Posts Tagged ‘Cat

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

04
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989) Love and Agony or What Scares You?

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

a Primal Root review

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” – Jud Crandall, Pet Sematary 

Recently a friend of mine proposed this question, “What horror film really scares you?” Of course, several gents responded with the standby response, “Horror movies don’t actually scare me,” but I took a moment to ponder this. The first film to come to mind was Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s not the jump scares, or the grisly visages of death returning from the grave to haunt, taunt, and ghoulishly murder the living. Sure, that stuff is down right sickening and terrifying on a visceral level, but for me, the true horror is the idea of losing the ones we love. The moment that still breaks my heart and  has left the deepest scar is the presentation of the sequence where the cute as a button toddler, Gage (Miko Hughes) is run over by a speeding semi outside the family home in full view of his mortified parents and little sister. We hear the agonized screams of Gage’s Father, Louis (Dale Midkiff), as we images of Gage’s all too short life flash before our eyes. In all the horror films I have ever seen, this scares the ever loving shit out of me. This is pain, this is suffering, this is pure horror. It is not played for laughs, it does not rely on special effects, it relies on our empathy and the knowledge that we as viewers understand this grief and dread it everyday. It’s unthinkable, but we always know deep down, that the ones we love can be unceremoniously ripped out of our lives without a moment’s notice. This is primal terror. This is life. Life is horror.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but I used to not like Pet Sematary at all. Honestly, it just never appealed to me as a teenager. But one day I decided to give the film another shot and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I was older now and suddenly Pet Sematary made absolute sense to me and chilled me to the core. Horror can be an exceedingly powerful genre, and at it’s very best, it crushes audience expectations and explores societal taboos. What Pet Sematary explores is the inevitability of death. The journey ends for all of us, sooner or later and we’ve created elaborate myths we call religion around death in order to make some sense out of it. That life goes on somewhere beyond our short time here on Earth that there is an eternity in Heaven or Hell, or that we are reincarnated, or turned into Star Childs, etc.  We will get the answers one day, and I sincerely doubt it is anything any of us will ever expect. I can’t wait to laugh my ass of when it all fades to black and there;s simply nothing just like there was before I was born. But, I won’t be able to. Because I am gone.

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Pet Sematary plays out like a Greek tragedy. The Creed family moves into their gorgeous new home out in the country or rural Maine. it’s miles from town, but is located near a very busy road where huge semi’s cannonball down it day and night. Also on their property down a wooded path is a Pet Sematary, they are show this by a long time resident and neighbor, Jud Crandall (played by the legendary Fred Gwynne). On Louis’s first day at work as the resident doctor on the local college campus, he treats a jogger, Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who was mowed down by a car and dies on Louise’s operating table. That night, Pascow returns to Louis as a spirit and warns him to not visit that Indian burial ground that lays beyond the Pet Semetary. He warns, “The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”

When Louis and Rachel’s daughter Ellie’s cat, Chuch, is run over on the highway, Jud leads Louis out beyond the Pet Sematary to bury Church on the Indian land. The next day Church returns, but is now malicious and smells of death. It is not the cool cat the family knew before getting creamed out that means stretch of road.  Louis is given precious little time to ponder what has just happened when a far greater tragedy occurs. While flying a kite on a beautiful sunny day, their youngest child, Gage, wonders onto the highway and is crushed under the tires of a speeding truck.

Stricken with sorrow and regret that he could not save his son in time and Gage is gone forever, Louis considers unearthing his dead son’s body and entering it in the “sour” ground of the Indian burial mound. Over the objections of both Jud and Pascow’s spirit, Louis bury’s little Gage in the soul of the Indian burial ground and it isn’t long before Louis and Jud must face the reckoning of their decisions.

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In the horror genre death is a given. Characters are killed off all the time to the point we actually look forward to seeing how folks are going to meet their maker. Franchises like Friday the 13th, The Omen, Saw and the like revel in the graphic depictions of the splattery deaths of people we don’t know or really care about.  It has become the punchline to a joke for the majority of slasher horror cinema and it’s played for thrills, humor and entertainment. This is perfectly fine, horror can be a damn good time and a way for us to let loose, experience something visceral and know that no one actually got hurt or died. It was all for the nasty fun ride and then we get to go home safe in knowing this shit will probably never, ever, happen to us. Rarely do horror films so well conceived staged and vetted that they ask us to confront death head on. Pet Sematary is takes a meaningful, deep dark look into the nature of death, and in the very place we fear it the most, our immediate family and ask us what we will do on that day we lose someone we cherish.

So, yes, I would say Pet Sematary is the one horror film that truly, honestly fills my heart with dread and scares me like none other. Just like it’s source material, it is a story built upon the hardest, most horrible of human experiences and languishes in them. Grief, anguish, desperation, they’re all accounted for. The supernatural elements are intriguing and there, but at the end of the day, it’s the honesty in the human element of Pet Sematary that gives the film it’s power to disturb and to horrify. It is a film that has always stuck with me. It reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. Every smile, every laugh each and every spine cracking bear hug, because we all know that one day, we will never touch these people, hear their voice, know their warmth, these souls  so close to us, so dear to our hearts, ever again.  It’s the inevitable tragedy of life. We must learn to except loss. We must grieve and move on. Like the wise, warm and lovable character Jud Crandall says, “May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”

I award Pet Sematary FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

13
Aug
15

Death Game (1977) Daddy Issues aka: Don’t let your Dick make it a Predicament

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a Primal Root written review

“This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society.” – opening title to Death Game (1977)

Dear Penthouse Forum,

My wife and kid were out of town and I was all alone in my immaculately maintained mansion that my high ranking position at a well-to-do white collar job affords me. I was minding my own business, listening to some records, enjoying the bachelore lifestyle one dark and stormy night when all of a sudden a rapping came at my front door. It was two gorgeous blondes, soaking wet looking to use my phone. I didn’t want to send them back out into the cold stormy night, so I invited them in to use our family telephone and dry themselves off. I mean…it’s the decent thing to do, right? I never for a second had any intention of sticking my penis in either of these blossoming young women…Not a single thought of it…

So commences the simple, provocative, male fantasy the initiates the 1977 horror film, Death Game aka: The Seducers. The film that genuinely gives you a boner and then savagely tears it away, smacks you across the face with it and leaves you standing in your shame.  Loving, caring family man and business man, George Manning (Seymour Cassel, Max Fisher’s Dad from Rushmore), is on his own for the next couple nights. See, his wife had to go on an emergency trip to take care of their young son whose appendix ruptured while staying with his Grandparents on summer vacation.  While at home along in his expensive west coast home a storm rolls in, and with it, two young women, who claim to have lost their way while trying to find a party. Soaked to the bone, they ask to use George’s phone. He kindly obliges them and gives them robes so that they may dry off.

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The two nubile, shapely, incredibly attractive young ladies are Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen “HELLOOOOO NURSE!” Camp) and after lounging by the fire side with George and listening to records, Agatha and Donna strip nude and lure George into and threesome in the downstairs bathroom…which has an enormous jacuzzi tub and a fucking sauna. George is loaded, Gang. George puts up a minor struggle before dropping trou and getting wet wild with the two luscious vixens. Now, I never figured in my wildest dreams that I’d ever watch the Dad from Rushmore in a hot as balls threesome sequence with the likes of Ms. Locke and my long standing wet dream Colleen Camp, but I can say this, it is a pretty amazing spectacle to behold.

Soon comes the morning, and George finds that Jackson and Donna making a mess in the kitchen as they make a sloppy, disgusting breakfast. They spill food and shit all over the house, destroy expensive stereo equipment, smear food on themselves and act like little psychotic hyperactive kids from Hell as we watch reality start to sink in on George’s face.  Donna has even grown a strange, unhealthy attraction to George and has begun calling him, “Daddy.” Gang, this is not good. After threatening to call the police, Jackson and Donna agree to let George drive them to the bus station only to break it no his house later, assault George, tie him up and torture the bastard for the rest of the weekend all while screaming about “Daddy.” Late in the evening Jackson and Donna decide to hold a mock court and put George on trial, accusing him or rape and perversion. George is allowed to defend himself, claiming that his family needs him. The mock court deliberates and find George guilty as charged and will be executed at dawn which is counted down by hour glass.

Now, earlier in the film we see George lovingly spend time with his wife. The two are obviously in love with one another, enjoy each other’s company. He speaks on the phone sweetly to his son. It;s not like George is an abusive, inattentive, cold scum bag. He’s a average guy living the good life. He has everything he could possibly want right at his finger tips. He is happy and content, but never the less, welcomes the sexual attention of the wet, slinky, bosomy foxes who show up on his doorstep while his faithful wife is away.  George is never perceived as a bad guy, just the typical man. Death Game implies that the average Joe, when confronted with two dripping wet nekkid seductresses would, when push come to in-out-in out, give in and start log jammin’. No questions asked. And then they throw the pussy out the window. Literally. It;s pretty awesome.

Jackson and Donna quickly turn from being a straight male fantasy (booty to be plundered) to being sinister, embarrassing reminders of the dark side of our carnal lusts and the damage giving into these animalistic wants can incur. The two girls become a threat to Georges safe and happy life. They threaten to destroy his reputation in the community, end his marriage and tear apart his family, even his awesome house is at stake. Jackson and Donna are the darkest side to the male sexual fantasy of getting away with an affair and, in the eyes of Death Game, exposes men as incapable of being trusted and willing to throw everything away for the possibility of a scott free fuck on the side.

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Whether or not you agree with Death Game’s thesis, it mercilessly pounds it’s point home as George, a pillar of his community, falls prey to his own sexual desires. Sure, we are witness to images of Jackson as she she bites into a juicy red apple and looking every bit the seductive serpent found in the garden of Eden, but the responsibility for everything that happens to him falls solely on George, who was led by the yearning of his throbbing lower appendage. The two young ladies, who claim to be underage after spreading ’em for George, are clearly insane and deeply scarred, one assumes, due to sexual abuse by the hands of their Fathers. It’s something heavily implied in the subtext of Death Game, and it’s not too subtle, either. One listen to the film’s opening song “Good Old Dad” will clue you in to what kind of nasty subject matter we’re dealing with here and the apparent feminist underpinnings of Death Game’s story.

One of my favorite aspects of Death Game is the way the film’s director, Peter S Traynor, utilizes the male gaze to arouse our voyeuristic impulses as soon as Jackson and Donna arrive at George’s door. We are treated and teased with brief glimpses of Jackson’s bare legs and her panties under her robe, a momentary view of Donna’s impressive cleavage, as we begin to view the two as sexual objects, just as George sees them. This is done seamlessly, efficiently and masterfully. We become around along with George. All three of our central character meld together as images overlap one another during their threesome and all seems right, everything perfect, wonderful, a fantasy made flesh.

But, as often seems to occur with these forms of encounters, in the unforgiving first light of morning, reality has a way of annihilating perception of perfection.

Jackson and Donna usurp George’s male authority in his own home, dominating him both mentally and physically in a series of brutal, sadistic, set pieces.  Ultimately, Death Game drives it’s grueling, nasty, (and feminist) take on the man’s true nature home. Donna and Jackson could have knocked on any of George’s neighbor’s door, randomly selected, met any man  and the exact same scenario could have taken place.  What I believe the message Death Game is trying to deliver is that the real horror, the real evil of is not coming from Jackson and Donna, no, they are a result of sexual objectification and abuse in our society. George could be any man whose desires have gotten the better of him, and Death Game associates that failing with Jackson and Donna’s psychotic and homicidal nature.

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You can love or hate, take or leave the feminist politics inherent in Death Game, but you cannot deny how fucking excellent the film is. Sure, the ending is more than a little abrupt and out of left field, but otherwise, the performances are phenomenal and it is directed with precision, skill, and nuance. It manages to both titillate, terrify and leave your pulse racing. But, something I appreciate far more than this, it’s a horror flick that boldly starts a discussion. Death Game is a brilliant film that drudges up the subject of sexual politics and it’s most taboo, discomforting points. The ones we seldom like to bring up or discuss in polite society, again, reinforcing why I pledge my eternal love to horror in all it’s forms. It is not an escape, it is not an exit, it is a long, often deeply disconcerting look in the mirror forcing us to face and question who we are as individuals and as a whole.

Death Game is a damn fine slice of psycho sexual horror and one I cannot dent makes me feel wonderfully, helplessly uncomfortable. I would love for one of The Trash Cinema Collective to show this to either their prospective girlfriend or boyfriend on a first date. Please do, and let me know the outcome.

Also, Colleen Camp, The Trash Cinema Collective salutes. She is one HEALTHY girl!

I award Death Game  FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Watch it with someone you’re sure of. Here’s hoping the upcoming Eli Roth produced remake “Knock, Knock” starring Keanu Reeves *snicker* prompts someone to release a remastered copy of Death Game. Let me tell ya, my DVD of this flick looks like someone shoved the VHS tape up a horses ass and then transferred it directly to a DVD. Really, it looks terrible. Can someone please release a cleaned up copy of this one? Much obliged.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

22
Apr
13

Evil Dead (2013): If You Want Blood…

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“Promise, you’ll stay till the end.” -Mia, Evil Dead

a Primal Root written review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

Gang, I must apologize for taking such a dang long time getting around to typing up this review. I needed time to let the The Evil Dead remake digest,  for my mind to really feel out what my thoughts were on the whole damn bloody feature.  So, here goes, my thoughts on the reimagining, new take of “The Evil Dead”, “Evil Dead”. I will try and break it down as spoiler-free as possible.

Sam Raimi’s original 1980 “The Evil Dead” is the story of one man’s personal apocalypse as his friends, one-by-one, become hideous shadows of their former selves and begin attacking, brutalizing, mocking, and humiliating him. Ash (Bruce Campbell) must finally find it within himself to fight back if he wants to make it through the night alive. “Evil Dead” (2013) follows along those same lines,  and though similar in a basic premise, “Evil Dead” does an intelligent job of making the material its own.

Personally, one of the aspects of the film I truly appreciated was the organizing principle. These twenty-somethings aren’t headed out to a dank, nasty, mildew farm of a cabin for a fun filled weekend. No, they are there to help their buddy kick her heroin habit cold turkey. A feat she has tried before and failed at.  So, the glum bunch of attractive kids consisting of the most adorable little junkie ever, Mia (Jane Levy),  her unreliable,  yet studly coward of a brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) , his “just-there-to-die” girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore),  control freak buddy nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and her bespectacled, grumpy bear of a fella, Eric ( Lou Taylor Pucci) head to the desperate fixer-upper in the middle of the creepiest forest in North America and commence Betty Fording.

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And nothing can deter them, not even the fact that the cabin seems to have been recently broken into, and those who did, left a basement full of at least ten dozen skinned, rotted, feline carcasses hanging from the rafters and looking like it smells of twice-baked putrescence and burnt hair.  Don’t worry, it’s all part of the pre-credit prologue. Oh, and did I mention the Scooby Gang also come across a mysterious package wrapped in black trash bags and laced in razor wire?  Could this be the legendary Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, roughly translated, The Book of the Dead? I have a good feeling you already know the answer. Yes, this seems like the best option for someone trying to rehabilitate herself! I’m surprised they all don’t just pick up the habit right there to make the living situation bearable.  Or at least get  cope with what I can only imagine is the worst smelling cabin of all time.

Anyhoo, I’m still with this new Evil Dead film Mia begins having withdrawal symptoms and everyone else kind of just sits around waiting for their cue to don their white contacts and let the arterial blood spray across the room. Before you can say “What a fucking idiot” Eric has clipped the razor wire, and ripped open the garbage bags to reveal the Necronomicon (SURPRISE, SURPRISE!), bound in human flesh and inked in blood with the ominous warnings that has since been utilized by many Bill O’Reily published works  “DO NOT READ THIS BOOK”, er, something along those lines. As if the razor wire ribbon wasn’t clue enough to leave the fucking thing alone… Oh well, the beard-o opens up the book and gets to reading aloud the demon resurrection passages and, whatdya know, he unleashes Hell on Earth. Who do you think the evil spirit picks on first? Who just might be the most weak and vulnerable amongst the kiddies at Melancholy Manor?

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That’s right, Mia! Seen the first movie? Then it should come as no surprise that the young lady gets a slimy, malicious, invasive surprise from the Evil Dead right up her lady bits! Which leads to her being the vessel for this special brand of demonic spirit to wreak havoc on the rest of the down trodden crew! And oh, what a splattery, nasty night of havoc it is! There’s barfing, and tongue slashing, and arm chopping, and syringe poking, and nail gunning, electric knife wielding, oh, the list goes on and on as friends are possessed and begin turning on one another with very little haste. The second Mia is possessed, the movie kicks into hyper drive  with people turning into monsters from Hell left and right, you hardly have time to catch your breath as friends must battle their newly eviled chums in order to survive!

Let me tell ya, the gore is wonderful in this flick, as are all the practical effects. Everything looks sleazy, disgusting and pitch perfect. As body parts start plopping on the floor and gruel goes splashing into character’s mouths, I got a certain sense of euphoria. This reminded me much of my self made, VHS horror education back in the late 80’s all through the 90’s, when I began renting any and every horror video I could looking for just these kind of unrelenting moments of pure, unadulterated, horror insanity. I could practically feel my inner 15 year old giving my current 31 year old spirit a high five. This was some crazy, blood-caked glory that I would have creamed my shorts to have seen in those days. Better late than never, I suppose. But, yes, Evil Dead delivers the gore-met delights.

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****SPOILER WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!****

But then the film began to reach its climax…which involves the impromptu MacGuyver-esque creation of a defibrillator by David to use in order to bring Mia back to life. That’s right, he studies the Necronomicon and discovers the many ways to cure the possessed aka: many ways to kill these people who are possessed.  His plan is to bury Mia alive until she dies of suffocation and then dig her up, stab her in the heart, pump her full of juice until she is jolted back to life, and then she’ll be right as rain.  And to my absolute shock and dismay, THE PLAN WORKS! Not only that, but she comes back without any injuries! the woman cut her tongue in half with a rusty old knife! How in the fuck did that heal instantaneously? Are you telling me if David were to resurrect Natalie from the dead, her arms (which she loses one to her own carving knife and the other in battle with her friends)  would miraculously reappear attached to her body? I’m sorry, but unless I missed a moment in the film where it is mentioned in the Necroonomicon that if a mortal is brought back from being possessed by pure evil by the use of a defibrillator all wounds inflicted during the time of possession are null and void, that’s just an incredibly manipulative plot devise that tries to deliver the audience something they didn’t see coming. I am all for surprises and going against audience expectations, but it feels so unlikely that anything like this would work, especially without ever being established that it might, it feels like a cheat. I have a hard time buying into the idea that the Evil Dead would work so hard to possess people that they would just leave a dead body once it is brought back to life. I know I’m nitpicking, but it just feels remarkably lame.  Seriously, the movie had me up until the moment David brought out the spark plug treatment. Seriously, the second that fucking thing showed up, my eyes nearly rolled out of my head.

The finale of Evil Dead is a crowd pleaser as the sky cracks open, pouring blood down on the property where the cabin is (no telling if the blood rain came down on any near by farming communities) and the evil is manifest into flesh, which is basically a tall skinny, saggy breasted knock off of the final creature in 2007’s  [REC]. Personally, after such an incredible lead up, I was expecting a bit more from our final monster, but that’s okay, because the monster is dispatched in the most brutally, hysterically over the top fashion, you will want to wake up the kids and show ’em.

****END SPOILERS! THE SPOILERS ARE OVER!****

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Bottom line? I enjoyed Evil Dead.  I thought it was far more emo and sad sacky than its source material, but that’s to be expected if the film is to be its own beast and set itself apart from its predecessor.  But, to tell you the truth, did we ever love The Evil Dead for it’s organizing principal? Not really, the second demon possessed  party revelers or concerned rehab friends start getting hacked into coleslaw, it all kind of turns into the same sorta film where the audience begins hooting and hollering at the screen,  laughing when things get over the top and groaning when moments are teeth grindingly painful.  Its the fucking Evil Dead,  and it’s a pretty damn good time at the movies if this is your cup of tea.  The audience I saw it with was obviously having a blast, laughing, cheering and talking back to the screen as is the case with any true gut buster horror film worth its weight in innards.  It was fun despite the movie taking itself so seriously. Let’s face it, once demons are deflected by shock treatment and property begins flooding with blood from the sky, you’re flick has stepped into the absurd and is no longer the somber film about a junkie in need of rehabilitation.

Could the whole film just be an extended metaphor for how the wages of drug addiction can destroy your relationship with your family and your dearest friendships? That enabling someone to continue their bad behavior, or just ignoring the problem entirely,  allows the behavior too go on far too long and ends up hurting more people? Could I be digging too deep? I suppose, but still… Mia was fighting her own demons long before she was invaded by those conjured up by the Necronomicon, and David, who we learn has run away from every major problem in his life, must finally find the courage within himself to man up and take responsibility to save the ones he loves. Of course, he waits way too fucking long to do this, but, then again, if he had been braver sooner we may not have had such an outstanding gore fest.

Evil Dead (2013) is a thoughtful and dark revision of Raimi’s classic.  I appreciated the focus on the story arc of the two siblings, Mia and David, which did bring something totally new to the Evil Dead series.  The only thing I wish there was more of would be Raimi’s twisted, perverse sense of humor, but that’s not what this movie’s about.  Sure, yes, I enjoyed Evil Dead in a theater full of other fans. But without that gnarly, evil, dark sense of humor, will I ever break out Evil Dead on a movie night with my friends over like the original Evil Dead? Only time will tell.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Aug
12

Wicked Stepmother: Low Rent Surrealism

a Primal Root written review

I’ve never seen a movie like it. That’s probably the most accurate critique I can give Larry Cohen’s jaw-droppingly bizarre and nonsensical 1989 supernatural comedy opus, ‘Wicked Stepmother’.  A forgotten oddity of the VHS era,  probably best known for containing Hollywood empress Bette Davis in her final screen performance, ‘Wicked Stepmother’ has got to be some kind of hallucinatory cinematic comedy milestone. Who knows if Cohen & co intended this movie to be such a rapid-fire array of awkward moments, dumbfounding performances and cheesy effects. All I know is that it all comes together as an if not totally enjoyable film, certainly an outlandishly botched witch’s brew movie delight. One thing that may be said with total confidence for ‘Wicked Stepmother’, you will never, EVER see another like it.

This fiasco begins with a police investigation led by TV’s Tom Bosley who you may remember from ‘Happy Days’ (RIP) or if your grandparents were fans of the ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’.  His mission? To locate an evil witch with a penchant for marrying her way into families and using her powers to make them unimaginably wealthy before robbing them blind, shrinking them to the size of plastic army men, and stashing them in shoe boxes under the bed.  It sure seems like a waste of time for a witch of such immense power. There’s just gotta be a more effective way to maintain a steady cash flow.

The witch in question is Miranda Pierpoint, played by the legendary Bette Davis (RIP) putting forth a stiff monotone and (we can only assume) unintentionally  disturbing performance. Miranda has just gotten hitched to an elderly widower, Sam  (played by the late, great character actor Lionel Stander with that unmistakably gravely voice). In one of my favorite sight gags of the movie, we see images of Sam’s first wife on his night stand.  Low and behold, it is Joan Crawford,  Bette Davis’ long time rival.

The new marriage comes as a shock to his adult daughter, hyper-allergenic and moderate psychopath, Jenny (Colleen Camp, who should win some kind of lifetime achievement award for this one, single cringe-inducingly campy performance).  Her husband Steve (David ‘I’ve gotta’ Rasche, desperately try to keep up with Colleen’s camp) though surprised by the sudden change in homestead seems to be taking things well, and attempts to mediate between his wife’s control freakery and his new chimney stack of a mother-in-law.  Their son Mike (Shawn Donahue, who would play his final role the next year in 1990’s immortal classic, ‘The Willies’) is appropriately willful and mainly just refuses to refer to the new addition ‘grandma’.

To Jenny’s fury, Miranda smokes more than the entire cast of Mad Men, combined, in the families’ WASPy digs. She also cooks, eats, and tempts the family with nothing but grilled meats despite Jenny’s insistence in that everyone bow to the nutritional excellence of her broccoli souffle. Although Steve is clearly inclined to give into Miranda’s politically-incorrect ways, Jenny throws her hubby one of her well-practiced psycho glares and puts the guy back in his place. He hunches over the dining room table to choke down his helping of lettuce and oatmeal while thinking about his genitals and how nice a home Jenny’s made for them in her handbag. Miranda also has a cat which unlocks an avalanche of comedic potential as Jenny is…get this…ALLERGIC to cats!  So she spends much of the movie sneezing at inopportune moments and standing around sniffling and delivering her lines with her stuffed up, mongoloid voice. Really. It is a laugh riot. Yeah.

However, my favorite scene in this mayhem shows up early as young Michael is at a beach, unchaperoned, watching some coeds in bikinis bounce & bop around via a game of volleyball.  Earlier, Michael has told Melinda he’d never call her “Grandma”, that she can, basically, burn in hell, then proved himself the deeply cool thug he is by popping the collar on his jean jacket and walking away. Apparently he was strutting his way to the beach where his requests to join in the volleyball game were denied.  However, as luck would have it, the lovely young witch Priscilla (played byTia Carrera’s sister, Barbara! SHWING!) shows up, complete with beflowered sun hat and black veil and winks at Michael, which apparently bestowed upon him with the power to do front flips over the volleyball net. For what purpose? Who knows. It impresses no one in the game and even seems to piss off the more hyper-hormonal boys of the pack. And yet, poor little 12 year old Michael has caught the eye & libido of a twenty something beach bunny. Unfortunately, as often happens at movie beaches,  two buff, blonde dickweeds start kicking sand in Michael’s face while he’s chatting up his new dish.  Again, the young lad is in luck as Priscilla gives him yet another power of Filipino Flip fighting through which Michael hops around cracking bimbo dude skulls.  All of this results in a scene of total prepubescent wish fulfillment, the busty beach bunny takes off her modest shirt to reveal her ample cleavage and offers herself up to the young man with the unmistakable innuendo, “Come here, I’m gonna show you something…” A goofy grin spreads across Michael’s mug as she leads him off to rock the freckles off his face.

The kind of Wicked Stepmother all young boys dream of.

It was around this moment I began to wonder just who was the projected market for this film? It’s a wicked stepmother, fairy tale kiddie charm, sure, but the focus is primarily on adult relationships. In fact, Michael is led off to be statutorily raped, and that’s pretty the last we see of the kid with the exception of him showing up for group shots  lasting mere seconds in the final scene. This thing’s obviously not quite for youngins… but the humor is on a pretty even keel for adolescents despite it meandering between adult issues (i.e. marriage difficulties & geriatric homicide) and it’s unchecked childish hokeyness.  99.9 % of the films run time is spent dealing with figuring out how to murder an elderly woman and a married man fantasizing about/having adulterous sex with Tia Carrere’s sister while a writhing cat tail wags around out of her pooper, growing vines in the yard against an painfully-obvious blue screen under the guise of “decorating for the holidays”, answering trivia questions on game shows, and figuring out a way to write Bette Davis out of the movie since she walked off set about two days into production.  The leave was publicly attributed to her disgust with the script, though it was later stated that the true cause was her deteriorating health.

How do they write her out, you ask? Remember Priscilla? Well, she and Miranda apparently share the body of a black cat. But, see, both spirits can’t cohabit in one body at the same time. “There’s no room for two people in one cat!” a witch academy instructor exclaims revealing this terrible piece of plotting. So,  after Miranda’s 11 minutes or so of screen time are up, she vanishes to be replaced by Priscilla.  Don’t fret, gang, the cat Miranda inhabits also smokes as much as she did, so it’s like she never left! In fact, one of the most bizarre moments of the entire film are cutaways to a black cat hand puppet paws holding cigarettes up to it’s little feline mouth and puffing away, it’s unnaturally large, bugged out yellow eyes and dilated pupils nervously darting around in their sockets.

Eventually the detective character shows back up at a clandestine witch class where Jenny also happens to be attending so she can look for answers as to how to get rid of Miranda/Priscilla for good. Priscilla learns a couple words in Latin and is ready to take on Priscilla in head to head in the ultimate blue screen combat! It’s a breathtaking sequence that pulls no punches in the bargain basement action and effects arena.   Will Jenny be able to banish the money hungry witches from her home? Or will her family end up pint-sized, broke, and shoe-boxed? To be honest, I was too busy laughing my ass off to care.

The bottom line is that ‘Wicked Stepmother’ is one of those films that must be seen to be truly understood. It’s terrible. I mean, this thing is bad. This sucker is Samurai Cop, Troll 2 level bad. But it is still ridiculously entertaining. The intended jokes all fall flat on their faces, but it is totally made up for with unintentional hilarity. It’s like some kind of surrealist fever dream that just keeps getting more absurd and illogical as it progresses. None of it makes a lick of sense and there are an abundance of moments that will leave you wondering if you just actually witnessed what you did.  Better Davis’ performance alone make up for the absurdity of the opening portion of the film.  She is never without a cigarette in her hand and recites her dialog in the emotionless drawl of a late 60’s TV robot.  Once Bette departs the film, the hammy acting, and cheese ball effects really become the stars of the show and lift this sucker up onto another plateau of Trash Cinema altogether.

I may have said too much already. I don’t want to spoil this sucker for you. But when I look back lovingly upon ‘Wicked Stepmother’,  no words can really do this acid trip of a film justice.  I’m not sure if exactly if it’s my strong palette for trash that allowed me to enjoy this thing or if it can be experienced by others and be loved just as thoroughly. I was not expecting myself to end up with the affection I now have for this piece of wack-o film making. Please, if you haven’t seen it, do so. And if you have, please, share your thoughts with us here at The Trash Cinema Collective.  Again, in the annals of cinema, there is nothing like ‘Wicked Stepmother’.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

08
Apr
12

Castle Freak: Inherit Madness

a Primal Root review

Inheriting a castle in Italy has to be pretty dang cool. Finding out you’re descended from royalty? That’s the icing on top of the hoity-toity cake to which so many aspire. Yeah, it all seems great on paper until you take your horrendously dysfunctional family there to assess the situation and sell that hunk of junk off to the highest bidder.  It’s drafty, dull, dusty and, making matters worse,  your wife hates your guts no matter where you take her and the one surviving kid is still blind and your single digit son is still pavement pizza due to your dumb, alcoholic ass driving the family mini…vehicle over a small hill and flipping the vehicle at 25 MPH.  Or 85 MPH in sped up film time…

And then, of course, there’s a horrifying, psychotic, mutilated freak chained up in the castle’s basement. Buyer beware.

TOUCHDOWN!

Castle freak is, at it’s very core, the story of a family dealing with a heart crushingly tragic incident where the family patriarch and reformed alcoholic, John Riley (played pitch perfectly by Gordon collaborator Jeffery Combs) managed to get completely shit-faced before picking up his teenage daughter and 5 year old son during a torrential down pour and then swerving off road resulting in the death of the son and blinding daughter,  Rebecca (played by a very game and sympathetic Jessica Dollarhide).  Of course, there are some resentment issues between John and his gorgeous wife, Susan (always reliable Barbara Crampton) who apparently lives to torture and be spiteful towards John every second of every single day therefore turning his life into a Hell on Earth of guilt, regret, and shame.

As you can tell, the story is already pretty dreadful before there’s even a freak for the family to contend with.

The Reilly’s  move into their new castle after the old woman who was living there died in her bed from a heart attack after beating the chained up freak in the basement within and inch of it’s life which looked to have been a long standing supper time tradition and Casa de le Freak.  This poor creature has obviously never known affection, love or humanity living a life of agony chained up and naked down in the dank bowels of The Reilly castle. Much like John Reilly himself, who is living a life of pain due to his past mistakes and the fact his wife reminds him about it on a near minute by minute basis that he’s responsible for the death of their son.

Castle Freak is a far cry from the what we’ve come to expect from a Gordon, Combs, Crampton, collaboration. Typically fun,m over the top and colorful, Castle Freak is drastically different. Thee pacing takes it’s time, and the whole story is just gruelingly sad. This is not Re-Animator or From Beyond by a long shot. In fact, it’s a very dark and honest look at redemption, forgiveness and family as John must defend his family from what could be seen as his horrific doppelganger, his id or symbolizing the young Reilly boy whose memory they still cling to and is tearing the whole family apart.  There are no laughs to be found here and  no easy outs in Castle Freak.  This is straight ahead horror dealing with some pretty real issues. Only these real issues are set against the backdrop of an Italian castle with a freak looking to molest your cute little blind teenage daughter and frame you for the murder of a hooker and your housekeeper. For a freak, this guy is surprisingly crafty.

Castle Freak Foreplay: Not nearly as fun as you'd imagine.

One night, after Susan gives John a particularly vindictive verbal thrashing, John heads to a local watering hole where he quickly jumps off the wagon. And who can really blame the guy? He takes shot, after shot of some kind of counterfeit rot gut and ends up taking a whore back to his castle’s wine seller where he eagerly chows down on her bowl of “Down South” spaghetti.Again, you can totally understand his need to feel the touch and connection to another person.  Trouble is, he happens to be performing in front of a captive audience as the Castle Freak studies John’s moves like he’s preparing for the S.A.T.’s.  And you know castle freaks, they are more than happy to go after the sloppy seconds…

As our hooker goes to leave the castle, it’s resident freak abducts her, chains her up and has his way with her including a graphic nipple eating and a sickening reveal of the Freak’s genital region that’s sure to make your stomach churn. In fact, the film seems to focus quite liberally on the Freak’s disturbing genitals which, I suppose, does make some sense since that is kind of the Freak’s motivating factor. Looking for affection, someone to be close and have sex with.  Or, director Stuart Gordon could have simply just wanted to showcase a little something for the ladies. Soak it in, girls! Still, even though the Freak, in my estimation, is only looking for compassion, tenderness and a connection to another living creature, he can;t for the life of him understand how to give these things. Remember, this is a person whose entire life since birth has been spend locked away, abused and mutilated only ever understanding violence and pain.  How Freak goes about violently raping the hooker, yet mimicking what he witnessed John do to her, furthers this point. That violence begets violence.

Feel the Excitement!

But, I digress, at the threat of spoiling the whole sleazy, blood encrusted, drippy scrotum flopping affair, let’s just say Castle Freak is a one sad, violent, and effective story of redemption. The story of one man’s quest to find meaning and forgiveness in a world that refuses to see past his mistakes and misdeeds and see the man who is in need of compassion and just wants to feel human again. Now, am I talking about John or the Castle Freak of our title or both?

Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak pulls off an impressive feat in capturing some very deep, dark, human situations and maintaining a fairly well paced and interesting story. As a viewer you grow to like most of the characters, and even the unlikable few are at the very least, you can understand where they’re coming from.  And for a film made in a creepy castle with a miniscule budget, Castle Freak works thanks to some spot on performances, creative shot compositions, great make-up/gore effects and also gains a lot of atmosphere from the genuine Italian castle where the action is set. Which just happens to be owned by the president of Full Moon Pictures.

Castle Freak isn’t exactly a fun, crowd pleasing movie experience but is still a fine piece of trash cinema. One that will certainly speak to anyone who has ever made a grievous mistake and feels they are destined to pay for it the rest of their lives.  Even if we can;t directly relate viewers will empathize and come to understand that there really are a number of fates that can feel worse than death. Only through love, forgiveness and understanding can we ever truly regain what makes us human.

And a good bit of reconstructive surgery and upper plate dental work in the case of The Castle Freak…

Love may be blind but she can still smell you, Freak.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Aug
09

Root checks out The Collector

By now I am sure you all realize how much I love bad movies and I do. I have a genuine affection for movies

What Hath Saw Wrought?that are so bad they make you and your friends laugh out loud. Whether it is horror, action, teensploitation, sci-fi or um…sex thriller? I can brush aside poor acting, story telling, directing, concepts etc. as long as I am able to laugh out loud and have a good time with my group.

I saw the trailer for The Collector recently and thought it looked like an old school cat and mouse slasher flick. Like something that was released in the mid 80’s and you saw for the first time around 2A.M. on Showtime. It looked like a fun little guilty pleasure stab and slab flick.So I gathered some friends for what promised to be a fun night at the movies, and gang,  I could not have been more wrong.

I thought it sucked. I thought I was walking into a slasher film but it was just a run of the mill torture porn flick that asked the audience to make so many leaps of logic you feel patronized. It’s as if the Saw Franchise went and made a baby with the Home Alone franchise and this is the disastrous results of their union. It’s like an hour and a half long endurance test.

To say a new horror icon is born was a bit presumptuous. Michael Myers has more personality than this joker. What’s his name? Insulation Face? But if you like that sort of thing, by all means, check The Collector out. However, you are warned, the only thing this guy has been collecting is Jigsaw’s ideas and table scraps.

However, grown up child star from The Nanny, Madeline Zima, has a nice rack and whips those puppies out midway through the film. Beyond this, and possibly the bear trap sequence, there’s little reason to waste your time on The Collector.

From Child Star to Excellent Breast Exposure

From Child Star to Excellent Breast Exposure

Go out and see The Orphan, trust me, you’ll laugh your ass silly.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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