Posts Tagged ‘angst

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

christine_poster_by_cakes_and_comics-d5ht3mc

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

FlamingChristine

At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

christine-se_shot7l

Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

christine-se_shot6l

I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

17
Feb
14

(NSFW) Cindy & Donna (1970): House of Sexual Deviants

cindy_and_donna_poster_01

 

a Primal Root written review

“You know, it’s just a big kick. A trip, you know? Look, don’t be so serious. I mean, you know, it’s a groove.” – Cindy’s best friend Karen explains sexual intercourse

Growing up sure can be hard, especially when you’re a disturbingly sexy yet trashy teenage girl from a divorced family, your Dad’s a lecherous creep who’s always staring at your step sister while she’s in her underwear, your stepmother’s a constantly bitching alcoholic and your step sister is forever getting laid and trading pussy for pot while you’re still wearing your hair in pigtails and are just too scared to spread those thighs for some pimply faced classmate at the local high school or one of those college jerks still looking to score teeny-bopper poon.

This is the very basic premise of “Cindy & Donna” a very strange brand of coming-of-age flick, exploitation film and soft-core porn. Cindy and Donna are step sisters, Cindy’s the baby of the two and Donna is the older, more sexually experienced. Cindy’s Pop is a boozer and a perv while Donna’s Mom is kind of a booze hound killjoy that I’m sure her husband blames for his tendency to spend all night at bars after work, bang prostitutes and get boners of his stepdaughter. It’s suburban dysfunction at it’s very finest and not really played for laughs, if anything, it all comes of as shockingly depressing…which makes it really funny…Huh? Stay with me.

“Cindy & Donna” tells the story of the red headed, teenage pixie virgin, Cindy (played by Debbie Osborne of “Country Cousins” and “Tobacco Roody” fame, I also happen to have a bit of crush on this chick who vanished off the face of the earth in 1972.) as she begins to blossom and become increasingly curious about what it is to be a sexually active young woman in 1970’s America. A voyeur by nature, she is constantly peeping in on her family members and being exposed to the truly depraved and disturbing sex lives of her Father and stepsister. We’re going to leave Mom out of this because she’s just an alcoholic who spends the majority of the film either drunkenly shouting out insults or passed out in bed watching what sound like bizarre Indian massacre movies.

Cindy witnesses her older stepsister, Donna (the ever foxy Nancy Ison) sneak out of the house at night and ride her boyfriend Greg’s flesh pole of freedom in order to obtain some grass. Cindy is also aware of her Father’s other vice besides alcoholism and ignoring his family, hookers. Ladies of the night. Prostitutes. We are given a front row seat to this doughy, middle aged man’s sexcapades with the lovely and incredibly well built Alice (Alice Friedland, looking like an American version of Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg) a professional stripper, spank magazine model and, yes, prostitute, who we’re introduced to in an extended sequence of Alice gyrating her crotch into the camera and bouncing her lovely, bountiful, natural boobs in artsy-fartsy low angle shots that make sure her tits and ass take up THE ENTIRE SCREEN. She invites Pops back to her place for a night of awkward genital grinding, fondling and utterances of the phrase, “You blow my mind!”

I can see the artistic intent here.

I can see the artistic intent here.

After Pops and Alice finish up it is revealed that Alice is only 17, the same age as his naive, peeper of a daughter, Cindy. You’d think this was primed to set up some kind of plot point where Pops would approach his daughter and talk openly with her about “the birds and the bees” and perhaps even cause the man to realize what a terrible Father and husband he’s been and get him on the straight and narrow to ensure his wife and children are provided for emotionally as well as financially and go on to live fulfilling lives together.  No such luck, Pops boozes it up the following night, can’t get an appointment to poke Alice and decides to go home and fuck his stepdaughter, Donna. AND HE DOES! He stumbles into her bedroom completely wasted, disrobes and goes to town on her young, naked, nubile self AND SHE OPENLY ENJOYS IT! She pulls him in closer, smooches his whiskey drenched gob with tongue and allows the patriarch of their family to grope her chesticological region and finger her little Donna.  It’s disturbing and totally unbelievable. Of course, it’s revealed that Cindy is watching this whole incestual shindig go down from the doorway of their adjoining bedrooms before throwing herself upon her bed and weeping. Strangely, the incident is never mentioned again, not once, for the rest of the film. And this a bit more horrifying than the incident where Cindy watched Donna get banged by her boyfriend Greg in the back of his sports car as payment for weed, which Cindy then went back to her bedroom and masturbated over. I started wondering if possibly Cindy is imagining all these sexual hijinks she witnesses as part of her own repressive sexual desires and fantasies, but I might be giving “Cindy & Donna” too much credit. But then again, who know, perhaps director Robert Anderson saw something in this material beyond just the TnA and deep, dark, sexual depravity. One thing’s for sure, looking at the film this way opens up a whole new perspective.

BUT I’M GETTING OFF TOPIC!

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in...

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in…

That morning Mom and Pops head to Vegas for the weekend and are never relevant to the “plot” again. Cindy confides all this, minus the Daddy/Stepdaughter action earlier, to her BFF Karen (sexy, confident, Cheryl Powell) who has recently made the transition from naive young girl to slutty, cock starved teenage hellion. Karen’s advice to Cindy? Get laid, basically. They end up going to the beach where they meet two dorky guys in tiny bathing suits. They hardly even introduce themselves before the gentlemen whisk these ladies off to their casual sex shack on the beach and start putting on the moves.  The moment the scene begins Cindy starts shouting about how she just wants to go home as Karen drops her bikini quicker than you get food poisoning from a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich and starts riding her dork pick of the litter as if he were Seabiscuit. “Don’t be a drag, Cindy!” Karen commands as she humps dork boy’s baby batter baton.  The scene goes on for way longer than it should as Karen gets fucked on one bed and Cindy continuously cries “Stop it!” and “No!” on the nearby stained sofa as her zit faced, teen date rapist drools all over her neck and licks her face. This is all taking place in the same room so the camera just sits in medium shot and documents this uncomfortable moment in time for what feels like forever. As soon as Karen gets her rocks off they both head for home where they smoke some weed, put on a record and enjoy some experimental lesbianism so Karen can demonstrate for Cindy “what it feels like.” My, my, it’s been a big day for these two.

Tell me that's not Shia LeBeouf back there.

Tell me that’s not Shia LeBeouf back there.

What’s Donna up to while her parents are out of town? Just hanging out with her boyfriend Greg…and allowing several creepers to take nude photos of her as a way to pay back the money she owes Greg for the weed he purchased her the other day. Rather quickly, the photo shoot devolves (or evolves, depending on your view) into a mild mannered gang bang in Greg’s rumpus room. Donna really gets off on this “groovy” action, despite the men never having to remove their underwear in order to penetrate her baby factory, and the scenes goes on without ever showing the end of the gang bang when they, I assume, smoke a  little reefer, play air guitar and eat Doritos.

The very next morning, after Cindy and Karen spend a night of playing bumper clits together, Karen assures Cindy that she was “marvelous” in the sack and that she should try the ultimate trip and have sex with an actual man.  This gets the wheels turning and Cindy puts her plan into action. She invites Donna’s boyfriend Greg over and they start going at it on the family sofa, which seems like a daring place to lose one’s virginity. I mean, how will Cindy explain that stain to her folks? Anyhoo, Cindy begins taking off her awesome 70’s dress and asks Gregg “Can you dig it?” His reply? “I can dig it.” and she is soon nekkid and rubbing her petite, teeny-bopper body all over Gregg, the Scott Stapp of the 1970’s.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as Cindy’s about to go cock spelunking, Donna comes home and stumbles upon this scene and exclaims “DON’T MESS WITH MY SISTER!” Gregg responds the only reasonable way any man would after being interrupted while about to have his man utter suckled by a young woman, and picks Donna up and throws her out the front door onto her AstroTurf lawn. Donna, confused and mortified (despite the fact she fucked her stepdad a night or two ago) wonders aimlessly into the road and is run over by a car. Cindy watches this happen through the screen door of her Cabrini Green model suburban home and screams. The picture freezes on her shocked and horrified face. We then cut to a brief sequence of her swinging at a jungle gym where we can see her red panties.

The End

 I am speechless. I mean, after the build up of this film I totally expected Donna’s discovery of Cindy boning her boyfriend to end in a threesome, not vehicular manslaughter! This is one Hell of a way to end your sex picture!  I can’t even begin to imagine what poor little Cindy’s therapy bills are going to look like. Acquiring knowledge from afar, as Cindy did, proved only to corrupt her young, curious mind, not enlighten it. Sad, really.”Cindy & Donna” is a bewildering and entertaining exploitation sex picture. Straightforward and shameless to the point of absurdity,” Cindy & Donna” is an ode to teenage indiscretion and skeezy old man perversity that will have you questioning the sanity of those who made it and yourself as you pitch a tent in your corduroy trousers. Filled with copious, unapologetic nudity, drug use, casual incest and experimental lesbianism…the mission statement is blunt. “Cindy & Donna” is a one of a kind, filthy, perverse, sleazy coming of age exploitation film. Yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you don't talk to your kids about sex, who will?

If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, who will?

I’m giving Cindy & Donna FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This puppy’s a must see.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Sep
10

Rotten Review Ep. 15: Return of the Living Dead 3


Hey Gang,

The Primal Root is back after a month off and to celebrate I am showcasing a piece of Trash Cinema featuring one of my all time favorite zombie femme fatales. That’s right, Ms. Julie Walker as brought to glorious undead life by the unfathomably gorgeous Melinda Clarke.

Get ready for a Special Guest Appearance from Ms. Jessica Critten (in her final appearance), grotesque body self mutilation, angry Latinos, tortured sewer dwelling do-gooders, half naked dancing zombies in chains and lederhosen, 2-4-5 Trioxin, dumb scientists, brain freeze bullets, teenagers listening to lite rock, necrophilia, terrible government security, brain munching and plenty of slimy, freakish canned zombies.

It’s a wild, bloody, stupid ride with Julie and Curt as they tamper in God’s domain and end up paying the price. It’s not quite Bride of Frankenstein…hell, it’s hardly Bride of the Monster. But Return of the Living Dead cracks me up every time and you cannot deny the appeal of a beautiful  re-animated redheaded  zombie girl with metal stuff shoved through her flesh.

Well, I think I’ve sufficiently creeped you all out enough. Enjoy the latest offering from yours truly, The Primal Root, and The Rotten Reviews.

Stay Trashy!

– Root




Dumpster Diving

Categories