Posts Tagged ‘American

12
Sep
15

The Last American Virgin (1982) or The Heartbreak Kid (NSFW)

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a Primal Root written review

“I’ll take a rocky road!” – Diane Franklin as Karen in The Last American Virgin

Like so many of my peers I spent my pre-teen years glued to the late night cable every Friday and Saturday night hoping to get a glimpse pf some nekkid female flesh. And you know as well as I do that typically the best place to find bouncing, glorious, nekkid young ladies beside slasher movies was the pot o’ gold known as the “Teen Sex Comedy” aka: Teenspolitation. You know the kind, Porky’s, My Tutor, The Cheerleaders, Screw Balls, Private School, etc. where a group of guys, typically three dudes, are on a quest to get laid and/or see naked women and sometimes end up learning a little something about themselves and the nature of mature, adult love along the way. Watching these films as a kid in the cover of darkness in my living room I imagined that this was exactly what was in store for me in the years to come. Sexual escapades, peep holes in the locker room, girls getting naked and attacking me while I slept.

Of course, now I am in my thirties. I am thrilled to be married to the love of my life, and I have a bit of experience under my belt (pun intended) that I will be sure to pass on to our future spawnage one day as they discover the wonderful realm of the opposite sex and Teensploitation. I will do my damnedest to make sure The Last American Virgin is their introduction to the Teen Sex Comedy genre of Trash Cinema. Because it starts out fun and stupid, but becomes something far more honest and dark by the time the credits roll.

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The Last American Virgin tells the story of Gary  (Lawrence Monson of Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter …uh, fame), a young high school pizza delivery guy and the last last American virgin of our film’s title. Gary appears to spend every waking moment when he’s not delivering pizza getting into bizarre, awkwardly comical, borderline criminal sexual misadventures with his two best buds, lady killer and local stud Rick (Steve Antin, that kid who gets propelled off of a toilet while taking a dump in The Goonies) whose hair gel must have cost half the budget of the film and David (Joe Rubbo in his first of only three acting rolls) as the very natural and truly funny overweight comic relief. These three promise the girls cocaine to get them in the sack at Gary’s place, and then under the gun, feed them lines of Sweet & Lo with a side of “Crispy Chips” before Gary’s parent’s show up and discover a bunch of topless teenage girls stomping around the house and nearly leads to Gary’s Mom getting sexually assaulted by David. If they’re not lying to blossoming teenage girls in order to fuck them or trying to fuck one another’s Mothers, they can be counted on to be having a hardon measuring contest in the high school locker room, “The guy with the biggest tool wins the pool!” or waiting in line at the apartment of one of Gary’s horny pizza delivery clients in order to run a train on her, or attempting to drown their recently acquired crabs in a public pool.  Yeah, it’s typical Teen Sex Comedy stuff, but it has a bit of a darker, edgier feel than most.

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Gary happens to be absolutely smitten with a new girl in school, the gorgeous Karen (Diane Franklin, from Terror Vision, Amityville Horror II: The Possession, Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) whose first line, as she orders a scoop of ice cream and the local teen hangout, foretells not only her story, but Gary’s, “I’ll take a rocky road.” In fact, Gary orders the same thing. Maybe I am reading too much into these character’s ice cream preferences, but after watching this movie a couple times, I can’t help but think this is am excellent use of ominous ice cream flavors by the screen writer in order to drop a hint as to where this movie is going to end up drop kicking you to.

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Gary is so creepily in love with Karen he deflates the tire on her bicycle one morning in order to drive by in his “Pink Pizza” car and offer her a ride to school. This is straight up stalker behavior. We’re supposed to empathize with Gary as he offers her help, then a ride to school and is then rejected when he asks her out on a date before she heads off to class. But Gary is kind of a creeper. Karen claims she can’t go out with Gary to a party because she has something else to do. What is this other thing she has to do? Well, turns out she is attending the exact same party but is hanging all over Rick, the local high school cherry buster and go-to fuck buddy. As expected, Gary is heart broken, ends up drinking an entire bottle of Jack Daniels before acting like an idiot an being sent home where he embarrasses himself further by trying to fuck one of his Mom’s friends.

Typical life of a teenage, man.

Also, I just want to state that Karen’s best friend is played by none other than Kimmy Robertson from TV’s Twin Peaks. I think she’s supposed to be playing the annoying nerdy friend, but man is she cute. Plus she looks absolutely fetching in her tiny bikini by the pool. Just sayin,’ I don’t see why no one wants to date her in the movie.

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See, turns out Karen is a virgin just like Gary and he wants to date Karen, and be good to her, treat her right and romantically, gently lose their virginity to one another in his warm or her parent;s warm bed. What is it with people wanting to fuck int heir parent’s bed in teen sex movies? I guess it’s bigger than their own bed? Still, the lack of space of my own bed would be preferable to getting it on in the bed my parents presumably do on a regular basis. ESPECIALLY if I;m popping a girls cherry. How in the Hell do you explain the blood stains to your folks? They go away for the weekend and come home to think their son is an axe murderer who seduces women and then chops them to pieces between the sheets. Is it worth the risk?  I mean, if it were my kid I would laugh my ass off and perhaps take the ruined sheets and have it sewn into a commemorative flag and have it framed for them before hanging it in their room.

Sorry, got side tracked there, Gary know that if Karen dated Rick she will end up unceremoniously getting her fresh virgin pussy torn up by a guy who has any number of STD’s and honestly doesn’t really give a shit about her beyond the fact that she is female and looks to be an easy lay. Quite a bit of The Last American Virgin‘s run time is devoted to Gary trying to keep Rick from busting out Karen. Now, this is a pretty standard, undignified stereotype of a guy coveting a young lady as a thing as opposed to a fellow human being. Something of a trophy to be had. Gary is supposed to be a good guy, but he is so wrapped up in trying to get Karen to do exactly what HE wants as opposed to what SHE wants even though it is apparent to the viewer that she is making the decision to fuck a jerk, but that is HER decision to make, even if it’s a pretty lame one. Hey, girls can fuck whoever they want to, too, Gang. So lay the fuck off. As if Gary would be any better a decision. This guy has possessive “Nice Guy” written all over him. Sure, he would be sweet at first, but I guarantee you he will want to know exactly where you are at all times, what you;re doing and photographic evidence and eye witness testimony  if you are out of his eye sight for more than ten minutes.

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 ****SPOILERS AHOY!****

So, despite Gary’s best efforts, Karen gets fucked by Rick in the announcement booth at the high school football stadium under cover of darkness. It’s actually a pretty great scene as Karen gets mounted by Rick, makes that little *gasp* as she gets tagged all the while sad sack Gary hangs out just below under the bleachers and gently weeps that the girl he wants is getting deflowered at that very moment just a hundred feet or so over his crying eyes. It’s a fantastically sexy/sad moment and the two moments, one of sexual arousal and one of deep self pity is fucking amazing. Few teen sex movies ever go after this kind of emotional punch and it works splendidly well. It’s an emotional place I;m sure most of us have been before. Sure, it;s selfish, it’s probably a little lame, but it’s honest and it’s real. The person we want to be with so much refuses to give you the time of day and enjoys to the company and genitals of some other person who seems to so easily always get their way. It’s rough, and you hate feeling bad for yourself, but you can’t deny these stupid fucking emotions.

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Now, if this were the only scene of such raw emotional content, I would consider The Last American Virgin to be a resounding success. But this film is not satisfied with having us relive one of the darkest moments of our adolescents, no. The Last American Virgin is not done with us yet. See, fast forward after that moment of pleasure in the nicotine stained, B.O. scented announcer’s booth, Rick wants nothing to do with Karen anymore. Why is this? Because it’s almost Christmas break and he wants to go skiing and bang some other random chicks. But more importantly, Karen is pregnant. Gary finds out while trying to comfort an obviously deeply hurt and upset Karen and promptly attacks Rick in the school’s library. Gary claims Karen is a slut and that the baby could be anyone’s before piling into a VW van with a bunch of hot to trot teenage horn dogs and leaving all the responsibility for his actions behind him. Rick, what a guy!

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Well, “Nice Guy” Gary ends up taking care of Karen and paying for her abortion. Yes, he pays for the abortion Karen wants of the baby she and Rick made. In one brilliantly conceived, acted, shot and edited montage we watch as Gary takes Karen to the clinic and then goes around town scraping up cash to pay for the procedure, $250 to be exact. He pawns his stero equipment, raids his parents rainy day fund, and even begs his boss at Pink Pizza for some cash. Gary works his ass off to get the money together and all this is intercut with scenes of Karen undressing, the doctor snapping on rubber gloves, her legs being spread and bound down as she is prepared for the abortion. There is one shot during this montage that haunts me. It’s a shot that lasts no longer than maybe ten seconds, yet speaks volumes. The shot begins on Karen’s panties as she begins to slowly take them off in the doctor’s office. We see her pubic hair peek over the top of her panties as the camera pans up across her belly past her beautiful breasts and up to her lovely face as she begins to cry. Mother fucker, THIS is one incredible moment in teensploitation! This is cause and effect! We are instantly titillated, as we have been programmed to be, we see the objectification, crotch, sexy belly, a lovely rack, and then we see the face of this beautiful young woman in absolute agony. We register the pain, regret and the horror. It’s a shot of dark, brutal reality applied directly to your trashy, jaded little heart and it stings, man. It stings bad. Because the point is made abundantly clear, simply, efficiently. That these moments of pleasure, these brash decisions we follow in the sake of fleeting passion, these fucking choices have consequences! Again, it;s an ingenious moment of juxtaposition unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in a movie of this ilk. Sure, Fast Times at Ridgement High has an abortion take place, but it was off screen and no one ever really looked all that torn up about it. The Last American Virgin fucking guts it’s audience, breaking the conventions of the teensploitation form, and shows us that the teenage quest to get laid is a fools quest, that if you are irresponsible, if you rush into things you are not yet ready for, you will face the horribly consequences and be faced with some serious choices. Wrap it up EVERY TIME, kiddos! Did I mention this fucking montage is set to U2’s I Will Follow? I will never hear this sone the same way again…

Well, after these harrowing events, Karen and Gary bond a bit during her recovery and Gary buys her a ring he is going to present to her at a party, he assumes he has finally won Karen;s heart by showing he’s responsible, caring, non-judgmental and will to lie, beg and steal in order to resolve Karen’s bad decisions. Gary  shows up to the party and finds Karen making out with Rick, her aborted fetus’s Daddy, who is back from his Christmas Ski and Fuck Fest Gary splits, understandably devastated. The final shot of the film is of Gary as he drives off into the dark night in tears and the credits roll over his sopping wet face. Still a virgin, forever alone. Ever been kicked in the balls with a steel toed boot? Well, get ready to experience the cinematic equivalent.

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The Last American Virgin is one excruciatingly dark story. Unapologetically honest, brutally raw in it’s depiction of the wages of teen sex, The Last American Virgin is a phenomenal flick. It’s like the Requiem for a Dream of Teen Sex Comedies. Sure, the first half is a lot of laughs and whacky sexual hijinks, but that last half sure busts up that party pretty fast. I’ve never seen a flick like The Last American Virgin. I mean is this a feminist film? The “Nice Guy” manifesto? I think this film is far beyond either, really. It drop these conventions, these labels, and portrays these teens as inexperienced, often times selfish, often irresponsible human beings where the typical teen movie creates nothing more than characatures of tired, old stereotypes. There are no easy answers in The Last American Virgin. Like life itself, so many of these moments that shape us, the traumas that make us who we are go without any closure or reconciliation. The Last American Virgin captures this perfectly. Sure, it starts out as a bit of goofy, escapist tits and ass fueled teen sex comedy, but by the end you will feel like you you got whacked in the but by a sledgehammer as reality rears it’s ugly head.

The Last American Virgin is a classic and I cannot recommend it enough.

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

The Primal Root says you gotta see this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Oct
14

Ravenous (1999)

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a Rebecca Keel review

I had the pleasure of seeing ‘Ravenous’ for the first time recently.  This 1999 slow-burn horror film starring Guy Pearce,  Robert Carlyle,  and David Arquette surprised me in a lot of ways.  I didn’t know much about the film when I sat down to watch it;  I’d seen it recommended here and there on the Internet,  and I had a vague idea that it was about cannibalism,  but beyond that,  the whole thing was an impressive surprise.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s never gotten the attention it deserves,  and while I definitely agree with that,  it seems like its own quirkiness has been instrumental in keeping it a well-kept secret from the mainstream horror scene.

Cinematically,  ‘Ravenous’ represents the collision of several elements which don’t typically walk around holding hands.  Its pacing,  character development style,  and quite a lot of its cinematographic choices feel more like a classic Western than a modern horror film,  and apparently I was far from the first to make this connection (Jacob Knight over at nerdbastards.com highlights the role of elements from the Western genre as being fundamental to the film:  http://nerdbastards.com/2014/06/03/retro-review-ravenous-is-an-even-better-western-than-it-is-a-horror-film/ ).  It’s also filmed in a retrospective style that often makes it easy to forget that it came out the same year as ‘The Matrix’.  This combination of Western genre film construction and old-fashioned filming style successfully tricked my brain into repeatedly thinking I was watching a film much older than this one actually is.  Meanwhile,  the gore and makeup effects have an offhand realism that reminds me of sweeping,  dramatic war films. The kind of horror story it presents is in tune with the film’s style:  it’s constructed with fairly limited plot twists and instead of relying on cheap startle techniques,  it tells a thoughtful tale which stayed with me long after I watched it,  enticing my mind to play with the sharp edges of its implications.

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The film’s setting was quite unusual as well.  The Mexican-American War,  which went down during the mid-1800s before the outbreak of the American Civil War,  is far from a typical time period setting for any genre of film,  and it seems even more bizarre as the backdrop for a horror flick.  Yet the film’s writer,  Ted Griffin,  and its director,  Antonia Bird,  made good use of the features of the setting to generate genuine feelings of isolation and desperation which sometimes feel forced in horror films set in the Information Age.  Utilizing Native American culture and legends gave the story an air of authenticity that was hard to dispel and made for convincing storytelling of a caliber I typically only associate with a few horror novelists (such as Dan Simmons,  whose historical-fiction horror is some of the best in the field).

Yet it’s easy to see how fans of mainstream horror could lose interest in an artistic film like ‘Ravenous’.  The film’s  score is at times grating,  though the effect seems intentional and helps drive home the events playing out on-screen,  while at other times idyllic background music which seems like it would be more at home in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has a jarring effect when taken alongside the foreshadowed events and the horrors that have already taken place.  Such decisions can alienate viewers who prefer and expect a more conventional film score,  though this technique is increasing in popularity (or at least acceptance) among mainstream viewers.  The pacing of the plot’s revelations requires patience fans of films like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Grudge’ aren’t always willing to grant a film,  and the lack of monster makeup might make it hard for some to swallow a film that is,  frankly,  set up to be a type monster movie.  But for fans of old-fashioned horror,  ‘Ravenous’ has a lot to offer.  Many elements of the film would feel at home in a story by Lovecraft,  Matheson,  or Poe.  And the film’s unabashed frankness and realism in the face of the supernatural leaves me hovering in that delicate space between belief and disbelief which is the hardest form of terror to shake off.

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

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a Primal Root written review

“Do you believe God’s whole world runs by the laws of the few sciences we have been able to discover? Oh, no, Christine, there is more. But people are satisfied. They know so much, they think they know all. And that makes it easy for Nosferatu. That makes it easy for all the devils.” -Cuda, Martin

 

George Romero’s name immediately conjures up images of his iconic shambling, flesh eating “shoot ’em in the head” zombies, and it’s no wonder. Hell, the man’s spent the better part of a career spanning over forty years devoted to these walking dead flesh eaters who changed the landscape of horror cinema forever with movies like Night of the Living Dead (!968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2004) among many other “Of the Dead” films and follow ups spawning countless unofficial ineffective sequels and lukewarm, forgettable remakes and also saturated the market for the past decade influencing everything in pop culture to the point I wish someone would just put a bullet in my head and end the unimaginative, cash-in, living dead hysteria that won’t seem to ever fucking wind down and die.

But to concentrate on the man’s most popular and commercially successful ventures is to ignore the bold and creative films he is lesser known for. Films like The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow,The Dark Half, etc. The man has made some phenomenal films outside the living dead canon he’s most known for, and I’d like to focus on what I consider to be among his most intriguing and underrated works, the independent vampire flick, Martin. 

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Martin tells the tale of a shy, quiet, troubled teenage boy who believes himself to be a vampire, in fact, he comes from a lineage of his family that other relatives believe is cursed with hereditary vampirisim.  We’re introduced to Martin (John Amplas) as he stalks a fellow female passenger on an overnight train to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As he stalks this average young woman back to her overnight cabin aboard the train, we watch as Martin imagines her waiting for him behind the locked door in a revealing neglige, seduced by his vampire charms, lusting for him and embraces Martin with open arms, allowing him to feast on her warm red blood.  What Martin imagines is presented in grainy black and white, like the classic Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, like Dracula or Frankenstein, before cutting back to the bright, technicolor of reality where Martin attacks the young woman in her cramped cabin. The reality is far from Martin’s dream scenario. He walks in to the sound of her flushing the toilet before she steps out with her hair up in a towel, wearing a well loved bathrobe, her face caked in beauty cream as she blows a huge snot rocket into a wad of toilet paper. When Martin attacks her, intent on doping her up with a well placed prick of his syringe, she fights back with everything she has, hurling obscenities like “FREAK! RAPIST! ASSHOLE!”  athim while struggling against his clutches. Honestly, Martin is a shrimpy looking dude, and I have a feeling she would probably kick his ass normally, but the drugs take hold and she passes out, thus, allowing Martin to slice her arm open with a straight razor and dine on her blood. That’s right, Martin has no fangs.

When the train reaches it’s destination Martin meets his new caretaker, his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Cuda is a devoutly religious and highly superstitious  man,  and believes completely in the old family legend that some members are cursed with vampirisim. Cuda takes the boy in with the hopes of saving Martin’s eternal soul before destroying the creature of the night for all time. As you might guess, Cuda has nothing but contempt for young Martin, addressing him as Nosferatu and even threatening to put a stake through Martin’s heart, killing Martin without salvation, if Martin harms anyone in his city. But it’s not long before Martin ignores these warnings, and sneaks off into the night to hunt and feed.

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From the very first frame, Romero, with the help of a haunting, beautiful score from Don Rubinstein and utilizing the fading landscape of Braddock Pennsylvania, imbues his film with a sad, bleak, disturbing atmosphere, one where the American Dream has run dry and the world is left to rot and decay. The mills have alls hut down, the local economy has crumbled, and everyone left is struggling just to survive. The tone is one of desperation as a population holds on to the dying old ways of their lives and existing in denial.

As Martin stalks and ambushes his victims, it becomes apparent that sex is not his concern at all. In fact, when he is propositioned by a female shopper he befriends at Cuda’s grocery store, he has no idea how to respond. Turns out, Martin’s still a virgin after all these years and has no idea what to make of this. The lure of sex seems to hang all about Martin, and his response to it comes off as confused, sad and out of place. When he finally does give in to the seduction, he comes away unfulfilled. This is not your typical lustful vampire.

What Romero has sought out to do with Martin is, much like he did for zombies in his 1968 horror milestone Night of the Living Dead , is to deconstruct the vampire legend and all of the conventions we as an audience hold to be law. Martin is Romero’s treatise that examines the myth of the vampire, (featured in black and white, either as fantasy or long ago memories of how being a vampire once was, this point is left ambiguous) and reality (shot in bright, bold, 1970’s color) de-romanticizing the vampire legend. Also being tackled here is religion and superstitious belief.

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Martin cannot stomach the reality he exists in, and instead, creates intricate fantasies (presented in grainy black and white) where he visualizes himself sneaking into a grand castle rather than some  sleazy 70’s bachelor pad, or striding into the arms of an eager lover rather than holding down a shrieking victim who just took a huge dump in the adjoining bathroom. He imagines himself into the romantic Hollywood reality of the movie vampire, the one that is so alluring. which might be why he’s so quick to state “There’s no magic. There’s no real magic ever.” several times in the film. Crucifixes, garlic, holy water, sunlight, the classic rules do not apply in reality. Martin has no fangs, he uses a straight razor. He has no powers of seduction, he must use dope to keep his victims from breaking him in half. This is not a world of magic and super human power, this is stone cold, un-romantic reality.

Still, Martin believes he is actually a vampire and must feed on the blood of the living in order to survive, just as Christians believe utterly and completely in the resurrection, Heaven, Hell, and the power of the holy spirit. Martin still places an importance in the canned icons of his belief system, “The Hollywood Vampire” but is intelligent enough to know he is only humoring himself with these fantasies and delusions. After one startling moment in the film where Martin scares the living shit out of Cuda by stepping out the darkness  wearing a cape, bares fangs and has a pallid complexion only to finally laugh at the old man and reassure him, “It’s only a costume.” Martin has been told all his life what he is and has come to believe what’s been drilled into his head from birth.  Martin longs to be one thing, but he knows he is something else and this knowledge is the essence of the film.

Martin also takes dead aim at organized religion, portraying it in vapid, empty terms. Romero himself plays a hip priest who insults the shitty wine his church serves at communion, doesn’t believe in angels or demons and loves the movie The Exorcist. And when Cuda calls upon an old school priest to ambush Martin and perform an exorcism of their own, it comes off as an old useless ritual and Martin simply walks away as the priest blubbers on reading from the holy text. But more disheartening than any of this is Cuda himself, a man so blinded by his own faith that he believes it is his divine right to wield life or death over his own flesh and blood. Cuda believes the vampiric curse and that it is his duty to destroy the evil, to murder his own relative in the name of God. This is the same mentality in religious hysteria that leads followers to murder doctors who perform abortion and claim to be pro-life but support capital punishment, to commit atrocious acts of violence in the name of your own personal lord and savior. It’s sick, it’s twisted and it’s wrong.

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

In the end, Martin is a film about the lies we tell ourself and the delusions we live every day. Those that we have been taught by those closest to us and those we tell ourselves simply to get by. Martin wants so badly to be a vampire he is willing to kill others. Martin admires the lore and power of vampires. How they are loved, feared and lusted after, all things that the shy, timid misfit feels he can never obtain.

Martin is a singular, gorgeous, and poetic take on the vampire horror film and it’s Hollywood lore. To date, I have never seen a more thoroughly unique and sweetly sad vampire tale.  This is the rarest of horror movies, one not about a horrible other, or even about the creature next door. No, this is subtle, ambiguous look at what makes monsters of us all. A look into the heart of the horror in our everyday human existence and the evils we are capable of inflicting on one another. Not only through physical acts, but through the power of ideas, belief and control.

I give Martin FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. If you ask me, this is Romero’s absolute masterpiece.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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