Posts Tagged ‘camp

29
Jul
18

(NSFW) Just Before Dawn (1981): Rise and Die

just before dawn

a Primal Root written review

“There’s nothing out there but God’s little creatures, more scared of you than you are of them.” – Warren, Just Before Dawn

Tales of backwoods hicks slaughtering city folks is as old as the hills themselves. Freshly showered kids in their L.L. Bean disco survival boots, shaved vaginas and cans of Pringles head off to hike and pitch their tents fully exposed in the elements and figure, oh yeah, nothing’s going to happen to me out here among the trees, wildlife and lack of of immediate assistance from someone who knows what the Hell they’re doing. From The Hills Have Eyes, to House of 1,000 Corpses, to Deliverance, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; white-bread, Nike wearing, pink, privileged idiots with six figure incomes load up their campers and right into certain death despite there nearly ALWAYS being some old coot standing by the side of the rarely traversed, nearly grown over dirt road saying the same old speech “You’re doomed if you stay the night up that road!”

And what do those idiots do? Crank up the Def Leppard and rush forward into painful, bloody oblivion. It’s an old yarn always looking for an invigorating new take, or at least a competent hand to at the very least, make it interesting.

Enter the forgotten 1981 backwoods camping slasher gem, JUST BEFORE DAWN, and film that I’d heard a few people mention in decades past, but never in the same sentence as well worn genre fare. Upon finally getting a chance to watch it, I was not only blown blown away by how solid it was, but I would put it among my all time favorite slasher films of this backwoods sub-genre.

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Our pre-credit inciting incident takes place in a rotten, weather worn church where two older hikers are joking around and acting like goofballs trying to make one another laugh as they wonder through this holy relic. By the way, one of these old hikers is none other than Mike Kellin who played Mel, the owner of Camp Arawak in another excellent summer slasher film, Sleepaway Camp from 1983. When one man notices a freakish inbred redneck peering through a hole in th church’s roof and eerily backlit by the sun, he steps out slowly from the church, and in a real dick move, doesn’t mention it to his friend who is too busy being a comedian to notice. Well, as you might imagine, the man left in the church ends up getting possibly the most brutal death in the film and has a massive, multi-pronged machete stuck though his pee hole and right out his poop chute. And the film doesn’t cut away once this happens, oh no, we see the poor hikers horrified, pained reaction to suddenly find his cock and balls forcibly filleted in half and probably shoved right out his own asshole. He reached behind himself to feel the machete blade sticking right out through his jeans…it’s a nightmarish moment and one where the viewer cannot help but imagine the unfathomable agony that bastard must be experiencing as he slowly begins to bleed to death amongst the pews of stink, mildew encrusted old church.  This poor bastard’s bud, Ty, who just left him to die, runs off into the woods and down the side of the mountain with the giant, massively overweight bloodthirsty mountain man in hot pursuit.

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From left to right: Constance, Jonathan, Daniel, Megan & Warren. Who will survive and who will inherit the R.V.?

 

We are then immediately introduced to our core group of young folks headed up the side of the mountain in their camper to spend a long weekend hiking, skinny dipping, and mellowing out in the woods. There’s the fun loving couple Jonathan (Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon) and Megan (Jamie Rose, from Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and a billion TV Shows), the nerdy photographer who didn’t bring a date and will probably be spending the majority of the trip, when not taking photos, masturbating into the bushes, Daniel (Ralph Seymour from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Killer Party, Meatballs part II) and our main course couple, our blonde alpha male and guy steering the RV, Warren (played by none other than Greg Henry who starred in James Gunn’s Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy flicks) and his worry wart, uptight, girlfriend, Constance (Deborah Benson from 1941, 2 Days in the Valley).  On their way up, they are warned by none other than the late, great, George Kennedy as Roy McLean, an old timer plant doctor and horse whisperer who knows there’s something terrible up in them mountains. Not only that, but the kids bust the shit out of a deer with the R.V., and run into Ty, who at some point came across a massive jug of whiskey as he was fleeing for his life, drank three quarters of it, and slurrily begged the kids to take him down the mountain before he is turned into a dick and ass kabob by some horrifying fat fucks in the woods. The kids leave him some food and head up the mountain, as they go, Ty watches as the Mountain Man hops from a nearby tree onto the back of the camper to pursue more nubile and fuckable victims.  Ty laughs his ass of and continues stumbling down the mountain.

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Soon our rag tag group of fresh faced youths have set up camp, hiked behind waterfalls, and noticed some peculiar whistling coming from the woods…the crew even noticed a young woman singing beautifully down by a stream, when they approach her, the girl goes running into the woods. All these strange omens mean little to the young folks as they starts letting loose. The most notable is Constance, who ditches her waist high khakis and long sleeve denims short, and slips on some tight fitting daisy dukes that let her butt cheeks hang out and the ties her button down shirt up to expose her mid-drift and tease at the subtle breasts bouncing around underneath. It’s a transformation that doesn’t go unnoticed by her camping buddies and seems to coincide with the five friends descending deeper into the woods, as if she is becoming a bit more wild herself. She even paints her toenails while sitting on a long. It’s cute, it’s hot, and it’s a little weird, but you know me, I’m down with weird female transformations, especially the wild and sexy kind.

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Before long, the kids find themselves down at the base of the waterfall where Jonathan and Megan decide to go skinny dipping and fool around a little bit while the other’s make breakfast. It’s all fun and games as Megan splashes water around and giggles while Jonathan goes under water, gropes her and floats up pretending to be dead, but soon the scene becomes one of the creepiest in the damn film, as we see one of the filthy, gigantic mountain men descend into the water in the background and go under… Jonathan dips under the water again and vanishes. Megan, assuming Jonathan is playing around, continues to giggle and call out to him. That’s when a filthy big old pair of hands start groping at her above and under water. She assumes Jonathan is playing around and getting frisky and it is really uncomfortable as these hands slide across her skin, and are most certainly poking ad probing some intimate places just below our field of vision. Soon, Jonathan surfaces and walks out of the water at the shore line and waves at Megan as she is being molested. As expected, she begins screaming and running out of the water. It’s a truly freakish moment brimming with suspense and unease, we know what these nasty backwoods killers are capable off and how perverse their methods of dispatch can be. The terror of the moment is only made right by the sight of Megan’s lovely body running out of the water, sopping wet, nekkid, running and beautiful. The moment was absolutely horrifying, but he coming out of the water surrounded by the lush forest sure makes you contemplate the beauty of nature.

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Now, what blows my mind, is the next time we see these kids they’re dancing all sexy like by fire light RIGHT AFTER THIS INCIDENT! Let me tell you, if my wife or anyone I was comping with came to me hysterically crying about being molested, I’d be loading up the camper and booking it down the side of the mountain. But even Megan seems to have gotten overt her trauma in no time and is clapping her ass cheeks on Daniel the nerd boy’s wang doodle like it’s Spring Break at Panama City Beach. Everyone is gyrating the love bits and shaking their money makes when a three piece family of rednecks (Papa, Mama, and the little singing girl from earlier)  bash the fuck out of their radio, emerge from the darkened woods and are now the THIRD people to warn these kids that they’re going to die.  You kids are “Gonna wake up THE DEVILS!”  Time to load up the camper and head to civilization right?

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Of course, the kids don’t listen, and the next day decide to go messing around in the woods in separate groups which leads to some of the most horrifying and suspenseful shit in the movie, with each murder being set up masterfully and pulled off with maximum suspense, which is not exactly the hallmark of the slasher genre. Nine times out of ten I find myself bored to pieces as someone is walking down a dark corridor, or walking around the woods calling out for a friend. But Just Before Dawn knows exactly what TO show us and what NOT TO show us in order to actually give us that sense of dread, or knowledge that something terrible is occurring. What’s also impressive is that the film doesn’t rely on gore effects to sell it’s shocks and scares, instead leaning on it’s actors to make us feel the fear, the pain, the struggle they’re in, which, again to my amazement, the cast fully delivers. Not only do they create characters we believe and genuinely like, but the film take the time to let the actors deliver what they need to in order to bring the audience with them into the horror they’re going through. Also, the score composed by Brad Fiedel is far eerier than most genre entries ever get and creates a nightmarish atmosphere of solitude and doom.

Jeff Lieberman wrote and directed this lean, mean, fucking slasher film which relies on subtlety, allowing the terror to build, and once the shit hits the fan, doesn’t shy away from laying it on us with harrowing set pieces, nail biting suspense and making us witness to some nasty fates. Lieberman’s a name I never hear mentioned when it comes to cult horror film makers, but the brother directed another fantastic down home horror fest, 1976’s Squirm, the LSD shock fest Blu Sunshine in 1977 and even directed the vastly underrated Halloween horror film, Satan’s Little Helper. Also, looking at his IMDB page, the guy directed a documentary about the mysterious death of boxing legend Sonny Liston and wrote, of all thing, The NeverEnding Story part II… Huh…

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Just Before Dawn is a slasher film that NEEDS to be recognized and HAS to be seen by fans of the genre. It’s a standout among a genre that was just at the beginning of going stale, even as early as 1981. Lieberman and company made a flick that pulls no punches and creates a real nightmare scenario. The killers themselves are a little goofy when you finally get a good look at them, but the actors trying to escape from them do a damn good job of selling their menace, even when the killer’s goofy unibrow and giant beer bellies, do not. The final battle at base camp is fucking astounding and in it’s execution, and in it’s final moments, just before dawn, we see a new dawn and the final transformation. It has to be seen to be believed.

I award Just Before Dawn FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

You have got to see this sucker!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
May
18

Memorial Valley Massacre (1989): Welcome to the Jungle

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a Primal Root written review

Ah, Memorial Day weekend! The unofficial kickoff to the summer season when the nuclear family packs up in their camper and/or station wagon and heads out to the sticks to get back to and commune with Mother Nature all while filling their guts with grilled hotdogs, dozens of beers and leaving plenty of refuse and carnage in their wake sure to leave a nice, shitty footprint on the ever cracking skull of the fragile ecosystem you just pissed all over during your long weekend.

If ANYTHING I feel like this is the theme Memorial Valley Massacre, the straight to video 1989 slasher flick, nails right on the everlovin’ head. Mankind’s rape and pillaging of Mother Nature. Before the Massacre part even begins we are introduced to real estate developer and tycoon, Allen Sangster played by the late, great Cameron Mitchel of Raw Force and Space Mutiny notoriety. And, yes, his last name is one letter away from “Gangster” and he is basically, as written and portrayed, a carbon copy of our current U.S. President, Donald Trump. The film begin with him inspecting his recent development, Memorial Valley Park, which should be opening RIGHT THEN as he is inspecting it. He soon learns that there are dead dogs bobbing in the park’s water supply, there’s no electricity at all in the park,  the restroom facilities aren’t functional and a contractor was crushed in an accident earlier in the day.

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As the impressive amount of angry, impatient campers gather at the gate to the park, Allen Sangster, who is only in it for the possibility of further developing the land with a shopping mall, high scale condominiums, and a sporting arena, says “fuck it” and opens up the park, and before departing for the rest of the movie, leaves only three dip shits running the place; his son David (Mark Mears) who has a Masters PHD in survivalism (…huh?), Deke Brown (Jimmy Justice) taking custodial duties *snicker*, also exposition duties as well as the wise, old, sage. To be honest, he’s by far and away my favorite character int he movie and probably the most charismatic performance next to the girl who does a strip tease later on in the flick. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Last but certainly not least is the silver fox drunkard, Vietnam Veteran, expert tracker turned Forest Ranger who once lost his son in the woods due to some convoluted story about a ransom exchange gone wrong when his kid was kidnapped. This older hardass and constant asshole is George Webster (John “Not That One” Kerry), the man who can knock back two entire bottles of Jack Daniels in about 35 seconds flat and still function enough to let everyone around him perish and blame it one everyone else before passing out on the front porch of his cabin/general store.

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Everyone and their Grandmother seems to have come out for this grand opening of Memorial Valley Park! We have a what appears to be a literal cast of thousands, and they all have speaking rolls and are such a strange mixture of typical slasher movie jerks, you’re left wondering, once everyone is introduced, just who are going to be the heroes in this thing and who is just hear to be torn into meaty chunks?  There’s a six piece biker gang straight of Friday the 13th part III, an annoying, overweight and hugely moronic family straight out of Halloween II: Season the Witch, a hard drinking, heavy smoking retired Army General who has a wife who makes him sandwiches and has a massive set of knockers, but my favorite is the trio of teens who show up, two guys and girl, who are unfathomably rude to people and both guys are in constant competition to see who is going to get the pleasure of sharing a moist and stinky sleeping bag with their female companion during the long weekend. She’s well aware of the situation, they even discuss it, and it’s a way out in the open character dynamic I’ve not come across very often in these kind of dumb as rocks slasher films.  OH, I nearly forgot, there’s also a gorgeous, incredibly well fit, super under dressed single woman there camping by herself who refuses help from the studly PHD Survivalist, David, when offer to help her pitch a tent. “Just let me know if you need anything…ANYTHING.” he says before he calls off his dogs and stops bugging the shit out of her when she has stressed multiple times that she is a strong, independent woman who pitches tents with NO MAN! Yeah, you can guess where this is going…

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Turns out there’s a twenty something wild man roaming Memorial Valley, dropping dead dogs into water tanks, dozens of snakes onto camper’s picnic tables, and freaking out over every noise he hears. Early on it is established that this young gymnastic cave dweller credited as Hermit and played by John Caso (in what would be his first and final cinematic appearance) is a passive lover of nature and all living things, preferring to eat berries he collects from the bountiful offerings of the shrubbery found in Monument Valley and sharing them with the cute mice that infest his cave. All this changes when he encounters a three wheeling, thieving, overweight kid, who he chases for about ten minutes before clothes lining him to the terra firmer. The caveman honestly doesn’t mean this big baby any harm, but the kid pulls out a hunting knife and slashes Hermit in the face as the lightning and thunder strike and the mid afternoon sun disappears instantly plunging them into darkness as Hermit takes the knife happy teenager and snaps his neck like a little bitty twig. From here…Hermit never looks back and begins killing every camper he encounters.

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We are treated to a a social that takes place in the pouring rain between all the characters that have dialog. Some ghost stories are told, exposition is dropped, bikers act like insecure assholes, and that one cute chick with the two teenage boys lusting for her love tunnel, decides to rush into the monsoon and begin gyrating in the downpour and pretty much going home with the blue ribbon in her one woman wet t-shirt contest. But, the excitement is over before it really begins  and everyone disperses to enjoy the torrential downpour in their little tribes.

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David ends up taking the woman who gave him the cold shoulder back to her tent. He name is Cheryl and they end up stripping nekkid for one another in order to stay warm before David, the PHD in Survivalism, remember, suggests the should generate body heat together in order to stay warm. This smooth operator bites her towel off and starts kissing he heaving bosom like his life is depending on it. Meanwhile, the three teens are visited by ab absolutely adorable grizzly bear who pokes his head through their tent interrupting their argument about their female companion being a “cock teasing bitch.” The bear departs as quickly as he arrives, the teens peek their head out and see the bloodied carcass of the fat boy and scream their heads off, interrupting the attractive survivalist boinking going on in the tent next door.

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The next morning, upon the news that there is a vicious animal stalking the woods, hungry for stringy human flesh, all the campers without speaking parts decide to pack it up and head home leaving us with our rag tag group of misfits who the rangers give away guns and ammunition too like they’re handing out Halloween candy and send them out into the woods to kill whatever animal is causing this carnage in Memorial Valley Park! It doesn’t take long before bikers, horn dogs and rangers begin falling into pits of spikes, being fully penetrated with spears and throw IN to pits of spikes, and chopped into pieces with an axe as our little Hermit decides EVERYONE MUST PERISH this Memorial Day Weekend! Which all leads to final standoff with, of course, his Father, George, who lost him in the botched ransom drop of 17 years ago. The drunken tracker must now face off agains his lost son who raised himself in the wild and had no access to proper dental care and was educated int he school of hard knocks. With Memorial Valley already bathed in blood, will this mark the end of the carnage?

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Memorial Valley Massacre is, yes, very bad, very basic, and has that well worn fell of a film that stuck together a bunch of concepts and plot points from previous successful horror films and made on of their own. Let us count the ways, The Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th, Predator, etc. It’s got a bit of everything thrown in, but at least they’re lifting from some great source material. As I watched Memorial Valley Massacre with my wife Bootsie Kidd, she mentioned despite it’s flaws, it does have a lot of charm. And I have to agree with her. That charm, is Memorial Valley Massacre’s saving grace. The screenplay has enough witty humor to prop the material up on, the performances are all game, solid and when not totally believable, are otherwise, hilarious as are many of the gags that highlight the often thoughtless way we interact with the natural world. It even has one of those classic, hysterical, “Do you smell gas?” moments right before some characters are transformed into post toasties! It’s bargain basement level inept, but it’s content is undoubtably entertaining in the Trash Cinema tradition. And sometimes, man, that is good enough.

I award Memorial Valley Massacre THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Be safe out there, Gang, and have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

21
Aug
16

Fright Night (1985)The Rejection of Hot Cocoa or Why Your Girlfriend is Hotter When She’s Evil

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“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.” – Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent: Vampire Killer in Fright Night

a Primal Root written review

By the mid-1980’s horror cinema was dominated by low brow exploitation slasher horror cinema. Every weekend seemed to bring us another holiday themed blood bath filled with nekkid, pot smoking teens being chased down and hacked into oblivion by some silent masked killer or catch phrase spouting dream demon. By 1985, the formula was old hat and there a resurgence in appreciation for the classics. Tom Holland’s fun, sexy, highly entertaining directorial debut, Fright Night, is one of the most unabashed and perfect examples of what can be done when two genres are expertly amalgamated.

Fright Night seamlessly and joyfully the hard lined, effects driven spectacle of the late 1970’s and early 80’s horror genre made famous be the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter and John Landis, along with the fun, campy nature of many Hammer and Universal Classics. Fright Night is a film that generates it’s frights, laughs and boundless charm from the audience’s knowledge of horror cinema history. Fright Night is a film that bridges a gap between a simpler seeming time in the genres past and fully embraces the gnarly, grotesque necessities of the current 1980’s horror audience and succeeds in creating something familiar as well as new and enjoyable from start to finish.

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Fright Night tells the tale of virginal high school horror movie aficionado, Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is having relationship problems with his equally virginal high school sweetheart, Amy (Amanda Bearse). Charlie becomes convinced that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a a serial killer, one who has been decapitating prostitutes and draining their bodies of blood…He is also convinced that Jerry is, indeed, a mother fucking vampire.

When Charlie convinces a police detective to investigate Jerry and his live-in buddy Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but once the detective and Charlie set foot into Jerry’s home and Charlie’s suspicions are made clear, he is mocked, laughed at and told he is a fool…but this also means Jerry Dandridge, who is ACTUALLY a very powerful vampire, now knows the nosey kid next door is on to him and pose a very real threat to his existence.

Jerry comes to Charlie with a compromise; forget that he is a vampire and live, or continue being a little fuck face who tries to convince people that I’m a vampire and I’ll rip your little teeny bopper head off, drink your blood and then shit it down your neck stump. Of course, Charlie being one of the rare breed, pure of heart sort of kids, refuses to ignore evil. In return, Jerry retaliates by seducing both Charlie’s girlfriend Amy and his one and only friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys). Charlie, who has no siblings and whose Mom works the night shift at the hospital and has a singular remedy for  vampire onslaught in a mug of hot cocoa, which Charlie adamantly DOES NOT NEED, is totally useless. Plus his Father is completely absent without a mention of his whereabouts or existence.

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Out of options, Charlie turns to the unlikely aid of a late night horror movie host of the program ‘Fright Night’, classic horror film actor, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, who owns this movie, by the way). Nightly, Mr. Vincent boasts about his knowledge and fearlessness when it comes to battling vampires to their undead deaths. But, in real life, Mr. Vincent is a coward when confronted with the supernatural. It is up to this unlikely duo, Charlie and Peter Vincent, to vanquish the evil Jerry Dandridge in time to save Amy, who is slowly transforming into red headed sexy blood sucking minion of the undead!

So why the lasting impression? The cult status? The deeply devoted fan base and high regard from cinema devotees? Simply put, the film is absolute god damn pleasure to watch. It plays to everyone! Hardcore horror aficionados, casual cinema goers, sick demented trash cinema collective members, Fright Night pleases everyone. The violence is so over the top, colorful, fantasy based and imaginative, it’s never really disturbing as much as it is just good old fashion spook house fun.

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The actors all perform at the top of their game. Chris Sarandon as the incredibly suave and seductive vampire Jerry Dandridge conveys brutal menace and a confident swagger and joyful glee, but also manages to mix in a bit of humanity to a very old, very sophisticated creature of the night, making Jerry an unforgettable antagonist. Ragsdale is a perfect choice for the strong willed, in over his head, Charlie Brewster, likewise, Amanda Bearse as Amy conveys doe eyes innocence so well, it;s kind of annoying as shit. But it works in the favor of the character’s story arch, her relationship with Charlie keeps her almost as a child it is only when she is seduced by Jerry that her sexual awakening occurs, her physical appearance begins to change, drastically so soon after Jerry, *AHEM* slides his fangs into her causing ribbons of warm red blood to stream down her back in a not too subtle symbol of her virginity being taken. As she starts to turn, her hair goes red, she shows off her lovely tits through a see through white gown, and she aggressively attempts to seduce those around her so that she, too, can stick her fangs in them. It’s always fascinated me whenever women go evil in movies how much sexier they become. Like Lily in Legend, sure, she’s cute in all in her white gown, flowery head dress and shit, but as soon as she gets into the all black ensemble and starts dancing around with a confident, assured look of a woman who has been through Hell and back, knows pain, pleasure, desire and is world wary of these things, that’s when I find myself getting a chub. Besides, there are few turn offs greater than innocence. But that could just be me.

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Stephen Geoffries, who notoriously would turn to a career in homoerotic porn for the majority of his career, turns in one of the most excellent, go for broke performances as Evil Ed. Evil Ed is obviously an outsider, seemingly hyper active with a penchant for saying what’s on his mind, he seems like a bit of a nerd and someone who has been picked on his whole childhood. He plays the majority of the film as a kind of gonzo comic relief, but again, one of the strengths of Fright Night is when these seemingly stock and familiar characters are expanded upon. Two stand out scenes for Evil Ed always come to mind as the highlights of the film. When Evil Ed is seduced with the promise over never being picked on or bullied ever again, if only he takes the hand of Jerry Dandridge. It’s a beautiful moment as Evil Ed first cowers and then opens up to the idea of having someone, finally having someone who gives his word to stand up for him. Of course, it;s an evil creature of the night, so he will only become a kind of errand boy or good for Jerry, but I guess it beats going to high school. Also, Evil Ed’s ****SPOILER**** death is pitch perfect. It’s outstanding on so many levels, this teenage boy, who has given his soul away for vampiric powers, has now been impaled through the heart while he is in the form of a wolf. The physical effects are astounding through this sequence as we watch a dying Evil Ed in pure agony transform back into his human form slowly, painfully, mercilessly. He screams out in agony, at first as an unrecognizable half man half beast, who reaches out for comfort from a shell shocked and mortified Peter Vincent, the man who put the stake through his heart. Ed reaches for contact, someone to comfort him as he passes away and Peter almost reaches out to do so, before remembering just what he’s dealing with, and draws his hand back. As Ed fades away, and now looks exactly like himself, he gives Peter Vincent a tearful smile of regret as he dies, soulless, a being of evil and most assuredly heads straight down to Hell. Roddy andStephen are both excellent in the scene, and if you ask me, it might just be the best moment of the entire film, as these two work off one another beautifully.

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Which bring me to Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. This man is the heart and soul of Fright Night. As the aging, retired, reluctant and increasingly irrelevant Fearless Vampire Hunter, Roddy brings a beautiful, funny, sympathetic character to life with so much charm and charisma, you cannot help but love the man. He enlivens each and every scene he’s in with heart and warmth in a performance so wonderful, you;ll forget the man played a monkey four damn times.

There are a lot of overt sexual elements to Tom Hollands’ exceptional horror flick, Fright Night, but one of the messages I always found most noble is that horror, as a genre, is a necessity for youngsters. Suggesting that knowledge of how to deal with the evils of vampires and their ilk will come in handy, we just never know when. Fright Night is provocative, daring but also, in a sense innocent and nostalgic. It arrived at just the right time in 1985 as horror cinema was becoming stale on it’s steady stream of stale slasher flicks. Fright Night is among the finest horror films of the 1980’s. It’s wickedly comical, the performances, again, are all excellent and the practical effects, decades later, hold home remarkably well and are astounding to behold. It’s also  successful in transplanting the vampire myth from far away mountains of Transylvania and establishing them in the suburbs, a place where the forces of evil can move in right next door, and if you’re not paying attention, infiltrate your entire town…

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Bolstered by a rad 80’s soundtrack, Fright Night is a colorful, imaginative, well crafted and most importantly, FUN, non stop love note to horror’s cinematic history. One I feel has never been topped, let alone, matched.

I award Fright Night (1985) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

10
Feb
16

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Salutations from the Other Side

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve long held that the golden age of American horror cinema stretched from the late 1960’s to the end of the 1970’s. It was an age when turmoil, violence and change was in the air. Filmmakers of the day were shaken and inspired by the horrifying, nightmarish world around them, internalized this terror and in the end brought it out of the darkness as some of the most devastatingly influential horror films the world will ever witness.  There is one other genre that happened to thrive in the 1970’s, one I know far less about, and that is the Rock Opera.

Flicks like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Wiz not to mention, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would either garner rave reviews and great success or go on to become beloved cult films the world over. However, some fell by the wayside and are just now starting the reemerge and find recognition as beautiful cinematic oddities they are. And there is none I am more proud to see finally garnering the praise it has long deserved, Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, Phantom of the Paradise.

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Phantom of the Paradise blends the horror trappings of The Phantom of the Opera and Faust together and give it a glam rock makeover serving as a dark comic satire of the entertainment industry. Phantom tells the tale of Winslow Leech (William Finley in an awesome performance) a young and naive composer looking to make it big with his life long work, a cantata based on the legend of Faust. No sooner does the the owner of Death Records, an utterly charming, smooth talking, calm, collected and utterly malevolent man who has sold his soul to The Devil and goes by the name of Swan (Paul Williams) hear Winslow’s music does he find a way to steal it, exploit it and turn it into pop music garbage to open his long delayed rock palace, The Paradise, with. Swan frames Winslow and has him sent to jail where he is volunteered for an experiment which requires him to have all his teeth removed and replaced with new metallic chompers.  It isn’t long before Winslow hears his own composition on the radio, recreated as a turd of a pop song, and flees from prison. In a psychotic rage Winslow breaks into Death Records, ends up getting disfigured in a vinyl record press, vanishes into the night and is presumed dead…But soon after his disappearance a masked phantom begins stalking the darks hallways and backstage at The Paradise, determined to rain murderous vengeance upon all of those who have hurt and betrayed him.

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Along the way, The Phantom ends up becoming infatuated and falling in love with a young, inexperienced but quite talented singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the only person The Phantom permits to sing his work. Anyone else who tries, he promises, will be killed. Of course, Swan makes the decision to have The Phantom’s music performed by what he considers to be the future of music, a glam rock monster who goes by the name of Beef (Gerrit Graham, who is funny as shit in the role). Despite mid shower plunger to the gob warning from The Phantom, Beef is convinced to perform as scheduled…

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Phantom of the Paradise functions as great piece of anti-establishment satire against the soulless corporatization of art and artists alike. Not only this, but Phantom is also a full on musical, complete with song and dance routines, with every song written and composed by Paul Williams. These elements together do nothing but accentuate the strangeness of the film, it’s so bizarre, so daring and so breathlessly creative, it leaves the viewer’s mind reeling. All this quirky genre blending and tonal shifts leaves us with an unexpectedly heart wrenching musical tragicomedy. I can think of few other films that achieve this level of absurdity and poignancy.

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Still with me? I know the description above may sound a bit overwhelming, and indeed, there is a whole lot to take in with Phantom of the Paradise. It is sensory overload, but in the best possible way you can imagine. Despite the film’s litany of references to other cinematic greats, (Touch of Evil and Psycho, to mention just the tip of the iceberg) Phantom of the Paradise is among the most singular and unique films ever made. Any attempt at synopsis can only do Phantom so much justice, because the heart of the film lies in the experience of watching it. It is very often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released a year after Phantom of the Paradise, and if I am being honest, the two couldn’t be more different. I suppose it is more inviting to spend time with a group of people basking in their own carnal desires than with a group of tortured artists who sold their soul for rock and roll. It’s just a damn shame Phantom of the Paradise never quite caught on in the states. Of course, I’ve heard the film is fucking HUGE in Canada. And, in face, the two fellows from Daft Punk, according to Paul Williams, met at a screening of Phantom of the Paradise! But that has nothing to with anything…just a cool bit of trivia.

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However, in a way, I kind of hope it remains a hidden gem that exists just below the radar. This way it will never be over exposed to the point of nausea or run into the ground to the point of tedium. Phantom of the Paradise is much beloved by those drawn to it’s peculiar story, dark, comedic, enchanting characters, beautiful songs and unchained artistry. Phantom is a film every bit as much for the misfits as Rocky Horror, but with a much more tragic and lyrical fantasy narrative. You cannot help but feel pity and sympathy for Winslow and righteous indignation once he is transformed from sweet Winslow to the pained and murderous Phantom and finds his revenge. One cannot find something darkly funny about Swans form of easy going, suave, laid back evil as he knowingly manipulates those around him to his bidding, feel sadness as Phoenix is corrupted by fame and absolute astonishment at the the radical comedic performance of Gerrit Graham as Beef.

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Phantom of the Paradise is a marvel of a film. Brian de Palma, Paul Williams and company have crafted something so different, so daring that mainstream audiences had no idea what to make of it. A film so beautiful, poetic, energetic and well played is obviously becoming relic. A thing of the not too distant past, when artistry, creativity and taking chances we heralded above ticket sales and domestic box office grosses. I suppose it’s no big surprise at this point for me to reveal Phantom of the Paradise would rank as one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It’s a story of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and possibly redemption set to some of the grooviest goddamn songs to ever be featured in a motion picture. A story of how monsters are created and the good guys and bad guys we all have the potential to be. For those who have never seen it, I recommend highly recommend checking it out, but keep in mind it is not everyone’s cup of glitter. For those of us who adore the film, it;s always worth heading over the The Paradise from time to time and witnessing one of the funniest, most lyrical, most enjoyable tragic love stories ever told.

I’m awarding Phantom of the Paradise 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

29
Jun
14

Trash Cinema Nights presents The Burning (1981)

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Who: The Trash Cinema Collective
What: a screening of  1981’s “The Burning”
When: Saturday, July 5th at 10:00pm
Where: Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
Why: Because we love you.

as always…NO COVER!

MATURE CONTENT WARNING: Leave the fruits of your loins at home! Blood shed, full frontal female nudity, um…lots of female nudity and general slasher movie butchery goodness. With garden shears.

Hey Gang! As I am sure you’re well aware with the might of the current humidity situation and temperatures in the mid 90’s, it’s glorious summer time in Florida! What better way to celebrate this warm, moist, sweaty season than with a special Trash Cinema Night screening of one of the meanest, nastiest little summer camp slasher flicks of the 1980’s, 1981’s “The Burning?” Sure, it sounds like a PSA about genital herpes, but it’s one damn fine low budget horror show.

Gratuitous blood, breasts and one nasty disfigured psychopath who looks like his head is made up of a gnawed on wad of Big League Chew. I can think of no better way to continue celebrating our nation’s independence than by wallowing in the complete filth that is the 1980’s American slasher flick.

So come on out, sink your teeth into the best damn burger in Tallahassee, order up a pitcher of your favorite ice cold brew and let’s rot our brains together as we watch the likes of Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter get terrorized by Cropsy, the summer camp legend who got roasted like so many marshmallows during a really badly planned prank and is now transforming teenagers into meat mulch.

We’ll see you Saturday, July 5th at 10pm over at Bird’s aphrodisiac Oyster shack for an evening of utter mayhem you won’t want to miss!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

27
May
14

The Big Bird Cage (1972): Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned and Horny

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a Primal Root written review

Folks in the late 60’s and early 70’s must’ve loved to imagine somewhere out there in the Philippines there are prison/labor camps filled with gorgeous, violently horny American women wearing nothing but the tiniest of shorts and shirts that hang open so their ample, sweaty bosoms simply pour out of them as they sweat and work in the baking hot sun.  How did I come to this conclusion, you ask? Because Corman and Co. were pumping these flicks out like chicken nuggets. One thing’s for sure, they tapped into some strange, dark fantasy of the time that proved profitable and a wonderful showcase for gonzo politics, dark satire, even darker attempts at comedy, and bizarre perversions of all kinds.

Among the grandest touchstones to come from these scantly clad and brutalized women in exotic prison movies was the steady appearances by the sassy, energetic,  Ms. Pam Grier, who would go on to become a legend in her own right. In 1972’s “The Big Bird Cage” Pam Grier and Sig Haig play two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django (in possibly my favorite pairing of the two in their long history of working together), who end up dragging a gorgeous social climber by the name of Terry ( the lovely Anitra Ford of TV’s The Price is Right and the forgotten and highly underrated “Messiah of Evil” from 1972) into their crime wave as a hostage. It’s a short lived affair that end with Blossom and Django getting away and Terry going to a brutal concentration camp run by a sadistic warden and his army of burly, homosexual guards. Terry and the rest of the girls are put to work in the sweltering Philippine heat harvesting the sugar cane crop in the fields and within a giant wooden contraption of the prison warden’s own nefarious design known as…THE BIG BIRD CAGE.  His device crushes, maims, and kills the perky, naked women just as efficiently as it brings sugar to market. Hell, most of the prisoners would rather commit suicide than work within…THE BIG BARD CAGE.

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When the ladies aren’t working nearly completely nude they’re showering, making sexual advances towards their gay captors and each other or plotting to escape.  These women are all perpetually horny and lusting for hard cock and much of the film’s lighter moments are derived from their attempts to seduce the guards who have no interest in them whatsoever.  It;s a strange mishmash of politically incorrect humor (back when that was the acceptable norm. Ah, the good old days…) and brutal revolt, punishment and death. You’ll be laughing your ass off as a tall, skinny blonde covers herself head to toe in Crisco and runs after her nemesis and fellow inmate stark nekkid so no one can stop her, and the next second you’ll be staring in disbelief as a woman is gang raped by a horde of sweaty, butterfly knife toting Filipino men before a gay prison guard can make a bizarre joke about how he never gets that kind of action. This is the kind of filthy, off the wall tone shifty comedy Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Coffy, Switchblade Sisters) seems to really go for in his film, and frankly, I love him for it. It’s sick, it’s sleazy, and it sure as shit is like nothing else you will ever see in cinema. It’s so vulgar and eye wideningly weird that you cannot help but laugh even though what’s left of your heart which is not black tells you that you’re going to Hell for finding this humorous.

During a botched act of revolution where Blossom attempts to explode a gathering of politicians at some kind of public art Chautauqua with a grenade her lover and fellow revolutionary Django gave her. The grenade lets out a sizzling spark fart rather than exploding and Blossom is sent to the same sugar cane Hell hole Terry was imprisoned in.  As you might expect, Blossom establishes herself quickly as the Queen B of the women’s concentration camp as she kicks ass, tears off clothes and generally shows everyone who’s boss. But soon the Evil Warden is suspicious that Blossom is one of the jungle’s revolutionaries and begins beating and torturing the head strong and drop dead gorgeous Blossom to try and get her to talk.

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In the meantime, Django begins posing as a fellow homosexual in order to seduce the prison guards and land himself a job within the women’s penitentiary so that he can rescue Blossom and get his revolution going.  It isn’t long before the entire prison camp is in flames, women are gunned down, guards are stabbed and hacked into pieces and much time is spent on a gang rape scene where about a dozen women tie down one of the gay guards, force him to get his cock hard and then ride it like the proverbial pony. It’s an odd, uncomfortable scene that’s trying to play itself for laughs. Again, the laughs are of the “what the fuck is this? Am I meant to laugh?” variety.  It plays as retribution for this guard making lite of a gang rape that happened earlier, but it’s still pretty fucking uncomfortable listening to this fellow struggle and whimper as a group of sexy, sweaty, naked women suck on his wang and start straddling.  I did laugh out loud when one women has to think fast and muffles the guard’s screams by placing her pussy squarly on his mouth before letting out a “WOAH!” of surprised ecstasy. Now THAT’S funny. Jack Hill is one of the last true rape joke artists.  See what I meant when I told you this thing is politically incorrect and deeply inappropriate? This ain’t no Shawshank Redemption, Gang.

The women who survive the initial riot make their way into the jungle as they are tracked by vicious dogs, and guards packing all kinds of heat and out for blood. Many are killed, few are spared, and the only folks to survive are saved by gentlemen revolutionaries who send the survivors off into the sun set on a little schooner sure to capsize and kill them all before they ever make it to dry land. THE END.

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“The Big Bird Cage” is one fantastically off the wall film filled with gratuitous nudity, torture, blood shed, and ruthlessly mean spirited, dark, offensive comedy. I say offensive because the sensitive rubes out there would certainly find this film to be vile and despicable with little to no socially redeeming qualities. To those rubes, I say sit and spin. These are the exactly reasons I enjoy “The Big Bird Cage” so much!  It feels like a satire of the entire women in prison genre and has it’s sleazy little tongue planted firmly it’s slimy cheek.  The Big Bird Cage is a wild mother fucking ride and one Trash Cinema Connoisseurs will lovingly embrace.

What lesson did I take away from “The Big Bird Cage?” Never keep a woman horny and sugar cane is an excellent cash crop.

I’m giving this slice of sleaze FOUR AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

29
Jul
13

Savage Streets (1984): Revenge is Best Served Busty (NSFW)

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a Primal Root written review

Man, there really isn’t anything quite as life affirming as a good exploitation revenge film done right.  That’s just what we’re dealing with in the 1984 flick, ‘Savage Streets’ starring Linda Blair, John Vernon, Linnea Quigley and Robert Dryer. Battle hardened teenage girls, psychotic greasy 30-something teenage guys with bizarro Flock of Seagulls hairstyle, a hard nosed school principal who calls female trouble makers “tough bitches”,  add in some gratuitous violence and nekkid women and you’ve got yourself the ingredients for a tasty cinematic exploitation stew. I am here to tell you, brothers and sisters, this is one tasty concoction.

Now, I’ve never been to L.A., but apparently in the early 80’s gangs of roving, spandex clad young women roamed the streets at night window shopping for crossbows, porn and bear traps.  One such roving pack of sexy jail bait is led by a teenage girl named Brenda (Linda Blair) who’s hard to miss as she traipses down the sidewalk in a bright turquoise, nipple enhancing ensemble while wearing those giant dark shades they give you at Lens Crafters after you’ve had your pupils dilated.  Her entourage includes several other tough, bubbly girls dressed head to toe in neon and Brenda’s deaf/mute little sister, Heather (Linnea Quigley) who sticks out like a sore thumb in her Librarian inspired number.

Must be cold out.

Must be cold out.

Brenda is your typical badass chick with a heart of gold, sticking up for her friends and extremely protective of her naive, innocent, handicapable little sister. Why would Brenda decide to bring her little sister out to the slums on a bustling Saturday night is unclear, perhaps Brenda wants to expose Heather  to the hunky drug dealing, leather clad sociopaths who roam the streets in their convertible while making out with one another and beating up guys who wear those lame-o polo shirts with little crocodile patches over the left nipple . You know the type.  Brenda soon gets her chance as Heather is nearly run over and crushed into pavement pudding by a foursome of sleazy, knife totting, greased up low lives known as “The Scars.” To be honest,  after a couple viewings of ‘Savage Streets’, I don’t see The Scars being at fault here, as Heather just kind of collapses in front of their car. Heather falls over and Brenda, backed by her posse, begins screaming at The Scars for being reckless fuckheads bent killing every deaf mute teenage girl who happens to stumble in front of their moving vehicle.  If this were true, I have a feeling this band of misfits would have simply put their pedal to the metal and simply killed precious little Heather rather than coming to a halt and not harming her in the slightest.

Oh well, this is just the beginning of ‘Savage Streets.’ There’s plenty of time for The Scars to prove just how loathsome they can be.

The Scars decide to pull repo duty on a pair of implants.

The Scars decide to pull repo duty on a pair of implants.

Not long after the incident with Heather we  are treated to a tender scene of The Scars brutalizing a man who owes them money and illustrating the dangers of being a fully stacked woman walking through seedy alley ways at night wearing a tube top, Brenda comes across The Scars’ convertible and gets a bright idea that will end up costing her, and her friends, greatly. Brenda and the gals decide to provoke The Scars even further by stealing their convertible and speeding by them hollering, laughing and flaunting the fact they just committed grand theft auto. The Scars are not too pleased by this, but thankfully, they’ve gotten a good look at all of the girl’s faces and set out to getting some good, old fashioned rapey revenge after finding their convertible littered with rotten garbage and drippy, rank used tampons. The girls were in the clear until Brenda decided to pull this stunt. Just saying, all that happens later in the film could have totally been avoided if Brenda hadn’t antagonized a group of blood thirsty lunatics. You live, you learn, and those closest to you pay the price.

C'mon, brah! Let's make out our aggression.

C’mon, brah! Let’s make out our aggression.

We soon learn that, for The Scars, revenge is a dish best served…later, as there are other subplots to get to like the one about Brenda being persuade by the head of the football team. Brenda constantly tells him she wouldn’t hop his cock if he were the last man on Earth, but that doesn’t stop the tanned, blonde geek from trying, much to the dismay of the jock’s equally tanned and blonde girlfriend, Cindy. This leads to an incredible confrontation in the girl’s locker room after gym class. As some fully well developed young ladies lather up their assets, Cindy tells Brenda to stay away from her football hero fella, Wes. Brenda restates how much she can’t stand Wes and has no interest in him all, and Cindy lets out her battle cry, as if furious that Brenda doesn’t want to fuck her boyfriend. This leads to a wet and wild shower room beat down as the girls scratch and tear at one another. Cindy in her undies, Brenda fully clothed. but no worries, there are two young girls who start beating the shit out of each other in the background in what I can only assume is an unrelated feud.  Still, this is a directorial choice I can do nothing but praise. Take note, Gang! This is exploitation done right!

So, what are those nekkid ladies in the background fighting about? We will likely never know...

So, what are those nekkid ladies in the background fighting about? We will likely never know…

Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me tell you about the four pack of No Good who call themselves The Scars. These men range in age from late 30’s to mid-40’s and are kind of supposedly in high school. Well, at least they show up there in order to collect drug money, pummel the student body and get into incredible stand-offs with their no nonsense principal, Principal Underwood (John Vernon), who in a stand out moments orders the punks to “Go fuck an iceberg.” Fuck yeah! With this man;s can-do spirit and use of disturbing sexual imagery as insults,  I can see him being Savage Street County superintendent in no time!  The Scars are primarily led by a fellow named Jake (Robert Dryer) who seems to have only two emotional states, malicious glee and deep, furious anger. This man lives to inflict pain on others and has more protruding neck chords than you can shake a stick at. Seriously,The Incredible Hulk’s neck veins could take lessons from those of Jake.  When this man is angry, it is not only printed across his face, but his uncannily expressive neck.

Like an enraged turtle!

Like an enraged turtle!

So, while Linda Blair is getting cracking skulls and bouncing boobs in the ladies locker room, The Scars are steadily closing in on her vulnerable, trusting, deaf/mute little sister,  Heather. The scene slowly and surely ramps up the repulsion as one member of The Scars starts to befriend Heather as she teaches him proper sign language techniques before he busts out the old finger through the hole technique and the ensemble of scum bags assemble, drag poor Heather into a boy’s restroom and begin to savagely rape and brutalize her. It’s a down right traumatizing on screen rape sequence, made all the more chilling due to the fact Heather cannot even scream for help. She is held down as Junior Scars member, Red, is given first dibs in the gang rape, deflowering Heather in what  seems to be a kind of disgusting initiation ritual. Truly, this is some very nasty, harrowing, stuff that’s well executed and staged. It all ends with a boot to Heather’s skull  and she is rushed to the hospital, having lapsed into a coma.

In this kind of movie, we all know this beautiful smile will soon be savagely raped away.

In this kind of movie, we all know this beautiful smile will soon be savagely raped away.

Why this does not IMMEDIATELY invoke the wrath of older, and incredibly protective (if not totally careless)  sister,  Brenda, is beyond me. It takes a few more run ins with The Scars and the daring broad daylight murder of one of  Brenda’s pregnant and soon to married friends before she decides to hit up the Two-4-One Death Wish Store, don her full body latex cat suit and get to painting these Savage Streets red with the drippy entrails of The Scars! And, OH, what an evening of vengeance it is! Three words: WATCH YOUR KNEES!

Savage Streets is an oddly fun piece of exploitation cinema. On one hand, you have some truly sick and disturbing subject matter and on the other you have a lot of goofy, sleazy comedy sequences played out in the high school. I can honestly say I’ve never seen another rape/revenge film like it. Our female protagonists are all likeable and you could sense the connection between. Likewise with the sociopaths, The  Scars. Even in their dysfunctional way, they fit together well as a pack, even if their only real goals are to torture, kill and sell drugs.   Savage Streets it’s a funky, dirty, and abrasive time capsule of mid-80’s trash cinema, it’s a movie that plays by it’s own rules and rises to the occasion throwing in every single element you can imagine.

Linda (Crazy Eyes) Blair: Still got the Devil in her

Linda (Crazy Eyes) Blair: Still got the Devil in her

A cool side note about ‘Savage Streets’ is that is was directed at the very last minute, after the film’s original director dropped out, by Danny Steinman, whose previous work included a Deep Throat cash-in porno flick called ‘high Rise’ and would direct one of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th franchise, ‘Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning’ the following year before, sadly, dropping into obscurity. He only has four films to his credit, and out of the two I;ve seen, I am a huge fan of the guy’s stuff. He knew his audience well and delivered to them what they wanted and I appreciate him for that. I only wish he could have made more flicks in a similar vein to ‘Savage Streets’.  Danny passed away on December 18th, 2012.

This scene is integral to the plot.

This scene is integral to the plot.

I genuinely enjoyed Savage Streets in all it’s sick, demented, exploitative glory. However, if I have one gripe at all about the flicks, it’s that Brenda, after spending the entire movie being a badass, hard as nails teenage hellcat from the streets, devolves into a whimpering,  panicking damsel in distress in the film’s final ten minutes as her quest for vengeance takes a momentary turn for the worst. We’ve watched Linda’s character show he resourcefulness and calm demeanor repeatedly as she’s dealt with jerks, blonde bimbos and the most vile psychopaths humanity has to offer, but once things get only moderately bad and she is called upon to act quickly she starts crying and fumbling like a dipshit bimbo from a half rate slasher flick.  It’s the only blemish in an otherwise phenomenal piece of Trash cinema.

I’m awarding this puppy 5 out of 5 Dumpster nuggets. Well worth your time, chump!

Stay Trashy and keep your nose clean!

-Root




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