Posts Tagged ‘demon

20
Oct
13

The Lords of Salem (2012) a Rebecca Keel review

Lords of Salem

a Rebecca Keel review

Rob Zombie has long demonstrated himself to be among the elite talent of contemporary writer-directors,  and even with such a high bar to clear,  he has succeeded in shocking and impressing me with his recent,  wrenching film The Lords of Salem.  Superficially,  the work stands as a brilliantly innovative horror story about the legacy of colonial witchcraft in modern-day Salem,  Massachusetts,  but with even a prick to the skin of the tale,  the viewer is sucked into a powerful and disturbing allegory for the effect of mental illness on a person’s life.  Poignantly precise and fearlessly thorough,  The Lords of Salem captivates with its insight and its remorseless horror.

The story lays out the events of seven days in the life of Heidi Laroc (stunningly portrayed by Shari Moon Zombie),  a radio DJ in Salem,  after she receives a mysterious vinyl record from “The Lords of Salem”.  The music on the record triggers visions of a coven of notorious witches from the colonial days of Salem.  Unable to resist the fate she inherited from her ancestors,  Heidi’s life begins to spiral into destruction.

A masterfully constructed allegory can be likened to a jigsaw puzzle with an image on both sides of the pieces.  Constructing the puzzle facing one way yields a comprehensible design,  while locking the pieces with their opposite sides up reveals another;  yet the puzzle itself maintains the same shape,  regardless of the image visible.  Each piece has a role to play in the final design,  and this role is the same,  regardless of which image is constructed.  Likewise,  the allegory is made up of diverse pieces,  each of which has a role.  If you lift a single piece and turn it over,  you can see its role in the image on the opposite side,  even though it must lock into its neighboring pieces the same way,  regardless of which meaning is viewed.

A quote from the character Francis Matthias,  a local witchcraft historian,  binds the surface tale of witchcraft to its deeper representation of the destruction of a life due to the inexorable force of mental illness.  He states to Heidi,  “Witchcraft is nothing but a psychotic belief brought on by a delusional state of mind.”  This clear declaration identifies the primary allegorical device in the film:  witchcraft is psychosis.  From this melding of two ideas into a single metaphorical puzzle piece,  the rest of the allegory can be teased from the dense imagery of the visually-stunning film.

It is beyond the scope of this short review to analyze the imagery,  symbolism,  and structure of The Lords of Salem.  However,  certain points bear mention,  as they may affect the way the film is received by its audience.

The overt,  perhaps even garish,  Christian and occult images which permeate The Lords of Salem may distract some viewers from the underlying meaning of the film,  or,  perhaps,  suggest a rebellious philosophical bent which is meaningless to the film’s interpretation.  Christianity plays a twofold role in the allegory.  As the epitome of mainstream normalcy,  it provides a backdrop against which the perverse (on the one hand,  worship of Satan,  and on the other,  debilitating mental instability) can be contrasted.  Christianity further fills the role of the flamboyant,  but useless,  “solution” to the conflict at hand (witchcraft or mental illness).  The latter role is also tied to the character of Francis Matthias,  who bears the names of two important Catholic saints and whose efforts to rescue Heidi from her impending demise are fated to fail from the outset.

Sexual imagery,  particularly in the context of the perversion of Christian symbolism,   can also come across as heavy-handed,  but it,  too,  plays a valuable role in the interpretation of the film.  Explicitly sexual imagery rarely represents sex itself in a symbolic structure.  Over the course of the film,  the character of Heidi is conspicuously asexual,  while the witches are overpoweringly sexual.  This prepares the character of Heidi to be the virgin mother of “the devil’s child”,  as foretold by the witch Margaret Morgan.  Regardless of the character flaws borne by Heidi,  she is,  in fact,  a blameless victim of exogenous—albeit internal to her genetic code and her mind—forces.  This use of contrast between sexuality and asexuality is highly appropriate,  given the wider cultural context of the society into which the film was released.  Specifically,  sexuality is frequently depicted as a negative trait in Western religious culture,  and has long been associated with black magic and devil worship.  This makes it an effective symbolic infrastructure for deflecting blame from the persecuted main character of The Lords of Salem.

The film presents a plot which relies on supernatural events,  such as witchcraft and inescapable fate,  and these elements may irk some fans of Rob Zombie’s horror films,  which typically rely on the capacity for evil within human beings for their conflicts.  However,  all of the supernatural aspects present in The Lords of Salem are pieces of the allegorical puzzle meticulously constructed over the course of the film.  When a viewer sees these elements as fantastic or unbelievable,  they are granted a greater understanding of Heidi’s state of mind.  She has inherited a curse from her forefathers which has doomed her to eventual destruction.  In the literal story,  the curse is the result of evil witchcraft;  in the allegorical story,  it is a predisposition to psychotic mental illness.  Both engender a sense of helplessness and hopelessness;  however,  the use of a literal curse makes this emotional response more accessible to viewers unfamiliar with the experience of heritable mental illness.

I have little of which to complain about The Lords of Salem.  The soundtrack did,  at times,  stray into the realm of clichéd horror tropes,  such as a sudden,  loud bass chord at the appearance of an unexpected apparition,  and in these few instances,  I found myself sighing deeply in resignation.  Other aspects which might garner my criticism in other films,  however,  such as loose ends to supporting characters’ stories,  busy imagery during the film’s climactic scene,  and atypical pacing decisions for the plot,  support the sense of bewilderment and confusion experienced by the character of Heidi,  and add to,  rather than detract from,  the message and value of the film.  I went into my first encounter with The Lords of Salem anticipating a dark and entertaining film.  I was stunned to experience a deeply insightful,  unflinching,  and tragically personal depiction of a life shredded by mental illness.  It isn’t an easy film to watch,  but it’s one which no one should overlook.

04
Oct
13

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

 

"For God's Sake, Move in!"

“For God’s Sake, Move in!”

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

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

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

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli's!

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli’s!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I AM the NRA.”

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

"HELLO CHRIST!"

“Christ, you’re HILARIOUS!!”

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

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

FUN!

FUN!

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

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

Four out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

22
Apr
13

Evil Dead (2013): If You Want Blood…

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

a Primal Root written review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

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

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

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

evil-dead-shiloh-fernandez1

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

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

EvilDead

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evil-Dead-2013.-Book-of-the-Dead-1.

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

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

10
Jan
12

The Devil Inside: The Devil’s in the Dullness

a Primal Root written review

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

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

"True Sto-RAAAAY!" obscure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Jan
12

Rawhead Rex Wants to Skull Fuck You and I’m Okay With This.

a Primal Root written review

When I think of monsters larger than life a number of creatures come to mind. Of course, Godzilla, King Kong, Cloverfield…Hell, even Bruce from JAWS and the graboids from Tremors make appearances.  And then there’s Rawhead Rex, the red headed step-child of all giant monsters. Yeah, while Godzilla is off crushing noodle factories in Japan, Rawhead Rex is stomping around rural Ireland ripping the heads off teenage love birds and literally pissing in the faces of local priests. Now this is The Root’s kind of monster. Sure, Rawhead’s not nearly as tall as some of the other monsters on the block, but he makes up for his mere 10 or 11 foot tall stature with plenty of murderous spunk and personality. Unlike other monsters who are brought about by man’s experimenting, or are simply Mother Nature’s own killing machines, Rawhead is just a mean mother fucking demon. He’s not here for sympathy or for us to see ourselves reflected in him…no. This guy just wants to bite your face off and smear his shit on the bloody mess beneath. I doubt you will find a sicker, meaner, more sacrilegious monster in 80’s cinema. I feel it is my duty, as ambassador of the Trash Cinema Collective, to shine a light on one of the nastiest, meanest, most atrocious cinematic monsters ever brought to life, Mister Rawhead Rex.

"I feel good about me!"

Our movie takes place in a dreary farming community in Ireland where a group of men try to remove and ancient totem from one of their fields. Soon, the sky darkens, red lightening rains down and the totem falls releasing a horrifying demonic monster older than the Christian faith whose only purpose in existing is to destroy any and everything in it’s ugly path. At the same time, an American family has come to town headed by historian and writer, Howard Hollenbeck, who is traveling the countryside compiling research on pre-Christian sacred sites and is interested in the local church’s unique history and stained glass windows.  All the while, Rawhead is painting the entire countryside rd with the grue and entrails of the local villagers, twisting off heads, terrifying children, setting people on fire and tearing ladies blouses off to expose their breasts before tossing them into trees. How can Rawhead be stopped? The clues and secrets to the creatures destructon are all held within the walls of the towns ancient church. Can Hollenbeck get aid from the incompetent local authorities, deal with the psychotic Reverend Coot’s and unlock the mysteries to defeating Rawhead Rex before he destroys the town and Hollenbeck’s family?

Rawhead Rex is based of a short story by Clive Barker, the man who brought us Hellraiser and Nightbreed. not only boasting source material from Clive Barker, but a screenplay by the man as well, Rawhead Rex isn’t a very good movie. However, it is a ridiculously fun and entertaining one. The movie actually follows the original story pretty closely but is also devoid of just about all the thought provoking, serious pagan/spiritual concepts that made the story such a brilliant, philosophical read and, instead, just goes berserk and delivers a fucking crazy ass monster movie that delivers all the goods. That is, if you don’t mind a generous helping of cheese with your cinematic entree.

"Oh yeah, your lymph nodes are WAY swollen..."

The film itself is competently made and pretty well acted all around. Director, George Pavlou, does an excellent job of keeping the pace up, composing some fantastic shots and utilizes them to their best affect, and even takes some risky chances with his subject matter. Keep in mind, Rawhead Rex was released right in the midst of the British “Video Nastis” fiasco, so Pavlou had to walk a very fine line in order for his film to see the light of day. In all honesty, the violence here works rather well. It’s kind of muted in parts but it’s still gets the point across. But where Rawhead really scores points with me is that it has the brass balls to put kids in mortal danger, and even goes out of it’s way to kill a few! Yes, Rawhead  completley destroys a kid or two in his rampage. It happens just out of camera shot but with some great post production foley, the sound of these kids getting folded in half and ripped into meaty chunks drives the point home.

Now, I know everyone’s  gripe about Rawhead Rex is how shitty his costume is. You know, I love the way Rawhead looks. It’s cheesy as all hell and nearly destroy the credibility of the film, but there’s something about it I find really endearing that keeps this whole affair on a B-Movie, Drive-In level. Really, the the monster looks like a cross between a dog, a horse, and The Ultimate Warrior. He’s goofy enough to make you laugh, but strange enought that you don’t want that fucker within 1,000 yards of you.  I, for one, appreciate Rawhead’s fantastic dark sense of humor and that so much of the violence is delivered tongue in cheek. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy ideas at play here, a legitimate sense of dread, and a hand full of genuinely shocking scenes… but you cannot deny the film i a Hell of a lot of fun. There are moments when Rawhead runs after people where he looks like a little boy skipping and hopping after them, moments where he celebrates turning over motor homes where he begins dancing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he even whips it out and pisses on a kneeling, willing, Reverand Coot’s in a kind of demonic Golden Shower baptismal cleansing, in what is possibly the film’s most notorious scene. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing.

I can't help but wonder what Rawhead looks like with his mouth shut. Such a Chatty Kathy, that guy...

Within all this bizarre-o action, blood thirsty monster mayhem, and religious nose thumbing, is a pretty interesting story. Sure, it’s not at all what Clive Barker probably envisioned but it still manages to please as crazed, no holds barred, monster movie sporting a larger than usual set of testicles it drags through the dirt behind it. There are so many aspects of Rawhead Rex that are worth praising. I especially loved the ending conceit the Rawhead Rex can only be destroyed by that which he can never be…and finding out exactly what that means. It’s a rather poetic and lovely idea tossed into an otherwise wild, and grotesque mix. But it’s moments like these where the air is cleared of the action and horror campiness and a little bit of heart shines through.

I highly recommend Rawhead Rex as pure, unadulterated B-movie love. If you come across a copy for cheap, snatch it up as quickly as you can. As the runt of the larger than life monster litter, Rawhead is about as fun and lovable as they come and well worth bringing into your home. Even if he’s not house broken.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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