a double cross. “What’s Cookin'” is one very macabre and gruesome episode with a wicked streak of dark comedy. The performances are great and the final twist in the end, in typical Tales from the Crypt fashion, will leave you just as satisfied as one of Fred and Erma’s steaks. Is it wrong that this episode always makes me hungry?

 

2) Showdown dir. Richard Donner (Season 4 Episode 8)

Originally created as part of a three piece pilot for a rejected pitch to FOX for a “Two-Fisted Tales” spin off series, “Showdown” spins the tale of Billy Quintaine (Neil Giuntoli), a hardened, remorseless, legendary gunslinger who is cornered in a small desert town by an equally notable Texas Ranger Tom McMurdo (David Morse). After a facing off in a shoot out in which Billy murders Tom, he enters a nearby saloon for a drink, and after ingesting some snake oil from a traveling salesman, realizes he might not be as victories as it might seem. Showdown is one of the most poetic and beautiful episodes of Tales from the Crypt and manages to pack in a plethora of themes including the inevitable outcome and price of violence, the inevitability of death and our current irreverence for our own bloody past and re-marketing it as family friendly, tourist bullshit. Character actor Neil Giuntoli gives a hauntingly human performance as gunslinger Billy Quintaine, as he becomes slowly and painfully aware of his own fate we watch this cynical, callous, man breakdown before our very eyes reminding us that the most despicable  character is, at the end of the day, also a human being. “Showdown” is frightening in it’s implications on a far deeper level than it’s Tales from the Crypt brethren and deals with life and death on a far more thought provoking and meaningful level than the typical epsiode. All that said, “Showdown” ends on a moving, up lifting note leaving us with the hope that when we shed this mortal coil, when all these pretenses are dropped, perhaps we can all finally ride off into the sunset as brothers.

1) “Death of Some Salesman” dir. Gilbert Asler (Season 5, Episode 1)

Good God, this episode is revolting. It’s a buffet of loathsomeness where, as a viewer, you ill wonder if you should laugh, cringe, or go for the barf bag. “Death of Some Salesman” is the story of Judd Campbell (Ed Begley Jr.), a charismatic, sleazeball con-man posing as a cemetery plot salesman. The man is a gifted liar, using his skills to con old widows out of their inheritance and even to convince  nubile young waitresses to “drop their panties” by pitching love and escape. The man is a scum bag that you know will be paying for his trespass and the man get’s his rotten just desserts in the form of The Brackett family. By blind luck, Judd ends up knocking on the door of Ma and Pa Brackett (Both played by Tim Curry). Judd’s invited in and the sale seems to be going incredibly well as Pa and Ma Brackett head down to the basement to get Judd the money for two none existant cemetery plots. That is, until Judd discovers the decaying corpses of several dozen salesmen who previous had the misfortune of knocking on the Brackett’s door. Judd is captured with Pa Brackett intent on killing him, but Judd sees a way out if he can only convince Winona Brackett (also played by Tim Curry), Ma and Pa Brackett’s comically hideous daughter that he loves her. This is the pitch of Judd’s life as he must chock down the bile and try to convince the skeptical Winona that he does, in fact, love her. the lengths of which Judd must prove is unwavering devotion is extrodinarily and will have you groaning and laughing on your couch. Tim curry gives the performance for the ages as The Brackett family, managing to blend mirth and menace in equal amounts. And the always game Ed Begley Junior should have received the medal of valor for this things.  “Death of Some Salesman” encompasses everything I love about the old E.C. Comics horror anthologies.  Sick humor, nasty violence, a damn fine twist ending, and a fantastic morality tale. Curry and Begley Jr. who are performing what is basically a two man show, give such phenomenal performances it practically MAKES the episode.  It’s a stomach churning, hysterical tale which taught me at a young age that deceivers and liars will invariably find themselves in a world of hurt.

Well, kiddies, there you have it! My Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt! A mixed bag, but a damn good time, if I do say so myself.   Feel free to let us, here at The Trash Cinema Collective, know what your favorite episodes are! Have a Trashy Halloween!

-Root

15
Sep
13

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-The-Next-Generation-1994

a Primal Root written review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family dynamic has certainly changed over the years and decades since they first made their teenager  barbecuing debut back in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cinematic milestone.  They were originally a disorganized banned of blood thirsty, cannibalistic psychopaths trying to stay alive after being put out of jobs over at the slaughterhouse. In Hooper’s 1986 sequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2” the clan had adjusted to Reagan era politics, yuppie America and capitalism and even managed to run their own award winning barbecue catering company. By 19990’s “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part III” they had gone back to the part of Texas that looks like Los Angeles where the family looks to be expanding a bit and then, by the mid 90’s, Kim Henkel, the was part of the creative force behind the original, steps forward with possibly the strangest and most loathed entry in the entire franchise.

The movie centers on a young, bespectacled girl named Jenny (Bridget Jones herself, Renee Zellweger) who meet as she is getting ready for prom night before being unceremoniously assaulted and nearly raped by her Stepfather. This is in the first five minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and we never see Jenny’s Stepfather or oblivious Mother again.  It’s an unnerving note to begin such a story on and has you feeling apprehensive from the get-go. You get that feeling this is to set up that moment where you have that revelation while Leatherface is biting some nubile teenage girl’s well manicured fingers from her hands and another family member smears shit all over his upper torso and you think to yourself, “Ya know, this family isn’t all that different from any other!” Makes you think, don’t it?

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Well, before anyone gets the chance to twerk to “You Look Wonderful Tonight”, Jenny and three of her fellow prom goers end up lost down a backwoods dirt road after a hit and run fender bender. “People don;t know how to build roads!” one idiotic piece of chainsaw fodder declares as they motor towards their meat hook hanging destinies. Then…THEY GET IN ANOTHER WRECK! One that puts their car out of commission and leaves the driver of the other vehicle unconscious laying in the dirt. Jenny and two of her fellow airheaded teens head off into the night to find help while Jenny’s date stays behind to make sure the young man steadily bleeding to death in the mud isn’t ripped apart by voracious raccoons or something.

After a mile of walking and none stop whining, Jenny and her buddies come across the mobile home offices of Darla, who runs a construction business. She seems friendly enough and enjoys flashing her ample bosoms at anyone who throws a rock through her window (…the Hell?) and phones someone to go check on the wreck out in the middle of nowhere and give these kids a “lift.” This mysterious someone is Vilmer Slaughter, a tow truck driving, greased up lunatic with a remote controlled mechanical leg and penchant for screaming like a frat boy at the homecoming game. Vilmer is brought to life by a scene stealing and completely convincing Matthew McConaughey, and watching him play beside Zellweger it’s clear to see where the real talent in Texas resides.

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

BUT I DIGRESS! Vilmer shows up to the scene of the crash, kills the coma boy on the ground and proceeds to chase down Jenny’s lover boy and repeatedly run over him, grinding his quivering teenage corpse into bloody, raw, hamburger meat beneath his Goodyears while listening to 90’s “Alternative” rock on the tape deck and howling like a hyena on PCP.  Sorry, but this I fell in love with Vilmer immediately. We need to get this guy and Chop-Top from The Texas Chainsaw MAssacre part 2 together and make a sitcom.

Well, Jenny ends up walking back to the scene of the accident to meet her beau and finds a whole lot of nothing, at which point, she decides to sit in the dirt until her two other pals, who have gone off in a different direction, end up dead and her character becomes relevant again.  While she sits the next fifteen to twenty minutes of the film out, her two friends manage to make their way to the home of these lunatics and run into a camouflage wearing, mullet headed Leatherface who screams like a woman whose teacup chihuahua just got run over by a lawnmower for the majority of his screen time. It gives the impression that Leatherface is just as terrified of these kids as they are of him and, in fact, I have a feeling that might just be the case. Either that or these are psychotic screams of redneck frustration. I suppose you can draw your own conclusions.  All I know is that later, once  all the protagonist men have had their skulls bashed in and Jenny’s been thoroughly chased about the Chainsaw clan’s property and is finally tossed into the dining room in a brand new, and very sparkly, evening dress, Leatherface dresses up in drag and, dare I say it, looks rather lovely.  In brain damaged, blood thirsty redneck wearing a hideous female suit of skin kind of way…

"I'd fuck me."

“I’d fuck me.”

The evening devolves into a dinner scene of near epic surrealism as Vilmer continues to go nuts over his take out pizza, dry humping his sister, Darla, and pouring lighter fluid on his captives and then setting them on fire only to stomp their heads into pickled relish all over the dining room floor. And that’s the moderately normal stuff happening in this house!  The family is visited by some mysterious shadow organization manager who apparently has the Chainsaw clan on their payroll as merchants of fear. The clan is paid to pick up and terrorize unsuspecting young people and, from what I can gather, allow the leaders of this shadow group lick ever bead of sweat and smudge of filth off the captives face while showcasing their own strange abdominal mutilations. When did was this deal struck between the carnage minded Chainsaw clan and some strange Illuminati style group that secretly controls the destiny of society? I have no clue. but it is a strange and intriguing idea to stick within a damn Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Just don;t expect an explanation, ’cause there isn’t one coming.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation reaches it’s absurd climax as Jenny escapes with Vilmer and Leatherface in a lovely black satin robe, in hot pursuit. Jenny manages to ruin an elderly couples vacation by putting them in the middle of the action and the chase is cut short by a crop dusting airplane. Yeah, if you want to see the visual representation of the term “cluster fuck” this would suffice.

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, -The Primal Root

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, – Root

All in all, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was a bold attempt to do something a little different with a very stale franchise.  In their attempt to infuse the proceedings with a healthy dose of mid 1990’s alternative rock, MTV culture (every chase seen is punctuated by some shitty alt rock/grunge track) and strange conspiracy theories (The Chainsaw clan working for the government?) it feels as if this entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise kind of get lost under the weight of it’s own absurdity. There’s no consistent tone, only one strange,m off the wall set piece after another. And, although, McConaughey does his damnedest to make this thing lively as Hell, and he does pretty much run the show in this entry even if Zellweger never rises up the remarkable level of both Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams in the first two entries of the series, the movie itself never really takes off.  It has all the elements it needs to be a great Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick, but at some point it starts puttering and finally just stalls out and drifts into the ditch.

I give this flick TWO Dumpster Nuggets out of FIVE!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

25
Aug
13

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

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

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

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

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

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

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

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

meow.

meow.

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

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

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

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root




Dumpster Diving

Categories