Posts Tagged ‘anthology

09
Nov
13

V/H/S 2: Cassette Carnage

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a Primal Root review

Anthology movies, like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and VHS, are so often a mixed bag of the mediocre, boring and sometimes genuinely outstanding,  which is why I am happy to report the majority of VHS 2 is a pretty horrific and entertaining ride. That is, if you can make it past the the wrap around segments which are just as dull as they were in the original VHS, and the very first story entitled “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” which is a cure for insomnia, you will be okay because it all picks up from there.

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See, in “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” we are shown the story of a young man who loses and eye and gets it replaced with a…bionic one that not only allows him to see, but records everything to a VHS recorder I’m assuming the doctors implanted up his ass. Now, why a hi-tech procedure like this would end up having the recordings of it’s clinical trial dubbed to something as defunct and rarely used as VHS is beyond me, but at least the 15:9 aspect ratio kind of makes sense, I guess. Anyhoo, the new allows this guy to see dead people meandering around his posh house out in the suburbs. He is befucked by a young woman who explains what going on and exposes her lovely tits in the process. Things go from bad, the worse, to I;m going to gouge my bionic eye out with a three pronged kitchen utensil because I’ve seen a couple ghosts over the span of 12 hours.   It’s dull/ Even by my standards, I just could not muster up the effort necissary to be interested, that is, until that fleeting moment when the read head takes her top off. Otherwise, this entry is on par with the wrap around, it fails to engage and feels like it’s there to fill up time. Eye implants have been done (Tobe Hooper’s segment in Body Bags, that terrible movie with Jessica Alba that featured a truly inspired title, etc.) and this one was not an impressive entry into that sub-genre.

DO NOT DESPAIR! I nearly did, too. Trust me, things get better.

VHS 2 MOVIE

Goddamn zombies. Those fucking things are everywhere. Prime time television to baby bibs and lunch boxes, those undead fucks are as inescapable as Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. Enter “A Ride Through the PArk” the story of a young gentleman who goes on, you guessed it, a ride through the park. Things take an interesting turn when a bloody and bitten young woman collapses onto his bike trail screaming for help. Our fellow goes into help her and gets his neck chomped for his trouble. Soon he dies and transforms into a shambling, bloody, undead zombi himself and is able to record his sticky, gruesome, blood soaked escapades via the camera attached to his helmet. What makes this entry somewhat interesting is the use of POV, it’s expected, but this is the first time I have seen it happen from a flesh eating corpses perspective and it actually proves to be an interesting and darkly comical experience.  Our protagonist undead biker guy ends up devouring a couple who stop to help him out, transforming them into zombies in the process. Things hit a high note as soon as the zombies meander upon a little girls birthday party in the park. It’s one of the funniest and wildest moments in a franchise that has seemed overwhelmingly beholden to the morose and ugly. Sure, this is tragic, but my God, it’s fun watching parents scatter and children scream as they flee into the woods and mini-vans.  The zombies are doing their jobs and doing them well as the living  constantly fuck up, you know,m throwing baseball bats at creatures intent on stripping the flesh from your bones rather than hanging on to it, you know the type. Well, some of our undead biker’s humanity still remains and it leads to a sad and, again, guiltily comical finale. This entry has energy, creativity and is a hoot AND a holler. When I found out Eduardo Sanchez directed this puppy, it made me all the happier. The man was half the creative mind that brought us 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” which helped blaze a trail for all the found footage horror film that followed. He’s also had a hand in numerous damn fine horror and sci-fi films over the past decade or so under the radar. It only makes sense that he would join The Collective who brought us he VHS franchise. Well done, sir!

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“Safe Haven” may just be my favorite short film in this batch. It tells the story of a a news crew doing an investigative piece about an Indonesian cult. The leader of this cult is small, wide eyes fellow who, it is implied, sleeps with all the little girls in his cult so that they may be “purified.” At the cult’s headquarters, which are located far off in the sticks, the news crew is thrust headlong into a very important ceremony for this cult. The tension swells as we the viewers know this is not going to end well for anyone. This segment keeps you on your toes to the very end, turns every convention on it’s head, and manages to actually be shocking and horrific in it’s Jim Jones styled story. It’s no surprise, seeing as it was directed by Gareth Evans, the gentleman who delivered one of the best, bobe crushing, martial arts films in sometime “The Raid: Redemption” in 2011. The man understand staging, suspense building and character payoff. “Safe Haven” is one very strong, stiff drink and  I don’t want to spoil a damn thing, you really need to see this short.

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And the final segment “Slumber Party Abduction” is another entry that manages to knock it right out of the park. This entry involves a step brother and sister spending a weekend together as their parents head out of town for a vacation. The older sister invites her arrogant boyfriend over and the younger brother invited his buds and all manner of hijinks ensue.  There are water balloons, interrupted sex acts and masturbation caught on doggie cam. It’s a ll pretty sophomoric and stupid as this kind of shit always is, but THANKFULLY there’s some insidious shit going down that the hardly register to the kids until it’s literally right outside their door. What we end up with a siege film caught on tape and once the chaos begins, the action and horror never lets up until the final, frenetic moment.  you know how the second tale was told from the zombie perspective? This tale is told almost entirely from “Doggie Cam” since the dog has had a waterproof camera attached to his head. The poor little dog, Tank, captures every last terrifying moment on tape and ends this episode on a brilliant, downbeat and heartbreaking note.  Jason Eisner takes advantage of his set up by presenting terror through the eyes of several helpless children and their pint sized pooch. The kids are very natural and easy to believe, and once the shit hits the fan, each loss is felt. Damn fine piece of horror film making.

And then the movie ends with the shitty, uninspired conclusioon to the wrap around story which involves murder, crab walking, a bloody, wagging tongue and a well times thumbs up.  Come on guys, give me a fucking break.

At the end of the day. VHS2 is an upgrade over the original anthology which almost felt like an excuse to expose an ample amount of female flesh rather than present any truly affecting horror stories. Three out of four stories are solid gold which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I was braced for  disappointment and found myself surprised and fairly impressed.  It cool to have a new anthology franchise out there, especially one to feature found footage, it seems like the possibilities are limitless and could produce more great horror stories and bring unappreciated filmmakers some well earned limelight.

3 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Worth checking out!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

VHS-Movie-Poster-2012

a Primal Root review

V/H/S is one of those lucky horror entries who’s sails get caught up in a wind of hype and praise from the horror community, a community ravenous for something worth a damn in this genre that, when not about people eating other people’s shit or featuring a cast made almost entirely of guests from the current horror convention circuit getting torn into chunks by a mad man, is remaking films from decades past and transforming masterpieces into dumbed down fodder for the masses.  So ravenous are they, that V/H/S has become the toast of the community at the moment. Over hyped? Maybe a bit. But V/H/S sure is a fun little anthology film.

Basically, V/H/S, is a found footage horror anthology period piece. It tells six separate tales by different filmmakers all taking place in the mid to late 1990’s.  It’s about two hours of none stop shaky cam footage that will give ‘The Blair Witch Project’ a run for it’s money in stomach churning motion sickness department.

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The central wrap around story of V/H/S features a group of college age hooligans and criminals who tape their Jackass inspired shenanigans and sell them to online distributors. Now, who would pay good money to watch a bunch of twenty something assholes break the windows of abandoned houses and sexually assault random women to show their bare breasts in parking garages is beyond me. But these jerks, the rapist criminals, are our protagonists.  We follow them as these scumbags as they are sent by a mysterious party to break into the residence of an elderly man and retrieve a tape. Easy enough, right? HA! Wrong! If it were that easy we wouldn’t have a fucking movie!

Bizarrely enough, these bros find what looks to be the old man’s lifeless corpse upstairs in a recliner with several TVs flickering snowy static in front of him and surrounded by mountains of VHS tapes. Seems they have their work cut out for them.  So, as these jerk-o’s have never seen a horror movie before, they decide to split up and leave one man behind to review tapes. This feels like the flimsiest of premises, but I’ll take it. Not sure if this even warrants a *SPOILER ALERT*, but the old guy ain’t so lifeless.

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

*SPOILER AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!* I will try to keep things as vague as possible, but the basic premise and plot points to many of these stories might be spoiled if you read the below synopsis. Just a heads up.

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First up:

‘Amateur Night’ tells the tale of a trio of guys who strap one of their buddies up with a pair of now-trendy, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ spectacles equipped with a hidden camera as they head out to enjoy a night of drunken debauchery and date rape. The three central male figures all come off as totally legit, obnoxious, collegiate horn dogs who generously rent the seediest of hotel rooms for taking advantage of the two drunken young ladies they’ve picked up. Honestly, the behavior of these young men is far more disturbing, in my opinion, than what happens to them. They gather around, dicks out and at the ready for gang banging, but as they soon realize that the one they undress, a troubling, mousy “girl” with wide creepy eyes, matted dreads, and a nervous way about her, is something they couldn’t have ever imagined. Out of all the tales in V/H/S, this may possibly be my favorite as it utilizes the hand-held, “found footage” aspect in a clever way and beautifully illustrates how being a completely loathsome, gutter-feeding, tool can literally bite you on the ass. These are the type of dudes who seek power and validation that they have penises via lording control over women, but in the end, they get a horrific taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone (something) else looking for validation. One of the cherries on this blood-soaked cake, is in the pretty awesome and grueling final chase scene climax that film-makers of ‘Amateur Night’ managed to put forth. Ultimately, this story works because it doesn’t shy away from its racy subjects of desire, power-mongering, and douchery comeuppance dealing with everything directly, brutally, and unflinchingly.

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‘Second Honeymoon’

These two are married? How old are they, 23? And they are on their second honeymoon? Eh. Okay… This one tells the story of a (very) young married couple driving through the desert. That’s pretty much it. It was strange to find out these two are married since they come across as an awkward, unlikable couple who don’t seem to get one another and might have just started dating a couple months ago. The wife is creating a video diary of their road-trip, which, as we watch it in it’s uncut form, comes off as more of a negative comment card than a tribute to their affectionate good times. She does little more than whip the camera about and complain about where she is and what she’s doing. Yeah, this is the woman you wanna travel with. Her husband is just as unbearable. Anyway, she gets her fortune read for a buck by a redneck buckaroo version of the Zoltan machines at an old west tourist trap, and it makes mention of reuniting with a loved one. That very night a strange woman knocks on their motel room door in the dead of night asking for a ride in the morning. Who is she? What does she want? Why does she like breaking into hotel rooms, filming folks with their own cameras, poking people in the butt with her switchblade, and pulling lame, elementary school pranks on them while they sleep? Who knows! Sure, it builds some much-desired tension, but the stories’ load is blown a bit prematurely, and doesn’t have much weight as it is as we don’t know these characters very well and from what we do gather of them we don’t like, anyway. The story ends leaving the audience hanging with their questions, which is just fine.  These people are dull, and you’ll probably be ready to move on.

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‘Tuesday the 17th’ is a cool concept where a young woman takes some of her friends out to the woods where, in the past, she had encountered a Jason-esque killer who brutally murdered her buddies. Only thing is, he is either invisible and can only be seen through the video camera’s view finder or he is actually conjured to life via the actual presence of the video camera. It is never explained, but the effect of the killer as a humanoid shape appearing on the tape in scratchy glitches, a visual distortion, works well and is pretty damn eerie. The presentation of this killing specter is this story’s greatest asset.  It’s an idea worthy of a feature-length movie but, as it is, the whole thing comes off as a tired Friday the 13th clone as the love-child of Jason Voorhess and ‘The Ring”s Samara stalks down some dumb, canned-character kids in the woods. Despite a cool set up, the story rushes to it’s conclusion and falls apart, as a result. I can’t help but wonder what it could have been had it been fleshed out.

VHS - Emily Ghost

‘The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Young’ is an intriguing story about a long-distance relationship taking place over video chat as our heroine experiences a haunting and some kind of mystery growth under her arm… It’s a nifty little ‘Outer Limits’  style yarn that’s relatively satisfying. I couldn’t help but wonder how great this story would have been if captured in the format of a normal film narrative as opposed to found footage. Our main girl is remarkably sweet, likeable, and attractive with a vulnerable but outgoing quality to her. Although her beau says he’s working out-of-area for his business, we cannot help but wonder about the nature of this curious long-distance relationship. Does anyone else sense some early commentary possibly co-dependence, manipulation, and abuse in the relationship? I wouldn’t put it past this one as all motives are made clear by story’s end. As it featured a great leading lady  who didn’t annoy the ever-loving shit out of me, ‘The Sick Thing’ was a nice change of pace.

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‘10.31.98’ is right up there with ‘Amateur Night’, vying as a favorite of the anthology. Four surprisingly charming and likable college age fellows, one dressed as a Nanny Cam (teddy bear with a built in camera. CLEVER!), traverse across town to find the Halloween party they were invited to. When they finally come to the address where the party is rumored to be it seems the house is empty, but as they investigate they find they most certainly are not alone. These guys walk into a situation with no frame of reference, expecting the light-hearted frivolity, and come out with the worst possible scenario imaginable. Once they come across what appears to be a damsel in freaky distress the story explodes into an effects-heavy, supernatural nightmare, and works better in its brief running time than all the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films combined.  Matters escalate in the blink of an eye and the guys react with righteous bravery, putting their lives in peril to save a young woman whose life seems to be on the line. This welcomes us to one of the most well-played shocks of the whole film. These guys aren’t out to take advantage of anyone, they don’t act like drooling, poon-hounds. It’s Nice Guys vs. Pure Evil delivering chuckles, anxiety, and, by story’s end, pure terror closing V/H/S out on a high note.

Oh, and the ineffective, brain-dead wrap around of the original tape-retrieval asscapade? Well, they all die. The End.

*END SPOILERS!*

In the final analysis I enjoyed V/H/S, despite myself.  It’s got a bit of everything, post-modern horror, supernatural, psychological serial killer, the whole shebang. It’s almost like a sampler case featuring several of horror’s most beloved sub genres, and when these stories are at their best (see: ‘Amateur Night’, ‘10.31.98’)  they work pretty damn well. At their worst, they still have some cool ideas to dig into (see: ‘Tuesday the 17th’, ‘Second Honeymoon’).

V/H/S proved to be an entertaining collaborative experiment that spins some imaginative tales.  By no means a masterpiece, V/H/S is a creepy excursion into the macabre, the supernatural and the rewindable.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Sep
10

Taking a trip with HBO’s The Hitchhiker

a Jess Part 2 Review
Ah, the heydays of HBO: the epitome of trash in a time when American popular culture was brimming with it. I remember HBO being perms, tight pants and boobs under the glossy neon lights of ‘80s nightlife. Despite it being off limits for a kid like me back in the 80s, rediscovering it now and seeing how terribly it has aged is probably much more fun. The Hitchhiker was a thriller/chiller series of morality tales and karmic vengeance, not unlike Tales from the Crypt or The Outer Limits, but the Hitchhiker preceded these two far more successful programs by a few years. Debuting 1984, the show featured multiple directors, and a different star actor or actress featured in the lead role; all set to a hip, synth-pop soundtrack. The narrator of each episode was an unnamed hitchhiker with a thick, luxurious mullet and pants so tight it’s no wonder he always walked in slow motion. The hitchhiker introduced and closed each story with some generic warning about the dangers of the flesh, etcetera, just with no groan inducing puns like the crypt keeper.

The DVD contains two discs with five select episodes on each. The episodes are not in sequential order, and are by different directors. The episodes are so different in feel from one to the other, the incongruity is noticeable. One thing they all have in common is plenty of sleaze. Naughty characters get their due with plenty of blood, nudity and death to go around. The real reason to pick up this DVD is that each episode stars one or more fan favorites and surprisingly big name talents who may or may not have been slumming it, or just found cutting their teeth on trash cinema. Most enjoyable are Margot Kidder, Willem Dafoe and Gary Busey among many others.

The episodes are all irresistible – Margot Kidder as a greedy nurse at an invalid home, Willem Dafoe as an author who fakes his own death, Brad Dourif as a hermit rock ex-superstar, and Joey Pantoliano as a sexually deviant cult leader. But if I have to choose a couple to highlight for you…

My personal favorite of the episodes is one entitled WGOD. It features Gary Busey as a radio televangelist with dark secret. Busey creates his character so classically; complete with trademark hand gestures and a southern-drawling machismo. His character, Reverend Power is the voice of WGOD and the “Tower of Power,” a Christian radio program. He offers righteous advice to callers dealing with such salacious problems as infidelity and carnal urges. Powers cares for an invalid mother who pines for her deceased younger son, who was much more popular, talented and well liked. Living in there the shadow of his brother makes Powers start to lose his grip…. Or is he truly being guilt-tripped from beyond? Here’s where the writing gets a little incongruous. Powers receives a call from a creepy, strangely effeminate, angry voice that states things like “I’m older than God!” and “All songs are about me,” along with scripture about resurrection while lighting up the dial pad in the shape of a cross. I was excited by what might turn out to be an epic battle between good and evil – an opportunistic televangelist and an angry, thieves-in-the-temple kind of Jesus. Who it really was on the phone was a bit less exciting, sadly. What makes this episode unique is that Busey’s character is not fully painted as a bad guy. He is actually authentically devout from what we see. Yes, he eventually has to face his inner demons but the reveal at the end conjures more pity than terror.

“I want you to take it back to Washington, New York or Buddha-land, just stay off God’s case!” – Gary Busey’s character to an Asian reporter.

The most disturbing of all in this set is the abstract and oddly artistic “Homebodies” featuring Helen Hunt as a beautiful, rich young debutante whose inner pain and loneliness are numbed by her late-night heroin use. A washed up, coked up, D-list celebrity hosts a reality show about “the nightlife” and searches for the most extreme, taboo breaking behaviors in the way people party. He isn’t having any luck as the people at the club identify him immediately as a phoney. Things turn around in the men’s restroom when a primping, snorting, giggling male friend of Helen Hunt’s character finds him and invites him to document “the princess” and her evening. From there he is led by Hunt and her posse of thrill-seekers to a back alley where a man lay dying. One of Helen’s posse of worshippers shot him so that Helen could expand her collection of quotes before death. The episode spirals downhill into a frantic evening of obtaining drugs and doing them; watching The Princess degrade to a tearful heroin junkie amongst her pink, plush teenager’s bedroom. Getting more and more inebriated, it isn’t long before the fearless reporter is left too stoned to defend himself against becoming a contributor to Helen’s sick collection. This episode is disturbing, and it took me a few more attempts to have felt like “I get it.” It’s actually pretty powerful.
If you enjoy seeing hidden gems of the work of your favorite actors and actresses that star in these episodes, you definitely should buy this DVD. Volume 2 and 3 also are available, as well as the complete seasons on both VHS and DVD, though rare. If you are lucky like I was, you may be able to find them for $3.50 in the DVD bin at TJ Maxx, but if not, keep looking. And for god’s sake, if you see a hitchhiker with nut cameltoe, do pick him up – he won’t get much farther without a truckload of baby powder down there.

*Author’s note: Hulu.com features a number of episodes of The Hitchhiker available for free, albeit with commercials.




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