Posts Tagged ‘college

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

30
Mar
14

Pieces (1982) Bastards and Bloodshed

Pieces

a Primal Root written review

Slasher films were a dime a dozen back in the 1980’s. Once “Friday the 13th” dethroned “The Empire Strikes Back” of it’s number one slot at the box office and proved just how ludicrously profitable this low budget sub-genre that had once been relegated to Grindhouses and Drive-In’s could be,  big studios suddenly hopped on the bandwagon draining every last drop they could out of the fad before leaving the lifeless, dried up corpse of slasher cinema to rot and fester. Yes, it was a glorious time filled with blood, breasts, beasts and masked madmen. Every weekend brought the promise of a new holiday themed slasher film, a new ensemble cast of lovely young people too stupid to stay out of the woods, or the mines, or the haunted house. We hollered our wise advice at the silver screen week after week but to no avail, and we wanted it that way! Boyfriends getting their heads crushed and tossed through windows during the final chase, young actresses we rarely ever heard from again got their quick fifteen minutes of fame as they whipped out they bouncing sweater puppies only to have their throats slit and their sticky, Kayro syrup blood sprayed all over their ample young bosoms. My God, it was a glorious time to be alive.

Of course, I was only 8 when the by the time the 1990’s ushered in the end of that glorious era of the 1980’s. A new cycle of horror began and many pop culture critics considered horror dead which was pretty goddamn stupid of them seeing as “The Silence of the Lambs” swept the Oscars in 1991 and that fuckers one Hell of a horror movie. But it was true in terms of the slasher genre. The well had run dry for the time being and, like long suffering Momma’s Boy Jason Voorhees, went to rest for a while until some new blood could get pumped into the proceedings.  THANKFULLY, at this time in my life there was a plethora of these establishments called “Video Rental Stores” where you (or your parents) could get a membership and you would have an entire collection of movies on VHS right at your finger tips! This, Gang, was where my horror education began.

As a kid I spent countless hours with my butt planted in the Horror aisles picking up every case there, admiring the artwork and reading the descriptions. I was particularly fascinated with the “Friday the 13th” franchise and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” flicks. But one tape at Turtle’s Video always caught my eye. On the front it featured the stitched together corpse of an attractive young blonde with a chainsaw perched over her. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO TEXAS FOR A CHAINSAW MASSACRE!” it boldly proclaimed. I was sold.  It would be several years before I was able to convince my Mom to rent it for me, but once she did and I popped that sucker in my VCR my life was changed forever.

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The movie was the 1982 Spanish splatter flick “Pieces” and it was everything I could have ever possibly hoped it would be.  A goofy Who-Done-It plot set on a college campus, incredible over the top performances, unintentionally hilarious dialogue,  gallons of fake blood and chainsaw dismemberment, impromptu karate instructor attacks, a plethora of nude women including full frontal and a bit of wiener for the ladies, and one of the greatest, strangest, mind blowing jump scare endings I had ever witnessed.  My little preteen mind was rocked. When the tape finished I immediately hit rewind and watched that sucker again.

 

“Pieces” begins in 1942 where we witness a young boy piecing together a puzzle in his playroom. When his Mother discovers that the puzzle is of a naked woman she goes ballistic, calling the young boy’s absentee  Father a filthy, perverted, degenerate and that she’s going to search all through the house and burn everything that features female nudity. She even strikes her son and repeatedly calls him stupid as she slips further into her suitable for Lifetime Television hysterics. But her young son is having none of it,  when she has her back turned he grabs an axe that’s bigger than he is and surprises her with several well placed chops to the noggin’.  Soon after the murder of his mother the boy grabs a hacksaw and goes to town pulling his dead Mom apart. Yes, the boy finishes his puzzle by the time the police barge in and are side stepping meaty chunks and pools of coagulated lady blood  He cries, blames a “big man, big man” and everyone buys his story hook line and sinker. It’s a nasty. bloody, and darkly comical note to begin “Pieces” on, and it only gets better from there.

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Present Day 1982 and we’re on a college campus when women start falling prey to a chainsaw killer. A girl gets decapitated while she is out in the park reading, another young woman gets quartered by the swimming pool, and so on… but this shadowy figure dressed in black doesn’t just kill his victims, he collects body parts.  We discover early on that whoever is doing the killings is, in fact, the same little boy who killed his mother all those years ago and is sawing a trail of blood drenched terror through this college campus as he begins putting together a new puzzle.

There’s a rouges gallery of suspects which includes the creepy, shifty eyed caretaker Willard (Paul L. Smith, Bluto from 1980’s Popeye) a quiet, odd duck anatomy teacher, Professor Brown (Jack Taylor) the uptight Dean (Edmund Purdom) and even the dorkish campus stud, Kendal (Ian Sera) who every woman on campus wants to bang for no readily apparent reason. Well, perhaps it was that lovely singing voice displayed in “Pod People?” Ah, who am I kidding, it STINKS! The suspect pool always seems to be hanging around nearby whenever a murder occurs and never fail to act sketchy as Hell no matter what’s going down.

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Two detectives are put on the case, the good natured detectives, Ly. Bracken (Christopher George) and hard case Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana), and they’re both equally clueless. One of my favorite moments with these two is during their investigation of the poolside murder and mutilation of a young college girl. She’s been sawed into a pile of about 6 or 7 hunks of flesh and a bloody chainsaw is laying on the floor next to this tall pile of woman. Lt. Bracken asks Proffessor Brown if he believes the chainsaw might be the murder weapon, to which Prof. Brown replies, after a close examination of the chainsaw, that yes, even a layman can see that this was the murder weapon. Damn fine police work, Bracken!

But these two have a secret weapon! They put two of their very best into action as undercover agents. Tennis Pro and party time law enforcement official, Mary Riggs and possible suspect Kendal, who spends most of the investigation either fucking coeds, trying to get into Mary’s pants or showing up too late to prevent murders or apprehend the suspect. I understand, he’s just a college guy, but the man’s kind of an idiot. Hell, ALL the good guys in this thing are idiots. It’s hard to root for these folks when they’re all so grossly incompetent at what they do for a living! It’s uncanny how they always seem to show up about thirty seconds too late to save the chainsaw killer’s nubile young victim. But it’s never to late to repeatedly scream “BASTARD!” at the top of your lungs.  Well, despite the fact that they all suck, they are at least fun to watch bumble their way through one of the most brutal crime sprees ever to take place on a fictional college campus.

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After the climactic final murder that takes place in a  women’s locker room, and yes, you get to view the boner trifecta (Boobs, Bush, buns) where a woman is chased topless by our chainsaw toting lunatic into a bathroom stall where she pisses her pants in closeup as he chainsaws his way in to seal her doom, Kendal and Sgt. Holden get some Wendy’s take out and start going through a bunch of files hoping they just might come across something, and oh boy, do they ever! Kendal ends up cracking the case and figuring out who the killer is, but will he and his detective pals get there in time to save the lovely Mary Riggs? And why in the fuck is Kendal allowed to join the two detectives as they kick down to door into a suspected serial killer’s abode? sure, some idiotic, unarmed, college kid wants to come and hang out in this possibly deadly situation? Yeah, sure! Why not.  Trust me, Kendal pays the price for being a dipshit.

Once the killer is revealed and meets his end “Pieces” drops two of the coolest, meanest, most disturbing shock endings on it’s unsuspecting audience. I am really struggling not to tell you what happens, as it’s one of those ingredients that really clenches “Pieces” as one of my all time favorite slasher flicks. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. All I can say is, Kendal’s stud days are over.

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I cannot express my love enough for this deeply trashy slice of early 80’s exploitation sleaze.  “Pieces” is one of those rare cases where every weakness it has manages to bolster the film up and make it watchable.  This movie should be a failure,  the last thing it should be is entertaining. But despite all it’s flaws it still manages to keep me entertained from beginning to end with it’s total lack of class, it’s crassness and it’s heart warming lack of politcal correctness. Also, all that nudity sure helps the trash go down smoothly, too.  It’s like a Friday the 13th sequel on steroids.  It’s simple, it’s mindless, it’s filthy and it’s the perfect serving a of junk when you need that Trash Cinema pick me up.

I give “Pieces” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets! Classic Trash Cinema!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

17
Jun
13

John Dies at the End: Not a Spoiler (2012)

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a Primal Root written review

“Time is an ocean, not a garden hose. Space is a puff of smoke, a wisp of cloud. Your mind… is a flying corn snake hovering through all the possibilities” – Robert Marley, John dies at the End

Let me tell ya, “John Dies at the End” is a film, a story, full of ideas.  Time travel, alien invasions, alternate dimensions, ghosts, monsters, paintball flamethrowers…well, you get the picture. It’s the kind of film that plays it fast and loose with it’s multitude of concepts, throws caution to the wind and wishes you luck as you try to keep up with the blisteringly fast pace. filmmaker Don Coscarelli is the ideal choice to helm such a film. I doubt many other filmmakers would even come close to this material. It’s mind meltingly unconventional stuff and Don’s background with the Phantasm series and decades of maintaining that bizarro franchise and having it make some sort of narrative sense in spite of itself, pretty much makes him  the perfect man for this particular job.

Let me TRY to summarize the basic premise.   At a college party a drug is introduced to the kids entitled “Soy Sauce”. It’s a black liquidy substance that come sin a syringe and promises out of body experiences with each hit. What these youngster’s take to be a poetic sales pitch turns out to be the honest to God truth, as they begin traveling through time and parallel dimensions. The  bitch of it is, many of these youngsters are coming back…changed, and thus heralds in an other worldly invasion that just might spell out the end of life on this planet. Thankfully, college dropouts and general goofballs,  David and John, now endued with supernatural powers are humanities last chance at survival.  It’s one unbelievable story, all of which is being told to journalist Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) in the hopes of making the truth known.

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It plays something like “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” meets “Hellboy” with a dash of “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”. And if that sounds like an insane concoction, you’d be right. “John dies at the end” is almost an acquired taste. The kind of film that becomes more interesting and enriching with each repeated viewing. It all happens at such a rapid temp it’s near impossible to keep up, but with each viewing new images, thoughts and ideas present themselves, fleshing the film out as a whole. I know this sounds like a lot of work for one little move, but I suppose that’s why such flicks become “cult” films. And this flick seems tailor made for that crowd.  Hell, with performances from cult favorites such as Clancy Brown, Daniel Roebuck, Angus Scrimm and Doug Jones, it’s cult status  is pretty much built into it’s very fabric.

Now, I am not a recreational drug user, I know, “surprise, surprise”, but I have a feeling that those dabbling in a few choice narcotics might have a far better time watching this movie that someone who is stone cold sober, like I was during my initial viewing.  Just an idea. If you decide to try this out, let me know how it goes.

I enjoyed “John dies at the End” but I never felt like it really congealed into any kind of coherent story, at least the first time I watched it. This is neither a good or bad thing, just don;t expect anything conventional to come from “JDATE”. It’s unlike any movie you will see at your local googaplex. Which, if you;re tired of the same old mainstream offerings sold to us over and over again, this might just be your ticket.  But I don’t expect this is everyone’s cup of tea.

The Primal root says take the trip. What could it hurt?

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

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a Primal Root review

V/H/S is one of those lucky horror entries who’s sails get caught up in a wind of hype and praise from the horror community, a community ravenous for something worth a damn in this genre that, when not about people eating other people’s shit or featuring a cast made almost entirely of guests from the current horror convention circuit getting torn into chunks by a mad man, is remaking films from decades past and transforming masterpieces into dumbed down fodder for the masses.  So ravenous are they, that V/H/S has become the toast of the community at the moment. Over hyped? Maybe a bit. But V/H/S sure is a fun little anthology film.

Basically, V/H/S, is a found footage horror anthology period piece. It tells six separate tales by different filmmakers all taking place in the mid to late 1990’s.  It’s about two hours of none stop shaky cam footage that will give ‘The Blair Witch Project’ a run for it’s money in stomach churning motion sickness department.

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The central wrap around story of V/H/S features a group of college age hooligans and criminals who tape their Jackass inspired shenanigans and sell them to online distributors. Now, who would pay good money to watch a bunch of twenty something assholes break the windows of abandoned houses and sexually assault random women to show their bare breasts in parking garages is beyond me. But these jerks, the rapist criminals, are our protagonists.  We follow them as these scumbags as they are sent by a mysterious party to break into the residence of an elderly man and retrieve a tape. Easy enough, right? HA! Wrong! If it were that easy we wouldn’t have a fucking movie!

Bizarrely enough, these bros find what looks to be the old man’s lifeless corpse upstairs in a recliner with several TVs flickering snowy static in front of him and surrounded by mountains of VHS tapes. Seems they have their work cut out for them.  So, as these jerk-o’s have never seen a horror movie before, they decide to split up and leave one man behind to review tapes. This feels like the flimsiest of premises, but I’ll take it. Not sure if this even warrants a *SPOILER ALERT*, but the old guy ain’t so lifeless.

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

*SPOILER AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!* I will try to keep things as vague as possible, but the basic premise and plot points to many of these stories might be spoiled if you read the below synopsis. Just a heads up.

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First up:

‘Amateur Night’ tells the tale of a trio of guys who strap one of their buddies up with a pair of now-trendy, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ spectacles equipped with a hidden camera as they head out to enjoy a night of drunken debauchery and date rape. The three central male figures all come off as totally legit, obnoxious, collegiate horn dogs who generously rent the seediest of hotel rooms for taking advantage of the two drunken young ladies they’ve picked up. Honestly, the behavior of these young men is far more disturbing, in my opinion, than what happens to them. They gather around, dicks out and at the ready for gang banging, but as they soon realize that the one they undress, a troubling, mousy “girl” with wide creepy eyes, matted dreads, and a nervous way about her, is something they couldn’t have ever imagined. Out of all the tales in V/H/S, this may possibly be my favorite as it utilizes the hand-held, “found footage” aspect in a clever way and beautifully illustrates how being a completely loathsome, gutter-feeding, tool can literally bite you on the ass. These are the type of dudes who seek power and validation that they have penises via lording control over women, but in the end, they get a horrific taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone (something) else looking for validation. One of the cherries on this blood-soaked cake, is in the pretty awesome and grueling final chase scene climax that film-makers of ‘Amateur Night’ managed to put forth. Ultimately, this story works because it doesn’t shy away from its racy subjects of desire, power-mongering, and douchery comeuppance dealing with everything directly, brutally, and unflinchingly.

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‘Second Honeymoon’

These two are married? How old are they, 23? And they are on their second honeymoon? Eh. Okay… This one tells the story of a (very) young married couple driving through the desert. That’s pretty much it. It was strange to find out these two are married since they come across as an awkward, unlikable couple who don’t seem to get one another and might have just started dating a couple months ago. The wife is creating a video diary of their road-trip, which, as we watch it in it’s uncut form, comes off as more of a negative comment card than a tribute to their affectionate good times. She does little more than whip the camera about and complain about where she is and what she’s doing. Yeah, this is the woman you wanna travel with. Her husband is just as unbearable. Anyway, she gets her fortune read for a buck by a redneck buckaroo version of the Zoltan machines at an old west tourist trap, and it makes mention of reuniting with a loved one. That very night a strange woman knocks on their motel room door in the dead of night asking for a ride in the morning. Who is she? What does she want? Why does she like breaking into hotel rooms, filming folks with their own cameras, poking people in the butt with her switchblade, and pulling lame, elementary school pranks on them while they sleep? Who knows! Sure, it builds some much-desired tension, but the stories’ load is blown a bit prematurely, and doesn’t have much weight as it is as we don’t know these characters very well and from what we do gather of them we don’t like, anyway. The story ends leaving the audience hanging with their questions, which is just fine.  These people are dull, and you’ll probably be ready to move on.

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‘Tuesday the 17th’ is a cool concept where a young woman takes some of her friends out to the woods where, in the past, she had encountered a Jason-esque killer who brutally murdered her buddies. Only thing is, he is either invisible and can only be seen through the video camera’s view finder or he is actually conjured to life via the actual presence of the video camera. It is never explained, but the effect of the killer as a humanoid shape appearing on the tape in scratchy glitches, a visual distortion, works well and is pretty damn eerie. The presentation of this killing specter is this story’s greatest asset.  It’s an idea worthy of a feature-length movie but, as it is, the whole thing comes off as a tired Friday the 13th clone as the love-child of Jason Voorhess and ‘The Ring”s Samara stalks down some dumb, canned-character kids in the woods. Despite a cool set up, the story rushes to it’s conclusion and falls apart, as a result. I can’t help but wonder what it could have been had it been fleshed out.

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‘The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Young’ is an intriguing story about a long-distance relationship taking place over video chat as our heroine experiences a haunting and some kind of mystery growth under her arm… It’s a nifty little ‘Outer Limits’  style yarn that’s relatively satisfying. I couldn’t help but wonder how great this story would have been if captured in the format of a normal film narrative as opposed to found footage. Our main girl is remarkably sweet, likeable, and attractive with a vulnerable but outgoing quality to her. Although her beau says he’s working out-of-area for his business, we cannot help but wonder about the nature of this curious long-distance relationship. Does anyone else sense some early commentary possibly co-dependence, manipulation, and abuse in the relationship? I wouldn’t put it past this one as all motives are made clear by story’s end. As it featured a great leading lady  who didn’t annoy the ever-loving shit out of me, ‘The Sick Thing’ was a nice change of pace.

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‘10.31.98’ is right up there with ‘Amateur Night’, vying as a favorite of the anthology. Four surprisingly charming and likable college age fellows, one dressed as a Nanny Cam (teddy bear with a built in camera. CLEVER!), traverse across town to find the Halloween party they were invited to. When they finally come to the address where the party is rumored to be it seems the house is empty, but as they investigate they find they most certainly are not alone. These guys walk into a situation with no frame of reference, expecting the light-hearted frivolity, and come out with the worst possible scenario imaginable. Once they come across what appears to be a damsel in freaky distress the story explodes into an effects-heavy, supernatural nightmare, and works better in its brief running time than all the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films combined.  Matters escalate in the blink of an eye and the guys react with righteous bravery, putting their lives in peril to save a young woman whose life seems to be on the line. This welcomes us to one of the most well-played shocks of the whole film. These guys aren’t out to take advantage of anyone, they don’t act like drooling, poon-hounds. It’s Nice Guys vs. Pure Evil delivering chuckles, anxiety, and, by story’s end, pure terror closing V/H/S out on a high note.

Oh, and the ineffective, brain-dead wrap around of the original tape-retrieval asscapade? Well, they all die. The End.

*END SPOILERS!*

In the final analysis I enjoyed V/H/S, despite myself.  It’s got a bit of everything, post-modern horror, supernatural, psychological serial killer, the whole shebang. It’s almost like a sampler case featuring several of horror’s most beloved sub genres, and when these stories are at their best (see: ‘Amateur Night’, ‘10.31.98’)  they work pretty damn well. At their worst, they still have some cool ideas to dig into (see: ‘Tuesday the 17th’, ‘Second Honeymoon’).

V/H/S proved to be an entertaining collaborative experiment that spins some imaginative tales.  By no means a masterpiece, V/H/S is a creepy excursion into the macabre, the supernatural and the rewindable.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

06
Jun
12

Cabin in the Woods: Roll with the Changes

a Primal Root review as originally published in Tallahassee’s Capital City Villager

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, okay, here goes. A jock, a slut, a pot head and a mousy chick decide to spend a  weekend in the woods only things don;t go as planned as malevolent forces beyond their control put a bloody an unexpected halt to their fun filled outing. Sound familiar? To any fan of the horror genre the principle set up could be lifted from any one of the multitude of slasher films released between the late 70’s to today.

It’s the same formula that’s been set up, rinsed and repeated for generations. But this basic premise is where the similarities between “The Cabin in the Woods” and your typical teen body count horror films end and the inventiveness begins.  This is precisely what makes the film such a tent pitchingly awesome treat for both hardcore horror fans and even general audiences who have, no doubt. become well aware of such genre tropes. Joss Whedon (the man behind the immensely popular and critically acclaimed “Buffy the Vampire” television show) and co. have created a horror film that not only includes  all the fun, over the top brutal violence, imaginative creatures, and gratuitous tits and ass we’ve all come to expect and love about this type of flick but also imbues the picture with a wealth of knowledge about horror tales in general and uses that as a way to revitalize it by packing enough wit, brains and a plethora of unexpected surprises to keep even the most well versed fan second guessing themselves as to just what will happen next and what cliche will be chopped down and tossed onto the fire.  As a connoisseur and life long fan of this well worn cinematic sub-genre, I am purposefully sidestepping any further mentioning of the veritable cornucopia of plot turns and unexpected twists, because to do so would be an unforgivable disservice to any audience plopping their asses down to view “The Cabin in the Woods” for the first time.

“The Cabin in the Woods” from writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard completely annihilates every convention of the genre and reminds all of us that there are still avenues left unexplored in what some might see as an exhausted form of storytelling. It may only be a matter of story tellers hiking off the trail and further, deeper, into the woods.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Dec
10

Two Moon Junction: The Perils of White Privilage or These are the Problems You Want to Have

a Primal Root review

You know, I always wondered what the way to a gorgeous, sexually repressed, southern debutante’s heart would be. How in the world could I ever get such a woman nekkid and in the sack or living room carpet? Well, believe it or not, the path is easily traversed. All you need is a cute dog and penchant for breaking and entering.

That is, if the 1988 soft core sexploitation flick Two Moon Junction is to be believed. Written and directed by the mastermind  behind The Red Shoe Diaries, Mr. Zalman King (remember his awesome acting skills in such Trash Cinema greats as Trip with the Teacher and Galaxy of Terror?), Two Moon Junction is the tale of a gorgeous  blond, nubile, southern bell named April (played by the supernaturally gorgeous, Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame) who is being married off in a kind of arranged marriage to some white bread, yuppie guy mere weeks after they both graduated from their posh, exclusive deep fried southern university.

April lives in a world where everything is white. The houses, the walls, the clothes, the cars, and just about the entire populace. With the exception of the hired help who are all black. Did I mention this movie takes place in modern day 1988? Anyway, April is complacent in her little world of white privilege and arranged nuptials, but she ( of course) yearns for more as evidenced by a buck naked steamy shower at the exclusive gym where she reveals not only her remarkable and perfect bosom but a hidden peephole that leads over to the fella’s side of the showers that’s far too well hidden for us not to assume she hadn’t known about this thing from previous experience. It’s like that scene in Porky’s but in reverse and trying to sell it as a meaningful moment, when really, we just wanted to see some nekkid people. She takes a look at the swinging wang doodles, rubs her Raspberry pop-tart and the Circus comes to town. Literally.

Alice takes her tweenage sisters to the bargain basement traveling fair where she is hit on clunckily by a shirtless, greasy, pockmarked carny hunk by the name of…Perry. The guy is kind of a jerk but he is a hard working, blue collard muscle head  who wants to stick it to April so they exchange the obligatory sexy looks, Perry mocks her fiance, and thenPerry stalks her down and breaks into her house to take a shower while April’s family and fiance are away. Yes, he BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE and takes a shower. At first, April does what any human being with an ounce of smarts would do and threatens to call the cops. He counter-threatens to run out the front door nekkid.  What? She did ask him to leave, right? How is this a threat? Now she’ll have a free pair of smelly acid washed jeans!

Needless to say, after Perry mocks her lifestyle, busts out a video camera and talks a little dirty carny to her she’s just aching for this guy to shake her dust. It’s knees to the sky and the two embark on a whiny, manipulative, vapid, depressing love affair that will have you begging that these two just pull a Romeo and Juliet and end this damn thing.

Now, I am not saying the love scenes aren’t hot. Most of them are. And the ones that work are all due to the ravishing beauty that is Ms. Sherilyn Fenn. Sure, Ms. Fenn gets completely buck naked in Two Moon Junction, but she’s the kind of woman that you can look at fully clothed and still melt. Just look at her face and into those eyes. Hell, just look at her in Twin Peaks. The woman is in a sweater and a long skirt and she still just oozes temptation and sexuality.  She is, really, the only strength Two Moon Junction has. Sadly, she can’t get a bit of chemistry going with her leading carny, Perry, played with very little lunk-head charm by the meaty Richard Tyson. He looks like a romance novel cover come to life and is just about as fulfilling and cliche ridden as the novel itself. Long story short (too late) the guy stinks.

Okay, now that I am thinking about it, the film has one other thing going for it. There are some seriously cute dogs hanging out with Perry. *SPOILER ALERT* Don’t get too attached to the first dog. Booze fueled angry carnies and defensive canines never ever mix. Ever. Especially in soft core porn.

So, does Alice go through with her marriage to her filthy rich, clean shaven white boy or does she choose the rugged, womanizing, bourbon swilling, unemployed carnival worker? Will Alice’s family execute Perry Creepshow style ( it’s hard to say he was a deer when he’s behind the wheel of a Mack Truck)? Will there be a sex scene in the film that doesn’t end with Sherilyn Fenn sobbing her eyes out (is this a turn on to someone? Hell, I’m sure it’s got to be.)? How does beating the hell out of a truck shut down the power to an entire carnival? Does Perry ever get his bourbon? You’ll just have to check out Full Moon Junction and see for yourself!

For whatever reason, I felt incredibly depressed when the movie was over. And I think the ending was …happy? I dunno. You kind of get the sense that Sherilyn was kind of uncomfortable doing this flick which she was told would be her big break. Nope, that came a couple years later thanks to David Lynch, Mark Frost, and the murder of Laura Palmer.  And she didn’t have to take a stitch of clothing off to prove her star power.

It’s a female driven southern sex fantasy with plenty of soft focus, oiled man chest, and unchecked lust, and naked women. There’s not a lot of joy to be had in the proceedings. None of the key players here ever seem entirely happy with any of the options their lives have. Even the ending seems questionable.  It’s the perfect sleazy, soft core movie date for you and that special trashy someone in your life. Especially if you love hearing your lover ray after you have sex.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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