Posts Tagged ‘crossbow

25
Aug
13

You’re Next (2011) Warm Blood & Rich People…plus a short essay on slasher cinema history

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

The late 60’s  through the 1970’s were the golden years for American horror cinema. Not only were young, truly talented filmmakers delivering inspired pieces of art, they gave cinema indispensable time capsules of the days troubled times and the lasting, horrifying impact of our actions on not only the inhabitants of our nation, but the world. films such as Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left”, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and many others illustrated , the brutality both at home and abroad as peaceful protesters were gunned down by our National Guard in cold blood, blacks in our country were beaten and murdered by our police officials, our brothers, sons,  husbands and Fathers were being drafted to serve in a wildly unpopular war and the hippie movement had given way to disillusionment in the wake of Charles Manson and Free Love regrettably spread venereal disease like wild fire through the loins of our nation.  Independent horror cinema had never been more vital, more important in our country as it was during this era.  Horror was the purest illustration, the unfettered subconscious, of our society.

Soon the 1980’s were ushered in and movies such as “Halloween” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, which had proven incredibly profitable, gave way to a sub-genre known as the “slasher” genre, which gained a foothold in this decade and squeezed as much blood out of the concept as  possible. John Carpenter’s Halloween became a franchise, Sean Cunningham’s “Friday the 13th” spawned a series of films repeating the same formula for over 20 years, and Wes Craven delivered a trail blazing, brilliant, post Vietnam horror film in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, but it was soon watered down into a franchisable commodity.  Slasher horror films became a staple of the decade as they proved to be resoundingly profitable for studios, and sequels that regurgitated the story on repeat could be relied upon to turn a profit. It was fun while it lasted, and some pretty damn great slasher films were produced during the decade, but   gradually, a form of horror that had once shown us how fucked up our system was, had been yuppified and sold out. The films became less of a societal rorshach test, and more like a series of Saturday morning cartoon adventure. Hell, it was the 1980’s in a capitalist country! As George “Buck” Flowers said in John Carpenter’s 1988 science fiction masterpiece, “They Live”, “We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team!”

But by the end of 80’s the slasher formula had grown as stale as a year old box of opened and then forgotten about croutons in the pantry, and by 1990, many folks deemed the sub-genre dead.

BUT THEN CAME POST-MODERN SLASHERS!  Ushered in by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and to a much greater extent, his “Scream” franchise, which replaced the usual gang of teenagers ready for the chop, with teenage characters who have been raised in the VHS generation and are completely aware of the slasher formula, it’s cliches and it’s caveats and are loaded up and ready with quips, jokes and references to horror movies history!  The resurrection of the slasher genre was given life thanks to the ever increasing knowledge and awareness of the audience who had spent their youths combing through video rental stores and boning up on their horror movie knowledge.  Two decades earlier, it was Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” who had been savaging the cinema while wearing the remains of his victims. Now, in the 1990’s, the filmmakers were the one’s wearing the remains of the genre’s past and exploiting it as a joke and laughing at the power these movies once, and to the viewer willing to watch without a jaded eye, still contain.

But, there are only so many in-jokes you can make about the genre before Post Modern gives way to straight up spoofs like the Wayans Brother’s brain dead “Scary Movie” franchise.  Oh, what has post modern horror wrought?

In the mid 2000’s, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the War in Iraq marched on with seemingly no plan and no end in sight under the George W. Bush administration, the slasher genre got a heavy, dark, deeply mean spirited and cynical makeover in the form of James Wan’s “Saw” franchise, Now audiences were thrust into morality games where victims and victimizers alike were suddenly forced to endure and try to survive brutal and disturbingly painful forms of grueling torture in order to survive and are expected to walk away having learned some kind of life affirming message. Assumign they survive at all. (Spoiler: most folks end up splattered across the linoleum.)  Also, taking hold in this decade, was a sudden popularity in remakes. Classic horror films like Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” were open game for modern retelling and face lifts. These proved successful as money making ventures since the titles were already well established and could be relied on to turn a profit, but many folks took this as a sign that “Hollywood” had, indeed, run out of ideas and that set of balls they once relied on to give up and coming filmmakers a chance at showcasing original product, had now finally been cut cleen and tossed int he waste basket. The studio now only seemed interested in “sure things.”  Young filmmakers who came of age during the slasher heydays were now creating their own slasher movies…but more times than not, for cynical laughs and nastiness rather than genuine scares or fun.

With the exception of a few sporadic, slasher films produced independently, with varying degrees of success, the blood in the veins of a once extremely popular genre has been cooling down and slowing to a coagulated halt as it’s once thriving body withers up and passed away. Them’s the brakes.  I had very little hope in ever seeing a slasher film worth a piss again on the big screen.

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

A kind of home invasion slasher film that’s done the impossible and taken a tired formula, one that’s been played to death, and made it feel fun, interesting and new again. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun watching a slasher film in…well…YEARS! I know there’s been quite a bit of hype surrounding this flick over the last couple years since it’s premiere in 2011, and although I do feel the praise this thing has gotten is, indeed, a bit overblown, “You’re Next” does a dandy of a job showing it’s audience a good time.

The premise comes across as fairly standard. A very wealthy family reunites for a weekend at their secluded mansion in the middle of winter. It;s cold, it’s snowy, and if a band of crossbow shooting, axe wielding maniacs happen upon their house, they are more or less trapped and/or completely fucked.    One thing I greatly appreciate about “You’re Next’ is that the family and other assorted characters are written as actual human beings, characters and players in the drama at hand rather than just jokes and punch lines ready to be cashed in.  Sure, some situations come off as comical, but never because the characters are anything more than flawed, damaged and mistake making human beings. Things are tense before any psychopaths even show up! Hell, I haven;t seen a dinner scene this tense and uncomfortable since The Sawyer clan sat down to dinner in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” (No, Tobe Hooper’s not paying me to drop that title as many times as possible in this review) The family dynamic feels like a bomb just waiting to go off as it seems some siblings cannot be near one another for more than five seconds without anger and resentment rising and an argument breaking out.  One cannot help but feel bad for Erin (Sharni Vinson) who is there to meet and spend some quality time getting to know her boyfriend Crispan’s (AJ Bowen) family.

Things go from awkward to “Aw, fuck” as family dinner is violently interrupted and suddenly everyone is scrambling to survive. To the amazed wonderment of the family, Erin seems to have the survival instincts of a wild cat and, once the rich families plans are all proven to be disastrously moot, takes control of the situation and ends up being on the the very best, if not the quintessential Final Girl.   Rarely in the slasher genre have I ever witness a final girl so aptly and efficiently tackle with her antagonists.  She turns her aggressors into bumbling idiots over the course of the film and it drew much appropriate applause form myself and the rest of the audience.  This is no screaming, lame-o final girl running around in her panties and hoping to fight the killer to a draw. no, Erin is out for blood and she’s honestly one of the greatest assets “You’re Next” has.  Many folks have labeled “you;re Next” a “feminist” horror film.  Hell, I thought most horror films, especially slashers, featured strong female protagonists besting and hulking male antagonist. By definition, isn’t the majority of slasher films feminist?

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

But, I digress, “You’re Next” also delivers some excellently executed gore set pieces that seem to escalate as the films closes in on it’s graphically violent, over the top conclusion.  People meet their end in brutal, uncompromising fashions at the end of axes, arrows, knives, screwdrivers and countless assorted implements of destruction and kitchen accoutrement.  Those looking for and carnage candy will not leave disappointed.  Another thing I was impressed with was the film;s dark, yet fitting, sense of humor. Unlike other recent slasher films that slowly devolve into “Not Another Teen Slasher Film” over the top, slapstick gore and gags (Hatchet & Hatchet II, I’m looking at you.) or post modern slashers that draw laughs from our knowledge of horror film history,  “You’re Next” keeps things serious and to the point, but manages to draw comedy from it’s bloody situations. The jokes are dark, but the levity is appreciated and doesn’t feel out of place.

On the negative side, once the shit hits the proverbial fan,  “You’re Next” invokes some of the most annoying shaky cam I’ve ever endured. I;m not exactly sure if I got used to it after it’s initial use or if the filmmakers decided it was only necessary for this one moment of panic, but my God, it was distracting and pointless. The actors were doing a fine enough job portraying their shock and horror at what was occurring, the last thing we needed was some guy shaking the camera around like he’s being mauled by a grizzly bear during the shoot.  Seriously, have some faith in your on screen talent. I wanted to watch their performances and not gain a migraine headache for my efforts. Also, sadly, the central question underlying the whole flick is pretty easy to figure out. Boots and I knew what was up as soon as arrows began flying. But, in the end, this didnt diminish my enjoyment of the film at all.

meow.

meow.

Any other gripes? Not really. “You’re Next” is a shockingly solid piece of slasher entertainment in a genre I thought had been bled totally dry by 80’s over exposure, 90’s postmodernism, and new millennial remake dookie splatter.  It was treat being able to watch a fun, TRULY old school style slasher film with an appreciative, loud, and lively audience just as into it as myself and Bootsie Kidd were. Not nearly as revolutionary as many critics and supporters have hyped it up to be, “You’re Next” is still one of the very best times I’ve had seeing a down and dirty slasher flick in ages. It has a keen awareness of the genre itself  which allows the filmmakers a chance to play around with our expectations, passes itself well, contains serviceable performances and has one very cool throwback synth driven score. Almost sounds like John Carpenter himself could have done the music for this sucker.

This is not the second coming, but it is proof that you can play with slasher formula without turning it all into some masturbatory joke. “You’re Next” has given me a smidgen of hope for a long flailing sub genre of horror and I am hoping filmmakers interested in working within it take note of what “You;re Next” has done right. Because there are few roller coaster rides as fun as a fun, well executed slasher film with the right audience. I only wish I got to take the ride more often.

If you’ve ever held even a drop of affection for the slasher genre in your horror nerd heart, you owe it to yourself to see “You’re Next.”

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

29
Jul
13

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

savage-streets-movie-poster-1984-1020234993

a Primal Root written review

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

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

Must be cold out.

Must be cold out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like an enraged turtle!

Like an enraged turtle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This scene is integral to the plot.

This scene is integral to the plot.

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

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

Stay Trashy and keep your nose clean!

-Root




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