Posts Tagged ‘blood

09
Sep
20

Primal Rage (1988) or Campus Monkey Trouble

“It’s a red-ass world, honey baby.” – Tow Truck Driver Guy, Primal Rage

a Primal Root written review

There’s a bit of a dynasty when it comes to malicious virus films. One of the earliest examples of a really solid puss spewing, blood gushing pandemic picture is Canadian body horror wunderkind, David Cronenberg’s 1977 underrated chunck blower, Rabid starring the late, great, Marilyn Chambers with her blood sucking arm pit vampire parasite that spreads a nightmare contagion which causes people exposed to it to go into heinous bouts of unmitigated violent rages and green bile spewage that culminates with the machine gun death of a department store Santa Claus which makes me laugh my ass off every single goddamn viewing. This might be the most popular of the genre to classic horror hounds, but there are plenty more the churned the masses into hordes of disgusting plague rats, like Georege Romero’s The Crazies, Cronenberg (yet again) with The Shivers (aka: They Came From Within), Luigi Cozzi and his torso exploding Contamination from 1980 and, of course, the countless SLEW of flesh devouring living dead films which I feel completely fall under this category, or at the very least, a sub category of the genre or whatever makes you comfortable. They’re kissing cousins.

Of course, this sort of shit it strictly for us consumers of such filth, where the rest of the pop culture palate prefers their apocalyptic end of the world scenarios served up a bit more palatable with films like the 1995 Dustin Hoffman vehicle, Outbreak, where the world can be saved if Cuba Gooding Jr. can spank the right monkey, and the genuinely unsettling 2011 Steven Soderbergh film, Contagion, which at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic was feeling a bit TOO prophetic.

However, decades before Acadamy Award Winning Filmmaker Danny Boyle would unleash his effectively nightmarish art house RAGE virus on an unwitting United Kingdom and post-apocalyptic, sexy, shirtless Cillian Murphy on the masses, there was a far more shlockier, trashier, brutally wacky and colorful rage virus unleashed right here in The Sunshine State of Florida, I am of course speaking of the 1988 contagious college campus carnage of the 1988 Trash Cinema Classic, PRIMAL RAGE!

Penned by Italian schlockmeister Umberto Lenzi, probably best known to us as the man who sparked the Italian cannibal film boom of the 1970’s with 1972’s The Man From Deep River (aka: Sacrifice) and directed by first time filmmaker Vittorio Rambaldi, 1988’s Primal Rage tells the story of a tiny pony tail sporting scientist named Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson of Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglorious Basterds fame) who does his well meaning experiments in a lab at an undisclosed Miami Florida college. See, Ethridge is experimenting on baboons in order to find a means of restoring dead brain tissue, which is noble enough if you leave out the animal cruelty. But wouldn’t you fucking know it, the guy goes and accidentally creates a fast acting rage virus that can be transmitted by bite, of course. Thankfully the powerful, infected, absolutely insane and uncontrollably violent baboon is locked in the lab behind the flimsy latch of an aluminum bird cage…

We are introduced to our protagonist, Sam Nash (Patrick Lowe from Slumber Party Massacre 2) who, when not cycling around the bustling college campus snapping photos of co-ed asses in late 80’s spandex jogging attire is attending the WHITEST African Hertiage Celebration Day I have ever seen documented on film. Sam is one of those hunky 80’s dudes with a mighty chin, upward arching eyebrows, a flawless tan and perfectly coifed hair. You know, REALLY dull. Turns out Sam works for the school newspaper with his roommate and genetic crossbreed between Hunter S. Thompson and Bobcat Goldthwait , Duffy (Mitch Watson, voice actor for Kung Fu Panda and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated)) who is a hard edged investigative college rag reporter willing to do anything and hurt anyone in order to get the story on taco Tuesday, or whatever. We are introduced to Duffy as some sorority sisters come barging into the newspaper’s office screaming about cutting off Duffy’s balls.

This bespectacled, unshaven, most assuredly unwashed and far too into his own bullshit college kid who is willing to lose his genitals for the story is destined to be the life blood of the film…right? Not so fast, see, he goes to the lab for Sam in order to snap some shots of the animal cruelty going down on campus and simultaneously prove that Sam doesn’t have what it takes to be truly great journalist, like the willingness to break into private property. As one might guess, Duffy starts snapping shots WITH THE FLASH ON, and when the blood thirsty psychotic rage infected baboon starts losing it’s fucking mind when the flash goes off in it’s little face and begins violently trying to dismantle it’s enclosure, Duffy starts fucking taking shot after flash bulb shot while screaming at the caged up animal to “RELAX! TAKE IT EASY!” As you might have guessed, the test baboon tears it’s cage apart, beats the ever loving shit out of Duffy before biting a meaty chunk of the intrepid reporter’s arm, flings itself out the glass window, strolls around the parking lot and then attacks a cop car, smashing it’s misunderstood monkey head into the windshield, killing the poor little test baboon. And Duffy stumbles into the shadows…

Meanwhile, Sam has come to the rescue of a fellow co-ed who was about to get her car towed by flaunting his bottomless knowledge of Miami traffic ticketing laws and saves the day. This young lady is Lauren Daly (Cheryl Arutt of Murder, She Wrote and The Magical World of Disney fame) and she strikes up a flirtation with Sam immediately and the two decide to go on a double date where Lauren will be hooking the recently rage infected Duffy up with her new roommate, Debbie (Sarah Buxton from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead) who is a math wiz and introduced herself to Lauren as having missed a good chunk of the semester because she had to get an abortion. Beats the typical boring, getting to know you chit-chat, I suppose…

Sam informs Duffy of the double dater and recommends he take a shower, with soap, wear clean clothes and not wear the same underwear he’s been wearing all week. Honestly, their little house on campus is kind of gross and exactly what you;d expect two college roomate brows to be living in. The point is driven home when Duffy, who stares it his now pulsating, oozing, gaping monkey bite would, reaches into his medicine cabinet, grabs an already open can of Old Milwaukee that’s been sitting there for who knows how long, and dumps the contents into the bloody, gore and puss drenched jagged meat canyon that was once his forearm and lets out a cry of agony he quickly muffles to keep up the charade that he wasn’t there when he made the baboon go berserk.

The foursome goes out to a local, dingy, college dive bar where Sam and LAuren dance the night away to 80’s pop and Duffy regales Debbie with stories of setting fire to locker rooms in order to avoid getting his ass kicked by those pesky jocks. What’s really intriguing is Debbie seems to picking up what Duffy is putting down and to both Duffy and the audience’s amazement, it looks like a bit of romance might be sparking here! And wouldn’t you know it, of course a trio of already violent, rude, rapey jocko’s happen upon the date and begin being complete scum bags to the ladies and gents present. What they don’t know is Duffy has a rage virus beginning to take hold and Duffy derails their asshole behavior with a few well place fist pokes and nearly breaking the ring leader’s arm. Afterwards, Duffy and Debbie go walking along and start to make-out despite Duffy being super pale, completely drenched in sweat and complaining of stomach cramps that sounds like he’s about to shit his pants. Despite all this, Debbie goes in for the lip lock, which is sweet enough, until Duffy violently pulls her in and ends up nipping her neck…two, TWO are now infected! Ah! Ah! Ah!

The next day, Duffy heads to the campus infirmary as the virus begins deeply taking hold. He freaks the fuck out int he waiting room and uncontrollably attacks everyone there, knocks over shelves and screams the entire time like a wild animal before running outside where some pulsating part of his temple bursts open, spewing blood all over the lush college campus greenery before he collapses to the gentle grass below. Does anyone rush to his aid or follow the screaming, bloody, rage fueled gusher of a man out into campus? Of course not! He falls to the ground and is left to recoup.

It’s about this time that Debbie begins feeling the nastiness of the rage virus and tries to keep a low profile as well with Lauren shrugging it off as the flu that’s been going round. But, of course, that trio of sociopath jocko psychos is on the prowl in their convertible for a woman to abduct and rape. Seriously. They are driving around campus hootin’ and hollerin’ looking for a victim like future conservative Supreme Court Justices when they spot the super pale, immensely sweaty, puke residue on her chin Debbie who is stumbling as if she is about to drop dead to the infirmary. She IS the only other living soul on campus at the moment in the middle of the night, so the fuck face frat fuckers nab her, try forcing her mouth open to pour Old Milwaukee down it and speed off to their unbelievably intricate rape room/apartment which is replete with a filthy cum soaked mattress, super loud stereo system and a ton of seizure inducing strobe lights. “I GO FIRST! I NEVER GET TO GO FIRST!” one bro shouts as they throw Debbie onto the crunchy comforter and he drops his denim revealing what I can only assure you are yellow pee stained tighty whities. It’s a gut churning feeling knowing these scumbags are all too familiar with this act of violation and that we actually live in a world where subhuman shit liquid like these three actually exist, and I do give the filmmakers a ton of credit for showing this sort of act as being absolutely horrifying, dehumanizing and beyond repulsive.

Thankfully, it is right at this moment when the rage virus takes hold of Debbie giving her super human strength, invulnerability and a need to spread the disease. She makes short order of the three bros, flinging them across the room, beating the shit out of them and managing to sink her teeth into all three, before rushing out of there and into the night. The virus takes 24 hours to fully take hold, which means these three murderous rapist pieces of shit will become UBER murderous rapist pieces of shit just in time for…HALLOWEEN.

Will Sam somehow become interesting and seal the deal with Lauren? Will our two protagonists find a cure for the rage virus in time to save Duffy and Debbie? Will Dr. Ethridge be exposed as a fucking horrendously irresponsible mad scientist who is willingt o sacrifice numerous young, sexy co-ed flesh in order to reanimate brain matter, or will he just get what’s coming to him? And will campus EVER be the same after the Three Amigos of Rape and Murder put on their grim reaper costumes and go on a killing spree at the universities Halloween Festival? Trust me, it’s WELL worth finding out.

vittorio rambaldi | Tumblr

Primal Rage is actually a really effective, inventive and dare I say fun contagion horror film that works on a bunch of different levels. From creating a bunch of colorful characters that are well written for the most part with lively dialog to a genuine feeling of dread as you watch this virus spread from person to person and an excellent knack for shoving gratuitous, explosive, highly creative violence in to shake things up if they start to get a little bogged down in plot talk. Sam is a bit of a drag, but most lead male protagonists are in these sorts of film. But everyone else rocks their rolls, especially Duffy who goes for broke in his grungy college guy trying to be cool and offbeat performance. Also, a big kudos to the three actors who play the evil virus fueled murder rapists, Lovejoy (Doug Sloan), Chas (Luis Valderrama) and Bryan (John Baldwin) for bringing three of the most heinously unlikable villains to malicious, joyful life. The are a pretty intimidating threesome of nastiness who when we are first introduced to them are almost played for comedic affect, like the typical horny guys in an American Pie movie. But as the film progresses their characters become a nightmarish commentary on the nature of rape culture and making light of this sort of behavior. It’s pretty fucking bold and way ahead of the pack. And once these three put on those grim reaper costumes, and begin violently killing random costumed Halloween revelers, it’s one Hell of a fucking spectacle. I don’t enjoy spoiling things, but these three skid marks get what’s coming to them, thankfully.

All in all, Primal Rage is a shit kicker of a late 80’s horror film when many pop culture commentators were claiming horror was dying out at the time. It’s a film that fools around with expectations, take full advantage of it’s location on a college campus, despite not having ANY nudity at all, (NOT EVEN IN THE DAMN SHOWER SCENE!) and doesn’t skimp around on the positively fantastic physical gore effects and make-up. When we are treated to close ups of the faces of those infected, it looks extremely legit, gross and painful.

Turns out, to my own shock and amazement, they were brought to life by Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi who did effects work on such legendary mainstream flicks as Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Silver Bullet and even The Neverending Story. Oddly, it looks like this film, Primal Rage, which was directed by his son, would be his swan song. He retired from the business as CGI became more common place in film. Rambaldi sadly passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on in those truly remarkable and believable character creations he built from the ground up in front of the camera in those final days when physical effects were at their pinnacle.

For years, Primal Rage was incredibly hard to come by on any format other than VHS. Thankfully, Dark Force Releasing has done us Trash Cinema fans a huge favor and released a great transfer of the film on blu-ray for us to finally savor in all it’s sickeningly gross, bloody, puss soaked, rage fueled glory. I highly recommend was I consider one of the greatest lost gems of the dying days of the late 80’s slasher horror boom. One that threw the conventions of the genre to the wind and created something unique, bold and highly entertaining. A film I cannot help but wonder if Danny Boyle ever watched before penning 2002’s 28 Days Later. I cannot help but see a spark of inspiration there.

Yes, grab your vomit bag and soak in the unconventional horrors of Vittorio Rambaldi’s ultra sloppy rage virus run amok freak out, PRIMAL RAGE!

I award this nutzoid flick FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. I highly recommend this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

WARNING: Trailer Contains Spoilers
16
Jul
20

Nightbeast (1982) White Trash vs. Predator (NSFW)

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“The most vicious creature to ever span the intergalactic void has come to pay it’s respects.” – Narrator, NIGHTBEAST trailer

a Primal Root written review

In 1987 John McTiernan unleashed Predator starring the, art the time, box office juggernauting mother fucker, Arnold Schwarzenegger and penned by snappy patter master Shane Black. As expected, the flick was a huge success, has a massive following of folks who adore it and spout “Sexual Tyrannosaurus” quotes to their significant others that are rolling their eyes and inspired countless cash-in clones the same way Alien, The Terminator, JAWS and Star Wars did in the year preceding it. Something hits big? Expect goofy, trashy, sometimes extraordinarily entertaining knock-offs. It’s a forgone conclusion. If a recipe works, other less talented chefs are going to try to copy it and either come out with a bowl of chicken soup or chicken shit.

But what if I were to tell you there’s a 1982 film that follows a similar premise? One that features a malevolent alien creature who shows up to lay waste to as many primitive human beings as possible as long as they’re alive? One that takes place in the small town of Perry Hall, Maryland and our murderous alien fiend must face off, not with specially trained mercenary badasses whose wise cracks work just as effectively as their automatic firepower spewing hellfire into the jungle, but backwoods rednecks with double barreled shot guns, pistols and no concept of self preservation?

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Enter the quirky, brutal, hilariously over the top independent killer alien rampage film NIGHTBEAST written and directed by independent no-budget horror/sci-fi filmmaker Don Dohler. Don began his film making career in 1978 with The Alien Factor, an imaginative, high concept film about several different species of aliens laying waste to a small town in Maryland and focuses on the local yokels fighting for their lives and trying to defend their little hamlet from the onslaught of vicious aliens. In 1982, Don would write and direct NIGHTBEAST, which would essentially be a retelling of The Alien Factor story reuniting most of the cast from that film, some even in the same roles,  but with a leaner, meaner script and some better effects.

I say things got better with NIGHTBEAST, and indeed, Dohler feels like a much more confident as a filmmaker when you;re watching it, but NIGHTBEAST still has the feel of a no budget movie shot in someone’s backyard, which is actually confirmed in the film’s commentary track, that Dohler shot many scenes in the woods of his own backyard. And in this passion and drive to get his film made no matter what, even if it isn’t up to the $30 million Hollywood standard, even if the effects aren’t seamless, even if the acting is below community theater level, that is where the charm and enjoyment of a film like NIGHTBEAST lies. Don Dohler began shooting movie on 8mm in his backyard when he was 12 years old and it was a calling he pursued his whole life and would bring his stories to life no matter what obstacles stood in his way. Don, along with his cast and crew, wanted to bring their idea to life, and nothing stopped them. They made it and that’s what fucking counts.

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NIGHTBEAST begins with our alien crash landing in the middle of the Maryland wilderness and comes out blasting laying waste to hunters, campers, Uncle Dave taking leak and any little brats that get in his way. The NIGHTBEAST is equipped with a ray gun that, like the Martians in MARS ATTACKS, will literally incinerate you. If one of those lasers comes in contact with your body, your whole body will light up like a Christmas tree as you scream in agony and then…nothing. No remains, nothing. Just a puff of smoke. This blaster can EVEN make ENTIRE saggy old station wagons vanish WITH passengers inside! However, it does nothing to tree trunks or stone walls people hide behind. Go fucking figure, I guess no weapon can be perfect.  However, that’s not all our alien creature is capable of! In the event of up close encounters it likes to just stick it’s meaty pudge paws directly into your gut or chest cavity and begin sliding out whatever it happens to find inside all over the front porch of your backwoods house as your booty call stands behind the screened in front door screaming in her Wal-Mart brand nightie. See, NIGHTBEAST actually devours human flesh to survive as well! So, he can’t blast all of us into the nothing, he actually has to give his trigger finger a rest from time to time in order to chow down on our tender vittles.

the nightbeast | Tumblr

The aforementioned NIGHTBEAST is a brown, fairly tall, hairless creature with two bugged out eyeballs that are very close together, and a gob chock full of snaggle toothed fangs! The monster has super creature strength, some big, bone crushing, flesh ripping hands with some razor sharp nasty nails on ’em and dressed in an early 70’s silver disco jumpsuit that, apparently, is some kind of “motorcycle range suit” that makes the NIGHTBEAST disarmingly adorable. It even looks like it’s smiling through the whole movie, which makes you wonder if slaughtering living creatures is a laugh riot wherever this thing comes from.

Nightbeast prowl

Well, it’s not long before the Sheriff Cinder (Tom Griffith from The Alien Factor), a man with a porn stache, a sizable salt and pepper perm, and the build of an overlong string bean must face off against the alien menace and sees first hand what sort of blood curdling terror has fallen from the stars to their little backwoods slice of filthy redneck heaven. He heads into battle with his gun toting best bud, Jamie Lambert (Jamie Zamarel from Grease, believe it or not) and the demure but deadly bleach blonde deputy Lisa Kent (Karin Kardian in her first and only role; a hairdresser by trade). The tree lay down a suppressing fire against the NIGHTBEAST, but to no avail, as their trucker hat and plaid posse of deep fried, backwoods locals are blasted into the void around them. And, man, that NIGHTBEAST brings the heat! He blasts at least five or six shots every second. Typically missing everything, even humans just standing still shooting at it. But, when you just spray lasers into the forest, you’re bound to connect with something sooner or later, and about a dozen men are imploded into stars and moonbeams.

nightbeast blast

The Sheriff retreats and decide to regroup and wait for daylight with one mission in mind, destroy that NIGHTBEAST’S ray run and then shoot it in the goddamn melon and put an end to it’s right of terror. They enlist a local marksman and his son to help in disarming the creature, which succeeds in destroying the ray gun…but NIGHTBEAST manages to elude death, and in the process, kills the old marksman’s son which leads to a moment of genuine grief as the old man sobs over the loss of his adult son who was blasted into smoke during the daylight battle. I’m not going to lie, watching this old timer cry over his dead son is actually pretty moving for such a low rent, poorly acted piece of Trash Cinema. It’s a well placed bit of real humanity which gives gravity to this batshit insane scenario and it’s, dare I say, poetic?

Nightbeast Cinder

Sheriff Cinder decides he has to evacuate the town and goes to Mayor Wicker (Richard E. Dyszel better known as horror host M.T. Graves) to ask for his permission to do so, setting up a very JAWS like conundrum, because Mayor Wicker is throwing a pool party for the visiting Governor filled with buxom bikini clad beauties and he will NOT close his town because of some alien invasion hoax. That’s right, despite nearly half the town’s NRA members being killed within the last six hours, the main labels this emergency fake news and goes about drinking straight bourbon, fondling his well endowed young lover, Mary Jane (Eleanor Herman) and planning his weird Girls Gone Wild party for the incoming governor. As Sheriff Cinder and Deputy Kent leave, Cinder says he’s going to evacuate the town anyway. Deputy Kent mentions how Mayor Wick isn’t going to like that, to which Cinder replies under his well manicured sexy stache and smoked aviator glasses, “Tough shit!” Something tells me the Mayor is going to be a bit to sloshed to actually care.

nightbeast mayor

If you assumed the only danger in this tiny hamlet with the recently arrived NIGHTBEAST, you would be wrong. DEAD wrong. In fact, there is a resident in town who rides a motorcycle, sports a bouffant hairstyle, a leather jacket, a really well maintained moustache and an irrepressible contempt for everything besides himself. This motherfucker’s name is Drago (Don Leifert from The Alien Factor) and it turns out Sheriff Cinder’s best bud, Jamie, has been banging Drago’s girlfriend, Suzie (Monica Neff) a raven haire beauty who happens to have an extensive beer bottle collection in her little wood paneled bungalow and projects a party girl vibe despite only having about 5 minutes of screen time, half of which she spends without clothes on. Jamie drops in on Suzie while she’s buck nekkid and recently smacked around by Drago and quickly tells her to pack up and evacuate with the the rest of the town, she agrees, and just as Jamie leaves Drago show back up and strangles Suzie to death in a fit of jealous rage and then goes on a bizarre murderous rapey rampage of his own based solely on jealous, lame, white boy rage which runs parallel with the more pure, homicidal carnage spread by the NIGHTBEAST! Drago is really every violent, loathsome, small minded white trash stereotype boiled down and concentrated into one repulsive character.

NIGHTBEAST Drago

Thankfully, we are told that the residents are all on their way out of town, as they are unable to actually show us this mass exodus, and the remaining team of concerned citizens, law enforcement, and medical specialists stick around to defend the town and come up with a plan to defeat the NIGHTBEAST before he depletes all the victims of Perry Hall, Maryland, and moves on to the next hunting ground. But also, a s you might expect, a romance (fuck session) must bloom between Sheriff Cinder and Deputy Kent. That’s right, after one battle with NIGHTBEAST Cinder suffers a severe injury injury to his trousers and Deputy Kent invites him over to HER place for some medical attention as well as some TLC. She yanks the sheriff’s britches off, patches him up, takes a couple longing glances at the bulge beneath his tighty whites, strips nekkid and they jump one another’s bones! It’s one of the most admirably awkward love scenes I’ve ever witnessed and I cannot count the ways I love it. These are two insanely average looking indevidual with bodies FAR from the societal “perfect” form we are peddled to try and strive towards. These are two normal people sharing a vulnerable, nekkid sexy moment together and we are lucky enough to witness this most original and unexpected of fuck scenes. I, for one, am all for this. All these toned bodies and six pack abs and even tans, Gang, it’s goddamn boring. Give me real EVERY goddamn day of the week. This is great, weird, trashy stuff. Because who can resist a little nookie in the middle of your small town’s genocide by alien? Especially after an injury to your upper thigh where, I assume, your Deputy will be grinding in just a moment or two which WILL NOT be comfortable.

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But, I digress, the town’s two medical examiners have an encounter with NIGHTBEAST and come to the conclusion and electricity is what it will take to kill the NIGHTBEAST after it steps in a puddle of water and a loose wire from the dryer in the basement shocks the shit out of it and sends NIGHTBEAST fleeing into the night. It is up to our ragtag group of heroes to stop banging and put together a plan for their final standoff with this most viscous of interstellar visitors.

nightbeast | Tumblr

NIGHTBEAST is a fucking delight and an absolute joy to watch. It’s film driven by it’s filmmaker’s joy in creating and that joy is contagious and radiates from the film, even several decades after the fact. It has that undeniable charm of a backyard movie which allows the audience to forgive and savor the shortcomings and actually look at them as strengths. You can tell there were lessons learned in the wake of Dohler’s 1978 debut film The Alien Factor. There are no long, tedious stretches of exposition and explanation. The story tellers realize the audience is smart enough to follow along and more time is given to alien action, character and the bizarre story beats that drive the action forward. The pacing is pretty goddamn good and keeps everything rocketing to a bloody, shocking, satisfying conclusion. Plus, all the characters are adorkably weird and rural which makes the whole film feel like Trailer Park Boys Meet The Predator but played totally straight.

Don Dohler would tragically succumb to cancer in 2006 and would leave this mortal plane with a catalog of uncompromising films based on his original stories and ideas. Not only that, but he had garnered a sizable cult following in the decades leading up to time. His name might not be a household term like Spielberg, but the man brought his frightening, imaginative, strange ideas to fruition and never gave up despite every hardship that came his way. If you ask me, that doesn’t just make Don Dohler a Trash Cinema Legend. That makes this man a hero.

I give NIGHTBEAST FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

This movie delivers on all fronts with Blood, Breasts and Beasts and manages to tell a great alien invasion horror story effectively with a minuscule budget. This is the stuff, Gang, and I highly recommend it.

TRIVIA:

NIGHTBEAST is filmmaker J.J. Abrams very first movie credit. He composed the score (as Jeffrey Abrams) along with Robert J. Walsh.

NIGHTBEAST is the film Red Miller (Nic Cage) and Mandy Blooom (Andrea Riseborough) watch in Panos Cosmatotos’ 2018 film Mandy.

 

03
Apr
20

Uninvited (1987): Kitty Carnage On The Open Sea!

Uninvited poster

 

“Nothing’s going to stop me from getting to The Caymans!” George Kennedy as Mike Harvey in Uninvited

a Primal Root written review

Man, what I wouldn’t give for a trip across the deep blue sea in an enormous private yacht with a few bikini clad women by my side taking us all the way to the Cayman Islands for a bit of the old social distancing from a world falling apart at the seams. But, as it turns out I’m not a wealthy criminal scum bag, so this will have to remain a fantasy rather than beautiful reality. Thank goodness there are movies like 1987’s direct to video schlock classic, Uninvited, to help indulge me in this minor dream of paradise. Well, except there happens to be a radioactive mutant cat on board that’s vicious and has a bite that’s fatally poisonous and there is a trio of criminals running the yacht as fast as possible to the Cayman Islands in order to pick up a ton of money they garnered from their illegal white collar crimes…Okay, besides the boat, the trip and the bikinis…and possibly the fresh fruit platter in one of the early scenes, there’s very little this movie has in common with my current quarantine fantasies.

Anyhoo, Uninvited was directed by none other than the legendary master of low grade cheese, Greydon Clark, who is a familiar name to any trash cinema connoisseur or Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, having lended is immeasurable skills to such classics as 1979’s Angel’s Brigade aka: Angel’s Revenge, the 1985 Joe Don Baker vehicle Final Justice, the 1983 arcade sex comedy Joysticks and the 1977 Satanic classic, Satan’s Cheerleaders, so you know what you’ve signed up for if you’re sitting down for a viewing. The rest of you better hold on to your pussies.

uninvited

The film begins with the opening credits unspooling over some guys in lab coats waving a syringe around a fluffy British Shorthair kitty. They inject the cat with some mysterious radioactive elixir and can makes a break for it out the OPEN DOOR to their top secret experimental laboratory. The kitty makes it’s way to the stairwell where it barfs up a monstrous, bigger, poisonous version of itself, which lays waste to a half dozen gun toting security team guys sent to capture the kitten, leaving the stairwell walls covered in blood. The mad scientists grab their guns and try to track the cat down in the parking garage only to be ripped to pieces before the cat gets into the air duct, unscrews a grate and escapes to the streets.

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Meanwhile, two incredibly fuckable young ladies, Suzanne (Shari Shattuck from 1989’s Death Spa) and Bobbie (Clare Carey from 1988’s Waxwork) show up to a fancy pants resort and are immediately spotted by wealthy criminal business man, Walter Graham (Alex Cord, probably best known for the TV series Airwolf) who buys the two ladies dinner then invites them to a private party on his yacht. Of course, the guy has money and has bought them food, so they are more than eager to slob his knob and live the highlife for a bit until Captain Moneybags grows tired of them and throws them overboard for a younger model. First, Graham must have a business meeting with his goons, Mike (George Kennedy, from The Naked Gun and Just Before Dawn) and Albert (Clu Gulager, from Return of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, who is wearing a really goofy set of Bubba teeth in this role which really sells his…colorful character) so they can drown a business associate in the yacht’s hot tub.

In the meantime, our poisonous mutant cat is roaming all over town murdering assholes, which seems to be the plague cat’s M.O. The kitte seems friendly to those who feed it, but takes pleasure in dealing out violent, bloody radioactive death to those who hurt those who are kind to it. Several scum bags end up shredded to ribbons, poisoned an/or exploded in their cars before the kitty makes it’s way towards the marina where Graham is docked…

Cut to the next morning where we are introduced to three dorky guys sitting at the same marina where Graham has his yacht and Suzanne and Bobbie are staying. These three dorks are Martin, Lance and Corey.  Martin is a biologist, Corey a yuppie and Lance is just a huge dork in a Hawaiian shirt looking to get laid. They sit around sipping orange juice until Suzanne and and Bobbie show up in their fetching bikinis and invite them to join them onboard Graham’s yacht for some fun.

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Okay, I have a few issues with this already. Not with the cat barfing up a furry, fanged, radioactive monster, but with the human interactions on display.

Number One: When does this ever happen? Two women make a b-line straight to three obviously horny doofuses and invite them to party with them? No names exchanged, no greetings, just “Hey, you’re cute, want to party and protect us in the case a millionaire criminal might possibly decide to assault us? ” They actually mention that, by the way. “You look like you’ll be able to protect us if Graham tries anything.” Huh? Who are you and what are you talking about?  Are you paying us? Are you prostitutes and we’re having to pay you? What is the situation, here? At least tell me your name before we head to some strangers yacht! Which brings me to…

Number Two: Who in their right mind invites strangers to the abode of someone you’ve just met? Without even clearing it with them! This is the epitome of shitty manners which shows no consideration and total disrespect for the person who extended their hand and invited you and your friend, and only the two of you, aboard their yacht. Imagine you’ve invited just a friend or two over and without telling you they invite a group of folks over to your house that you do not know and just show up with them. Not asking you, just showing up at your house with strangers. It’s a fucking jerk thing to do and I already can’t stand anyone in this movie.

Number Three: WHAT ABOUT THE PRIVATE PARTY! There’s all this talk and build up to the awesome party on this yacht and WE NEVER GET TO WITNESS IT! Apparently it’s going to be this blow out event on the yacht, probably with booze, debauchery, topless ladies, donkey shows, etc. But the audience is not important enough to join the festivities. We just weren’t sexy enough to invite. Fuck these guys.

Anyway, on with the review.

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Of course, the eager young guys accept the invitation and head out to the rich guy’s yacht with the two bikini clad beauties, one of which discovers our dangerously cute and cuddly radioactive science experiment monster cat at the marina. Suzanne clutches the kitty against her ample bosom and decides the kitty is coming aboard Graham’s yacht for the pleasure cruise, despite the cat obviously not wanting to go anywhere, let alone be held, as it squirms desperately trying to get out of Suzanne’s bubble blonde clutches. Young biologist Martin notices the kitty has a testing facility tag on it, but tosses it aside assuming the cat is fit as a fiddle and SURELY hasn’t been experimented upon with some terribly virus or toxic chemicals that will kill himself, his friends and these bodacious babes. We’re young, YOLO, let’s get this party started!

I-Mockery.com | Uninvited - A Horror Film About A Mutant Killer ...

We learn quickly from the yacht’s young captain, Rachel (Toni Hudson from Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and School Spirit) that during the party we never witnessed, Graham lost his temper, berated the crew, and they all quit except for her. Which works out well, since these new, uninvited guests climb aboard THEY can earn their keep by being the new crew as they flee for The Cayman Islands as Albert delivers the news that The Feds are closing in on the yacht! So, this motley crew or young kid who just want to eat, dance and fuck, the old geezer criminals who cannot stop talking about getting to “The Caymans” and the poor little captain with heart of gold and a deep desire to own the yacht that once belonged to her Father but was purchased away from the family by the evil, greedy, Graham, tries her best to keep all this shit under control.

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But it doesn’t take long for it all to go right to shit as Albert takes over Captain duties for about fifteen minutes in which time he manages to get wine drunk and take the whole voyage way of course before spitting wine all over the monster kitty and paying the ultimate price for his rudeness when the little kitty opens it’s jaws and lets out the malicious mutant cat…living in it’s stomach? The science really made abundantly clear, but Albert gets a good potion of his throat stripped out, but what remains begins to pulsate violently before he falls overboard to become shark food. Soon, the trip to The Cayman’s has been delayed as Rachel makes the call to go back and look for Albert, which lead to Mike pulling a gun on all these”young punks” and proclaims “NOTHING  IS GONNA STOP ME FROM GETTING TO THE CAYMANS!” before the vicious monster cat nearly bites his foot off. Mike lays on the couch for a while as everyone screams at each other, which is hysterical, because all through the scene you hear George Kennedy’s deep voice moaning and groaning as everyone else argues and it sounds just like he’s getting an incredibly good blow job just off screen. That is, until his stomach starts pulsating and something starts emerging just beneath the skin. The entire group gathers and huddles real close over Mike’s warped body as something inside his stomach begins rising up like an eternal boner, and it looks like we’re about to get another Alien chest burster sort of scene, but Mike dies, the internal stomach boner subsides and we are left wishing we had gotten to see a blood geyser and head into the rest of the film feeling more disappointed than we were when we missed the yacht party earlier in the film.

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The monster cat is known, the remaining crew of the SS Evil Pussy is dead in the water after the engine over heated and shut off, emotions are running high, food and fresh water are running out and it’s only a matter of time until the Toxic Kitten…starts to get hungry…

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Uninvited is a shockingly fun little monster movie which relies heavily on it’s great cast of talent who genuinely make the film way better than it has any right to be, selling a killer rubber furry cat monster puppet like it we JAWS. It’s goofy fun that doesn’t make a lick of sense, but as the characters grow more desperate an unhinged aboard their stranded, doomed yacht, their performances really come to life and they totally sell their dilemma, which I know few of us have ever experienced in real life. The effects are rudimentary, but add the charm of the overall experience, which I can guarantee, you will never go through outside of Uninvited. It’s a one of a kind horror of the high seas survival film with an obviously minimal budget, but a cast and crew willing to go the distance to deliver. Only drawback, and it’s one of the greatest detriments to the film, the are absolutely no tits in this film. None of the actresses are willing to bare anything in this low rent straight to video horror film. I turned to my wife about three quarters of the way through this flick and mentioned it, “Man, I honestly don’t think we are going to see a single bare breast in this thing!” Sure, the girls tease the boys and the audience with the promise of tits to come, but the moment never occurs. And honestly, I almost didn’t notice because the movie is such a strange voyage into absurdist horror that I was thoroughly entertained to the point of not really caring. I wanted to see where the story was going and what was going to happen to this lively group of teeny boppers and AARP members with the pussy punisher roaming freely aboard the ship. For a films to have me nearly forget about boobs is a pretty amazing feat. Plus, there is something eternally endearing about watching cats terrorize and kill people.

I am awarding Uninvited with THREE AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Uninvited is a furry, slimy, straight to video trash schlock fest well worth the voyage. I do recommend if you’ve got a fondness for puppets, great character actors and sense of adventure. A sense of humor will also help you out tremendously. Half a nugget eduction for lack of nudity.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

23
Mar
20

(NSFW) Night Killer (1990): Tasty Fright Chicken

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“FRIED CHICKEN AND FRENCH FRIES!” – Peter Hotten as Axel, Night Killer (1990)

a Primal Root written review

1990 was filmmaker Claudio Fragasso’s year, man. In 1990 his magnum opus, most fully realized and beloved film Troll 2 saw the light of day as a direct to video release. It’s a film that has gained an ever expanding and rabid fanbase with it’s bizarre concepts, lost in translation screenplay, goofball acting and bargain basement effects mingling with it’s genuine nature basically guaranteed it would find an audience over the years to laugh and cherish it for it’s bonkers presentation.

 

But, a far lesser known darker, more adult and, until recently, incredibly difficult to find offering from Claudio Fragasso was released in 1990 under the title Night Killer. It’s film that, too, has gained cult status for many the same reasons as Troll 2, even enjoying a similar retitling to try and sell it as a sequel to something it was never intended to be. Italian producers actually retitled the thing Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, which translates to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, therefore making Night Killer Italy’s unofficial third sequel to Tobe Hooper’s legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre despite Night Killer not featuring a single chainsaw in any shot of the film much like Troll 2 only featured Goblins…and not a single goddamn Troll.

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Night Killer begins with a spastic and, frankly, embarrassingly bad dance rehearsal for some kind of on stage production. One of the performers arrives late, gets naked and then then punched entirely through the gut by a killer is a strange, creepy fright mask that looks like it might have been left in the car too long on a hot summer day, as it appears more than a little melty. Not only that, but the killer is also wearing a dark trench coat and highly rubbery Freddy Krueger inspired glove on his right hand featuring long corn cob yellow finger nails. When you put all the pieces together, The Night Killer actually kind of looks like Freddy Krueger and The Toxic Avenger’s love child.  So, after we see the late dancer’s bare breasts, she is impaled and dies. Farewell and adieu to you bare breasted lady!

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Noticing her absence and also having the epiphany that whatever fucking musical dance show she is directing is going to suck goat balls, the musical’s director flies into a bizarre, seemingly unscripted improvised rage where she mumbles a lot, and stumbles over what she’s saying before storming off the stage to find the late performer who went to change. When she finds the dead dancer’s corpse, The Night Killer slits her throat takes his fucking time chasing her off the top balcony of the theater where she plummets to her death. The chase takes what feels like an eternity as the director gasps for air and tries to scream while dramatically stumbling down corridors, up stairs, downstairs and eventually over the railing. It feels like an appropriate death scene for a theater major.

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We are then treated to an opening credit sequence where a woman hands off her pre-teen daughter and her luggage to an unidentified man, then the man brings the little girl to who I must assume is his wife. Honestly, this happens over the opening credits and I have no idea who these fucking people are, how they’re related or what the situation is. I assumed it was a pair of divorced parents and the little girl was going to spend the weekend with her Dad and her step-Mom, but we find out, later, that this is not the case at all. But this child hand-off opening sequences is totally baffling as there is no dialogue whosoever to establish just what the Hell is happening.

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Turns out, the lady who just sent her daughter packing is our main character, her name is Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman, who you may remember as Billy and Ricky’s slain Mom in the original Silent Night, Deadly Night) who eats what looks like an entire club sandwich for breakfast before lowering the neckline of her oversized sweater to stare at her tits in the mirror and perform the rare horror movie soliloquy about her marriage being on the rocks before being interrupted by a call from her ex-husband who she estimates is “drunker than usual” and explains to him that Clarissa has gone away to the country with Annie, so, again I must assume here that Clarissa is Melanie’s daughter and Annie is possibly the woman we saw in the opening credits. It’s strange having a movie that’s so damn mysterious you have to try and figure just who the characters are. Anyhoo, the phone call with who might be her estranged husband ends with he her screaming “DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN!” into he receiver before slamming the phone down and her possible estranged husband shattering his glass in his hand and screaming “MELANIE!” We never see his face, as his back is turned to us in every shot he is in and his voice sounds a lot like the killer’s. Could it be him?

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Fast forward a second or two and she receives another phone call from the actual killer who tells her “You’re a fine looking woman, Mrs. Beck. You’re just MADE to be fucked senseless.” and “I won’t kill you straight away, first I’m going to fuck your BRAINS out!” She hangs up, calls the cops, but it’s too late. The masked killer reveals himself to already be inside her home with the line, “I can’t wait 5 minutes, Mrs. Beck, I’m too HORNY!” Melanie fights valiantly to kill the intruder, but it’s no use. Once cornered, the killer reveals his face to her, not the audience, and we cut to a week later where she has amnesia and it turns out she was rescued offscreen by a man named Sherman, who is married to Annie and takes care of Melanie’s daughter Clarissa. See, it’s ALL coming together! Sherman even got a deep cut across his face for saving Melanie. And, for whatever reason, only Melanie can identify the man who held her captive for eight hours despite Sherman’s face to face encounter with the Night Killer. I’m sure there must be some logical explanation for this, but being that this is a Claudio Fragasso film, you never know if this is a clue, a red herring, or just inept screenwriting and filmmaking, so everything is absolutely unreliable. We also learn from Sherman that Melanie’s husband was booted off the police for undisclosed reasons. The plot thickens to the point of crusting over as it becomes unidentifiable!

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Immediately after Melanie is released from the hospital an asshole in a jeep drives up next to her and begins cat calling her between taking swings of his 40oz. She flicks him off and speeds off, but he stalks her down to a restroom where she pulls a gun, makes him strip nekkid, and dump his clothes in the crapper. He runs out of the restroom and drops this incredible line of dialog…

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Now, you might think this sweaty, bug eyed creeper with the incredibly active body language will never be heard from again, but this psychopathic stalker actually tracks Melanie down at the beach where she is attempting to kill her herself with a load of pills. This guy actually picks her up, carries her into the ocean, forces her head under water so she is forced to drink salt water so she’ll barf up all the pills she just ingested. This moment of valiant and violent heroics is followed by this guy kidnapping Melanie and keeping her locked in a seedy motel room where he presents her with Kentucky Fried Chicken and French Fries “Nothing does it to me like friiiiied chicken!” before sticking a unloaded gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger and tying her down nekkid and making her say “Pretty Please” over and over again. This bug eyed, vicious rapist is named Axel (Peter Hooten from Orca: The Killer Whale (1977) and Inglorious Bastards (1978)). We are led to believe this guy is the actual Night Killer as we see THE Night Killer impaling voluptuous blonde woman at the local aquarium after hours and killing prostitutes in his art studio after they recite the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and then putting them in identical masks as him and making out with their dead bodies as Axel hold Melanie hostage. Are they one and the same? Are there two separate homicidal rapist scumbags running around this little city? I can only tell you that this film is so absolutely off the wall unpredictable and poorly put together, I doubt you will be able to guess every twist and turn Night Killer has to reveal by it’s laugh out loud what the fuck conclusion.

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Night Killer is actually a pretty impressively devious, dark, demented horror film that doesn’t let logic or any for of real common sense get in the way of it’s hysterically over the top, super imaginative, if completely illogical twists.  What really helps are the no holds barred over the top performances from the entire cast. Top to bottom, everyone is going for the gold and trying to sell this fucking movie. Sure, their performances are wacky and laughable…across the board, actually, as they try with all their mediocre acting might to pull of this ludicrous dialog. There are even some moments of genuine terror, especially during scenes between Melanie and Axel as the actors both play off one another really well. Every scene is pitched to the extreme and it’s something that works in Night Killer‘s favor and makes the proceedings far more enjoyable and engrossing, even if it is in a laughably Trash Cinema way.

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I understand writer/director Claudio’s original vision was to make a psychological horror film with very little violence and gore, but the producers balked at the director’s initial edit of the filmed and hired exploitation legend Bruno Mattei (director of Rats: Night of Terror (1984) and Strike Commando (1987)) to add some gore to the proceedings, hence, all the really out of place moments of Night Killer’s claw punching through people. I honestly think the psychological horror elements are the strongest of the film. You can feel what Claudio was really going for with Night Killer and the gore elements always come off as out of place and make the film feel even cheaper than it obviously is.

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This was my very first time seeing Night Killer and I was genuinely impressed by this trashy slice of cheese. It was not afraid to go to some pretty extreme places, took a lot of risks, and obviously not afraid to create a film that was absolutely baffling and send the audience through a dark, nasty tale without a map or even a compass. You literally are thrown in totally blind, with no clue as to who these people are, what’s going on, what the time frame is or how things are connected and you are expected to keep up and fill in the blanks. And it works. It blows my mind to say it, but by the film’s end, being kept in the absolute dark makes it all work. It’s either really tricky and somewhat smart screenwriting, or it’s absolutely moronic and they got lucky. I like to think it’s the work or a Trash Cinematic genius. Let’s face it, Troll 2 shouldn’t work either, but goddamn if it’s not one of the most legendarily entertaining Trash Cinema films ever made. Night Killer is cut from the same cloth and deserves just as much notoriety and recognition among Trash Cinema fans.

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I am awarding Night Killer FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

17
Mar
20

(NSFW) Hyacinthus Ori and Mr. J: Devil Girl & Devil Guy March 2020

Trashy St. Paddy’s Day, Gang! The Primal Root here and deeply proud to present to you our first co-headlining Devil Girl & Devil Guy spread in YEARS! Featuring two fresh faces to The Trash Cinema Collective, Hyacinthus Ori and Mr. J! Follow us on down the filthy rainbow and enjoy feasting your eyes on this bloody, fiendish pot o’ sexy gold!
The Primal Root: One thing I love about this spread is how both of you are so animated and play really well off one another. Had you two worked together before? How was it being placed in this classic horror scenario playing your respective parts?
Mr. J. : Oddly enough we hadn’t met until we shot , so it was “Hey let’s shoot!” , the chemistry was amazing and we all had a blast, as far as the role , I’ve always loved the bad guys , from joker to Freddy to Leprechaun it’s way too fun to play the bad role, all these characters kill you in horrible ways but laugh while they do it and always create fun ways to take you out , so it was a blast !
Hyacinthus Ori: Thank you, it was really fun! No actually, it was our first time meeting, but we had a great time! He’s a friend of Kayla’s and a photographer himself, so I figured he’d know what he was doing. As far as the role, I think it was perfect for me. I love horror movies, especially ones like this, so yeah it was super cool to be murdered by a creepy mythical creature.
TPR: Lep, this one is for you. How difficult was it getting into character as the evil leprechaun? It certainly comes across like you fully embraced the fun, dark nature of the roll.
Mr. J. : it was so much fun bc I loved the movies growing up plus there isn’t alot of roles that fit shorter guys like me who are under 5ft. , I love how he’s so cynical and crazy about his gold but has to kill you in a way that he has to laugh about, so this role was nothing but fun to just let loose and play with, but the biggest plus was being a photographer myself it was fun getting to be own the other side for once and let loose plus working with Kayla King has always been high on my bucket list !
TPR: Goldie, did you ever imagine you would have the opportunity to flee for your life while scantly clad from a malicious leprechaun? Is this one for the bucket list?
Hyacinthus Ori: Never! But you know, I’ve wanted to work with Kayla for a while now and it turned out great, so yes, definitely checking this one off the list.
TPR: Both of you, hypothetically, what would you do if you came across a mysterious pot o’ gold, perhaps…at the end of a rainbow?
Mr. J. : I know better than to get in between him and his gold now if I had his powers maybe me and him could have a leprechaun showdown.
Hyacinthus Ori: Well I’d definitely take some pictures, but no touching! I’m not a superstitious person, but I also don’t gamble with my life!
TPR: What will you be drinking this St. Paddy’s Day?
Mr. J. : My favorite liquor is Jager and redbull so that’s my go to all year round!
Hyacinthus Ori: I don’t tend to like beer, so maybe an Appletini for the color? Oh what the hell, give me an Irish Car Bomb!
TPR: Any particular Trash Cinema favorites you like to watch as St. Paddy’s Day draws near?
Mr. J. : I’m still going thru my Leprachaun marathon because I haven’t watched the newer ones so I’ll be continuing them!
Hyacinthus Ori: Of course I’ll be revisiting the Leprechaun series, but I still haven’t seen Frankenhooker. Maybe I’ll finally take some time to check that out.
TPR: Any words of encouragement or wisdom for The Trash Cinema Collective?
Mr. J. : Don’t let greed take you over ,it might not be worth it in the end also never judge a book by its cover , dynamite comes in small packages lol.

Hyacinthus Ori: Don’t let this big, bad world get you down! Remember: love myself, love yourself, and stay trashy!

Photography by Kayla King of Rewski Photography

 

17
Feb
20

(NSFW) The Arena (1974) Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters

Arena poster

 

“The Romans have taught you to live like an animal!” Pam Grier as Mamawi in The Arena

a Primal Root written review

Do you like gladiator movies? Son, if the gladiator movie you’re speaking of stars such absolute goddesses and B-Movie Trash Cinema Legends as Pam Grier and Margaret Markov, you bet your stanky little ass I do! Coming off the red hot success of the 1973 prison break flick, Black Mama,White Mama, producer Roger Corman was quick to bank on the appeal of those two amazonian beauties for yet another action packed no-budget flick and came up with the sandals and savagery epic known affectionately as The Arena. 

The film begins in ancient Rome where we are witness to several raids and murder fests by the Romans where peaceful Druids and perpetually dancing tribes have their groovy rituals interrupted with unprovoked surprise blood shed where everyone is chopped into brisket and only the sexiest are kept alive to be sold into slavery. Among those captured are the tall, blonde, gorgeous Druid Priestess Bodicia (Margaret Markov) and the absolute knock out, Mamawi (Pam Grier) who are to be auctioned off to some poor white fat slob in a toga where I personally can’t imagine any of these badass, muscular, obviously strong and hardened women being forced to do ANYTHING by these wimpy dough boys. But, I will do my best to suspend my disbelief as the incredible specimens of womanhood are shackled and paraded out in rags.  Thankfully, Bodicia, Mamawi and two fellow captives are sold to an incredibly wealthy Roman ruler named Timarchus (Daniele Vargas). The ladies are quickly stripped nekkid, washed up, put in shiny new clothes and forced to work as servants to the spectators in…THE ARENA! Where gladiators are forced to fight to the death night after night for the amusement of the fat, drunk wealthy pigs sitting up above the kill floor.

However, the crowds have grown bored with watching men fighting animals and other men so Timarchus is looking for the next big thing to keep the masses pleased and complicit int heir lifestyle. When he witnesses the enslaved women having a knock down, drag-out fight in the kitchen, he realizes the pleasures of woman on woman battle and Female of Female Gladiatorial Death Battle is born! The appeal is obvious and the popularity instantaneous. But as these lady gladiators are forced the kill one another for the sweaty, worthless, wealthy they begin to plot a bloody, brutal rebellion to overthrow the powers that be and reclaim their freedom.

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Not nearly as misleading as it might seem, there actually were women gladiators, the minimal budget of The Arena is aided tremendously by being shot in Cinceitta, Italy’s primary studio, which provided sets, props and costumes which added to the production value.  There is great attention paged to the savagery and callous nature of the gladiatorial combat and barbarity of the time period, which works really well when juxtaposed with a love story that blossoms between one of the slaves and a battle trainer as well as the relationships that grow between the lead characters who come from drastically different backgrounds who must work together to overthrow the powers that be. And once you get past the gratuitous forced shower scene early in the film, The Arena is fairly restrained when it comes to it’s nudity. Of course, there is plenty of lovely female bodies on display, but it is far less gratuitous than you’d expect from an exploitation movie of this caliber.

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Grier and Markov are both a delight to watch on screen. Their battles in The Arena are not particularly well choreographed, but the actresses give it their all no matter what is called for and the audience cannot help but feel for their plight as they are forced to battle and murder their friends in the ring. And once they rise up and begin to revolt, I genuinely felt concern and hoped they would make it out of their enslaved Hellhole and reclaim their freedom. It’s hard not to cheer as these sweaty, blood, scantly clad warrior women hack, chop, and slash their way to freedom through a plethora of Roman soldiers desperately trying to cut them down. Pam Grier would, of course, became one of the hardest working actresses to come out of the era and became a cinematic icon while Markov ended up marrying one of The Arena’s producers, Mark Damon, made one more film entitled There Is No 13, and retired from acting.

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The Arena has a pretty impressive horror pedigree with Joe D’Amato (director of Emanuelle in America and Antropophagus) as the film’s cinematographer and Joe Dante (director of Gremlins, The Howling and Piranha) as editor. Rumor has is D’Amato helped out tremendously with the film’s extended battle scenes and was said to have taken over directing duties for those scenes from credited director Steve Carver who went on to direct Big Bad Mama and Lone Wolf McQuade.  Another fun fact, filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) claims Roger Corman offered him the directing duties for The Arena after Scorsese finished his film Boxcar Bertha. Instead, Scorsese decided to go on and direct Mean Streets instead.

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The Arena was one of the final death gasps of a long Hollywood cinematic tradition of sand and sandal epics. The genre went into hibernation for a couple decades before being resurrected by Ridley Scott with the Oscar winning 2000 film, Gladiator. The story is pretty similar to The Arena, only recasting the lead as a white guy, one cannot help but wonder if, possibly, there might be some inspiration obtained through this Pam Grier & Margaret Markov vehicle.

The Arena is a dramatic, fun, very entertaining bare bones tale of injustice and rising up against those who own us. Despite it’s obvious low budget, the production values are solid, the story is streamlined and well told, the performances are far above average and sell the drama better than one might expect, and it;s impossible to keep your eyes off Margaret and Pam who both are just gorgeous, dynamic performers who give their all no matter what the limitations of the movie are. The performances from these two ladies are what make the film an infinitely watchable piece of classic Trash Cinema well worth your time.

I award The Arena  FOUR out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

23
Jan
20

(NSFW) Mausoleum (1983): Demonic Wife? Run For Your Life!

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a Primal Root written review

“I haven’t been this nervous since I’ve been black!” – LaWanda Page as Elsie in Mausoleum

Marriage can be trickier than the Double Dare obstacle course. Yes, it is fun and there are prizes, but you can also end up covered in bizarre substances that are somehow both liquid AND solid and are probably rancid and no matter how many times you reach up that giant nose willed with bright green frosting snot you just CAN. NOT. FIND that fucking orange flag to move on to the brown icing slide! Sure, it should be a piece of cake, but when two people come together and make the decision to spend their lives with one another, they also bring with them their lifetime of emotional baggage as well that shaped them deep down into who they are today.  That stuff will manifest and a test of the strength of a marriage often boils down to how both partners in the relationship react to these issues when they manifest. We all have our demons. And then there’s Susan Walker Farrel and the literal malicious, flesh carving, pussy popping demon residing in her cerebral cortex.

That’s right, at a very young age, Susan (Julie Christy Murray) loses her mother and is so traumatized  by the loss she decides to take off in a sprint from her Mother’s funeral (whose only attendees were her and her Aunt Cora) and seek solace within an old mausoleum which produces it’s own yellow steam and is lit up like cheap haunted house inside replete with lightning and thunder effects despite it being a sunny, gorgeous day outside. If you ask me, there might be some deep symbolism here that this mausoleum represents the place we try to lay to rest and repress traumatic memories where we hope they will be forgotten the rest of our days and we can pretend it never happened. Okay, yeah, probably thinking far too deeply into this monster movie, but at least I like to think the creative minds behind Mausoleum are trying.

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Susan goes into this mausoleum, removes a crown of thorns from a tomb filled with glowing fog and something living within…something…with razor sharp claws. Bestowed upon Susan are telekinetic powers which make her eyes glow neon green, which she puts to work immediately when a homeless man enters the same mausoleum to see if she needs help. Being a strong, independent person who needs no help, she proves this point by psychically exploding the top of his skull off and squirting out a nice gush of brain matter across the Los Angeles cemetery as he is running away in terror. Teach that mother fucker to ask a woman if she is in need of assistance. Susan bows to NO MAN!

Fast forward twenty years or so and Susan (Bobbie Bresee, a blonde, voluptuous, mature bombshell from Surf Nazis Must Die and Evil Spawn)  is married to the lovable Oliver (who is played by Marjoe Gortner whom Trash Cinema fans will probably recognize from 1978’s Star Wars knock off Star Crash, but was also the subject of the 1972 documentary Marjoe, an expose on the business of religion and a documentary about Marjoe’s upbringing as a child evangelist preacher, it’s pretty outstanding and led to a life of eclectic Trash Cinema roles, such as Mausoleum, here…anyway, I digress… ) and they are living their best lives in a fucking ENORMOUS mother fucking mansion for just the two of them in the middle of nowhere. I believe this was early 80’s middle class living…

 

Susan and Oliver decide to go to a local dance club to have a few drinks and dance the night away! They’re not there five minutes before some drunk off his ass, Kenny Rogers doppelganger begins rubbing his only slightly unflacid tube steak all over Susan on the dance floor, rudely interrupting her and Oliver’s fantastic middle aged white person disco gyrating thereby nearly leads to fisticuffs between to two 1980’s prototypical male suitors trying to flaunt their stuff for Susan.  Cooler heads prevail as Susan and Oliver head outside, but the drunken beardo stumbles outside, belching, farting and fondling around in his pockets for his keys. He makes the mistake of bumping into Susan and Oliver before getting into his sagging piece of shit Chevy and…Susan’s eyes go bright green as the Kenny Roger’s look alike get roasted alive in his own car as Susan psychically sets it alight! Oliver tries to save the drunken moron, but to no avail. The car explodes like a tater in the microwave and the charmless scumbag is now a smoking husk.

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Aunt Cora (Laura Hippe) is becoming anxious about Susan’s well being as it is soon to be the anniversary of Susan’s Mother’s demise and she also has a lovely, leather bound book all about the Nomed Family history that spells out demon possession and blood rage for every woman in the Nomed family at the point in their lives. Aunt Cora pleads with Susan’s therapist, Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton) but it falls on the deaf ears of science and he refuses to believe there is anything wrong with Susan besides the lingering trauma of Susan losing her Mom at such an early age. But it isn’t long before Susan begins her demonic midlife crisis when one morning the couple’s lecherous gardener, Ben (Maurice Sherbanee)  starts moving in on her and getting VERY sexual harassment/rapey when he notices Oliver is gone for the day.  It’s like flicking a switch, Maurice is allowed in and she is immediately terrified of him and cowers away. But then, as soon as Ben leaves to go chop the shit out of a stump with an axe,  Susan gets those sexy glowing green eyes again and decides to go upstairs and get totally nekkid for the audience, and Gang, Ms. Bresee is stacked like a can of Pringles. She then puts on a towel, heads out to her balcony, makes sure to get Ben’s attention…AND DROPS HER TOWEL AGAIN revealing her lovely mammaries. Now, I have to ask, why the towel? I guess it was to hide her bush from the camera on the six foot journey over to the balcony, but she isn’t shy about showing of her hedge maze later in the film! Again, thinking far too much into this movie…

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So, of course, Susan fucks Ben’s brains out in the garage a time or two (excellent stamina, Ben, you over the hill rapey gardener, you!) and then proceeds to till Ben’s head and chest regions with a rusty hand rake, spraying blood and gore all over the garage and strategically placed U-Haul packing blankets that are no doubt also covered with the steadily crusting sloppy pleasure plunger drippings from their recent concrete floor garage sexcapade. So long, Ben, you were a piece of shit and a terrible landscaper as evidenced by a montage from earlier showing him eating lunch, spitting on his tools and sleeping by the couple’s enormous private lake.

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The next morning Aunt Cora heads over to the house with some paperwork pertaining to Susan’s inheritance she is due to receive now that she is thirty, of course, she finds Susan upstairs totally transformed into a hideous, glowing green eyed demon! Susan levitates Aunt Cora over the railing from their third floor bedroom and uses her telekinetic powers to rip poor Aunt Cora in half. You don’t get to see it all, but the effect is pretty brutal, none the less, as Aunt Cora’s chest begins to slowly but surely come open. It’s pretty fucking mean and I have no idea who Susan kept blood from getting all over the plush carpeting downstairs. I suppose we can just chock it up to the powers evil. Evil makes everything possible, doesn’t it?

That night Oliver wakes up to find his wife sitting in a rocking chair in their bedroom fully transformed into the hideous she demon and, instead of screaming in abject horror at the absolute, unspeakable nightmare that this reality would be to wake up to, he quietly sneaks out of bed and heads down to their posh basement bar to call Dr. Andrews and calmly, casually discuss the fact his wife suddenly has glowing green eyes, the complexion of an enraged hemorrhoid,  and a gob full of shark teeth forcing her to be a drooling mouth breather, rather than grabbing the keys, bolting out the door and driving off into the sunset at top speed to start a new life with a woman who ain’t in league with Satan. As you might expect, the doctor says there’s no such thing as demons and asks Oliver to tell Susan to go see him. Which he does, and Susan agrees. The next morning, their housekeeper, Elsie (LaWanda Page) heads upstairs to check on Susan only to find the room glowing green and the fog machine on overdrive. Elsie, rushes downstairs, takes a couple shots of “the good stuff” which she hasn’t had a drop of “since she found religion” and mentions “I haven’t been this nervous since I was black!” Both humorous and strikingly poignant bit of dialog reminding us of the dangers of simply being African American in our society, even in 1983. Elise downs her liquor and proves herself the only sensible soul in the movie and heads for the hills never to be heard from again and, I presume, is living the good life on her own private island in the son. Elsie, we hardly knew you, but you brought a special light into our lives through the schlock shake that is, Mausoleum. We bid you, adieu.

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During her trip to Dr. Andrews Susan undergoes hypnosis. After a pretty impressive breakdown over her Mother’s death proving those cars are still pretty deep and easily torn open, the demon emerges and Susan transforms right before the doctor’s eyes taunting him that “I WAS HERE THE WHOLE TIME AND YOU NEVER KNEW!” Needless to say, those green eyes, freaky face and gnarly ass teeth make a quick believer out of Dr. Andrews. Believing this is no longer a mental illness medicine can alleviate, Dr. Andrews researches the family history in that handy dandy leather bound book poor, old, ripped into pieced Aunt Cora gave to him earlier in the film, and it turns out every first born daughter of the family Nemod (IT’S DEMON SPELLED BACKWARDS! THIS IS THEIR KINGDOM!) and, in the meantime, Susan decides to kill another landscaper she seduced into their mansion with her boobs and then telkinetically crushes his skull which squirts out one of his eyeballs into his hand and leaves blood all over the kitchen for Oliver to clean up when he gets home. Seriously, Oliver doesn’t even really question the blood, just whether or not Susan is okay. She shrugs of the blood all over the kitchen and says she’s too tired to discuss it and goes to bed. Oliver seems okay with this somehow…

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Susan steals a painting from the mall after levitating the gallery’s owner from the top floor of a mall and impaling him on an umbrella below before heading home to take a bubble bath and sweet talk her perturbed husband and treat us to some slightly hidden full frontal nudity before transforming and giving us full frontal she demon action and revealing her gnarly, flesh hungry demon tits! Will Dr. Andrews make it to the stately mansion in time to put an end to this foul demons reign of gore drenched terror or will Susan be lost to the ancient inherited evil forever? Also, enjoy one head scratcher of a twist int he last shot of the film. If you have any theories as to what that final shot means, please, let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance!

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Mausoleum is silly, schlocky and often hilariously over the top and bizarre. It plays like a really well constructed carnival fun house with plenty of fun visual flourishes, imaginative gore and make-up effects as well as a cast who takes the whole story and their performances seriously. It all adds up to a highly enjoyable, well produced but very bad and highly pleasurable piece of Trash Cinema. It has everything you could possibly want, Blood, Breasts and Beasts, a stable of actors willing to give it their all despite how silly it all is and they end up looking and a story that tries REALLY hard to bring some new shit to the demon possession table and sometimes manages to pull it off. I love the idea of burying your emotions and never truly expressing them or letting them out can manifest into something absolutely horrible later in life to the detriment to everyone around you. I mean, who the Hell knows if that’s what filmmaker Michael Dugan of Super Seal (1976) and Raging Hormones (1999) fame or writers Robert Madero (Camp Utopia (2002), Battered (2014) had in mind, but it feels like they were reaching for something legit to say with this film. But whether you want to read into this thing or not, it’s filthy, freakish pleasures will be enough to sustain those looking for a simple, mindless, cheap thrill heavy trip through the spookhouse. Mausoleum is a strange horror film oddity that’s well worth raiding the crypt for.

 

I’m awarding Mausoleum FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

03
Jan
20

(NSFW) Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1:My So-Called Toxic Taco

 

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“You just fucked with the wrong post-apocalyptic hell bitch!” – Tara E. Miller as Rachel Ruysch in Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1

a Primal Root written review

Since the very beginning of my life Troma films has loomed largely in my life. As a child of the 80’s I saw their movies on the video store shelves. Titillating, perverse and imagination fueling titles like The Toxic Avenger, Bloodsucking Freaks, Rabid Grannies and Surf Nazis Must Die immediately drew my burgeoning Trash Cinema hungry eyes to them. The vividly colored box art promised over the top gore, none stop dick and fart jokes and a plethora of nekkid women. What these videos promised was everything my eight year old heart longed for. Who the Hell am I trying to kid, it’s everything my 37 year old heart still longs for with every beat of my filthy horn dog little heart.

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Writer/Director and Troma’s co-founder and lovable mascot, Lloyd Kaufman, has gone back to the well again with a sequel to his video rental store mega hit Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), with Return to Nuke ‘Em High (2013), and Kickstarter, fan funded toxic goop soaked tit and gore filled epic that was apparently so massive in scope it had to be stretched into two separate volumes like a fucking Harry Potter film.

What I am happy to report is that Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 is a homecoming WELL worth the wait. After the events of Class of Nuke ‘Em High, which saw Tromaville High School and the the Tromaville Nuclear Power Plant blown to smithereens, Tromaville High is rebuilt and sleazier than ever, where school shootings happen just about every day to point students yawn while they happen, AND they are the testing ground for the Tromaorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate, which just so happens to be built over the site of the old, demolished, tainted soil where the nuclear power plant once stood.

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We are introduced to the new motley class of Nuke ‘Em high. With a ludicrously tone deaf and nerdy glee club, blind security staff, a gym shower chock-full of naked, laughing, bouncy breasts nubile young women, the overweight, over enthusiastic, little pierced penised Zac (Zac Amico), the psychotically horny and self absorbed white boy, Eugene (Clay von Carlowitz) and an highly animated, bug eyed Principal Westley (Babette Bombshell) who is in the pocket of Troma organic Foodstuffs’ president, Lee Harvey Herzkauf (Lloyd Kaufman). All this is established before the camera moves into the janitor’s closet where two students are porking away on the janitor’s cot, when an overhead pipe explodes, green, toxic goo falls all over their feet (to which they are un-phased and and keep squeeshing pissers) and a slithery, slimy, toxic cock monster falls out of the pipe, slides into the guys ass , causing his actual penis to explode off and melt into a puddle of goo before his fuck buddy begins melting (tits first) into a puddle of putrid green and red slop. The janitor enters, sits down, notices the gory puddle of death now napping on his cot, shrugs with disinterest, and our movie begins on just the right Tromatic note.

 

Rich new girl to Tromaville High School, Lauren (Catherine Corcoran), who has a deep love for her pet duck Kevin (Kevin the Duck) becomes is an instant outcast at school, butting heads immediately with fellow classmate, Chrissy (Asta Paredes), who maintains a hardly noticed investigative blog uncovering the corruption and dangerous contamination coming out of Tromaorganic.

Before you can say “Go Green” the glowing green toxic waste contaminated foodstuff is passed off as guacamole and served to the guinea pig students of Tromaville High School under the guise of Taco Tuesday and transforming the tone deaf glee club into the mutated hyper violent second coming of THE CRETINS! Their reign of terror begins without hesitation as they shoot down pedestrians, and throw teachers and dogs over the railing at Tromaville Falls to their chunky, splattery demises. The Cretins look better than ever in their new duds and awesome makeup. Not only that, but they now sing beautifully together, belting out barbershop quartet ditties while viciously mutilating and killing everyone in their path.

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It’s not long before Lauren runs afoul (hehe) of The Cretins who “Duck Rape” her by lodging the recently irradiated Kevin the Duck down her throat. Lauren runs around Tromaville looking for someone to help dislodge Kevin from her gullet as Kevin shoots eggs out of his tiny pink duck vagina (huh?), but alas, duck dislodging is not covered by Obama care. It isn’t until Lauren runs across Chrissy that they work together and get Kevin out of there, although he now has glowing green eyes, a beak full of sharp teeth and if foaming at the mouth. Chrissy and Lauren end up the recently foreclosed upon house of one of their friends and their attraction to one another cannot be repressed. They begin writhing together in bikinis on the dance floor to erotic sounds of Rapedoor’s toe tapper “Last Song,” before Lauren takes Chrissy’s hand, leads her up to a squatter’s lair and they begin a wonderful and exceedingly long sex scene, where the two get nekkid, munch some toxic tasty taco and exchange nuclear goo as they slide one another the tongue, a side effect of prolonged irradiated duck rape, I imagine.

The fun is interrupted when The Cretins show up and toss a couple Molotov cocktails through the windows and burn the place to the ground. That night, Chrissy and Lauren have the very same dream…Lauren’s belly expands and her tots begin to spray toxic waste where Chrissy grows a massive toxic cock that she can wield as a weapon that also feasts of flesh. With their new toxic powers they head to The Cretin’s hideout to exact some revenge.

When Chrissy and Lauren meet up at school the next day, they aren’t sure if it was all a dream or not…but their “good friend” Zac, the fat and worthless ginger in the Alfred Packard: The Musical shirt, is tasked with finding a way to black mail Chrissy in order for her to take down her blog so there will no longer be anyone airing out Tromaorganic’s dirty laundry and Zac can join The Cretins so he can finally have some place he belongs. So what does Zac do? He gets a shot of Chrissy and Lauren locking lips at school, which if shown to the homophobic public, could prove fatal. The film ends on a cliffhanger in the girl’s locker room shower with an homage to Brian de Palma’s Stephen King adaptation, Carrie and a big ‘ol “TO BE CONTINUED…” popping up before the end credits. Needless to say, I was left chomping at the bit for more.

Man, Return to Nuke ‘Em High feels like Uncle Lloyd has been sitting on a powder keg of ideas that just sort of exploded in front of the camera. There are plot stops and starts, characters brought up that we never see again, narrative dead ends a plenty, but the manic energy of this flick never lets up even if it does feel totally lopsided. It’s a celebration of bad taste, political incorrectness, human anatomy, absolute carnage and anarchy wrapped up as one sloppy green slobbery smooch of an adolescent subhumanoid fever dream.

Like all Troma movies there are it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. I was worried the Troma feel might be missing as soon as I noticed it looked to be shot on digital as opposed to film, which according to Lloyd Kaufman’s book Make Your Own Damn Movie, is something he would never EVER do. But, here he is, shooting in digital. I asked him at DragonCon once why he decided to shoot on digital after deriding the format so thoroughly in his book. His answer? “It’s so much cheaper!” Proving the old saying, “Don’t knock it till you try it.” Thankfully, the digital element honestly works in the films favor, lending the film a sleek, pristine sheen not typical of Troma films, coming across as the birth of a new era for the company.

One thing that annoyed the shit out of me were the title cards introducing every character and giving a bit of backstory. It felt lazy and like a last minute attempt to cover up a typically haphazard Troma screenplay. Usually the bizarre characters are left to establish themselves without us having to be directly told with text on screen. These characters fill a certain niche in a cinematic high school story, something we are all familiar with. So, I guess my one gripe is that it feels like they didn’t shoot enough coverage to make everything in the story work and shoved some sort of funny text explaining this, something I can’t recall Troma ever doing in the past.

But, all in all, Return to Nuke ‘Em High volume 1 is a fine return to form for these long time, ever present purveyors of filthy, grotesque and highly enjoyable Trash Cinema. The cast is a top notch rag tag team of Troma style performers, all willing to give their all and then some and, like always, add a screwball charm that is undeniable. The effects are as cheap and gnarly as ever with lubed up gore effects are deployed and freakish monsters come slithering out of and into every orifice. And there’s boobs a plenty, all shot with a close eye for bouncing, jiggle fondle potential, as we have all come to love and expect from Troma. What I wasn’t expecting at all was a genuine attempt at an effective love story between Lauren and Chrissy. You see it coming, but you always expect this shit to just be a lowbrow set up for someone to make queef joke, and of course there are queef jokes, but the love story is developed over time and amazingly sweetly, gently. I haven;t seen Troma try to actually pull off ‘sweet’ since Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn’s Tromeo & Juliet. It was a pleasant surprise and one I really admired. Especially when it got to that lesbian sex scene. It made the whole sequence infinitely more boner inducing. There’s even some cameos that, when watching in 2019, are kind of heartwarming and heart breaking, Namely Stan Lee as the stories’ opening narrator and Lemmy Kilmister as The President of the United States. Rest in peace, you two, it was fun getting to spend time with you again.

 

What I’m saying is The Return to Nuke ‘Em High is a class reunion WELL worth attending. Can the Troma team keep this level of excellence up in Volume Two? Stay tuned, you Cretins!

I’m awarding The Return to Nuke ‘Em High FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Toxic!

-Root

30
Dec
19

Tammy And The T-Rex: Welcome to Jurassic Pork

 

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a Primal Root written review

Who doesn’t love a tragic, tear jerking love story? The classic tale of star crossed lovers longing to be with one another, only to have those desires cut short by the selfish, senseless demands of those around them.  From Romero and Juliet, to Antony and Cleopatra to Return of the Living Dead part III and Bride of Re-Animator, it’s a tale as old as time that caters to universally identifiable feelings of love, longing and loss. And then there are those heartbreaking tales of lost love so unreal, so unapologetically bat shit insane, audiences can’t hardly believe it was conceived, let alone seen to completion. Enter Stewart  Raffill’s 1994 teen romance horror comedy fever dream… Tammy and the T-Rex

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Denise Richards (Left) and Paul Walker (Right)

 Tammy and the T-Rex begins conventionally enough with a burgeoning romance forming between well endowed, vivacious, twenty something high school cheerleader, Tammy (Denise Richards in her first ever starring role) and her hunky football player beau, Michael (Paul Walker, once again, in his first ever feature length film role). Also shoe horned into the opening is Tammy’s best friend, the flamboyant and over the top early 90’s gay stereotype, Byron (Theo Forsett), who is true blue and the most likable character in the film. The chemistry between Tammy and Michael is awkward and goofy, but it does come across like they genuinely want to utilize one another’s genitals for their intended purpose. Only thing is, Tammy has a psychotic, bloodthirsty ex-boyfriend, Billy (George Pilgrim), who initiates a knock down, drag out beat down with Michael within the first five minutes of the film which ends in a brutal, school yard, “testicular stand-off” squeeze-a-thon to prove his undying love for Tammy. It’s a ball squeezing battle unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in cinema and even takes the presence of  armed police officers (one of which is played by Trash Cinema legend George ‘Buck’ Flower) to intervene. Keep in mind, this is within the film’s first few minutes that all this takes place. The teenage romance, and the risks inherent of their forbidden love, are set and leading to a collision course of violent retribution for even looking at some dipshit’s ex-girlfriend.

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We are also introduced to the story’s mad scientist, Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser, Bernie of Weekend at Bernie’s AND Dr. “Bad News” Crews from Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood) who longs to achieve immortality by transplanting brains into robots, which is why he has built a giant animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex run by a computer…Huh? He aspires to give the T-Rex life, but is missing one crucial ingredient, a fresh human brain. This could be a generic kind of villainous roll, but Terry Kiser chews the scenery and make Dr. Wachenstein a lively, fun and memorable scientific madman.

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Leave it to Billy to chase Michael down, throw him in the trunk of his care and abandon him in a nature preserve for filled with ferocious, hungry lions and panthers where Michael is mauled nearly to death by the aforementioned lion. This is creativity under the gun at it’s finest. What a fucking bizarre an unexpected turn of events and a truly dastardly brilliant maneuver by Billy. Leaving some poor guy in a deadly giant feline nature preserve and not tell him where he is? As the song goes, “Welcome to the jungle, baby! You’re gonna DDDDIIIIAAAAYYY!” It’s a stroke of mad unconventional genius and I, for one, was thoroughly impressed by this directorial choice.

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Michael, amazingly, survives being savaged by the lion only to be falsely declared dead by visiting physician Dr. Wachenstein, who then kidnaps Michael, takes him to his laboratory, sprays blood all over his puking assistants as he haphazardly saws Michael’s skull open to demonstrate how if he pokes just the right spot he can make Michael’s dying body get a gigantic boner which he can manipulate and make dance around before he slips Michael’s brain out of his skull cavity and slips it into his robotic T-Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

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You guessed it, everything. While Dr. Wachenstein’s away banging his lady assistant, he leaves his two other goons in charge and as soon a the pizza guy arrives, Michael goes fucking nuts after realizing he is not a robot T-Rex and starts chomping heads off and stomping people to death. Once he breaks loose, Michael makes a B-Line straight for a party where Billy and his posse of maniacal laughers happen to be at. Michael crashes the party, disemboweling and decapitating all those who have wronged him in gloriously bloody, goopy, gratuitously creative fashion.  It’s fun and brutal but also felt a little off kilter for the narrative. Shouldn’t Michael be stalking these goons for the rest of the film and eating them one by one leading up to a final confrontation with Billy? In a more generic film I feel that would be the case, But Tammy and T-Rex is anything but your typical tale of love and revenge. He actually eats everyone responsible for the attack in one blood spattered sequence. Michael even runs into Byron at the party, who is understandably horrified by the situation. When Byron trips and falls to the ground trying to escape the massacre, Michael-Rex actually picks him up, sets Byron on his feet, dusts of his shoulders and walks  away. There’s a genuine moment of suspense here, because you’re not sure right off the bat if Michael is just going to go about killing people indiscriminately, or if he will just be devouring enemies. Much to my relief, he lets the lovable Byron go.

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So, about half way through the film all the bullies are devoured, including Billy, who has his head torn off and somehow partially hollowed out. I imagine an off screen moment where Michael bites Billy’s head off and then cracks Billy’s skull open like a pistachio so Michael-Rex can then scoop the insides out with his dino tongue before hacking the husk out to splatter all over the concrete backyard patio. Anyway, with that conflict over with at the midway point, where is there to go from here? Actually, there’s plenty to do! Michael-Rex terrifies Tammy by showing up at her house, breaking in through her bedroom window and whisking her away to barn in broad daylight where this nubile young woman and a T-Rex play a game of charades until Tammy finally guesses Michael’s brain is alive and living in the body of this robotic T-Rex. Before long Tammy falls in love all over again with Michael as a robotic dinosaur and the hunt is on the find Michael’s brain a new body and thwart Dr. Wachenstein and his remaining minions evil plans! One major question left hanging, at least in my mind, is whether or not Tammy and Michael have sex while he is in his robotic T-Rex form or not. There is a scene in the barn where they are laying together and it is mildly implied something frisky might have been going on during the cutaway. Because when Byron shows up to bring them food and drink, which friends do for friends all the time post coitus, he asks “Is everyone decent?” before entering. I know, I know, I;m probably reading into this way too much, but as a man who has been in audiences for live readings of Dinosaur Erotica, my mind cannot help but wonder to that most forbidden of places…Jurassic Pork. Anyhoo, maybe we can finally get a sequel where this is all made clear. Because, honestly, if they aren’t making the sign of the double backed Pterodactyl by films end, poor Michael must have the worst case of disembodied blue balls in the history of this fictional universe.

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Tammy and The T-Rex is far better than it has any right to be. Honestly, the story is a blast of imagination and utter batshit insanity where any and every concept seems to be throw against the wall to see what sticks, and to my amazement, just about all of it does. Tammy and The T-Rex succeeds in being none stop entertaining in much the same way writer/director Stewart Raffill’s 1988 McDonald’s sponsored E.T. knock off Mac & ME and his misguided Mannequin Two: On The Move turned out to be. They are chock full of bizarre ideas that function on a sort of caffeinated dream logic, just as soon as one mind blowingly surreal moment happens you’re on to another! Sure, this isn’t a recipe for mainstream appeal like your run of the mill Disney output, but for those who thrive on cinema that buck formalities and storytelling conventions, those misfits that the rest of the movie going public reject for being “bad movies,” these are the ones that give us a breath of fresh air as they deliver us something totally outside the expected, something rancid and weird and not fully thought out or planned.

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Tammy and the T-Rex is a perfect example of such a film. It might be considered terrible by those who deem they know better, but the charm of Tammy and The T-Rex IS the flaws and imperfections. It’s Grade A Trash Cinema, and everyone in front of and behind the camera really seem to be giving it their all to make this loony concept work, and that is one of the films saving graces. In all seriousness, these are possibly the best performances I’ve ever seen out of Denise Richards and Paul Walker. When Tammy screams in anguish it is genuine and believable, when she calls Michael on the phone to apologize for her behavior, it doesn’t feel phony, and when she hops around the bedroom doing strip tease in a white teddy, it doesn’t feel forced. It’s cornball, and cheesy, but it never has that feel of a disingenuous trash. No, this is the real deal where it’s obvious the folks making it were having fun and trying to deliver something entertaining and as good as they could make it. Tammy and The T-Rex is an absolutely charming and lovable piece of Trash Cinema and one I am thrilled has finally found the light of day fully restored on Blu-Ray, uncut and uncensored, by the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome. 

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Tammy and The T-Rex is a MUST WATCH for fans of Trash Cinema. It’s like Beverly Hills 90210 meets Jurassic Park by way of Robocop and Ghost‘s illegitimate love child and it is good, trashy, mindless fun from start to finish.  

I award Tammy and the T-Rex FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS. 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

27
Nov
19

The Happy Pill (2019): Put On A Happy Face

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a Primal Root written review

Life can become a nightmare. Work, family, relationships, daily interactions, it all begins to pile up and soon it feels as if the only escape we can find is when we shut our eyes and fade to sleep. Of course, this kind of lifestyle is enough to drive us all to the breaking point, and writer/director Kayla King’s debut short film, The Happy Pill, takes a graphic, nasty, and disturbing look into a life that is all too common for those of us struggling just to make it to the another day of pain, where we must constantly wake up from our dreams and head back into the repetitive, abusive mundane that is leading us nowhere.

 The Happy Pill tells the story of Amy Sanders (Heather Hough) dealing with deep depression who wakes up every morning to a nightmare routine. She calls her mother for help, but Mom is enjoying her vacation and can’t be bothered, she tries taking a shower, brushing her teeth vigorously, but she can’t get rid of how filthy she feels and it gets unfathomably worse when she goes to her dead end job at a vintage store, where her abusive boss, Mr. Moody (John Stevenson), a a dirty, sweaty, ass grabbing scumbag who enjoys nothing more than belittling and bad mouthing Amy. This is the routine, this is her life, and she is constantly reliving this Hell day after day.

That is, until she decides to begin taking a new over the counter medication named…The Happy Pill. We aren’t given much backstory to the medication itself, but the disconcerting effect is a compulsively grotesque smile that is constantly plastered on your face. Amy take the pills, day after life sucking day, upping the dosage each time, even as she begins to cry crimson tears, and her mouth fills with blood as she brushes her teeth. It all leads to a gore drenched, fecal matter encrusted climax and final confrontation between Amy and Mr. Moody, where the medicated Amy must decide whether she will continue to let life treat her like a piece of toilet paper, or will she take matters into her own hands and flush the shitty elements of her life straight to the sewer, and just where will that leave her?

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The Happy Pill is a ferocious, rage fueled debut. One with unique, body horror elements reminiscent of an early David Cronenberg by way of Kevin Smith and  mingling with the gnarly, schlocky, grossness and gratuitous gore and nudity of a Troma movie and comes up feeling like a companion piece to this year’s JOKER. What really sets The Happy Pill apart from so many short indie horror films I’ve seen are the fearless performances from the leads, first timer Heather Hough and veteran indie film actor, John Stevenson. Both give down and dirty, natural performances which really make the material work. And the fact that they are both up for depicting the horrors which appear in this film, especially by it’s end, make you  appreciate just how brave they are. Heather Hough owns every second of her screen time with a highly sympathetic and believable portrayal of Amy, and when she’s on screen, you cannot take your eyes off of her. Her transformation from depressed victim to violent, blood spewing avenger is damned impressive and is so fearless, it’s easy to forget this is her first time on screen. Stevenson plays the imposing Mr. Moody with an all too familiar glee and twinkle in his abusive eye. Moody enjoys abusing Amy who never fights back and does what she is told. He can touch her inappropriately, he can berate her in front of customers, he can tell her to work at HIS convenience and do it all with a chuckle and a shrug. Stevenson makes Mr. Moody a memorably despicable villain that we’ve all come across before…and you crave a comeuppance. John Stevenson deserves some great kudos for being game to bring such a monster to life.

King’s vision, brought to vivid, colorful life by cinematographer Hunter Black, who also served as editor of the film, is a perfectly timed sucker punch to the gut and feels exceedingly poignant as social issues, from mental health awareness, to the Me Too Movement, have become more prevalent ( thank goodness). The Happy Pill ends with a violent blast of pure frustration and rage at a world where so many are left behind, not cared for, unloved and made to feel worthless by those who neglect, abuse and drive their humanity into the ground under their boot heel. And this violent comeuppance, as incredible and brutal a sight to behold as it is, comes across as a battle cry of an entire sect of society left to fend for themselves with no upward mobility and no support system to fall back on.  And with the final shot, a silent, meditative, ambiguous moment, the filmmakers invite you to find you own meaning in what’s just happened. It allows you to read into the finale what you will in that final silent moment. And if, as they say, horror is simply a reflection of our society, I don’t doubt many of the viewers of The Happy Pill will feel as if they’re staring into their own eyes, as they themselves hold back the tears of rage they feel at a constant, every day life of scraping by and keeping a smile on your face while for those who make living off your hard work, while you waste your life away day by day and the previous generation goes on lavish vacations…and laughs at your struggle. 

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The Happy Pill is less than 15 minutes long, but it strikes with the force of a fucking sledge hammer. As the tagline reads, “It’s a Hard Pill to Swallow.” Well, mother fuckers, this is a dose you need to take.

I award The Happy Pill FIVE Out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This short film offers something for every Trash Cinema Aficionado and will knock your ass out and shatter your senses.  Keep your eyes peeled for more from these incredible burgeoning talents out of Tallahassee, Florida.  I honestly hope this remarkable horror film inspires more independent films from the area.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 




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