Posts Tagged ‘doctor

26
Oct
16

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Samhain’s Darkest Horse

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created by Matt Ryan Tobin

 

“I do love a good joke and this is the best ever, a joke on the children.” – Conal Cochran, Halloween III: Season of the Witch

a Primal Root written review

If you know me int he slightest, it’s not a secret by any means, I am enormous fan and champion of the misfit third entry in the long running Halloween horror franchise began by John Carpenter and Debra Hill way back in 1978 with the original Halloween. The exploits of escaped mental patient Michael Myers aka: The Shape (Nick Castle), his considerably psychotic child therapist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and the blossoming young virgin babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) came to a close with a fiery explosion at the end of Halloween II. Michael was engulfed in flames that were sure to turn anyone made of flesh and blood to nothing more than a hand full of ash, and CERTAINLY must have killed that goofy nutbag Dr. Loomis who flicked the Bic that blew the explosive gas ward of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital sky high…leaving Laurie Strode alone in an ambulance pondering the terribly contrived and problematic twist that Michael Myers was actually her brother all along, which totally negates the random nature of the horror in the original Halloween and reminds you that if you make sure you know your biological family tree and keep dibs on all the blood thirsty, unkillable maniacs, you can avoid this sort of predicament and spare your friends every Halloween night.

Halloween II would have been a pretty fine conclusion to the story of Haddonfield and it’s brotherly Boogerman, if the original film hadn’t had a far more suitable and deeply unnerving conclusion already, so where was the Halloween franchise to go from it’s 1981 sequel? Would John Carpenter and Debra Hill venture to make another lazy, dull, predictable story about the now totally cremated and burned to smithereens masked madman Michael Myers? Well, if you are familiar with these two remarkably creative, innovative and fearless individuals, you know that this is exactly the road they’re not going to travel. In fact, their decision would go on to become the stuff of legend. The third installment in the Halloween franchise would be a massive departure from the story of Michael Myers and would, instead, tell a brand new, original story based around the holiday of the title, Halloween. It part of an incredibly commercial and brilliant concept of Carpenter and Hill that would make the Halloween franchise a yearly canvas for an infinite number of creative minds and filmmakers to create their own, unique, one off Halloween stories that could birth any number of spinoffs, sequels, remakes, reboots and reimaginings down the road! One paper it sounds like a wonderfully viable and lucrative concept, one that would keep the franchise running strong for decades to come! Debra Hill came up with the basic concept of the story, “witchcraft meets the computer age.” The team contacted Nigel Kneal (writer of the The Quatermass series) who wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what would become Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. 

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Our film begins with the creation of a digital jack-o-lantern set the dark, ominous tones of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s fantastic score. Long gone is the iconic Halloween theme that immediately puts audiences on edge. Here, the score is menacing, low, and mysterious. The audience accustomed to the simple stalk and slash formula of the previous entries are clued in right off the bat that there is something different at work here. The jack-o-lantern is no longer something physical we’ve all held, touched and carved before. No, this is something alien and untouchable. As the credits conclude, the computer generated grinning jack-o-lantern begins to flash over white as an audible buzzing is heard. It’s strange, off putting and the significance of this is a totally mystery to us… for now.

The story centers on Dr. Challis (legendary cult icon, Tom Atkins), a flawed, damaged gentleman who is not by any stretch of the imagination your typical hero. This guy is divorced with two kids, a womanizer and, from what it would seem, a functional alcoholic.  At every turn the man is sexually harassing his staff (or, I guess it would just be called flirting in the early 1980’s) of knocking back beer or bourbon. Even when visiting his ex-wife she mentions, as his pager goes off to call him to the hospital, “drinking and doctoring: GREAT combination.” She hasn’t witnessed this man drinking, he just showed up smelling like booze. Yeah, this guy is our hero, ladies and gents!

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Womanizer. Drunkard. Hero.

Challis arrives at the hospital to care for a man in hysterics who is clutching a popular Silver Shamrock Halloween mask and babbling what seems to be nonsense about “They’re going to kill us! All of us!” Challis sedates the man, puts him in a room, slaps the nurses ass and goes to sleep it off in the doctor’s lounge leaving the poor old guy all alone so minutes later a silent man in a three piece suit can just wonder into his room and dismantle his skull bare handed. When Challis is woken up by the nurses cries over the patients sudden case of collapsed skull, he gives chase, but it’s too late. The silent killer has doused himself in gasoline and blown himself up in his car. Challis looks on with a face that clearly expresses and slightly hungover “What the fuck?” The audience feels his pain.

The murdered man’s daughter, Ellie (the gorgeous Stacey Nelkin) shows up to claim the body and the local authorities try to comfort her by claiming it was just a random psychopath who walked in off the streets and single handidly crunched her father’s head into bloody, flappy chunks. The next day she track Dr. Challis down early in the morning at a local bar and enlists his help to figure out just who wanted her Father dead and why. Dr. Challis, who can never say no to a free booty call, grabs a sixer of Miller High Life, calls his ex-wife to back out of his obligations and heads off the Santa Mira, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, the town her Father was last seen headed before he became a babbling lunatic with a warrant out for his noggin.

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What Dr. Challis and Ellie uncover between swigs of bourbon and all night fuck sessions, is a vast, deadly, evil conspiracy, one that has been conjured up over hundreds of years and will bring the world to it’s knees as horrifically grotesque sacrifice is made. As the mastermind behind this horrifying plan suggests, “The World is going to change tonight.” And if this evil madman’s scheme does pull through, the world will be transformed forever…

***SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!****

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Okay, so it turns out the guy who runs Silver Shamrock novelties, Conal Cochran (played with enthusiasm and cheerful menace by the late, great, Dan O’Herlihy) is a druid and a warlock with a massive army of murderous robot people. He also has stolen a block from stonehenge and is chipping off pieces of the missing block to add just a fragment of the stone into the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks along with a small computer chip. What is the importance of all this? Why is Mr. Cochran willing to murder people in order to ensure these masks are made and are the hottest Halloween masks on the market?  What is the deal with the big giveaway happening Halloween night where all the children must watch their TV’s while wearing their Silver Shamrock masks in order to win? Because it’s all part of a grand scale child sacrifice. That’s right, when the big giveaway happens, those wearing the Silver shamrock Halloween masks will be subjected to a blinking jack-o-lantern. This image in conjunction with the piece from stonehenge will end up melting the head of the child wearing  mask and produce copious amounts of roaches, spiders, and venomous snakes.

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Yes, this plan is totally fucking bonkers. Evil always works best when it’s bonkers, if you ask me. It;s so bizarre, so downright disturbing and nightmarish, it totally devastated me when I was a kid watching Halloween III: Season of the Witch for the first time. In the typical language of cinema, the kid never dies. Then you see Halloween III: Season of the Witch, you do not only get to witness a little kid get his head melted, but you watch as he, still living, chokes up rattle snakes, roaches and and tarantulas before his horrified parents eyes. I honestly watched the scene much like Dr. Challis does as he watches through a monitor in Cochran’s secret warehouse. You cannot believe what you’re seeing. It;s so dark and weird and macabre and unflinchingly grim…it then dawns on you that in matter of hours this is going to happen everywhere. In every living room all over the world. I know a lot of people bring up that THE BIG GIVEAWAY is at 9pm and that the movie didn’t account for time zones. Ugghh, I am sure the time zones are adjusted and that the filmmakers just didn’t want to make it monotonous by listing ALL THE DIFFERENT TIME ZONES all of the world.  Anyhoo, it’s a nightmare to imagine as kids die a prolonged, agonizing, supernatural death and their poor parents then get attacked by the living, nasty contents of their now melted spawns cranium. I can’t help but imagine what this little practical joke will do to the economic thrust of the holiday season. Shit. Little Buddy’s head is gone, I guess we can return that Atari to Toys R’ Us…

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Also, I must address the Ellie controversy. A lot of people wonder if she was  robot all along or not. My theory is that Ellie was a real, flesh and blood human being through the whole movie until she is captured by Cochran and used to lure Dr. Challis to the Silver Shamrock Factory. Cochran had a crude robot duplicate of her made, Dr. Challis rescues that robot,and Ellie is left to burn alive in the Silver Shamrock explosion. Yeah, my theory is dark, bleak and assumes the female lead suffers a brutal death by burning all alone in the bowels of mad toy maker’s factory, but to me that is the appeal of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Our hero is inept, saves no one, including his own children and the world witnesses the absolute terror that Conal Cochran has unleashed upon the world. The film ends with Tom Atkins, Dr. Challis, screaming into the phone as the Silver shamrock jack-o-lantern flashes on the screen, “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIIITTTT!” And the credits roll. He doesn’t win. We are left to imagine the outcome of this gruesome terrorist attack. To this day, the ending of Halloween III: Season of the Witch sends chills down my spine. If you think about it, that ending could symbolize the corporate take over of America. Our youth poisoned by what they are fed day in and day out through all forms of media until their heads rot and the same nasty, mean, venomous shit comes pouring from their mouths. Fuck…could Atkins have been trying to warn us all long? Did the evil that occurred at the end of Halloween III: Season of the Witch already occur? I take a glimpse from time to time and see what comes spewing into my living room through cable television and it’s not hard to imagine that the kind of televised consumer apocalypse may have already happened.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a the underdog of the entire franchise. History speaks for itself. The movie bombed horribly due to the fact it was critically panned and the fans wanted more of the same, which they got a few years later in the hideously underwhelming Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which I do enjoy, it’s just a really, really, cheap, poorly shot, and not very entertaining or inspired movie.

To be be perfectly honest, I couldn’t stand Halloween III: Season of the Witch when I first saw it as a child. It was too dark, too mean and there was no Michael Myers!I was right there with the folks who were disappointed in the lack of familiar elements.  However, time has been very kind to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it has grown into a sort of cult favorite among horror movie aficionados. After watching the same Michael Myers bullshit over and over and over I began to go back to Halloween III: Season of the Witch just to remind myself why I didn’t like it. Just like many of my horror brethren, I think many of us found what we initially presumed to be the film’s weaknesses to actually be this movie’s greatest strengths. Folks like myself who revel in the third installments stand alone story, bizarre gore effects, disturbing mystery, incredible fresh and creepy score, nightmarish concepts and and damn fine performances. It’s the last of the high quality, well shot and intriguing Halloween films and possibly my favorite of the entire series, including John Carpenter’s original, which I have tremendous respect for…but Halloween III: Season of the Witch is such a one of kind masterpiece of the macabre, I look forward to watching it every single Halloween season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Myers and the original Halloween just fine, but like I said earlier, I always like my evil to be a bit more fucking bonkers side of things.

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created by Cavity Colors

Every October I watch as people create more and more original art based on Halloween III: Season of the Witch as it’s cult status and admiration grows. I’m not going to lie, it brings a salty tear to this Trash Cinema fans eye every year as I watch what was once the laughing stock and whipping boy of the Halloween franchise become more and more the stand out and most beguiling dark corner of the whole series.

I award Halloween III: Season of the Witch 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

 

 

12
Sep
15

The Last American Virgin (1982) or The Heartbreak Kid (NSFW)

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a Primal Root written review

“I’ll take a rocky road!” – Diane Franklin as Karen in The Last American Virgin

Like so many of my peers I spent my pre-teen years glued to the late night cable every Friday and Saturday night hoping to get a glimpse pf some nekkid female flesh. And you know as well as I do that typically the best place to find bouncing, glorious, nekkid young ladies beside slasher movies was the pot o’ gold known as the “Teen Sex Comedy” aka: Teenspolitation. You know the kind, Porky’s, My Tutor, The Cheerleaders, Screw Balls, Private School, etc. where a group of guys, typically three dudes, are on a quest to get laid and/or see naked women and sometimes end up learning a little something about themselves and the nature of mature, adult love along the way. Watching these films as a kid in the cover of darkness in my living room I imagined that this was exactly what was in store for me in the years to come. Sexual escapades, peep holes in the locker room, girls getting naked and attacking me while I slept.

Of course, now I am in my thirties. I am thrilled to be married to the love of my life, and I have a bit of experience under my belt (pun intended) that I will be sure to pass on to our future spawnage one day as they discover the wonderful realm of the opposite sex and Teensploitation. I will do my damnedest to make sure The Last American Virgin is their introduction to the Teen Sex Comedy genre of Trash Cinema. Because it starts out fun and stupid, but becomes something far more honest and dark by the time the credits roll.

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The Last American Virgin tells the story of Gary  (Lawrence Monson of Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter …uh, fame), a young high school pizza delivery guy and the last last American virgin of our film’s title. Gary appears to spend every waking moment when he’s not delivering pizza getting into bizarre, awkwardly comical, borderline criminal sexual misadventures with his two best buds, lady killer and local stud Rick (Steve Antin, that kid who gets propelled off of a toilet while taking a dump in The Goonies) whose hair gel must have cost half the budget of the film and David (Joe Rubbo in his first of only three acting rolls) as the very natural and truly funny overweight comic relief. These three promise the girls cocaine to get them in the sack at Gary’s place, and then under the gun, feed them lines of Sweet & Lo with a side of “Crispy Chips” before Gary’s parent’s show up and discover a bunch of topless teenage girls stomping around the house and nearly leads to Gary’s Mom getting sexually assaulted by David. If they’re not lying to blossoming teenage girls in order to fuck them or trying to fuck one another’s Mothers, they can be counted on to be having a hardon measuring contest in the high school locker room, “The guy with the biggest tool wins the pool!” or waiting in line at the apartment of one of Gary’s horny pizza delivery clients in order to run a train on her, or attempting to drown their recently acquired crabs in a public pool.  Yeah, it’s typical Teen Sex Comedy stuff, but it has a bit of a darker, edgier feel than most.

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Gary happens to be absolutely smitten with a new girl in school, the gorgeous Karen (Diane Franklin, from Terror Vision, Amityville Horror II: The Possession, Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) whose first line, as she orders a scoop of ice cream and the local teen hangout, foretells not only her story, but Gary’s, “I’ll take a rocky road.” In fact, Gary orders the same thing. Maybe I am reading too much into these character’s ice cream preferences, but after watching this movie a couple times, I can’t help but think this is am excellent use of ominous ice cream flavors by the screen writer in order to drop a hint as to where this movie is going to end up drop kicking you to.

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Gary is so creepily in love with Karen he deflates the tire on her bicycle one morning in order to drive by in his “Pink Pizza” car and offer her a ride to school. This is straight up stalker behavior. We’re supposed to empathize with Gary as he offers her help, then a ride to school and is then rejected when he asks her out on a date before she heads off to class. But Gary is kind of a creeper. Karen claims she can’t go out with Gary to a party because she has something else to do. What is this other thing she has to do? Well, turns out she is attending the exact same party but is hanging all over Rick, the local high school cherry buster and go-to fuck buddy. As expected, Gary is heart broken, ends up drinking an entire bottle of Jack Daniels before acting like an idiot an being sent home where he embarrasses himself further by trying to fuck one of his Mom’s friends.

Typical life of a teenage, man.

Also, I just want to state that Karen’s best friend is played by none other than Kimmy Robertson from TV’s Twin Peaks. I think she’s supposed to be playing the annoying nerdy friend, but man is she cute. Plus she looks absolutely fetching in her tiny bikini by the pool. Just sayin,’ I don’t see why no one wants to date her in the movie.

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See, turns out Karen is a virgin just like Gary and he wants to date Karen, and be good to her, treat her right and romantically, gently lose their virginity to one another in his warm or her parent;s warm bed. What is it with people wanting to fuck int heir parent’s bed in teen sex movies? I guess it’s bigger than their own bed? Still, the lack of space of my own bed would be preferable to getting it on in the bed my parents presumably do on a regular basis. ESPECIALLY if I;m popping a girls cherry. How in the Hell do you explain the blood stains to your folks? They go away for the weekend and come home to think their son is an axe murderer who seduces women and then chops them to pieces between the sheets. Is it worth the risk?  I mean, if it were my kid I would laugh my ass off and perhaps take the ruined sheets and have it sewn into a commemorative flag and have it framed for them before hanging it in their room.

Sorry, got side tracked there, Gary know that if Karen dated Rick she will end up unceremoniously getting her fresh virgin pussy torn up by a guy who has any number of STD’s and honestly doesn’t really give a shit about her beyond the fact that she is female and looks to be an easy lay. Quite a bit of The Last American Virgin‘s run time is devoted to Gary trying to keep Rick from busting out Karen. Now, this is a pretty standard, undignified stereotype of a guy coveting a young lady as a thing as opposed to a fellow human being. Something of a trophy to be had. Gary is supposed to be a good guy, but he is so wrapped up in trying to get Karen to do exactly what HE wants as opposed to what SHE wants even though it is apparent to the viewer that she is making the decision to fuck a jerk, but that is HER decision to make, even if it’s a pretty lame one. Hey, girls can fuck whoever they want to, too, Gang. So lay the fuck off. As if Gary would be any better a decision. This guy has possessive “Nice Guy” written all over him. Sure, he would be sweet at first, but I guarantee you he will want to know exactly where you are at all times, what you;re doing and photographic evidence and eye witness testimony  if you are out of his eye sight for more than ten minutes.

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 ****SPOILERS AHOY!****

So, despite Gary’s best efforts, Karen gets fucked by Rick in the announcement booth at the high school football stadium under cover of darkness. It’s actually a pretty great scene as Karen gets mounted by Rick, makes that little *gasp* as she gets tagged all the while sad sack Gary hangs out just below under the bleachers and gently weeps that the girl he wants is getting deflowered at that very moment just a hundred feet or so over his crying eyes. It’s a fantastically sexy/sad moment and the two moments, one of sexual arousal and one of deep self pity is fucking amazing. Few teen sex movies ever go after this kind of emotional punch and it works splendidly well. It’s an emotional place I;m sure most of us have been before. Sure, it;s selfish, it’s probably a little lame, but it’s honest and it’s real. The person we want to be with so much refuses to give you the time of day and enjoys to the company and genitals of some other person who seems to so easily always get their way. It’s rough, and you hate feeling bad for yourself, but you can’t deny these stupid fucking emotions.

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Now, if this were the only scene of such raw emotional content, I would consider The Last American Virgin to be a resounding success. But this film is not satisfied with having us relive one of the darkest moments of our adolescents, no. The Last American Virgin is not done with us yet. See, fast forward after that moment of pleasure in the nicotine stained, B.O. scented announcer’s booth, Rick wants nothing to do with Karen anymore. Why is this? Because it’s almost Christmas break and he wants to go skiing and bang some other random chicks. But more importantly, Karen is pregnant. Gary finds out while trying to comfort an obviously deeply hurt and upset Karen and promptly attacks Rick in the school’s library. Gary claims Karen is a slut and that the baby could be anyone’s before piling into a VW van with a bunch of hot to trot teenage horn dogs and leaving all the responsibility for his actions behind him. Rick, what a guy!

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Well, “Nice Guy” Gary ends up taking care of Karen and paying for her abortion. Yes, he pays for the abortion Karen wants of the baby she and Rick made. In one brilliantly conceived, acted, shot and edited montage we watch as Gary takes Karen to the clinic and then goes around town scraping up cash to pay for the procedure, $250 to be exact. He pawns his stero equipment, raids his parents rainy day fund, and even begs his boss at Pink Pizza for some cash. Gary works his ass off to get the money together and all this is intercut with scenes of Karen undressing, the doctor snapping on rubber gloves, her legs being spread and bound down as she is prepared for the abortion. There is one shot during this montage that haunts me. It’s a shot that lasts no longer than maybe ten seconds, yet speaks volumes. The shot begins on Karen’s panties as she begins to slowly take them off in the doctor’s office. We see her pubic hair peek over the top of her panties as the camera pans up across her belly past her beautiful breasts and up to her lovely face as she begins to cry. Mother fucker, THIS is one incredible moment in teensploitation! This is cause and effect! We are instantly titillated, as we have been programmed to be, we see the objectification, crotch, sexy belly, a lovely rack, and then we see the face of this beautiful young woman in absolute agony. We register the pain, regret and the horror. It’s a shot of dark, brutal reality applied directly to your trashy, jaded little heart and it stings, man. It stings bad. Because the point is made abundantly clear, simply, efficiently. That these moments of pleasure, these brash decisions we follow in the sake of fleeting passion, these fucking choices have consequences! Again, it;s an ingenious moment of juxtaposition unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in a movie of this ilk. Sure, Fast Times at Ridgement High has an abortion take place, but it was off screen and no one ever really looked all that torn up about it. The Last American Virgin fucking guts it’s audience, breaking the conventions of the teensploitation form, and shows us that the teenage quest to get laid is a fools quest, that if you are irresponsible, if you rush into things you are not yet ready for, you will face the horribly consequences and be faced with some serious choices. Wrap it up EVERY TIME, kiddos! Did I mention this fucking montage is set to U2’s I Will Follow? I will never hear this sone the same way again…

Well, after these harrowing events, Karen and Gary bond a bit during her recovery and Gary buys her a ring he is going to present to her at a party, he assumes he has finally won Karen;s heart by showing he’s responsible, caring, non-judgmental and will to lie, beg and steal in order to resolve Karen’s bad decisions. Gary  shows up to the party and finds Karen making out with Rick, her aborted fetus’s Daddy, who is back from his Christmas Ski and Fuck Fest Gary splits, understandably devastated. The final shot of the film is of Gary as he drives off into the dark night in tears and the credits roll over his sopping wet face. Still a virgin, forever alone. Ever been kicked in the balls with a steel toed boot? Well, get ready to experience the cinematic equivalent.

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The Last American Virgin is one excruciatingly dark story. Unapologetically honest, brutally raw in it’s depiction of the wages of teen sex, The Last American Virgin is a phenomenal flick. It’s like the Requiem for a Dream of Teen Sex Comedies. Sure, the first half is a lot of laughs and whacky sexual hijinks, but that last half sure busts up that party pretty fast. I’ve never seen a flick like The Last American Virgin. I mean is this a feminist film? The “Nice Guy” manifesto? I think this film is far beyond either, really. It drop these conventions, these labels, and portrays these teens as inexperienced, often times selfish, often irresponsible human beings where the typical teen movie creates nothing more than characatures of tired, old stereotypes. There are no easy answers in The Last American Virgin. Like life itself, so many of these moments that shape us, the traumas that make us who we are go without any closure or reconciliation. The Last American Virgin captures this perfectly. Sure, it starts out as a bit of goofy, escapist tits and ass fueled teen sex comedy, but by the end you will feel like you you got whacked in the but by a sledgehammer as reality rears it’s ugly head.

The Last American Virgin is a classic and I cannot recommend it enough.

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

The Primal Root says you gotta see this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Nov
13

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!

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*Turn Down the Lights, Where Applicable.*

Hey Gang, if you will humor me for just one post I would like to make an attempt to express my love and admiration for a television show that served as one of the primary inspirations for The Trash Cinema Collective and The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews. One of the funniest and most inspired comedy series to ever grace the boobtube. An unholy amalgam of science fiction, puppet show, Saturday horror matinee and sketch comedy show. It’s influence is still felt to this very day and it’s legend  continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, this show turns 25 years old.

Of course, I am speaking of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So, excuse me while I turn into a drooling fanboy and make a lame autobiographical post about how the show changed my life, shaped my entire being and  get all sentimental. Read on if you dare…

When I was in first grade my parents decided to uproot us from Winter Haven, Florida, the town where I was spawned, and move us up North to the capital city of our rotted penis shaped state, Tallahassee, Florida. It was a pretty abrupt and unexpected change of scenery for me, one I resisted and revolted against with all my might. Having to leave behind my friends and everything I was so familiar with was a terrifying prospect.  The idea of starting all over again in some new town, in a new school, with a bunch of new kids was enough to evoke the first panic attack of my young life.

Of course, as life teaches us, everything changes whether we like it or not.  I adapted fairly well to my new environment thanks to my family, primarily my younger cousins Steven and Patrick, who I started hanging out with habitually just about as soon as I arrived, and some understanding, supportive teachers. There was also one other element that eased my transition and helped me to forget my woes over having been tossed headlong into this awkward, new phase of my life; a television show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

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Flipping through the channels one Saturday or Sunday morning I came across some cruddy old b-movie, with these funny little silhouettes in the bottom right corner. It looked like some regular Joe and a couple of funny looking monsters, or robots…maybe aliens? I had no clue. But as I listened it dawned on me that these little guys were doing what my Mom, Steven, Patrick and I always did over such cheese-ball entertainment…they were cracking jokes! And great ones! Sure, many of of them flew over my head, but a lot of the appeal had to do with their delivery.  Soon, the little people in the movie theater row got up and walked out of frame and the camera pulled back through a colorful, fun assortment of doors and hallways leading back to a room where the three folks in the theater were suddenly right in front of me. I was soon acquainted with three captives on Dr. Forrester’s diabolical Satellite of Love (The S.O.L., for short) Joel Robinson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.  My life would never be the same.

Needless to say, I was hooked. My cousins and I would watch it just about every weekend and laugh our elementary school aged asses off at just about everything these jokesters said.  I was never quite sure of the shows schedule in those days, but the chances were if I tuned into The Comedy Channel, later Comedy Central, during Saturday or Sunday, they would eventually be on the air. The premise was simple and spelled out brilliantly in the show’s opening theme song, here, I will let Joel explain…

The show was unapologetic in it’s  silliness, boundlessly creative and unabashedly intelligent. To watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 you had to actively pay attention to the action on screen while simultaneously listening to Joel and his robot friend’s riffs and out two and two together in your own head. Sure, many of the jokes reference things you might not know about or not be in the vein of comedy specifically catering to your liking, but as Dr. Forrester and Crow T. Robot himself, Trace Beaulieu has stated in the past: “Hey, if you don’t like that joke, there will be another one in about 3 seconds.” The humor, jokes and references span an enormous spectrum  so that there will always be something for everyone in each episode.

Across the board, the characters, puppets and all, were brought to life with such manic creativity and energy, you couldn’t help but pay attention. The host segments, the parts of the show taking place between the stints in the theater, often mocked the film’s themselves in the form of skits and small productions Joel and The Bots would put on for The Mads back down at Gizmonic Institute, later Deep 13…later Pearl’s VW van, later still, Pearl’s gothic castle.  These segments also treated the viewer to the “Steampunk over a decade before Steampunk existed” set created with what looked like nothing more than garbage,  junk purchased at the flea market, Styrofoam pillars and hot glue. It was the epitome of bargain basement, do it yourself creativity. They had a budget, they worked with the scraps they had and they ended up putting together a show with a unique, one of a kind appearance that looked like a million bucks, but probably cost as much as a dinner for two at Red Lobster.

Mystery movie

Between elementary school and high school MST3K came and went in my life as I moved around a lot after my parent’s divorce. I collected episodes on VHS as I spotted them and would watch as often as I could depending on who our cable provider was. Call it luck or call it fate, I got the pleasure of seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during it’s initial run when it played in Dallas, Texas. I just happened to be in town for my older brother, Trey’s, college graduation and got to see this milestone in MST3K history in the company of my Mom and my  late Grandmother affectionately known as Bobo. Hearing Bobo laugh as hard as I did through MST3K: The Movie, I often think she might have just been laughing at hearing me laugh, is one of my fondest memories I have with her.

I have since had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with  many of the creators and talent behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as experienced their riffing skills live and in person. I only wish I could put into words just how much their creation means to me.  Some folks, their passion might be Dr. Who, others Star Trek or Firefly maybe even  Battlestar Galactica. For me, my science fiction television allegiance will always belong to Gizmonic Institute, Deep 13 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. A show that has always had it’s heart in the right place, filled my life with laughter, brought my friends and family closer,  influenced and inspired me in countless ways and always reminded us to “breath and just relax”. Not to mentions they had TWO final episodes and neither one of them sucked.

I am now an adult with a  fireplace mantle decked out with every box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino and Shout Factory have so far released and not a week goes by that I don’t watch at least one episode.  Those guys and gals can still make me laugh all these years later. In fact, I would say they keep on getting better with age, which is no small feat.

MST3K

To Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff,  Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl and the rest of the Best Brains Team, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re show is an even bigger part of my life now than it was when I was a child.  I’ve shared and introduced your creation to so many great and wonderful people who mean the world to me. Heck, the love of my life and I finally got together after months of being “friends” thanks to your outstanding short “Assignment Venezuela!” Who knew your brand of zaniness would inspire such a romantic evening with my very own Creepy Girl?

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!  May your legacy live on forever.

Love,

-Kevin (The Primal Root)

PUSH THE BUTTON, FRANK!

30
Sep
13

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988) Should Have Stayed Dead

If only this movie were half as cool as it's poster.

If only this movie were half as cool as it’s poster.

a Primal Root written review

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Thom Mathews as Joey in “Return of the Living Dead Part 2”

1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”  was a cynical, bleak, hilarious gory, nihilistic balls to the wall reinvention of the living dead zombie tropes,  “Return of the Living Dead part 2” is not a step back in regards to quality and creativity, but a disastrous leap backwards over a cliff onto a landfill full of busted whiskey bottles and used up ideas .  “The Return of the Living Dead’s” horror began with a shambling, rotten, corpse pleading for “More Brains!”, which is exactly what the film delivered. An intelligent, fresh and uncompromising vision of what the living dead could be when you break free from all the steadfast rules and restraint set in place by George Romero in his  1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.”  Return of the Living Dead is fierce, brilliant and everything you could ever want from a horror film of it’s breed. It’s a one of a kind and to make a sequel would be pretty goddamn tough…especially with the ending it delivered.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned such a horrendously bad, wet fart of a sequel than “The Return of the Living Dead Part 2.” Rarely has a cinematic follow up missed the mark so widely, it’s pretty astounding. Long gone is the wit and dark sense of humor that poured forth from the original, in it’s place are lame jokes, Three Stooges Gags and cast members from the previous film, James Karen and Thom Mathews, returning  as grave robbers with nothing to do but recite their funniest lines from the original film and literally succumb to the same fate they did on the first go round. These jokes were great and worked the first time we heard them, but when you lift the best material from the first movie and reuse it line for line, it’s stale and depressing.

That's what the original "Return of the Living Dead" was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

That’s what the original “Return of the Living Dead” was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

Here’s the low down, there’s a little ginger kid named Jesse (Michael Kenworthy who also appeared in the excellent 1988 remake of “The Blob”) who lives in a developing suburb that looks eerily similar to Questa Verde from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” or that suburb where Elliot lived in Speilberg’s “E.T.” Anyhoo, the kid is chock full of quips and one liners which he unleashes on some neighborhood bullies who he ends up getting picked on by and, eventually, discovers one of those  “corpse in a can” barrels the military likes to lose all over this great nation of ours., which has come to rest in a sewage runoff near the local cemetery. Noticing a decomposing body through the barrels glass lid initially has the kids running for their lives, but as you and I both know from “Stand By Me” young boys cannot stay away from dead bodies and the lure of this corpse barrel proves to be the undoing of the two bullies picking on Jesse. Two head back later that day, bang on the barrel a little bit, and for their efforts are greeted with a nice juicy blast of 2-4-5 Trioxin, the reanimation juice introduced in the original, when the canister opens spraying the boys right in the kisser. hold on to your brains, ’cause we all know just where that leads, don’t we?

As night falls in our little hamlet, the Trioxin makes it’s way to the nearby cemetery and, as if Mother Nature is in on the joke, the sky opens up and a downpour begins soaking the soil and the corpses it contains, priming these cadavers for a night of brain skull cracking and brain slurping. Also in the cemetery are, as I mentioned before, a couple of grave robbers who happen to be the two very talented character actors, James Karen and Thom Mathews, who are for the most part just going through the motions and spouting their greatest hits for the run time and earning their paychecks for appearing in such lazy bullshit. Well, the dead come back to unlife right on cue, but this time they rise from their tombs to a goofy, Looney Tunes style score and are prone to slapstick and pratfalls as they try to pull themselves out of their graves. It’s all painfully unfunny, uninspired, and far from exciting.

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Soon the movie gets into the scream-a-thon where in place of the originals frantic, insane pace and sense of panic, director Ken Wiederhorn decides to just have the characters scream nonstop for about thirty minutes. Again, this is tedious and boring. As the core cast goes on screaming and wailing, on and on and on, as they run around the suburbs, peel out in a cherry red convertible and freak out as a disembodied hand wiggles around in the back seat is enough to make you start wondering just where in the Hell you put your handgun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy and the epitome of shitty film making.

As you can guess, Thom Mathews and James Karen both turn into zombies and Thom manages to seduce his girlfriend into letting him eat her brains in an awkward scene where she appears to get some kind of sexual gratification as her boyfriend’s teeth crunch open her skull…Just as this occurs and ROTLDp2 dangles the possibility of getting interesting in our face, it unceremoniously yanks it away from us and we find ourselves stuck with Jesse, his sister (whose bouncing breasts during her workout routine early on hypnotized me when I was in third grade) and the dashing cable repair man (played by Dana Ashbrook from TV’s Twin Peaks) as Jesse solves every problem and saves the day…that’s right, an 8 year old kid halts the zombie apocalypse.  In a matter of hours. By luring them into a power station and then simply electrocuting them all…Ooooh, I don’t know…

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

I cannot express enough just how unfunny and uninspired this shitty Speilberg wannabe hunk of shit is. Replacing bold social satire, dark humor and genre innovation with claptrap kid’s movie nonsense  is a disgrace to the former film. It’s pointless, dull and only succeeds in being exceedingly forgettable. This series is, as of 2013, five films long and every single sequel manages to completely miss the point of what made the original so special. I understand that ROTLDp2 has a kind of cult following, but for the life of me, I cannot find a single person who genuinely likes this movie. If you do, I would honestly love to hear what it’s appeal is because I just can’t figure it out.

The acting is serviceable (Everyone, scream a lot! Little kid, say something sarcastic and obvious that sounds like a screenwriter wrote it as opposed to a child speaking naturally!) , the punk soundtrack and excellent score has been replaced by bargain basement hair metal and a score that would not be out of place in a Woody Woodpecker short, the set pieces are fittingly cheesy and crafted to be as comical and none threatening as possible, and the film and the story itself are lacking any teeth whatsoever which is truly saddening when considering the source material.  At the end of the day, trying to follow up “The Return of the Living Dead” with a worthy sequel is a fool’s errand. Still, to see it spawn something so half hearted, unimaginative and shockingly boring really left this fan of Trash Cinema feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as "Return of the Living Dead Part 2" ended!  Woooooah...

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” ended! Woooooah…

If “The Return of the Living Dead” is lightening in a bottle,   “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” is more like poop in your pants.

I give this shit smear 1/2 out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.  Approach with caution.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Jul
10

Video Dance Party! Move Your Dead Bones by Dr. Re-Animator

a Primal Root Dance Party

Over the years horror film marketing campaigns have given us some interesting and cool music videos would play on the 24 hour cycle at MTV in an attempt to lure us, along with our wallets, over to the local googaplex and then over to the record store to purchase the tie-in soundtrack album. Freddy’s done it, Jason tried his hand at it once or twice, and even Ghostface made several tie-in music video ventures.

However, no horror franchise has ever made a musical single/video tie-in to their film like the one located in the special features of the Beyond Re-Animator DVD.

Seeing as the Re-Animator series has always been under the radar, especially now in it’s third entry released back in 2003, it seemed like the last film on earth that you’d produce a music video for. It was released straight to video here in the states, music videos were a dying art form by then, and it was the third entry in a cult franchise.

But somehow…they created a masterpiece.

Holy Crap! Now, not only do I want to see Beyond Re-Animator, I also want to dance my ass off!

Who exactly is Dr. Reanimator? I have no F-ing clue. I have done MINUTES of research and could find nothing on the guy. All I know for sure is this guy know how to throw a party! Dressed as a Doctor of medicine, looking like a gay Spanish pool boy, and crooning with a creaky, deep, sexy voice, Dr. Reanimator informs us as to what his “Green Color” will do for us once we ingest it. “Green Color” must be Dr. West’s experimental serum.

What exactly will it do? Let Dr. Reanimator explain…

“If you’re feeling dead i’ll be your re-animator
I’ve got a way to bring you to life
A superior existence with no one to control you
Where you can always do what you like

Let me give you some green color
And you will ask for more
You will see that you’ve never felt this way before
Party without limits, have sex and don’t be blue
Freedom is eternal for you, you, you!”

Hell, I’m sold!

Apparently, not only does West’s serum bring you back to life with super human strength and an uncontrollable rage to tear everyone in the room into dozens of mangled, meaty chunks, but it also is a liberator of the spirit and will allow you to have promiscuous sex without the threat of a guilty conscious. Quite the claim for a drug whose test runs have been far from stellar. It’s also not a far leap to take the title of “Move Your Dead Bones” and the song itself as a jingle for a male erectile dysfunction medication.

Move Your Dead Bones...with Viagra!

What I love about this video and the song itself is how off track it feels with the rest of the series. I always imagined some kind of indie new wave sort of sound representing Re-Animator, Something along the lines of Talking Heads (whose poster for Stop Making Sense makes a cameo i the original film) or Mars Volta. Never would I have attached the concept of a Pop Club Dance Song to Re-Animator and Dr. West’s sick experiments. On paper it sound absurd. But in glorious reality, this decision to go Disco worked in the films favor.

Re-Anmator is a strange, quirky, and unusual horror series. There’s none other like it. In a way, it makes perfect sense that the one piece of pop music attached to the series would be just as strange and quirky. Move Your Dead Bones is a classic. Now let’s go wiggle our butts on the dance floor!

Stay Trashy!
-The Primal Root




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