Posts Tagged ‘class

11
Oct
15

Hell Night (1981) Party on, Garth!

POSTER-HELL-NIGHT

a Primal Root written review

“If you weren’t screaming, and we weren’t screaming, then someone is trying to mind fuck us here.” Seth, Hell Night

I’m not going to lie to you, there were a ton of slasher films made in the wake of the independent horror mega hit, Halloween in 1979. They all followed the formula with varying degree of success. Many tried new ground and failed to deliver the goods, others just didn’t understand the appeal and tried for a quick, meaningless cash grab, while others delivered on the gore and tits but left little to be desired in the thrill department.  Being a life long, die hard admirer of the horror genre, I am willing to give anything a go and I am always thrilled to find an example of a genre film that has every excuse in the world to be a lousy phoned in slasher flick actually put forth the effort, rises above the cliched premise, and delivers something entertaining, actually scary and downright fucking solid in execution. 1981’s Hell Night is a perfect example.

Four pledges, Marty (Linda Blair of The Exorcist and Savage Streets fame) Jeff (Peter Barton from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), Seth ( Vincent Van Patten from Rock and Roll High School) and Denise (Suki Goodwin…umm…) must go through with the initiation ritual pleasantly referred to as Hell Night which means they all must spend the night in the abandoned Garth Manor, where a dozen years or so earlier Raymond Garth murdered his wife, killed off all their deformed offspring and then committed suicide. The youngest of their spawnage, Andrew referred to as a…Gork (?), was never found and the legend goes that he still lives somewhere within Garth Manor, which contains numerous secret passages and catacombs running below the enormous mansion.

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Once the four lovely young people are locked in for the night behind the 12 foot tall wrought iron fence which encircles the property, complete with razor sharp spikes at the top where anyone trying to haul their asses over it “might cut their nuts off”, Fraternity and Sorority leaders begin a campaign of pranks in an attempt to scare the shit out of the pledges all while Seth and Denise get all weird and kinky in an upstairs bedroom playing goofy and endearing surfboard role playing, Marty and Pater spend their time chatting and forming a friendship by the living room fireplace. But it isn’t long before the presence of these young people bring to life a dark, malevolent force in the house one that strikes out at the pranksters first and then slowly, mercilessly, begins hunting down our four pledges.

Hell Night works shockingly well despite what comes across as a pretty by the numbers premise. Stick four attractive young people in a dark, forbidding location, unleash a plot contrivance to search them down and kill them one by one according their sluttiness and casual narcotics usage, leave one girl behind to kill the monster and call it a day. But where Hell Night succeeds flawlessly is actually taking the time to create real, interesting, human characters and not some phony, cynical bullshit axe fodder that you can’t wait to see get their heads ripped from their neck stumps. The young people in Hell Night are genuinely likable, shit, even relatable. And this is a huge fucking rarity for a “dead teenage” flick.

HellNightGallery3

Let’s take a moment to look at Seth, probably my favorite character in the flick. This guy is a muscle bound, blonde, weed smoking surfer guy who, according to himself, only cares about drinking, surfing and screwing. In your run of the mill slasher film, this guy would be written of as dead meat right then in there. Horny jock? That sucker is toast! But in Hell Night, these conventions are kicked to the curb and Seth is proven to be not only quite intelligent, but heroic, loyal, and resourceful. As a long time fan of the slasher genre, I can tell you, Seth’s behavior and acts of heroism are not often seen in the slasher formula. In a way, this makes Seth a kind of wild card, as we so very seldom see this kind of character, we are put of edge not knowing just what might happen to him.

That same sentiment goes for the character of Marty. Linda Blair creates a unique and admirable blue collar badass out of Marty. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, comes from a working class family where she grew up fixing cars along with her mechanic Father (PLOT POINT!) and provides an interesting contrast to the other, more privileged, pledges.  There’s even a great extended conversation early in the film about class structure and capitalism between Marty and Jeff. It’s a fantastic moment where two characters are feeling one another out as they get to know one another along with the audience. We’re not talking anything deeply philosophical here, but it far exceeds what the format typically calls for, and that’s worth praising. These characters are real to life, identifiable and ultimately likable. We fear for them and it really does suck when these characters are killed and are no longer in the movie. You actually mourn the loss. See, this effort makes Hell Night far scarier than it’s next of kin.

Hell Night ghost projection

There are no red herrings in Hell Night, only a menacing, blood thirsty antagonist that remains hidden in the shadows for about 95% of the film’s running time. AGAIN, this works in Hell Night‘s favor, as it adds a legitimate feeling of unease and fear as we imagine just what or whom is lurking in the darkness, in those catacombs, racing towards us down the candle lit hallways of Garth Manor.  However, the number of killers at work here is left in question, which also adds to the uneasy tension Hell Night generates. But, when you stop and think about the premise of Hell Night, it does kind of dawn on you that these college kids ARE trespassing on Private Property…I guess The Garth clan has every right to butcher these assholes invading their home. Who are the real bad guys here? 😉 This flick even manages to create some genuine suspense as one young pledge, in a panic, decides to scale the high fence surrounding Garth Manor and must hoist his weight over numerous spikes poised to pierce his tender young flesh. When looking for help, all the young people can find is useless authority and they must rely on themselves, their cunning and resourcefulness to survive Hell Night.

Alright, so when all is said and done, is Hell Night original? Hardly. What it actually is, is a well crafted and performed Spook Show Haunted House. It’s genuinely thrilling, fun, and even pretty goddamn nightmarish at times. Hell Night is a sadly overlooked piece of slasher film history, one I continually wait to see it becoming rediscovered and reaching the cult status it so richly deserves. Boasting some fine performances, nasty, mean, mother fucking monsters, some outstanding cleavage from a still baby faced Linda Blair, a genuinely creepy score and the patience to really create some worthwhile characters, Hell Night is, in this filthy fright flick fan’s opinion, is one of the better slasher efforts to come out of the 1980’s.

WORD OF WARNING: There is NO nudity in Hell Night.

I’m awarding Hell Night FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

28
Aug
14

Killer Party (1986) or I myself prefer a big, fat, cucumber

killer-party-movie-poster-1986-1020199150

a Primal Root written review

Among the most everlasting and endlessly interesting paradoxes of the horror slasher genre are those rare films that charm your cinematic pants off with their absurdity, their unabashed disregard for the established genre rules and conventions and being totally different from anything else you’ve ever thrown down to watch on a Trash Movie Saturday with The Gang. I’ve always found such films to be thoroughly engrossing simply because I don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect, we’re in the hands of an original thinker, one who says “fuck you,” to the old horror genre guards, “we’re going to tell this story my way!” It’s a bold, strange tactic for approaching a horror sub genre and often delivers something unlike we’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, this approach often plays poorly with the genre die hards, and are typically rejected for being “too weird” and are relegated to the ever growing pile of forgotten and neglected horror oddities.

Enter Canadian made slasher horror lost nugget of pure gold, “Killer Party,” Directed by “Funeral Home” helmer,  William Fruet, and written by Barney Cohen, the visionary who wrote 1984’s perennial fan favorite, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”, “Killer Party” is one of the most off beat offerings of the entire slasher era. To describe it would be a disservice, as the film actually contains some fun moments where the rug ends up being pulled out from underneath the audience, leaving us in a form of exhilarated bafflement as to what the Hell movie we’re actually watching…or resentment and annoyance, if you’re looking for another Friday the 13th clone.  Obviously, these two creative minds knew the well treaded rules of the genre and it’s apparent they had a blast fucking with everything audiences had come to expect from their dead teenager opus.

killer party girls

The main story of “Killer Party” centers on three high school best friends who are starting out on their freshman year of college and are pledging to the same sorority together.  Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes, playing the excited optimist), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch, playing the adorable nerd with a penchant for awesome pranks and excellent special effects), and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson, playing the quiet, shy, somewhat repressed young lady). As luck would have it, their hazing ritual will be taking place in an abandoned Frat house that’s been left to rot since a freshman was decapitated by guillotine when an initiation ritual went murderously haywire. Of course, someone on campus has their nuts twisted in a knot over this, as evidenced by the house mother getting her brains bashed in with an oar and smeared all over the steps of this old, sagging, frat house.

The hazing itself, with a ritual highlight being the girls having raw eggs dumped into their mouths and then spitting the aborted baby chicken goo they catch into sundae glasses, but the fun and games come to an end when shit starts getting all poltergeist. Noises are heard, glasses fling themselves off tables and shatter across the floor, and someone puts a light on a dimmer and turns on a fog machine from the other side of the door down to the basement. Vivia goes to investigate on her own as the other Sorority Girls hold each other and cry. Once the ladies gather up enough courage to check on Vivia, they witness her fastened to a guillotine, where her head is unceremoniously, but efficiently, lopped off and sent rolling down the stairs.

killer party head

Turns out this was all a hand crafter prank by the creative, resourceful and immanently lovable Vivia, who not only managed to scare the living shit out of every woman in the house, but also secure herself and her two best friends, spots at the sorority house of their dreams, which seems to be filled with judgmental uber bitches and I can;t for the life of me figure out WHY they want to be a part of this sisterhood so badly. Never the less, the following evening the Sorority sisters will be throwing a celebratory April Fool’s Day party at the abandoned frat house and will be inviting the boys from their fraternity that likes to prank them by unleashing jars full of angry bees upon them while they’re nekkid in the sorority hot tub.  Now that’s fun!

Several university staff members investigate the frat house on their own and go missing on account of their brutal murders, but thankfully for us, no one notices these folks have vanished into oblivion without a trace and the party can commence. The only person who senses that there might be some spooky shit going on in the crusty, dank, frat house is the lovely,  quiet, Jennifer, who gets the oogie-boogies every time she steps foot into that roach motel. Once the festoonery is displayed, the kegs are tapped, and the costumed revelers arrive, things start getting just a little bizarre. Supernatural shenanigans start going down, subtle at first, but then more apparent, pranks are had, but what are pranks and what are vengeance fueled demonic paranormal phenomena?  As an audience, you’re never quite totally sure what the fuck is going on, even when somebody starts trudging around the house in a turn of the century scuba harness and begins spearing folks with a trident. Is this for real, or some sick and twisted joke? By the end of “Killer Party,” all is made clear, and it might be a bit more disturbing than you expect.

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Coming out in the same year as “JASON LIVES!: Friday the 13th Part VI,” Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2”, and the year after  Dan O’ Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead,”  it was apparent that the genre had begun having fun with itself, it’s fans and the conventions of the genre they had created in the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the mid 80’s, there had been so many fucking slasher films that the formula was  practically etched in stone. It seems many filmmakers decided one of the best ways to go about eschewing these predictable traditions was to turn those rules on their heads and have fun with what folks were expecting. In a way, those films became final salutes, the last gasping breathes of a cinematic genre that had all but run it’s course and are now hailed as some of the most beloved cult favorites from that time period.  “Killer Party” is another entry in this select group of offerings from the mid 80’s.

What sets “Killer Party” apart from these other offerings is that our lead protagonists, Vivia, Jennifer and Phoebe are incredibly likable characters. They’re not your run of the mill sex pot, teen dream, centerfold, slasher standbys, in fact, the three girls straight up dorks. All three look and are played as your “girl next door” type, they don’t dress for sex appeal, they dress for warmth and comfort (this thing was filmed in Canada, after all). Not only that, but they are intelligent, headstrong and ridiculously funny, never taking themselves too seriously. If I am being honest, I’d rather hang out with these three ladies than anyone in any other slasher franchise. Seriously, they’re that appealing.  And I gotta give credit to Joanna Johnson’s performance, especially in the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the film. That woman goes for broke and it’s pretty goddamn outstanding. My jaw drops to my popcorn littered floor every time I watch her transformation at the end of this thing.

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“Killer Party” doesn’t redefine the genre, or anything and it’s lacking in the gore department and the TnA quotient is pretty low.  Hell, it’s not even all that great of a movie, but what it IS, is a very fun and unpredictable piece of Trash Cinema. Filled with bizarre funeral home mishaps, nekkid young women being chased by furious swarms of killer bees, and impromptu rock and roll zombie dance parties taking place at one of the coolest god damn drive-in’s I’ve ever seen, “Killer Party” is a rare, wonderful oddity. The kind you used to see on the video rental store shelf and take a gamble on. Killer Party never ever makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which may rub many hardcore slasher film fans the wrong way. But for the rest of us willing, able and hungry for something refreshingly bizarre and unique, this is a party worth crashing, Gang.

I’m giving this sucker THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Feb
12

Hobo with a Shotgun: Make Your Own Change

a Primal Root review

 

I found out moments before I watched this film that it originated as a grand prize winner in a mock trailer contest as part of a publicity stunt for the Tarantino/Rodriguez helmed double feature “Grindhouse”. What was the prize? The folks who made the trailer  got to turn that trailer into a feature length film. Now, let me tell you, the feature length version of  “Hobo With a Shotgun” isn’t going to appeal to the wide breadth of film goers out there. Hell, I have close friends who love Trash Cinema who thought this flick sucked sweaty goat balls. I, for one, thought it was one of the craziest, blow it out a shotgun, fuck it message films I’ve seen in a long, long, time.

“Hobo with a Shotgun” tells the story of an earnest, older transient Hobo (played with gravity by the ever awesome and always game Rutger Hauer) who goes from town to town looking for a break and a means to begin living his humble dream of making a decent living as a landscaper. But, as we all know, in the real world this can be tougher than it seems. Especially when you’ve been reduced to sleeping on sidewalks,  trying to come up with clever card board signs asking for donations and having the chew broken glass for the folks who film shit like “Bum Fights” for a measly couple of bucks. When you are that far down, it’s near impossible to get back up without some kind of helping hand.

If only he had written something witty and clever as opposed to honest...

Sadly, our Hobo has managed to ride the rails into Dartmouth Nova Scotia which looks to be the ninth circle of Hell as it is ruled under the blood thirsty fist of a tiny, greasy, sociopath by the name of Drake  (Brian Downey) and his two equally psychotic, well groomed sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). This Father and Son triple threat of bloodthirsty scumbaggery have turn this city into a gut crunching, head obliterating, meaty chunk strewn wasteland where no one bats an eye if someone has their skull crushed between two bumper cars or a school bus full of children gets burned alive…as long as it’s not them. In this reality, whoever visits the most brutal death to the citizenry and generates the most fear is king. This is hardly the town to look for a decent person with a dream to find that helping hand.

Our Hobo befriends Abby, the hooker with a heart of gold (played by the talented and gorgeous Molly Dunsworth) who shows him warmth and kindness and becomes a bit of a daughter to our hero. But once Hobo witnesses atrocity upon atrocity and is brutalized himself, he trades in his landscaping dreams for a loaded shotgun and decides to level the playing field as only a vigilante with nothing left to lose can do.  As the bodies of murderous, drug dealing, rapists cock suckers rise Drake and his sons are left with no choice but to retaliate as a full fledged war is declared between the haves and the have nots…and no one is spared.

To be honest, it took me about ten minutes to really warm up to “Hobo with a Shotgun”. It;s early sequences felt like some kind of second rate Troma flick…but as the violent set pieces of the opening came to a close and the film began to focus more on the story of Rutger’s Hobo and his rise to become a homeless moral avenger, it rose way above the the trappings of your typical no-buget grue fest.  This flick has a surprising amount of heart, stays true to it’s characters, and delivers on all fronts.

Hobo with a Shotgun is an interesting animal. On one hand the filmmakers seem to be inviting you to laugh at the brutal carnage going on throughout the film. When a character has his head ripped off and a scantly clad woman writhes in the geyser of fresh blood spraying forth from a gaping hole where the victim’s head should be you can’t help but laugh at how ludicrous it all is. But several scenes later, a character we’ve grown to know and care about is suddenly in mortal danger of being killed off and we suddenly can’t bring ourselves to laugh…we realize this is a world without ruled. A place where the filmmakers are willing to do anything and kill off anyone at any moment. In Hobo with a Shotgun, the typical cinematic tropes need not apply.  Just like the world we live in, it’s so easy to laugh at a crazy headline or crack a joke regarding someone’s misfortune, but when it suddenly that same fate shines on us or someone we love, it ceases to amuse.

And in this I feel Hobo with a Shotgun finds it’s message. It’s not just a film that focuses on the violence, and there are copious amounts of  it to be sure, but it also manages to drive home the idea of desensitization, apathy, detachment and how detrimental it is to us as a society.  For us to stand by as other well meaning and good people are crushed under the heal of our oppressors, being too afraid to stand up for fear of the same harm being inflicted upon us,  doesn’t that mean evil has already won out?

One of “Hobo with a Shotgun” ‘s strongest scenes comes when Hobo enters the maternity ward of a hospital and there before him, separated by a pane of glass, are a dozen new born babies. fresh from Momma’s loins. These little souls are pure, innocent and precious.  But for how long? And aged, craggy faced and beaten down man with nothing but the close on his back and a blazing hot, fully loaded shotgun looks in upon them and their advocate, as the spokesperson for their future. You were born into and are inheriting this world of pain and suffering.  This one Hobo finally hit rock bottom, grew tired of seeing his world repeatedly;y raped and violated around him and chose to stand up. Come life or death, this man chose to make that stand to change things.  What kind of world will these babies grow up in?  That’s entirely up to us.

Hobo with a Shotgun, it’s one very bloody,extremely brutal film. One which takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and leaves you feeling like you just took a trip through some kind of cinematic Hell on earth. A weird alternate movie universe tucked somewhere in the scummy, unwashed regions of Trash Cinema that stinks of canned tamales and makes your fingers stick together.   Hobo with a Shotgun sure as shit isn’t for everyone, but for those of us in it’s sights, Hobo with a Shotgun is a blast you won’t soon forget.

And, though I think they’re fucking awesome, I have no idea what The Plague is all about. But I do want their arcade game…

Stay Trashy!

-Root

19
Nov
11

Land of the Dead: Eat the Rich

a Dirty Thought with The Primal Root

The year was 2004 when all those old rumors surrounding George Romero’s long awaited fourth installment in his Dead series began lumbering back to life. For over a decade there were fan boy speculations  about a “Twilight of the Dead” , which would be really awkward with the popularity of those Twilight flicks,  or some other such continuation of the series. It wasn’t until early in 2000/2001 that steadily these rumors began transforming into fact. Romero was planning a new entry in his beloved, legendary, film series.  My excitement could hardly be contained.

By June 2005 we finally had our long awaited fourth film, “Land of the Dead”.  After years of hoping, false starts and sketchy rumors, there I was sitting in a theater seat, ticket stub in my pocket, about to see what Romero had cooked up for his starving fans. And to tell you the truth, I was a little underwhelmed on my first viewing. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with how much I had built this film up in my head over the two decades worth of anticipation, but I just didn’t think it held a candle to the original trilogy. The message seemed scatter shot, the characters thin, and the dialog cheesier than skating rink nachos.  I left having enjoyed myself but also feeling disappointed.

Now, looking back on Romero’s Land of the Dead almost seven years later, and in light of current events here at home and on Wall Street, his fourth Dead film has suddenly clicked with me and it’s message, it’s purpose, has become very clear.

As Romero’s Dead series has progressed our sympathy has been manipulated and shifted over to the living dead.  The seeds were subtly  planted in Dawn of the Dead but it wasn’t until Bub showed up as the star zombie in Romero’s  Day of the Dead  (85) that we all began the empathize with what we had always seen as a monster. Bub  recalled much of his living memories and even expressed very human, very un-zombie like emotions despite craving oozy living flesh to munch on. There was still something there. Something human. And by the end of Day of the Dead Bub proved to be more human and possess a purer spirit than most the human characters that populated the film. And in that idea Romero brought us as close as we’d ever been to siding with the shambling, decaying, walking corpses. Hell, we even cheer for Bub by the film’s end when he exacts revenge over those who have wronged him.

In Land of the Dead Romero asks us to almost explicitly see ourselves as the Dead, who in this film represent the disenfranchised. Those who have been left behind  with nothing except the possibility of the wealthy, powerful, elite will send in their troops to take whatever they can get their hands on in order for the rich to have their Scotch, cigars and Pringles which I’m pretty sure I spotted  on route to Fiddler’s Green. When the zombie apocalypse happens we will all be longing for the comfort of a can of Pringles.

Fiddler’s Green is a high rise fortress, a kind of utopia, for the wealthiest of zombie apocalypse survivors to spend the rest of their days hiding behind it’s concrete walls wearing the finest of clothes, eating hot meals and shopping their lives away as they towerhigh above the dead who are kept out by the bordering river and strategically placed electric fences.  But,  outside of  Fiddler’s Green is another story.  Also kept out are those deemed unworthy. Other living survivors who, for whatever reason, aren’t worthy of living a life of protected, maintained luxury. Fiddler’s Green is surrounded by make shift shacks, decayed building, sick, tired, dirty and poor humans struggling to survive with no aid of any kind. Those who cannot live in Fiddler’s Green are given few choices: They are put to work as part of the new military force put together to protect the wealthy, manufacture and deal drugs, prostitution, gambling,risk your life as entertainment for the masses as a contestant in a makeshift game of death,  or you can try and survive on the streets. Good luck!

It’s a strange concept thing to imagine that money could mean anything at all after the dead pretty much take over the planet, but if you can put aside your disbelief, there is a very poignant message about the haves, the have nots, and those who are considered less than human as an insurgency rises among the living’s lower class aims to over throw the current power elite and replace it with a more communal government and the dead who have begun communicating, have had enough, join together, and strike back against their oppressors.Because when the power and the dead are placed side by side, there is very little difference besides one being full of warm flesh and blood and the other craving to sink it’s rotten teeth into it.  And as the living dead make their way to Fiddler Green, tear down it’s walls and begin ripping apart the entitled citizens cowering within, it’s impossible not to cheer for those who have been ignored, abused and left to rot beyond the cities borders.

I implore you to go back and watch Land of the Dead again while the memory of the bank bailouts we payed for, the economic crisis that ended in many of us being laid off, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement where peaceful protesters were beaten mercilessly is still fresh in your mind. No matter what demons, creatures or myths we create to symbolize our societal  fears and angst the greatest threat you and I shall ever face is one other. Specifically those who have been corrupted by power and greed.

Land of the Dead worked well as an allegory for Bush era 9/11 anxieties but also seems to fit just as well within our current situations here at home as the division between the classes continues to grow ever wider. In the film, the dead are easily distracted by fire works. As they explode over head in beautiful arrays of bright colors the dead cannot help but stop in their tracks and give these meaningless, momentary bursts of light their full attention.  One cannot help but draw a parallel between the dead’s mindless attention to these fireworks (AKA: sky flowers) and the appeal of reality television, celebrity gossip, and other such none sense we are fed and made to believe is important to our every day lives when there are far more important issues at hand. It’s easy to tune out and focus on the meaningless. The trick is, to get your eyes off the ‘Sky Flowers” and focus on what’s right in front us.  What actually matters.

Romero has a lot to say in Land of the Dead and, in the case of all important works, it’s all open to interpretation.  But when I watch it today I can’t help but see it as a very timely “revenge of the repressed” fable that is perfect for where we are as a society and it’s by no means a happy one. We can only hope that one day, maybe, a new society might come in, devour the old and give us something new and better.

Land of the Free or Land of the Dead?

Stay Trashy,

-Root




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