Posts Tagged ‘Anniversary

16
Oct
14

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 40 Years with a Whole Family of Draculas

 

Patric Reynolds

Patric Reynolds

 

In Loving Memory of Marilyn Burns 

A Primal Root Written Review

Our experience begins in the void of darkness, we are blind to the world around us, yet we can hear the nearby sound of a shovel burrowing into the soil. The sounds of heavy breathing, exertion. Our senses are heightened alright as our minds race with the possibilities, as we are made to feel uncomfortable, trapped, anxious…And then our very first image. The visage of a thoroughly rotten, glistening, corpse that eerily resembles a batch of General Tso’s chicken, illuminated by a camera’s flashbulb, accentuated by the startling sound on the film;s soundtrack rumored to be anything from a cello to Tobe Hooper running a pitchfork down a piece of metal. Either way, in the span of mere seconds, the audience viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is experiencing one thing above all else, fear.

The premise is simple. Throw a pack of kids in their late teens and early twenties into the heart of darkness, watch them die and then cheer on that one young woman who remains as she struggles for survival. We would call it cliched if it weren’t for the fact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the very first. To call Texas Chainsaw Massacre a milestone in horror cinema is justified. Like absolutely nothing that came before it in the film’s attempt to truly obliterate the sanity of anyone who views it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired a generation of horror filmmakers and decades worth of copy cats who could never dream of coming close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s raw, uncompromising, power. Though many sequels and cash-in’s follows in Chainsaw’s wake, there is no other horror film like it.

texas-chainsaw-massacre-1974

Tobe Hooper, a young filmmaker out of Texas,  was inspired by, as legend has it,  tales of serial killer Ed Gein and his penitent for digging up corpses to steal their skin and wear it as well as the man’s hobby of turning the remnants of the dead into furniture and serving dishes. Another inspiration came in the form of a holiday shopping trip to Sears. As hooper stood in the hardware aisle int he midst of the holiday shopping madness, his eyes fell upon a rack of chainsaws when the thought came to him, “I know of a way to get out of this place in a hurry!” According to Hooper, within second, the premise for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most innovative and enduring piece of cinema to come out of the hippie movement, it has become a touchstone for the end of the movement an highlighting the sick, subversive nature or our American culture and society itself. In the wake of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the failed war in Vietnam, the brutality of The Civil Rights movement and The Tate-Labianca murders, it was no wonder such a ferocious, merciless, hopeless piece of cinema was the product. Many other horror films of the era, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, all dealt with the frustrations, horror and disheartening of a generation of idealists, who struck out to change things, and watching as that struggle got buried, and never actually took hold. By the late 60’s and early 70’s we had become a nation haunted by that period in time when so many believed in a dream, only to watch it fall apart, like a person being chopped to pieces under a whirring chainsaw. None matched the unbridled fury, the primal scream of disgust and anger that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delivered. All at once, the young people of a generation are painted as idiots, ego-centric assholes willing to mock one another and leave those less fortunate behind as they seek their own personal pleasures. And by films end, we are reminded, that it’s all just business as usual as an ancient old man in a suit and tie sucks the blood from the tip of the new generation’s finger tip. The message is clear, welcome to the American Nightmare, don’t expect to ever wake up.

MB2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a true work of absolute terror. A story pitch perfectly told, well acted, beautifully shot and fantastically edited. I could go on all day about Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of the premiere achievements in outlaw independent filmmaking, but the results speak for themselves.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now, 40 years later, considered a film classic and a masterpiece of the horror genre. All these decades later and it has not lost an ounce of it’s power to drive it’s audience to the brink of their sanity. To this day, as Leatherface dances with his chainsaw and the sun rises over rural America, just as the film cuts to black, dead silence, I still have to catch my breath every time.  40 years on, and we’re still feeling the the influence of that idyllic summer afternoon drive that became a nightmare. The most bizarre crime in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre LEGENDARY status aka: Infinite Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Nov
13

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Mystery Family

*Turn Down the Lights, Where Applicable.*

Hey Gang, if you will humor me for just one post I would like to make an attempt to express my love and admiration for a television show that served as one of the primary inspirations for The Trash Cinema Collective and The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews. One of the funniest and most inspired comedy series to ever grace the boobtube. An unholy amalgam of science fiction, puppet show, Saturday horror matinee and sketch comedy show. It’s influence is still felt to this very day and it’s legend  continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, this show turns 25 years old.

Of course, I am speaking of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So, excuse me while I turn into a drooling fanboy and make a lame autobiographical post about how the show changed my life, shaped my entire being and  get all sentimental. Read on if you dare…

When I was in first grade my parents decided to uproot us from Winter Haven, Florida, the town where I was spawned, and move us up North to the capital city of our rotted penis shaped state, Tallahassee, Florida. It was a pretty abrupt and unexpected change of scenery for me, one I resisted and revolted against with all my might. Having to leave behind my friends and everything I was so familiar with was a terrifying prospect.  The idea of starting all over again in some new town, in a new school, with a bunch of new kids was enough to evoke the first panic attack of my young life.

Of course, as life teaches us, everything changes whether we like it or not.  I adapted fairly well to my new environment thanks to my family, primarily my younger cousins Steven and Patrick, who I started hanging out with habitually just about as soon as I arrived, and some understanding, supportive teachers. There was also one other element that eased my transition and helped me to forget my woes over having been tossed headlong into this awkward, new phase of my life; a television show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

joel and bots

Flipping through the channels one Saturday or Sunday morning I came across some cruddy old b-movie, with these funny little silhouettes in the bottom right corner. It looked like some regular Joe and a couple of funny looking monsters, or robots…maybe aliens? I had no clue. But as I listened it dawned on me that these little guys were doing what my Mom, Steven, Patrick and I always did over such cheese-ball entertainment…they were cracking jokes! And great ones! Sure, many of of them flew over my head, but a lot of the appeal had to do with their delivery.  Soon, the little people in the movie theater row got up and walked out of frame and the camera pulled back through a colorful, fun assortment of doors and hallways leading back to a room where the three folks in the theater were suddenly right in front of me. I was soon acquainted with three captives on Dr. Forrester’s diabolical Satellite of Love (The S.O.L., for short) Joel Robinson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.  My life would never be the same.

Needless to say, I was hooked. My cousins and I would watch it just about every weekend and laugh our elementary school aged asses off at just about everything these jokesters said.  I was never quite sure of the shows schedule in those days, but the chances were if I tuned into The Comedy Channel, later Comedy Central, during Saturday or Sunday, they would eventually be on the air. The premise was simple and spelled out brilliantly in the show’s opening theme song, here, I will let Joel explain…

The show was unapologetic in it’s  silliness, boundlessly creative and unabashedly intelligent. To watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 you had to actively pay attention to the action on screen while simultaneously listening to Joel and his robot friend’s riffs and out two and two together in your own head. Sure, many of the jokes reference things you might not know about or not be in the vein of comedy specifically catering to your liking, but as Dr. Forrester and Crow T. Robot himself, Trace Beaulieu has stated in the past: “Hey, if you don’t like that joke, there will be another one in about 3 seconds.” The humor, jokes and references span an enormous spectrum  so that there will always be something for everyone in each episode.

Across the board, the characters, puppets and all, were brought to life with such manic creativity and energy, you couldn’t help but pay attention. The host segments, the parts of the show taking place between the stints in the theater, often mocked the film’s themselves in the form of skits and small productions Joel and The Bots would put on for The Mads back down at Gizmonic Institute, later Deep 13…later Pearl’s VW van, later still, Pearl’s gothic castle.  These segments also treated the viewer to the “Steampunk over a decade before Steampunk existed” set created with what looked like nothing more than garbage,  junk purchased at the flea market, Styrofoam pillars and hot glue. It was the epitome of bargain basement, do it yourself creativity. They had a budget, they worked with the scraps they had and they ended up putting together a show with a unique, one of a kind appearance that looked like a million bucks, but probably cost as much as a dinner for two at Red Lobster.

Mystery movie

Between elementary school and high school MST3K came and went in my life as I moved around a lot after my parent’s divorce. I collected episodes on VHS as I spotted them and would watch as often as I could depending on who our cable provider was. Call it luck or call it fate, I got the pleasure of seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during it’s initial run when it played in Dallas, Texas. I just happened to be in town for my older brother, Trey’s, college graduation and got to see this milestone in MST3K history in the company of my Mom and my  late Grandmother affectionately known as Bobo. Hearing Bobo laugh as hard as I did through MST3K: The Movie, I often think she might have just been laughing at hearing me laugh, is one of my fondest memories I have with her.

I have since had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with  many of the creators and talent behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as experienced their riffing skills live and in person. I only wish I could put into words just how much their creation means to me.  Some folks, their passion might be Dr. Who, others Star Trek or Firefly maybe even  Battlestar Galactica. For me, my science fiction television allegiance will always belong to Gizmonic Institute, Deep 13 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. A show that has always had it’s heart in the right place, filled my life with laughter, brought my friends and family closer,  influenced and inspired me in countless ways and always reminded us to “breath and just relax”. Not to mentions they had TWO final episodes and neither one of them sucked.

I am now an adult with a  fireplace mantle decked out with every box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino and Shout Factory have so far released and not a week goes by that I don’t watch at least one episode.  Those guys and gals can still make me laugh all these years later. In fact, I would say they keep on getting better with age, which is no small feat.

MST3K

To Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff,  Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl and the rest of the Best Brains Team, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re show is an even bigger part of my life now than it was when I was a child.  I’ve shared and introduced your creation to so many great and wonderful people who mean the world to me. Heck, the love of my life and I finally got together after months of being “friends” thanks to your outstanding short “Assignment Venezuela!” Who knew your brand of zaniness would inspire such a romantic evening with my very own Creepy Girl?

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!  May your legacy live on forever.

Love,

-Kevin (The Primal Root)

PUSH THE BUTTON, FRANK!

16
Aug
10

Friday the 13th: Look what you did to him!

a Primal Root review

Friday the 13th is the film that sparked the match. Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had put down the kindling and soaked it with gasoline but it was Friday the 13th in the summer of 1980 than set the fire which became the slasher sub-genre that would define the decade and would pump out a near constant stream of sequels for just about all of those 10 years.

Although incredibly successful there is the small tragedy of the affect all those sequels had on Victor Miller, Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini’s original piece. As Friday the 13th became an ever popular franchise of films with entries reaching into the double digits they have, in a sense, watered down the impact of Friday the 13th. What people lose sight of is just how good and even scary the original Friday the 13th is. With so many stories told of Jason, imposters, trips to Hell and trips to Manhattan, Friday the 13th kind of gets crushed under all the weight of the strange tales that unfolded afterwards.

The simple concept of isolating some teenagers at a secluded summer camp where they could no be reached by any adults, where they must fend for themselves, was ingenious. Many of us spent summers in these mildewed, moist and rickety old summer camps being tended and tormented by counselors who weren’t much older than us. It;s something many children and teens can relate to and it feels organic. Kids with responsibilities but still trying to bekids and have fun.

And we aren’t dealing with some group of unlikable morons this time around. These are intelligent, funny, and self reliant young people. Sure, they smoke a little “grass”, have premarital sex and even partake in a rousing game of strip Monopoly, but they also talk of neutralizing nitrates, creating delicious vegetraian meals where one will get all the protean they need, and also notice the change in weather patterns. Not sure if this makes them smarter than the usual batch but there sure aren’t any characters here calling one another “Dead Fucks” while typing into imaginary computers or commenting on how their casual sexual partner “Hardly Sweats at all.” I doubt those guys would even have a remote idea as to how to run the Emergency Generator.

This distinction makes the sequential murder of each counselor that much more frightening and impactful. No one wants to see these fun loving, relatable kids die. Let alone in such a grisly and graphic fashion. Sure they mess around, but they risk life and limb and give their all to save their fellow counselor, NEd, who looks to be drowning. Revealed later to be a woefully unfunny practical joke. Especially to a certain killer gazing on from the woods.

Friday the 13th also functions as a “Who-Done-It” murder mystery. Although, it’s a film tat totally cheats at this scenario. Several red herrings are introduced but they are all killed by the end of the movie only for the real killer to drive up put of nowhere and confront ALice, our final girl, under the guise of trust.

It’s the warm, and completely disarming actress Betsy Palmer who identified herself as “Mrs. Voorhees, an old friend of the Christie’s.” The audience looks at Mrs. Voorhees and she seems pleasant, personable and like she wouldn;t harm a fly. But you feel something might be off. Maybe she’s a bit too happy. A bit too inviting. That there’s something much darker just under the surface.

Palmer delivers and knock out of a performance as Mrs. Voorhees who is revealed to be the vengeance seeking mother of a former camper who drowned at the camp in the 50’s due to horny, negligent counselors. “They weren’t paying any attention. They were making love while that young boy droned! His name was Jason”  It’s one of those reveals that slowly and effectively builds the dread. We learn of Mrs. Voorhees’ lose, her sense or despair and tragedy. And we can feel her pain. Why she has snapped and decided to wreak vengeance on this camp and anyone who tries to open it again. Because every time the gate to the camp opens she relives her lose, all the pain comes flooding back, and she must avenge her son and prevent the lose deaths of other children by punishing those who are trying to bring those youths back to the spot of her son’s passing.

The final chase is frenetic and crazy as hell highlighted with some great vengeful one liners from Mrs. Voorhees as she stalks and battles the terrified Alice. It all culminates with an excellent showdown on the beach where Alice gets her hands on Mrs. Voorhees’ machete and knocks her mother fucking block off. It’s a surreal and graphic effect by master Tom Savini, where toothpicks are visibly holding the head on, Mrs. Voorhees has hairy man hands, and the neck pops open the opposite way from where the blade makes contact, but these strange screw ups make the whole thing even more jarring to the audience. It all feels like a nightmare.

And who can ever forget the sting in tail ending? After a long night of bloodshed Alice has survived. Having left the the blood caked beach of the lake to take off into the secluded safety of the water itself in a canoe she wakes to find the local police on the shore calling out to her. Her ordeal is over. She has saved herself and the cavalry has arrived. The music swells, ALice looks hopeful, and then a rotted, zombified mongoloid rises from the depths of the lake, wraps his muddied, decrepit arm around our heroines neck and in slow motion drags her under the water.

It’s an obvious steal from Brian DePalma’s film adaptation of Carrie, but it works in spades. the first time I saw this on VHS in the safety of my living room I nearly put a dent in the ceiling I jumped so high off the couch.  Sure, Alice wakes up later in her hospital bed safe and sound. When she asked about the boy, Jason, who dragged her under water, the sheriff replies “We didn’t find any boy.” As if this is supposed to bring some comfort. Did Alice dream this? Hallucinate it? Was it some sort of ghost? Or was it really Jason, whose body was never recovered from the lake?

It’s a terrifying image. One that sticks with the viewer long after the credits roll and the lights come up in the theater. Much like Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th is about the ghosts of our past wreaking havoc on our lives today. The mistakes and tragedies of our collective pasts revisited.  Every camp has a legend like Jason or Cropsey to keep the young people who make up the population there in check. They are morality tales, where those who do wrong will always pay. The past is in stone and cannot be erased. And for some they will never forget. And that these skeletons. no matter how deep they are buried, have a way of resurfacing. They will one day return to us and bring those days back to life.

Friday the 13th is a very affecting and entertaining horror film but it is also a dark and sad tale of vengeance, insanity and lose. Mrs. Voorhees’ rage is an understandable one, but it is clear this deep sense of personal tragedy has caused her to lose her mind. She was a mother and a cook once. She was a good person. The counselors are also all very good people and have much to contribute to society in their own way. They might be young and a little naive but they haven’t harmed anyone. Now, every single one of them is dead because of one terrible day that took place decades earlier. Due to the same act that brought Jason into this world. The same act that was the cause of his death. An act of love.

Friday the 13th is one of the finest examples of the horror films produced in the 1980’s.  It’s a machine the builds the scares and delivers them with glee but is also grounded in a a relatable reality and heartbreaking and believable tragedy. It;s a film well worth revisiting. And when you do, try to forget Jason X, Freddy vs. Jason, and even Friday the 13th part. Forget the whole franchise. Just pop in Friday the 13th and take it as a stand alone, independently made horror film and you’ll find a strong horror films that stands up on it’s own two legs.

Happy 30th Birthday, Friday the 13th.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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