Posts Tagged ‘arrows

22
Nov
19

The Dark Power (1985): Whip It Good With Lash LaRue To Show You How!

Dark Power Poster 03

“Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!” Lash LaRue as Ranger Girard in The Dark Power

a Primal Root written review

Whenever Thanksgiving starts creeping closer I always find myself contemplating the many attempts over the years to make horror films based around that specific holiday. Flicks like Blood Rage, and Home Sweet Home (which never explicitly states that it is taking place on Thanksgiving, but the family gathering, turkey dinner and football seem to suggest that it is), the awesome Eli Roth helmed trailer for a nonexistent 80’s slasher entitled Thanksgiving which gave us a taste of what COULD have been if someone decades ago had applied themselves to making a Turkey Day Slasher, and, of course, there’s the Thankskilling movies which blend blood, breasts and beasts with ample amounts of black comedy.

But I tend to veer more towards films which feature the most tenuous of connections to Thanksgiving, things that remind me of the basic elements of the holiday going wrong, primarily family dysfunction. Stuff out there like Desperate LivingThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Parents, and Pet Sematary. But there’s this one hunk of cinematic dog food that has always stuck out in the back of my mind as an unofficial Trash Cinema Thanksgiving film. I say unofficial because it doesn’t take place on Thanksgiving at all…it doesn’t even feature a damn turkey. Okay, shit, it has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving REALLY, but it DOES have to do with Native American Spirits killing off dumbass white crackers who do not respect the heritage which was protecting their uneducated asses since before their great grand parents we even born. So, with my own warped logic, the idea of this land’s native inhabitants coming back from the dead to kill spoiled ass white people who committed genocide against them just rubs me the right way this time of year. It’s a film entitled…THE DARK POWER.

Dark Power Poster 02

When a local Native American medicine man passes away, he leaves his estate to his money hungry, yuppie grandson who immediately decides to rent his grandpappy’s old homestead out to a bunch of sorority babes who were recently kicked out of their dorm. Of course, everyone has heard the local legends that Grandpa Medicine Man’s homestead is haunted by four vengeful, murderous, Native American spirits, known as The Toltec Sorcerers, which he had been protecting the area from for years with numerous safeguards and ancient rituals. Sure, some might be creeped out, but no one REALLY believes the stories of this old house. That is, with the exception of  old timer, and close personal friend of the deceased medicine man, Ranger Girard played by none other than the legendary western whipping boy, Lash LaRue! Girard does his damnedest to warn folks, without sounding like a Crazy Ralph, that they’re messing with powers…DARK POWER beyond their understanding and that his old friend has been guarding his game and keeping everyone safe for decades. Sure, it’s all superstition, all these modern, shaved vagina hipsters, say…But Lash LaRue is holding on to that mystical whip the recent worm food medicine man gave him just a little bit tighter.

DarkPower Whip

It isn’t long before the house is full of half nekkid nubile young women, one of which invited her younger brother, who excels at sexual harassment, to live with them, too. The home is frequented by rowdy friends, overweight plumbers and truck stealing 8 year old boys, all of which seem to remove or misplace an artifact set in place to ward off the evil four spirits which will bring unspeakable horrors down on the land they haunt once removed. The girls are all likable enough, one is the main girl, who really doesn’t do a whole lot but survive, there’s the one who is really into fitness and self defense with a good sense of humor and never wears pants, the one that looks like Julia Roberts and is an outspoken racist and future Trump supporter (she’s the one who invited her obnoxious creeper brother to live with them) and there’s the incredibly friendly black girl who ends up having to deal with the Julia Roberts look-a-like’s constant racist bullshit.

Dark Power 06

But not for long! Because soon the four evil spirits of The Toltec Sorcerers are awakened and they emerge from the ground in their expressionless Spencer’s Gifts Halloween masks doused in K-Y Jelly and begin slowly, methodically killing all the assholes int he house and whittling through the least enjoyable characters, to the most and then to the boring ones? Will modern means be able to stop this ancient…DARK POWER, or will anyone be able to WHIP into action and  send this…DARK POWER back to Hell?

DarkPower_Screen2

This one is a doozy, Gang. First off, let me just say this one is exceedingly cheap looking, which gives it a charming, kind of made at home vibe. That sort of feeling of watching a movie some friends decided to make one afternoon on a budget of $50 which all went to pizza and beer and their cast and crew consists entirely of their friends and ONE Hollywood legend, Mr. Lash (scene stealer) LaRue. This instantly adds to the appeal for me as a fan of low rent film making.  The acting is adorably bad. You can tell these folks are REALLY trying to sell these characters and their bizarre motivations. The standouts are Mary Dalton as Mary Dalton, a local TV reporter, who is an okay interviewer and an A+ horn dog who is constantly hitting on Lash LaRue who is old enough to be her Grandfather. Cynthia Bailey as Tammie, the superstitious and incredibly kind hearted and tolerant young black woman who moves into a house where she will cohabitate with a racist and a racist’s racist sexual harassing brother. Suzy Martin as Suzy, the work out freak, who is forever upbeat and without trousers, even when getting chased by horrifying, bloodthirsty Toltec Sorcerers. Paul Holman as Uncle Earl Coleman who is a pretty solid piece of exceedingly hefty comic relief with a THICK southern accent, a heart of gold and delivers the line “It smells…like a FART!” with perfect diction and excellent comedic timing. Also, there’s a character who just shows up to get in a bathtub, chug a can of Budweiser and show off her boobs, I think her name is Page? Anyway, thank you for providing the ONLY shot of bare female breasts in the entire film with your only moment of screen time.

DarkPower_bath tub

And, of course, the MVP is Lash LaRue, who shows up when all hope is lost and whips the fuck out of anything that looks like it’s intent on hurting someone. The movie even opens with this strange scene that has absolutely no connection to the rest of the film which features a little kid getting berated by his mother about the haunted property the medicine man lives on and how he shouldn’t go near it. Well, the kid sneaks out and starts wondering some trails in the woods near the property where he is chased by a pack of vicious dogs. The kid runs for his life with the adorable, I mean HORRIFYING dogs nipping at his heels. The kid gets to a clearing and BEHOLD! LASH LARUE! Who cracks the fuck out of his whip and sends the raging rovers back into the woods they emerged from. The kid weeps with his face in the dirt, Lash puts his whip away and stares at the kid, emotionless…SCENE. WHAT DID THIS TEN MINUTE SEQUENCE HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? 1. It pads the film to make it feature length. 2. It established Lash as a force for good against that…DARK POWER in those woods. Seriously, anytime Lash shows up on screen, his charm and good nature come shining through and just make every moment a pleasure to watch. Especially in the final confrontation at the haunted house where he takes on all The Toltec Sorcerers, whipping the fuck out of them and taunting them the whole time. It’s great watching this old timer do what he does best, crack that whip, and be a hero.

Dark Power 02

The effects are effective, but again, pretty cheap. Lots of folks getting shot with arrows, but one death really stands out, there’s this one ginger kid who gets yanked off of a pontoon boat, has his arm slowly pulled off and then has his face, again, SLOWLY ripped off. It’s gruesome and painful, but also delightful in it’s cheesiness. Also, when The Toltec Sorcerers are finally sent back to Hell, their demise is a lot of gooey, melty fun.

The Dark Power 03

This was the first feature directed by Phil Smoot, who has spent most of his life working behind the scenes as producer or Production Manager of other independent films like Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, Kevin Smith’s Tusk, and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I would LOVE to know more about the making of The Dark Power, but, unfortunately, there’s not a whole heck of a lot out there. One of it’s main claims to fame is being made fun of by Rifftrax.

Dark Power 05

All and all, The Dark Power is a tale about the white man’s lack of respect for Native American culture, their people and their rich heritage. It’s easy to shrug off someone’s ancient beliefs as hogwash, but, it’s never a bad idea to just leave some trinkets in the ground if there’s a slight possibility it will keep you from having your entire face ripped off by a malevolent The Toltec Sorcerers raised from the dead because you thought your front yard looked better without the eagle on the skull decoration left there by the medicine man devoted his life to protecting your dumb, ungrateful white ass.

Dark Power Poster 01

So, this Thanksgiving, I recommend you pick up this hot, smoked turkey for you trash cinema fans to chow down on. It goes down easy, fills you up with cheap, trashy goodness and doesn’t disappoint. Oh yes, there’s plenty to be thankful for, especially this 1985 slice of Trash.

I award The Dark Power THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. Low-Rent appreciating Trash Cinema devotees, like myself, will adore it. Grab some friends, a case of beer, and have filthy Thanksgiving feast!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

25
Aug
13

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

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

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

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

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

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

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

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

meow.

meow.

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

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

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

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

19
Aug
11

Welcome to Fright Night…Just Kidding.

Wait...did Charlie even use that axe he's holding in this poster?

a Primal Root written review

My friend Sam wanted to see this movie. He was stoked. His enthusiasm lead me to go along with him. Hell, how bad could it be? As the songs goes. “I wish that I knew what I know now…when I was stronger.” We both left the theater in agony around 2:00 this morning…

I really had no interest in this remake. At all. Fright Night is one of my all time favorite horror films of the 80’s, Hell, it’s one of my favorite horror movies period. Under the masterful direction of Tom Holland, Fright Night was a vibrant, funny, spooky, gruesome love letter to horror’s Golden Age updated with many excellent in-camera effects and some down right awesome performances by everyone involved. Holland even managed to give all the characters involved (even those in supporting roles) back stories, the space to breath and in turn, gave the film a lot of heart. All of this is why Fright Night endures as a horror fan favorite and why audiences keep coming for more.

And then there’s Fright Night 2011…Remember, I saw this movie for you.

Don't feel bad, Colin, I hear it happens to lots of guys...

I cannot even think of where to begin…well, the beginning is as good a place as any. We are introduced to our new Charlie Brewster who lives in a modern suburb of Las Vegas where every house looks exactly the same. The camera glides over the houses showing us how uniform they all are and as I watched this new Fright Night that was the final moment I felt hope…Maybe the film would be some kind of commentary on how interchangeable we all have become in a world where individuality is pushed aside for convenience sake? I dunno, needless to say, I was over estimating this corn riddled turd of a film.

Charlie (Yelchin) is now a dirt bike enthusiast who is trying to grapple with his past so that he can still hang out with the cool kids at school and get the sticky finger from his uninteresting girlfriend, Amy (Poots. Tee-Hee) See, Charlie used to play some kind of roll playing game with his old nerdy best friend “Evil” Ed (Plasse/McLovin’) and Charlie must keep this past and the existence of his old best friend buried at all costs or else he won’t be popular anymore.

I guess the decision here was to make every main character unlikable from the get-go, especially Charlie.  Rather than giving the audience a surrogate in Charlie as the original had ( a bit of an awkward nerd, passion for horror movies, having girl troubles and attempting to defeat the forces of evil) instead we get this Charlie.  He has a dirt bike and is trying to be popular. How…interesting…

So, Jerry (Farrell)  moves in next door to Charlie and his single Mom, Jane (Toni Collette! What are you doing in this mess?)  and is introduced as he does his yard work…as the sun is just beginning to set. Let me remind you, Jerry’s a vampire. Of course he’s charming, suave, built and ready to fuck and/or eat anything that moves and, true to form, the ladies around town are instantly drawn to this type of undead, evil, sociopath…

"And may your forehead grow like the mighty oak."

I think possibly the saddest thing about Fright Night 2011 is how quickly Jerry is revealed to be a full force vampire. Literally, ten minutes in and one of the main protagonists is attacked and turned.  Jerry’s reveal in the original takes time to build, the tension grows as does the suspicion and the paranoia until Jerry finally confront Charlie. In the new Fright Night he basically walks up a goes. “Hey, I’m a vampire.” Yep…quite the reveal.

The filmmakers try to punch up the long spells of boredom and Collin Farrel mugging sly smiles to the camera before sniffing the air in all directions, with uninspired car chases, cameos from previous cast members (of whom I felt deeply embarrassed for) and David Tennant grabbing his testicles for inspired comic relief as our new Peter Vincent, the leather pants wearing, premature ejaculating host of Fright Night. No, Fright Night is no longer a late night cable access spook show… now it’s a Las Vegas magic show.Tennant’s portrayal of Vincent is a dreadfully over the top performance that’s given no real gravity or sense of reality especially once the back story of this new Peter Vincent is revealed.

The Smarmy goes to 11.

Fright Night 2011 is nothing more than product. There’s not a whole lot for me to talk about in this review because there’s nothing there. It’s vapid, empty and a complete waste of time, effort, talent, money and celluloid.  Characters that were believable, that you once felt for whether they were human or monster, are reduced to terrible one liners and the most senseless and dull headed characterization I’ve witnessed since those fucking Transformers movies took off. Oh yeah, it’s that kind of bad. Perhaps, even worse, since Fright Night had such incredible source material to plunder.AND DON’T SEE THIS THING IN3-D! It’s a waste of money. Unless 3-D doorways and apple eating is worth an additional 5 bucks to you…

Maybe I am just getting too old. Perhaps references to Google, Ebay and excellent Century 21 product placements aren’t enough to make me laugh. It just makes me roll my eyes in my old man disgruntlement knowing what I am watching is nothing more that a cheap, piece of shit knock of of a once inspired and wholly entertaining story. A film that in 1985 reminded us of how imaginative and fun horror cinema could truly be! Hell, I watch it today and I still wish people strived to make movies as great as Fright Night (85). Movies where  you walk out of the theater feeling exhilarated and wishing you could spend even more time in that universe.

And then there’s the new Fright Night. Where you walk out feeling like you were the one who just had your blood drained. It seemed they tried to walk a middle ground where they might appeal to old fans and new. In the end, they ended up with something I feel will appeal to neither.

Perhaps you should just stop TRYING to be so cool, Brewster…




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