Posts Tagged ‘church

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.

just before

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

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

04
Oct
13

Amityville II: The Possession (1982) or Touched By a Creeper

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a Primal Root written review

“Dishonor thy Father. PIGS!” -Demon, “Amityville II: The Possession”

In the annals of horror there are few settings that originate terror more depraved or unsettling than that generated at home, within the family. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” “The Shining”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The People Under the Stairs” and countless others have proven to us that our home isn’t always the utopian safe havens they are meant to be.  Behind the closed doors of Home Sweet Home, behind the guise of perfect, happy families,  can often times be a hiding abuse, repression, shame and torment.  Behind these doors can hide the most vile and heinous horrors of all.

 

"For God's Sake, Move in!"

“For God’s Sake, Move in!”

“Amityville II: The Possession” does an excellent job of establishing an eerie atmosphere from the outset as our family, The Montelli’s, comprised of Mom, Pop, two teenagers (a boy and a girl) and two little kids (again, a boy and a girl), and their movers drive up to the house at 112 Ocean avenue one by one on to begin a new life at their incredibly affordable and haunted as fuck homestead. Instantly upon arrival folks can feel the eyes of the house upon them, get chills, upset stomachs, notice the windows have been nailed shut, the hidden basement room is filled with dookie, and…oh yeah,  a sink that sprays blood from the faucet for about fifteen seconds before gradually turning into tap water. Thankfully, Mom is in denial, not only over the apparent evil that dwells in the house from the the basement secret room where evil resides and piles of shit ferment, to the top floor where her first born son Sonny now resides, but she also likes to think her family isn’t on the verge of some horrible violent tragedy.  Let me tell you, from the get-go, it seems like the Amityville demons are the least of this families’ problems.

Now, I am an only child who was born into a house that championed passive aggressive behavior over the the punch you in the throat and topple you over the third floor bannister to the hard wood floor at ground level because you didn’t say “Yes, sir!” level of abuse that’s on display in “Amityville II: The Possession”, so this level of hardcore abusive insanity is pretty goddamn upsetting to a guy like me.  And it’s Fight Club just about every five minutes with this family, and the Amityville spirits do nothing to help the situation.

A mirror in the dining room tumbles over with a clatter and suddenly Dad (Burt Young) is screaming, oldest daughter Patricia (Diane Franklin) is screaming and grabbing at Dad to restrain him from punching oldest son Sonny (Jack Magner) in the face. Thankfully, Mom (Rutanya Alda) screams like a goddamn banshee and gets everyone settled down so they can go ahead with their first dinner in the new house without any black eyes or broken noses. Yeah, this is a family in crises. Don’t believe me? Later that night Sonny ends up pressing a double barrel shotgun up against his Dad’s wattle in order to stop him from beating on Mom and the two youngest children…I know a lot of critics think this stuff is over the top, but I have this suspicion, whether they want to believe it or not, that this kind of family dynamic does exist and it’s far more common than we like to think.

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli's!

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli’s!

But this regularly scheduled smack-down of brutality isn’t all the awkwardness present in the Montelli household. Some of the creepiest moments of the whole film involve Sonny and Patricia, the two oldest siblings, who spend a lot of time alone together in one another’s rooms and share a borderline incestuous relationship as they flirt with one another.  These two don’t act much like brother and sister when they’re around each other, and this adolescent urge Sonny has for his own sister seems to be the weakness that allows the spirits that reside in his home to possess him.

In a lengthy, uneasy sequence taking place while Sonny is left alone in the Amityville home (his family is off to church so Pops can apologize to the priest who came to bless the house before Dad started beating the snot out of the kids in front of him) the spirits, represented by a camera POV shot, float around Sonny and follow him back to his bedroom where they throw him onto the bed, open up his shirt and repeatedly thrust themselves into his stomach. Sense something sexual in this possession procedure?  In Trash Cinema, typically  women are gender of choice for possession, seeing as they have an open entry way for evil spirits. However, to posses a gent, I guess that’s a bit of a filthier undertaking.   Either way, it’s a violation, and it never looks like much fun. No one enjoys having their soul raped.

Pretty sure i give this same smile to every woman I hit on. Which would explain a lot...

Pretty sure i give this same smile to every woman I hit on. Which would explain a lot…

Immediately after the possession takes place, Sonny heads directly to his sisters room and gets his creep on. He tells her she might be the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, asks her to take her nightgown off and pose like a pinup model. Ooooooh, it’s grueling to watch and neve r fails to get me squirming on the couch. And that even before Sonny whips out a pair of Patricia’s panties and confesses to sniffing on ’em while he churns his baby butter. He then has his way with her, raping her, and the trauma of both his sister Patricia and the audience is done. It’s sleazy and upsetting and done very well. Nothing is explicitly shown, but holy shit, if I have a real hard time watching this sequence. I cannot help but imagine how strange and upsetting this scene must have been to shoot. Or what the cast party was like when the flick was wrapped… *shudders*

Quality Brother and Sister time. Amiyville style. As you know, Amity means incest, er, friendship...

Quality Brother and Sister time. Amiyville style. As you know, Amity means incest, er, friendship…

Patricia tries to confess to their priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson) about her brother’s sudden habit of incestual molestation her by doing one of those “What if there’s someone you love a whole lot, and you do it with them, but their penis is a lot like your brother’s” sort of confessions before Adamsky gets a bit too nosy and sends her running back to the Amityville rape house. At Sonny’s Birthday party he embraces his sister a bit too long and suddenly everything comes together for dear, old, Mom. the fact that Sonny grabs Patricia’s lovely ass cheeks probably didn’t help a whole lot, either.  Momma confronts Patricia in the Amityville Stairwell  by bellowing “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!? WHAT DID YOU DO TO SONNY?!?” because, obviously, it’s Patricia’s fault for Sonny having raped her. *rolls eyes* Mom’s kind of an idiot.

The worst cinematic priest ever mourns the blood ejaculated by the cyborg cock of Jesus.

The worst cinematic priest ever mourns the blood ejaculated by the cyborg cock of Jesus.

But, before any of this can be sorted out or dealt with Sonny and his demons get the final word in the movie’s most harrowing sequence. Patricia wakes up to the sound of thunder as it storms mightily outside her bedroom window. She overhears the sound of her parents arguing (surprise, surprise!) and listens in from the darkness of the hallway. As her eyes adjust to the darkness she soon  notices Sonny loading a rifle and looking like like a bowl of rotten oatmeal. Sonny enters their parent’s room and blows them both away. His three siblings are helpless as Sonny has bolted the doors leading outside shut, destroyed the phones and the power has gone out. The feeling of being trapped, hunted and the inevitableness of their doom hits the audience like a brick in the junk. There is no escape and there is no mercy shown. Sonny steadily, methodically, stalks down each of his siblings and kills them.  The sequence plays like a nightmare you’re unable to wake from. Watching Sonny go slowly from room to room and kill off his entire family is shocking and horrifying unlike anything else in this franchise of films. It is a moment of brutal violence and manages to generate genuine dread and fear.

"I don't know, I'm just... happy!"

“I AM the NRA.”

The rest of “Amityville II: The Possession” plays out with Father Adamsky feeling incredibly guilty over the massacre of the Montelli family, seeing as Patricia warned him of an oncoming tragedy and Adamsky decided to go camping with his boyfriend instead of intervening. He shows up at the crime scene, checks out all the still warm cadavers and then goes on a quest to exorcise the last member of the Montelli family standing, Sonny, who is sent to prison. Adamsky, with the help of an idiot police chief, breaks Sonny out of jail and takes him BACK TO THE AMITYVILLE HOUSE! Where, of course, the demon infested Sonny is now more powerful than ever, begins flying around his room like superman, and tearing his face apart in K-Y slathered, meaty chunks,  while Father Adamsky cries out “LET IT BE ME, LORD ALMIGHTY! LET IT TAKE ME!”  Amityville Demon says “Sure.” drops creeper extrodanaire, Sonny and tucks into Father Adamsky.

"HELLO CHRIST!"

“Christ, you’re HILARIOUS!!”

Our fake Happy Ending leaves us with Sonny being picked up by the cops and Father Adamsky still trapped inside the house murmuring Bible verses and sweating profusely in a darkened corner of Sonny’s old room. Sonny, who is STILL the person who killed off his family, let’s face it “I was possessed by a demon!” never stands up in a court of law, should brace himself to ride the lightening.  It’s a downbeat ending for a fucking horrifyingly downbeat haunted house story. Really, not since “Burnt Offerings” has a haunted house flick been so fucking bleak! But, then again, the real crime that took place all those many decades ago in 112 Ocean Avenue is no afternoon picnic to read about either.

“Amityville II: The Possession” strikes me as a meditation on abuse and denial. Dolores Montelli, the families matriarch, consistently ignores or dismisses the blazingly obvious issues in her family and her home whenever they arise. Rather than confront these issues head on, she instead takes a passive role and turns to God and The Church to solve her problems for her, Blood coming from the sink, table clothes mysteriously covering up crucifixes, and even blood spewing from Father Adamsky’s aspergillium (not as dirty as it sounds) in the parent’s bedroom during the house blessing ceremony cannot help but be interpreted as symbolizing the Family being damned due to their internal strife and neglecting to confront them. Hell, even the two youngest children can be seen “horse playing”  in several scenes by mimicking stabbing one another at the dinner table over a minor dispute as to where the fork should go in the place setting, and in one scene the youngest daughter puts a plastic bag over her little brother’s head and triumphantly cries out “YOU’RE DEAD!” before sparing him a death by suffocation by removing the bag and declaring “I love you.” Their parents have taught them well. Think about it, won’t you?

FUN!

FUN!

The Montelli family was doomed from the beginning. They refused to save themselves, law enforcement is apparently none existent, that is, until someone is needed to come pick up the corpses, and Father Adamsky turned a blind eye to the OBVIOUS horrific abuse taking place within the home until it was too late, insinuating  one’s faith in God is ineffectual in stopping abuse.  The abusive and repressed Montelli family never seek help, not matter how bad the situation gets. The pattern of abuse seems normal to them, like they are used to waving guns in one another’s faces and slapping each other to the ground on a nightly basis.  Only once, when Patricia goes to Father Adamsky, does anyone in the family ever venture out for help. But it is far too late. It seems as if there was a countdown from the beginning, and that the demons within the walls of their home merely sped up the process.

The Demons living within this family are far more horrifying than any conjured up from the depths of Hell. For me, this might be the most terrifying implication of all.

Four out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

30
Sep
13

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988) Should Have Stayed Dead

If only this movie were half as cool as it's poster.

If only this movie were half as cool as it’s poster.

a Primal Root written review

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Thom Mathews as Joey in “Return of the Living Dead Part 2”

1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”  was a cynical, bleak, hilarious gory, nihilistic balls to the wall reinvention of the living dead zombie tropes,  “Return of the Living Dead part 2” is not a step back in regards to quality and creativity, but a disastrous leap backwards over a cliff onto a landfill full of busted whiskey bottles and used up ideas .  “The Return of the Living Dead’s” horror began with a shambling, rotten, corpse pleading for “More Brains!”, which is exactly what the film delivered. An intelligent, fresh and uncompromising vision of what the living dead could be when you break free from all the steadfast rules and restraint set in place by George Romero in his  1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.”  Return of the Living Dead is fierce, brilliant and everything you could ever want from a horror film of it’s breed. It’s a one of a kind and to make a sequel would be pretty goddamn tough…especially with the ending it delivered.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned such a horrendously bad, wet fart of a sequel than “The Return of the Living Dead Part 2.” Rarely has a cinematic follow up missed the mark so widely, it’s pretty astounding. Long gone is the wit and dark sense of humor that poured forth from the original, in it’s place are lame jokes, Three Stooges Gags and cast members from the previous film, James Karen and Thom Mathews, returning  as grave robbers with nothing to do but recite their funniest lines from the original film and literally succumb to the same fate they did on the first go round. These jokes were great and worked the first time we heard them, but when you lift the best material from the first movie and reuse it line for line, it’s stale and depressing.

That's what the original "Return of the Living Dead" was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

That’s what the original “Return of the Living Dead” was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

Here’s the low down, there’s a little ginger kid named Jesse (Michael Kenworthy who also appeared in the excellent 1988 remake of “The Blob”) who lives in a developing suburb that looks eerily similar to Questa Verde from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” or that suburb where Elliot lived in Speilberg’s “E.T.” Anyhoo, the kid is chock full of quips and one liners which he unleashes on some neighborhood bullies who he ends up getting picked on by and, eventually, discovers one of those  “corpse in a can” barrels the military likes to lose all over this great nation of ours., which has come to rest in a sewage runoff near the local cemetery. Noticing a decomposing body through the barrels glass lid initially has the kids running for their lives, but as you and I both know from “Stand By Me” young boys cannot stay away from dead bodies and the lure of this corpse barrel proves to be the undoing of the two bullies picking on Jesse. Two head back later that day, bang on the barrel a little bit, and for their efforts are greeted with a nice juicy blast of 2-4-5 Trioxin, the reanimation juice introduced in the original, when the canister opens spraying the boys right in the kisser. hold on to your brains, ’cause we all know just where that leads, don’t we?

As night falls in our little hamlet, the Trioxin makes it’s way to the nearby cemetery and, as if Mother Nature is in on the joke, the sky opens up and a downpour begins soaking the soil and the corpses it contains, priming these cadavers for a night of brain skull cracking and brain slurping. Also in the cemetery are, as I mentioned before, a couple of grave robbers who happen to be the two very talented character actors, James Karen and Thom Mathews, who are for the most part just going through the motions and spouting their greatest hits for the run time and earning their paychecks for appearing in such lazy bullshit. Well, the dead come back to unlife right on cue, but this time they rise from their tombs to a goofy, Looney Tunes style score and are prone to slapstick and pratfalls as they try to pull themselves out of their graves. It’s all painfully unfunny, uninspired, and far from exciting.

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Soon the movie gets into the scream-a-thon where in place of the originals frantic, insane pace and sense of panic, director Ken Wiederhorn decides to just have the characters scream nonstop for about thirty minutes. Again, this is tedious and boring. As the core cast goes on screaming and wailing, on and on and on, as they run around the suburbs, peel out in a cherry red convertible and freak out as a disembodied hand wiggles around in the back seat is enough to make you start wondering just where in the Hell you put your handgun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy and the epitome of shitty film making.

As you can guess, Thom Mathews and James Karen both turn into zombies and Thom manages to seduce his girlfriend into letting him eat her brains in an awkward scene where she appears to get some kind of sexual gratification as her boyfriend’s teeth crunch open her skull…Just as this occurs and ROTLDp2 dangles the possibility of getting interesting in our face, it unceremoniously yanks it away from us and we find ourselves stuck with Jesse, his sister (whose bouncing breasts during her workout routine early on hypnotized me when I was in third grade) and the dashing cable repair man (played by Dana Ashbrook from TV’s Twin Peaks) as Jesse solves every problem and saves the day…that’s right, an 8 year old kid halts the zombie apocalypse.  In a matter of hours. By luring them into a power station and then simply electrocuting them all…Ooooh, I don’t know…

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

I cannot express enough just how unfunny and uninspired this shitty Speilberg wannabe hunk of shit is. Replacing bold social satire, dark humor and genre innovation with claptrap kid’s movie nonsense  is a disgrace to the former film. It’s pointless, dull and only succeeds in being exceedingly forgettable. This series is, as of 2013, five films long and every single sequel manages to completely miss the point of what made the original so special. I understand that ROTLDp2 has a kind of cult following, but for the life of me, I cannot find a single person who genuinely likes this movie. If you do, I would honestly love to hear what it’s appeal is because I just can’t figure it out.

The acting is serviceable (Everyone, scream a lot! Little kid, say something sarcastic and obvious that sounds like a screenwriter wrote it as opposed to a child speaking naturally!) , the punk soundtrack and excellent score has been replaced by bargain basement hair metal and a score that would not be out of place in a Woody Woodpecker short, the set pieces are fittingly cheesy and crafted to be as comical and none threatening as possible, and the film and the story itself are lacking any teeth whatsoever which is truly saddening when considering the source material.  At the end of the day, trying to follow up “The Return of the Living Dead” with a worthy sequel is a fool’s errand. Still, to see it spawn something so half hearted, unimaginative and shockingly boring really left this fan of Trash Cinema feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as "Return of the Living Dead Part 2" ended!  Woooooah...

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” ended! Woooooah…

If “The Return of the Living Dead” is lightening in a bottle,   “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” is more like poop in your pants.

I give this shit smear 1/2 out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.  Approach with caution.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

22
Dec
12

Silent Night: Dreaming of a Schlock Christmas

SilentNIghtPoster

a Primal Root review

If you know me, you know my stance on remakes. It’s not something I am incredibly fond of but I will always give them a fair shot as from time to time I find myself surprised and impressed. This is why I gave the remake of one of the best slasher films ever made, ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’, a run for it’s money. Would it be as heartfelt, tragic, disturbing and filled with campy, inappropriate jet black humor as it’s original source material? I had my doubts. I took a deep breath, popped this sucker in my DVD player and braced for impact.

. Seeing as the movie has little to nothing in common with it’s source material outside of it’s organizing principle (Christmas) the killer’s disguise (Santa Claus) and two of the original film’s most notorious and popular set pieces this thing hardly registers as a remake. It’s more of a springboard for an altogether new slasher film.  ‘Silent Night’ adopts the narrative structure of Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’ franchise with a “Who-done-it?” premise and written in the often imitated style of one of cinema’s most acclaimed screenwriters, Rob Zombie. We are introduced to a crazed killer dressing up as Santa Claus in a urine soaked, filth caked bathroom as he puts together his Santa Claus mask and clips his finger nails, which I assumed at the time would be some clue to the killer’s identity and kept looking for some with well manicured nails. By the film;s end  realized this shit had nothing to do with anything, really.

silent-night07

Our killer takes care of business, dispatching of a screaming woman in an adjoining bedroom and then unceremoniously electrocuting a man tied to a lawn chair with festive Christmas lights down in the basement. The guy shakes, screams, his eyes explode in geysers of blood…and our movie begins. Who were those people? Why should I care that they’re dead?  Next thing you know, it’s Christmas Eve morning and it turns out the guy who just got electrocuted in the previous scene was the local deputy and a young woman is called in to work his shift by the over confident small town America British crime Sheriff, Malcolm McDowell, who plays his character for laughs and it just doesn’t work.

As bitchy, spoiled little girls are butchered, men are stabbed in the testicles and large breasted, half naked women are sent slowly through wood chippers, this crack team of police investigators zero in on large people in Santa suits, this being Christmas Eve, the town is overrun by fellows in Santa suits and several of them are disgruntled assholes and violent offenders, so they have their work cut out for them. Why do they not bring in some outside help? Because the Sheriff wants to solve this on his own. Eh, stupid is as stupid does, I suppose.

cortney-palm-topless-in-silent-night-2012-screencaps-15

Just about every character we encounter is brutally slaughtered which I am sure will send us gore hounds off to bed with visions of woodchippered meaty chunks of nude photography models dancing in our heads.  There’s not much of a moral compass present in this new Christmas slasher, but I guess that’s just fine fo0r the approach they;re taking. It’s a full speed ahead train of pain where buying a ticket insures a perversely gruesome ride.  Mean spirited and full of self interested slime balls, ‘Silent Night’ is actually a fairly good modern Christmas horror, even if it pains me a little to admit it.

Jaime King as Deputy Sheriff Audrey Bradimore does a damn fine job of trying to give her character the gravity she deserves, but it’s  all for not, as ‘Silent Night’ has other fish to fry and body parts to hack off. The rest of the cast play this film as the hamfisted piece of garbage it is and yuk it up with a wink and a nudge as they await their paychecks. You can literally feel the apathy these performers bring to the film.

The film even cherry picks two of the original ”Silent Night, Deadly Night”s most memorable moments. you know, the one where loony bin Grandpa warns his Grandson that ‘Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year!”, only this time Grandpa’s voice turns demonic and is delivering this warning to a character who only has one other scene…where he receives some obligatory Holy Night oral before having his head pulped by one well placed whack of an axe. Also, extracted from the original ‘Silent night, Deadly Night; is the notorious ‘Antler Kill’, which seems puzzlingly less effective here. Oh yeah, and there’s a reference to it being “Garbage Day”. WOKA, WOKA, WOKA!

This is Santa, reminding you to stay warm this holiday season.

All in all, ‘Silent Night’ delivers the sloppy, gooshy, gory goodies but severely lacks the underlying message and heart that made ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ such a memorable and dare I say, classic of the 80’s slasher period. As I have mentioned in The Primal Root’s Rotten Review for ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night;, it is a film about the cycle of violence, the lack of care for the mentally ill, and the failure of our system and religious fundamentalism.  Is it shocking? yes. Violent? Of course. Over the top? Most certainly! But it was all for a purpose as opposed to this remake which is happy to deliver nothing but carnage. Gore drenched kills and a town populated by halfwits, unapologetic assholes and sociopaths that serve no purpose other than axe fodder.

‘Silent Night’ is a bloody hot mess of a stocking stuffer.  If you can get passed the annoying, unlikable cast of characters, there’s a wonderful mix of nasty kills (including one little cuntface of a child!) and gratuitous Tits and Ass  for the old schooler purists.  It’s trashy to the core and about as dumb as a box of coal but just might make a good stocking stuffer for the gore hound on your Christmas list.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

15
Oct
12

Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight

a Primal Root written review

Growing up in a household that could afford premium cable, as a youngster, there was no greater pleasure than staying up late, hunkering down on the sofa in the darkened living room, and catching the sick, twisted morality tale that was HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt.’  Being a child whose love for the macabre and horrific was rotted deep within me and growing more apparent on a daily basis, this was MY must see TV.  In my younger years, Nickelodeon’s ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ along with old, dusty, issues of E.C. comicss ‘The Vault of Horror’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt’ had wet my pallet. The promise of a fun, vivid, gory, lesson in how being an asshole will surely end in a fate often worse than death wrapped up in one nifty thirty minute package made ‘Tales from the Crypt’ an irresistible temptation. Add the ever present possibility of  bare female breasts, and my adolescent self couldn’t refuse.

 

Hell, my adult self still can’t refuse.

 

Then, in 1995, I was traipsing through Tallahassee Florida’s long dead Oak Lake Six movie theater on my way to see  ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ when I spotted poster that dropped my jaw to the floor and filled my heart with sticky, black, diabolical joy. Oh yes, ‘Tales from the Crypt’ was releasing a movie called “Demon Knight.’ Needless to say, this was the greatest news my 13 year old self had ever heard. The poster featured a shot of the Crypt Keeper smiling ghoulishly and peering over blue lensed, John Lennon style sun glasses, holding open his epic, and seemingly endless, book tales as slimy, razor toothed demons spewed forth all being led by an slightly aggravated looking bald fellow in a trench coat with his arm outstretched pointing right at my scrawny, freshly teenaged face. I knew, in my misguided, freshly teenaged heart, this was going to be the greatest movie ever made.

 

Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to talk my Mom into letting me see it until it was released on VHS. I rented Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, slipped the tape into my VCR, and braced myself for the glory. Dear reader, Demon Knight catered to everything my adolescent heart could possibly desire. Here’s how it goes down…

 

The action takes place in a dilapidated boarding house that was previously a church where the home’s misfit group of residents (prostitute, laid off postal worker, drunken bum Dick Miller, etc.) find themselves in the middle of an ancient battle between good and evil. See, there’s a drifter named Stryker played by infinitely likeable character actor, William Sadler, playing it straight, earnest, and desperate. Stryker, The Demon Knight, finds his way to this boarding house, thanks to a largely unexplained supernatural star circle compass tattoo in the palm of his hand, seeking shelter. Styker is being stalked down by a slick, seductive, hilarious form of evil incarnate known only as The Collector. The Collector is played by Billy Zane, who is obviously having a field day with such a fun part. In retrospect this might be the high water mark of his career. Which is rather sad.

 

 

Anyhoo, The Collector is trying to get his hands on ‘The Key’ which Stryker is protecting. This key holds the blood of Christ as well as the blood of previous Demon Knights. The fate of all humanity hangs in the balance on this night, in this boarding home, because this key is the last of seven The Collector needs in order to unleash Hell on earth. It soon becomes a show down in the old Night of the Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13 style, as The Collector brings forth an army of vicious, mucousy, pierced up demons that look like char grilled Muppets looking to rip the into meaty chunks anyone who stands between them and The Key. The Collector, on the other hand, finds his own way in through the use of seduction and the promise of granting his victim’s fantasies which leads to some of ‘Demon Knights” more interesting sequences. Needless to say, many will die, few will live, some will get fire pissed on them by Billy Zane, and one character will fulfill their destiny. Oh yeah, it’s one of those type of parties.

 

 

That’s the basic run down of what’s going on in this movie. The mythology surrounding The Key, the Demon Knights and their Highlander-esque back story is something I could honestly devote a whole article to. Plus there’s the obligatory Crypt Keeper bookends to the film that don’t really add much, but it’s cool that the our old pal, The Crypt Keeper, is holding down the fort and spewing the same old eye rolling puns and one liners.

 

 

‘Demon Knight delivered, and for about six months, it was among my absolute favorites and solidified my deep, abiding, love for Trash Cinema. It had graphic violence delivered both horrifically and humorously. Gratuitous and plentiful bare female breasts. A ridiculously fun villain in the form of The Collector, and likeable and enigmatic hero in Stryker, plus a great cast of veteran character actors like Dick Miller, CCH Pounder, and Charles Fleischer as well as a few folks yet to hit their peak like Jada Pinkett , Thomas Haden Church and um, Traci Bingham? Plus, a bizarre cameo by John Laroquette who still seems like a strange choice to me…The morality play aspect of the television series falls by the wayside a bit, but the sick, twisted black comedy is intact and even a bit amplified.

 

Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight isn’t a great film, not by a long shot, but it sure is a Hell of a lot of fun. And at the end of the day isn’t that precisely what you want from this kind of flick? It’s dumb, rude, dirty, sick, over the top and exploitative. It’s a guilty pleasure of the highest order. It’s a dark minded, neon eyed, spook house, horror show of a movie that is only interested in kicking ass, tossing the gruel at it’s audience and letting the chips fall where they may. It’s the kind of horror film where you walk out with a smile knowing that you’ve had a blast.

 

My 13-14 year old self was an instant fan. The poster adorned my wall throughout my middle school years and I sang the praises of ‘Demon Knight’ to all my horrified friends. I watched it nearly every weekend for a span of about six months before moving on to other bizarre, awesome, trashy films. However, the young, teenager inside me still holds this film very close to his strange, trash loving little heart.
Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

10
Jan
12

The Devil Inside: The Devil’s in the Dullness

a Primal Root written review

Man, The Blair Witch Project feels like it was ages ago…Well, here we are with another quickie cash in on the current super cheap “found footage” trend. This time instead of a ghost, alien or witch we’re dealing with the ever freaky prospect of exorcisms. A found footage concept that’s been done before recently and a bit better in 2010’s  “The Last Exorcism”.  Hey, at least that film managed to be even remotely entertaining for more than 5 minutes of it’s run time…

The Devil Inside is the story of a young woman looking to close a chapter in her life that’s plagued her since she was a child. Her mother’s condition which led her to slay three clergy members during her own exorcism. Mom was shipped off to Italy in order undergo treatment for her mental illness but her daughter Isabella isn’t so quick to rule out demonic possession.  This is the mock-doc of Isabella’s trip to Italy to visit her mother where she encounters real life exorcists who take her out on dates to watch them work their brand of incompetence on young ladies who can pop ‘n’ lock like none other! This is the true story of when demons stop being polite and start getting real…

"True Sto-RAAAAY!" obscure?

Long gone are the days of the possessed spewing bile into preachers faces, no, nowadays they are more likely to spray you copious amounts of vagina blood like fruit punch squeezed forth from the little straw pocking out of the top of a Hi-C juice box.  And that kind of shit is fun to watch. It’s freaky, it’s unnatural, and it is pretty gross (unless you’re into that sort of thing, in which case, this flick might get ya hot under the collar.) and it works. The strongest element of this film are these scenes of demonic possession and the battle to rid these folks of their hellish ailments. And these scenes are pretty captivating, the strongest of which, involves a priest performing a baptism on an infant.

The sad fact is, none of these scenes really mean much, because the filmmakers forgot the create interesting characters the audience could empathize with. Fernanda Andrade as Isabella seems completely void of emotion for the duration of the picture. During these intense, violent and over the top exorcism sequences (one of which involves her own mother) the camera every so often pans to Isabella for a reaction shot. And as the blood spews forth from splayed vaginas and priests that are as physically imposing as a five year old get tossed across rooms and into walls, Isabella’s typical reaction is utter boredom. This reaction pretty much sums up my reaction to the other 97% of The Devil Inside.

Dramatic recreation of the look on my face when "The Devil Inside" ended.

And in so lies the films ultimate weakness: dullness. There’s just nothing happening foe the majority of the film. We get some priests debating the whether exorcism is real or just mental illness (guess which debate wins out in the end!), people bickering, and montages of Isabella walking around Italy looking bored and uninterested.  Now, I can;t be sure where the fault should really lie for such a boring film. I mean, this is supposed to be a documentary film gone wrong, correct? Depressingly enough, the guy behind the camera never comes off as a competent filmmaker to begin with. So do we blame the fictional documentary filmmaker? IS he supposed to suck at his profession? Or is it the actual filmmakers themselves who can’t put together a thoughtful, exciting, engaging film on the subject of mental illness, family ties, faith and possession? Why waste such a potentially good story on the same tired formula that Paranormal Activity has exploited for three movies?

Because people eat this shit up for some reason. 1. Have nothing interesting happen for 45 minutes of screen time. 2. Insert a loud dog barked 3. Watch everyone jump and scream in shock as your film takes the bold step of having something actually happen4. Profit. This is fucking LAZY film making, people. This is the kind of thing that gives the horror genre such a bad name. And this is the kind of vacuous, meaningless, fast food offerings the mainstream horror audience is fed and they slurp up as if it’s filet mignon.  Mainstreamers, you have steadily acquired a taste for Grade-A dookie. Yes, you are being served heaping spoonfuls of shit.  There’s nothing interesting here. Nothing thoughtful or truly horrifying nor is there anything campy or fun about The Devil Inside. It simply exists with just about nothing to offer.

Despite some relatively strong performances from supporting players Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth as two young renegade exorcists who aid Isabella in her quest and Suzan Crowley as Isabella’s Mother,  Maria Rossi, who pretty much steals the show with every scene in which she appears. She, alone, nearly makes the film worth it. If only we had more time with her.  The film also kicks it into high gear towards the end of it’s running time where it even hints at becoming interesting.  Really. the final ten or fifteen minutes promise of some great rewards only for the movie to pull the rug out from under us and leave us with nothing but frustration and 90 minutes of out lives wasted.

I’m sure they are saving all that for the sequel, which is at this point certain, after this honking log of shit somehow managed to ingest 36 million dollars of hard earned dollars from the accounts of countless movie goers this past weekend despite terrible notices and an ad campaign that looked more like a warning. I guess it proves my old theory that pure evil always works when it’s far more subtle. Why drive the audience completely fucking insane with something truly horrific and mind altering when you can simply bore them to the point of  crying in uncontrollable sobs of pain and suffering for 10 bucks a head?

That, my friends, is the true face of The Devil…

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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