Posts Tagged ‘dinner

21
Nov
17

Blood Rage (1987): This Thanksgiving, put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional!

Blood-Rage-Front (1)

a Primal Root written review

“That’s not cranberry sauce…” – Terry, Blood Rage (1987)

Well, the festive holiday season is well underway! First there was Halloween with it’s copious Trash Cinema offerings, soon there will be Christmas with all it’s Yule Tide Trash…BUT FIRST…we must observe our nation’s tradition of celebrating the genocide of the Native American’s be gathering with our closest ken and devouring a roasted dead bird with bread rammed up it’s gaping asshole! Ah yes, THANKSGIVING! We sure love our traditions here in the Land of the Free, but older than even the tradition of Thanksgiving, is the tradition of family tensions, resentments, anger and good, old fashioned violence. Now, Thanksgiving horror films are few and far between. Sure, we all are thankful for Eli Roth’s blood drenched gratuitous mock slasher movie trailer for THANKSGIVING featured in the 2007 Grindhouse Double Feature, and fewer still recall Home Sweet Home from 1981, starring Body By Jake himself, Jake Steinfeld as a sweaty, body building maniac with eyes bulging out even further than his elephant balls sized biceps…which could possibly take place on Thanksgiving, but no one ever mentions the holiday they are celebrating by name. Thankfully, Arrow Films restored a long lost gem of a Thanksgiving slasher film from 1987 entitled Blood Rage aka: Nightmare at Shadow Woods.

popcorn blood

Blood Rage begins with a Mom hot to trot on a date at the Drive-In theater. Her twin boys are in back fast asleep, oddly enough in one shat a child has a double barrel shot gun nestled between his legs pointed at the business end of his junk (WTF?), I;m not sure what this signifies, but it is gone in the very next shot. Mom is fixing to slob knob when the two boys wake up and sneak out of the back of Mom’s station wagon. One young boy, Terry,  finds a hatchet and begins peeping on a young couple doing to forbidden polka in the front seat of their car. The man doing the fucking looks up, sees this creepy blonde kid and promptly freaks the fuck out at him but not NEARLY as hard as Terry freaks out back him. You better believe Terry buries that hatchet into the young man’s skull repeatedly, spraying blood all over the dash, steering column, popcorn bucket and his nekkid and nubile young fuck companion who runs away screaming, bloody and nekkid into the night never to be heard from again. The commotion gets the entire drive-in’s attention and as everyone rushes over to catch a peek of crater face and his dead dong, Terry pulls a past one on his twin brother Todd, smearing blood on his face and handing him the hatchet, effectively framing him.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the ruse works! Everyone buys the story hook, line and sinker and stick Todd in a mental asylum for ten years! Todd constantly proclaims his innocence, but no one listens. They just keep medicating the poor dope and just hope he never kills again. MEANWHILE, over at Shadow Woods Apartment Complex, the now young adult Terry is alive and thriving and living the active lifestyle with his posse of friends and living at his Mom’s place.  During Thanksgiving dinner Mom makes the big announcement that she’s going to marry the landlord of the apartment complex. This apparently triggers Terry who becomes very cold and menacing over the course of the meal. To make matters worse, Todd has escaped from the mental asylum where they hid him away and is heading home.

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Before the leftovers have even begun to cool Terry has started rampaging through the Shadow Woods apartment complex all while laying the ground work to frame his brother Todd yet again. There are some fantastic over the top kills in this flick, but my absolute favorite has to be Terry cutting Todd’s therapist in half with a machete. We do not actually see the cut happen, only a POV shot from Terry’s perspective as he rushes the doctor. We cut to another scene, then back to the doctor who is coughing up bright red cherry Kool-Aid and laying there on the muddy ground in two bloody, drippy, meaty chunks. It’s really a well done little effect and will put a smile on any gorehound’s face.

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The bodies begin to pile up as Terry trots around the complex with ever increasing sick, malicious glee,  killing just about anyone who opens their door all while poor Tood tries to piece his doctor back together, tells little girls to not answer the door for anyone, and actually takes care of his staggeringly drunk mother who passed out int he hallway of her apartment after downing a bottle or two of red after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a pretty brutal affair as people fucking on the diving board are hacked into pieces, gold diggers find their date’s heads hanging from the stairwell and countless Thanksgiving turkey serving utensils are used to break countless kosher laws! It all ends with a desperate chase around the complex between Terry’s on again,off again flame Karen who is running for her life from Terry who is now intent on killing her and chuckling through every last second of it and Todd, who is trying desperately to stop Terry’s reign of horror! Not only that, but Mom, totally shit faces and a little psychotic herself, as grabbed a gun and is looking to put down the bad twin once and for all!

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Blood Rage walks a really fine line between a kind of sleazy tongue in cheek hilarity and truly heartbreaking and disturbing family drama. To watch the film directed by John Grissmer and written by Bruce Rubin, it certainly has a very quirky and alternating vibe to it. One moment you’re laughing at the situation and the pretty impressive practical gore effects, and the next scene you are asked to take the bizarre family situation seriously and feel the deep tragedy of the events that are unfolding for these three mentally unstable people. Not only that, but the leads honestly throw themselves into their roles, often they go a little over the top, but it’s never unbelievable. Many kudos to Mark Soper who plays both Todd and Terry and manages to make these two characters so distinctly different in both character and physicality, I had to look it up to see if these were actually twins or just one guy. I mean, it becomes apparent by the conclusion when they need to be in the same shot together and there’s obviously a guy in a shitty fright wig with his back turned to the camera posing as either Todd or Terry. Still, Mark’s maniacal portrayal of Terry and sympathetic turn as Todd is pretty impressive and makes up for many of those goofy bad wigged short comings. Also, a standout, is Louise Lasser as Todd and Terry’s Mother, Maddy. We get the impression that Maddy might just be insane herself early on in the film, but I initially choked it up to high anxiety. As the movie progresses and her odd behavior escalates and Maddy’s dependency issues become clear, you begin to realize where Todd and Terry may have inherited their instability. There are scenes where Maddy is simply trying to get in touch with her fiancee which are just brutal and anxiety provoking as she continues to lose her mind trying to figure out the right number to contact her dead-at-the-twenty-minute-mark fiancee. But, if you want to talk about a bone crusher of a performance, the finale revelation which comes at the end, will either have you laughing or gasping at the absurd tragedy of it all, but one cannot say that these performers id not give it their all trying to make the material really sing.

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Blood Rage is a true rarity, the seldom to be found Thanksgiving holiday slasher that is not only trashy entertainment, but a flick strives to rise above it’s own admittedly cornball material. To watch a piece of Trash Cinema fully embrace it’s filthy B-Movie Drive-In aesthetic, delivering the goods and then still giving it the old college try to bring an even deeper, more horrifying psychological aspect to the proceedings is a facet I greatly admire in Blood Rage.

So, undo your belt, fix yourself a second plate and gather those you love around the old boob tube for one of the finest Trash Cinema Thanksgiving Slasher Films ever made, Blood Rage. You can thank me later. ❤ Did I mention you can rent Blood Rage on DVD & Blu-Ray at Tallahassee Florida’s own Cap City Video Lounge?

I reward Blood Rage FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

04
Oct
13

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

 

"For God's Sake, Move in!"

“For God’s Sake, Move in!”

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

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

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

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli's!

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli’s!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I AM the NRA.”

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

"HELLO CHRIST!"

“Christ, you’re HILARIOUS!!”

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

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

FUN!

FUN!

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

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

Four out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

15
Sep
13

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

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a Primal Root written review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family dynamic has certainly changed over the years and decades since they first made their teenager  barbecuing debut back in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cinematic milestone.  They were originally a disorganized banned of blood thirsty, cannibalistic psychopaths trying to stay alive after being put out of jobs over at the slaughterhouse. In Hooper’s 1986 sequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2” the clan had adjusted to Reagan era politics, yuppie America and capitalism and even managed to run their own award winning barbecue catering company. By 19990’s “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part III” they had gone back to the part of Texas that looks like Los Angeles where the family looks to be expanding a bit and then, by the mid 90’s, Kim Henkel, the was part of the creative force behind the original, steps forward with possibly the strangest and most loathed entry in the entire franchise.

The movie centers on a young, bespectacled girl named Jenny (Bridget Jones herself, Renee Zellweger) who meet as she is getting ready for prom night before being unceremoniously assaulted and nearly raped by her Stepfather. This is in the first five minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and we never see Jenny’s Stepfather or oblivious Mother again.  It’s an unnerving note to begin such a story on and has you feeling apprehensive from the get-go. You get that feeling this is to set up that moment where you have that revelation while Leatherface is biting some nubile teenage girl’s well manicured fingers from her hands and another family member smears shit all over his upper torso and you think to yourself, “Ya know, this family isn’t all that different from any other!” Makes you think, don’t it?

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Well, before anyone gets the chance to twerk to “You Look Wonderful Tonight”, Jenny and three of her fellow prom goers end up lost down a backwoods dirt road after a hit and run fender bender. “People don;t know how to build roads!” one idiotic piece of chainsaw fodder declares as they motor towards their meat hook hanging destinies. Then…THEY GET IN ANOTHER WRECK! One that puts their car out of commission and leaves the driver of the other vehicle unconscious laying in the dirt. Jenny and two of her fellow airheaded teens head off into the night to find help while Jenny’s date stays behind to make sure the young man steadily bleeding to death in the mud isn’t ripped apart by voracious raccoons or something.

After a mile of walking and none stop whining, Jenny and her buddies come across the mobile home offices of Darla, who runs a construction business. She seems friendly enough and enjoys flashing her ample bosoms at anyone who throws a rock through her window (…the Hell?) and phones someone to go check on the wreck out in the middle of nowhere and give these kids a “lift.” This mysterious someone is Vilmer Slaughter, a tow truck driving, greased up lunatic with a remote controlled mechanical leg and penchant for screaming like a frat boy at the homecoming game. Vilmer is brought to life by a scene stealing and completely convincing Matthew McConaughey, and watching him play beside Zellweger it’s clear to see where the real talent in Texas resides.

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

BUT I DIGRESS! Vilmer shows up to the scene of the crash, kills the coma boy on the ground and proceeds to chase down Jenny’s lover boy and repeatedly run over him, grinding his quivering teenage corpse into bloody, raw, hamburger meat beneath his Goodyears while listening to 90’s “Alternative” rock on the tape deck and howling like a hyena on PCP.  Sorry, but this I fell in love with Vilmer immediately. We need to get this guy and Chop-Top from The Texas Chainsaw MAssacre part 2 together and make a sitcom.

Well, Jenny ends up walking back to the scene of the accident to meet her beau and finds a whole lot of nothing, at which point, she decides to sit in the dirt until her two other pals, who have gone off in a different direction, end up dead and her character becomes relevant again.  While she sits the next fifteen to twenty minutes of the film out, her two friends manage to make their way to the home of these lunatics and run into a camouflage wearing, mullet headed Leatherface who screams like a woman whose teacup chihuahua just got run over by a lawnmower for the majority of his screen time. It gives the impression that Leatherface is just as terrified of these kids as they are of him and, in fact, I have a feeling that might just be the case. Either that or these are psychotic screams of redneck frustration. I suppose you can draw your own conclusions.  All I know is that later, once  all the protagonist men have had their skulls bashed in and Jenny’s been thoroughly chased about the Chainsaw clan’s property and is finally tossed into the dining room in a brand new, and very sparkly, evening dress, Leatherface dresses up in drag and, dare I say it, looks rather lovely.  In brain damaged, blood thirsty redneck wearing a hideous female suit of skin kind of way…

"I'd fuck me."

“I’d fuck me.”

The evening devolves into a dinner scene of near epic surrealism as Vilmer continues to go nuts over his take out pizza, dry humping his sister, Darla, and pouring lighter fluid on his captives and then setting them on fire only to stomp their heads into pickled relish all over the dining room floor. And that’s the moderately normal stuff happening in this house!  The family is visited by some mysterious shadow organization manager who apparently has the Chainsaw clan on their payroll as merchants of fear. The clan is paid to pick up and terrorize unsuspecting young people and, from what I can gather, allow the leaders of this shadow group lick ever bead of sweat and smudge of filth off the captives face while showcasing their own strange abdominal mutilations. When did was this deal struck between the carnage minded Chainsaw clan and some strange Illuminati style group that secretly controls the destiny of society? I have no clue. but it is a strange and intriguing idea to stick within a damn Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Just don;t expect an explanation, ’cause there isn’t one coming.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation reaches it’s absurd climax as Jenny escapes with Vilmer and Leatherface in a lovely black satin robe, in hot pursuit. Jenny manages to ruin an elderly couples vacation by putting them in the middle of the action and the chase is cut short by a crop dusting airplane. Yeah, if you want to see the visual representation of the term “cluster fuck” this would suffice.

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, -The Primal Root

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, – Root

All in all, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was a bold attempt to do something a little different with a very stale franchise.  In their attempt to infuse the proceedings with a healthy dose of mid 1990’s alternative rock, MTV culture (every chase seen is punctuated by some shitty alt rock/grunge track) and strange conspiracy theories (The Chainsaw clan working for the government?) it feels as if this entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise kind of get lost under the weight of it’s own absurdity. There’s no consistent tone, only one strange,m off the wall set piece after another. And, although, McConaughey does his damnedest to make this thing lively as Hell, and he does pretty much run the show in this entry even if Zellweger never rises up the remarkable level of both Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams in the first two entries of the series, the movie itself never really takes off.  It has all the elements it needs to be a great Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick, but at some point it starts puttering and finally just stalls out and drifts into the ditch.

I give this flick TWO Dumpster Nuggets out of FIVE!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

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

31
Dec
12

Rotten Reviews Episode 27: Home Sweet Home

Home-Sweet-Home-Front

Hey Gang!

It’s your old pal, The Primal Root, and to celebrate the holiday season I’ve decided to throw a Trashmas New Year’s Bash over at my pad and everyone is invited! That includes YOU! But beforehand we’re checking out an all time favorite Trash Cinema Slasher film  from 1981 called ‘Home Sweet Home’. It’s supposedly a holiday themed horror movie, but a turkey dinner does not a holiday make, gang. In fact no one even mentions what holiday it is! From what I understand I think it’s supposed to be Thanksgiving?

I digress, get prepared for feral children, satanic electric guitar playing magical Jewish mimes, Body by Jake, body builder body glaze, sex with your pants on, spanish racial sterotypes, bribing cops with “bazooms”, roid rage, flattened grannies,  disapearing balls, hostage negotiations, the missing peas and so much more! It’s The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews Episode 27: Home Sweet Home! Gather round and share it with those you love.

Thank you for all your support and for spreading the word! See you in 2013!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOMjjUA?p=1 width=”640″ height=”390″]

07
Jul
11

Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies: Finger Licking Good

a Primal Root written review

Recommended to me by Craig of Craig’s Killer Coffee here in Tallahassee (Join their fan page on facebook!). ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’ is one very strange yet wholly entertaining concoction of cleavage, cleavers,and carnage. ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’ rehashes some very familiar themes. Auntie Lee, entrepreneur and Satan worshiper (played with psychotic glee by Trash Cinema Legend, Karen Black), runs her remarkably successful Meat Pie empire with the help of her four busty, homicidal nieces (Fawn played by Kristine Rose, Coral played by porn star Teri Weigel , Sky played by Pia Reyes, and Magnolia played by August 86 Playboy Playmate, Ava Fabian) and her mentally handicapped handyman, Larry (played by the always awesome Michael Berryman).

Auntie Lee’s business is run from a lovely, spacious, ranch house settled on miles of property located in the little one-cop town of  Penance, California.  The locals and surrounding counties can’t get enough of Auntie Lee’s meat pies and pay top dollar to procure her delectable, baked concoctions with that unique flavor unlike any other meat product they’ve ever shoveled into their gob. What’s the secret ingredient? What sets these meat pies apart? Hey, anyone who is even remotely familiar with the horror genre knows where this is going…

See, there’s a history of drifters going missing in Penance. They simply vanish without a trace once they step foot into the town and often they are last seen ogling the assets of one or more of Auntie Lee’s nieces. Of course, the town sheriff, Chief Koal (a southern fried…Pat Morita?Who has a stunningly natural southern drawl!) can’t quite put the pieces together. THAT IS, until a big city private investigator shows up in town looking for one of the missing gentlemen, and the fact that Larry has begun to act far loonier than usual.

The film itself has that grainy, early 90’s straight to video feel. The thing looks cheap as dirt but there’s a spirit to this thing that keeps it interesting and kept me entertained even through the more monotonous parts. Plus, early on, there’s this fantastic decapitation scene that’s gotta be seen to be believed. It’s abrupt, violent and hysterical and really sets the bar for the film.  The nieces can’t act worth a damn but that’s not the point. They serve as smiling, seductive, sirens who lead eager, horny morons to their well deserved demise.  The only truly grueling moments in ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’ are the scene that rest solely on the shoulders of these women. Their delivery is stilted and it’s easy to sense they have no grasp on what their lines mean.

The murder scenes range from the somewhat pedestrian (i.e. ice pick to the forehead) to the inspired (i.e. pantry decapitation) and the head scratchingly bizarre (i.e. giant rattle snake fang chest impalement…what?) but they all seem o work within the frame work of such a bizarre film. Oddly enough, the gore is kind of tame. There are very few moments where any excessive blood is sprayed or gore is spattered. And even more odd is the lack of female nudity. I believe we only get one pair of breasts, however, they may be the only natural set of breasts int he entire film. The only other nudity even hinted at is during this exceedingly strange pantomime strip-tease shower scene which takes place behind back lit false walls. The woman is nude, with levitating artificial breasts…the shower also happens to be fake. It’s a fan blowing streamers. Yes, thus particular group of psychopaths are also well skilled mimes and flash dancers. Go figure.

My only wish after watching ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’ is that there would have been a  bit more history and explanation behind this business and those who are involved.  The film is so involved with delivering goofy kills and flashes of female flesh that they never drop us any hints as to who these people are or how they’ve gotten there. Is Larry related to Auntie Lee? If these girls are her nieces where are their parents? I assume Larry might be Auntie’s brother or something and that these girls are orphaned after Auntie Lee kills their parents and has been collecting and brain washing these girls to expand the business.

However, at the films end, he camera pans out to the backyard of Auntie Lee’s ranch and we get a glimpse of all the old, destroyed automobiles of their previous victims that they’ve been hiding out back for who knows how long. It’s a shot similar to the one Robert Rodriguez would use a few years later at the conclusion of he and Tarantino’s vampire/crime wave flick, ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’. I cannot help but wonder if those guys are fans of ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’.

Far from a masterpiece but certainly one to keep you and your buddies entertained on a bad movie night, ‘Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies is a grab bag of our favorite Trash Cinema elements lovingly and cheaply assembled for our consumption. It’s tasty, greasy, guilty pleasure well worth sinking your teeth into. This puppy seems like the perfect flick to watch side by side as a double bill with ‘Motel Hell’. 😉

Stay Trashy.

-The Primal Root

Couldn’t find the trailer for “Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies’ anywhere. So here’s “I Saw Your Mommy’ by Suicidal Tendencies which is  featured in the film. Enjoy!




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