Posts Tagged ‘essay


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

a Primal Root written review

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

"I feel good about me!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!




Uncle Grumpy Fuck Remembers: “Manos”: The Hands of Fate (Part One of Two)

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here! I just wanted to introduce you to our latest contributor to the Trash Cinema Collective,the lovable little sleazeball, Uncle Grumpy Fuck! He will be joining us to muse about the most notable of dumpster nuggets from yesteryear in his own, trademarked, bizarro style. Note, this man doesn’t give a shit about our societies need for political correctness, the guy calls it like he sees it and never holds back. And this makes his writing incredibly funny to read. So without any further a due, enjoy Uncle Grumpy Fuck’s look back at the Trash Cinema Classic, “Manos”: Te Hands of Fate.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root

an Uncle Grumpy Fuck recollection

…mmmm, yes, that’s good sweetie,the peppermint is just a little further down, just keep..oh.. hi! You’re old pal Uncle Grumpyfuk here- no-no sweetie just keep going- just babysitting the grands, heh,heh. Today we’ll be reviewing the masterpiece from the creator of Lassie, “Manos, Hands of Fate” …mmm oohhh yes sweetie,there’s your peppermint,now wipe your mouth and run along Billy,go find and play with your sister! Heh,kids!

The film begins with some light traffic,the blood begins to congeal. A convertible pulls over and we’re introduced to Mike…Something (Hal Warren,the director and producer,who also wrote the screenplay,talk about cheap, jeez,ah these Hollywood jews…), and his wife Margaret..Something(Diane Mahree,cute but possesses the acting talent of chloroform), we’ll call the couple Mr. & Mrs. W and their unfortunate daughter ‘Debbie’ who is apparently severely retarded,therefore she will be addressed as all retarded children should be addressed, with revulsion and nauseous contempt. Her little dog sucks too.
The family drives for a few moments when they get pulled by a pair of representatives of our police state for extortion purposes, however after the father rightfully blames everything on their retarded daughter the gullible swine allow them to leave unmolested, due to a moment of unaccustomed empathy for the couple’s shame. After a number by Urtha Kitt is abruptly interrupted by some shroomed out beatnik warbling about ‘doing a thing’ or some such thing, it sounded disgusting, we flash to a young Sodomite couple swilling alcohol and fornicating publicly,and just as we’re led to believe things are looking up, shit! Here come the Keystone ..Police ..Guys to break up their tonsil-rimming and send them on their way. This is one scene that truly reflects real life btw, Zig Fucking Heil America!!! Lousy Pigs!…pant,pant…
Anyway, back to Mr and Mrs W,with their little gimp and her crappy dog,they’ve become lost and hit a dead end, turn around and quicker than you can say ‘anal probe fapfest’ they come upon a compound…that wasn’t there before! Spooky, but there,framed in the doorway is the true lead of the film, Torgo the twitching spastic hunchback played with masterful grace and intensity by John Reynolds, esquire. It must be said that Reynolds portrayal of our tortured hunchback sets the new standard by which all hunchbacks have been graded since, Charles Lawton and Christy McNichol shall be forgotten forever more.

Though extremely reluctant, and understandably so due to their unfortunate daughter and her four-legged mangeloaf, and despite his warnings that his ‘Master’ will be displeased by their presence the gracious Torgo invites the family to stay. His convincingly painful limp and jittery mannerism are a quintessential study of the method style of acting. As they enter the adults immediately halt to admire the fashionable Layne Bryant Fall decor, notable the mantle decorations, some charred human arms and a bust of Spock, and above the mantle is a flattering portrait of the Master; apparently Torgo is a disciple of Frank Zappa and his faithful doberman pincher familiar, Tunafish Sandwich Man. As the couple stares stupidly at the painting,secretly gagueing it’s potential value on ebay, at least 14.00 surely, Debbie tries to …I’m sorry,I apologize but my disgust demands I refrain from using an undeserved human name for the couple’s genetic malfunction, therefore I will simply use the first syllable and henceforth refer to her simply as Deh, and as for her crappy little dog, he shall be known from here on as…Crappy Fucking Little Dog. That’s better…anyway she tries to cornhole the crusty pooch when it actually stands on two legs and begs to be taken to the gas chamber rather than spend another horrid day with their little tax writeoff.

Suddenly outside a castrated dingo achieves a righteous orgasm and Mr W and Crappy Fucking Little Dog rush out to watch and possibly participate,however the excitement is too much for Crappy Fucking Little Dog and his tiny inbred heart gives out. He croaks on the spot and Joy is ours, Manos be praised! The parents tell a convincing lie to Deh, that Crappy Fucking Little Dog ran away to find a normal,unretarded little girl to love. Her tears give us comfort. They decide to leave but the car won’t start, they whine at the patient Torgo for a minute,then again their attention becomes arrested by the hypnotic portrait of Zappa,and while thus enthralled Deh wanders outside to look for mealworms.

After realizing she’d disappeared and thoroughly searching the sparsely furnished room they try standing on the front stoop and calling in an almost convincing note of despair. They turn to see Deh with Tunafish Sandwich Man who tears away from the rancid smelling childling the moment the opportunity presents itself. Deh croaks out in her caustic tard language of some strange people (note irony), she then takes them to a nearby clearing to find Frank and some girls from his drum circle crashed out, no doubt wacked on wheatgrass goofballs and excessive masturbation.
The family of 2 1/2 rush back to Torgo’s abode and while the father tries unsuccessfully to start the car, Torgo and Mrs. W get busy, yeah. Torgo’s Bondesque technique and charm rival even Shields and Yarnell on demerol, lulling Mrs. W into a frozen figure of wanton desire (look for wet spot in front of dress, oh yeah) as Torgo masterfully pushes all of her shoulder buttons,Torgo you dog, you are the Man! His sensual afterglow recalls Paris Hilton after getting shagged like an alley cat on the web,meow! ..and, like a sated feline Mrs. W slaps him passionately signalling that the coupling is complete. No piggies to break up this raunchy porn scene,no-siree Bob!

Meanwhile Torgo has made his way to the glen and after cackling and babbling at everyone he gives one of the drum circle girls some sweet Torgo shoulder love, (going for the hat trick tonight, you dog!) then passes out from the effort, yeah, we know about that one eh guys? Heh,oh yeah! You go buddy!
Torgo heads back to the house and makes his way to the bedroom window where the still tingling Mrs. W is stripping in anticipation of more shoulder action. Our hero leers in from the window like Rosie O’Donnell at a cheerleading contest,in a truly  classic scene for the ages. Mrs. W pretends to be surprised, yeah, nice ‘acting’ baby. Mr. W has gone back to the glade when Torgo puts a whippin’ on him with his hand stick, and an awesome duet by Liberace and John Coltrane begins, the saxophone virtuosity is amazing while Torgo kills 3 minutes of film time tying up the uncooperative director/producer screenwriter. He then leaves the unconscious father for the dingos to devour at their leisure…



Towards a Personal Theory (and Defense) of Horror (Part One)

an essay by Jessica Critten

So I had this professor who would always scoff when I discussed horror in the same breath as great literature and art. He thought, as so many people often do, that horror is low art for braindead, sick people and that any connections I found between, say, books about Nazism and horror theory, were a stretch. Frankly, I’m tired of having to defend my area of academic study, but I wanted this guy–who I liked, otherwise–to understand not only what horror really means, but what it means to me. We could write our papers about anything we wanted, (and he was also fine with our going on tangents which is why this paper is kinda all over the place) so I wrote this. It is sort of my horror manifesto–My definition of horror, my ideas about why people enjoy it, and my take on how and why it is regarded in the larger culture. I’m drawing a lot from cultural and critical theory, because it’s my fav, and fundamental to a deeper understanding of the genre as a tool to understand society, and ourselves.

Sleep of Reason by Francisco de Goya

“We make up horrors to help us deal with real ones”-Stephen King

‘Horror’ is a notoriously difficult genre to define, because, in general, what is considered horrific is subjective. The definition of horror is also fundamentally tied to the question at the heart of horror theory and criticism: Why do people enjoy being scared, disgusted, horrified? Various academics have attempted to answer that question, and to various degrees of success. I will trace many of these efforts to answer the question of horrific appeal as a means to approach my own subjective theory about the meaning of horror and its overwhelming popularity.  This theory, although applicable to all horror texts—however they may be defined by the consumer—will use the horror film specifically as its subject, owing to the aforementioned popularity of the genre in this medium and the controversial nature of moving, visual representations of horrific subject matter.

This study is admittedly limited; for one, it does not utilize the proposed framework or theories to even begin an effort to determine quality. As with any genre some films are more thoughtful and powerful than others, but measurements of value are in themselves subjective and dependant on any number of personal markers. Also, it does not fully interrogate the ontological implications of the monster as ‘other’; that is, how does the monster, who embodies everything that we are not, relate to our understanding of ourselves? I’ve also skipped over examining in detail many of the proposed theories in practice in favor of presenting a more general overview of the genre. This general overview has also required that I leave out other compelling theories of horrific appeal like Torben Grodal’s which states that instead of breaking down order, horror films have the effect for audiences of actually giving them a sense of order and control in their own lives in comparison to the lives (and deaths) of the characters in the film.

I am going to approach this project by using critical horror theory to answer the questions what is horror, what does horror do, and why do people enjoy it? Much of the critical literature on horror skips over the fundamental question of what horror actually is, and goes straight into what horror does.[1] It may seem as though I’m stuck in semantics here—isn’t horror, after all, the things it does?—but establishing a working definition for ‘horror’ is necessary to establish a relatively standard criteria by which one can identify horror texts. Once something is generally determined to be a horror text, one can analyze it as such and begin to interpret what it does; that is, what are the psychological, cultural, social, political, physical processes with which it is engaged, and to what effect? From there, one can continue on to determine the appeal of the horror text (in this case, the horror film.)

In one of the seminal books on horror, The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart, author Noel Carroll defines horror as that which elicits the emotional state of “art-horror.” Art-horror is to be understood as something decidedly different from the ‘natural’ horror that one may feel in real life, at ecological disasters or Nazism in World War II. As the name suggests, art-horror is the emotion elicited from a piece of art, differentiated from the horrors of real life because of the distance that art-horror has from the immediacy of real life, ‘natural’ horrific events. That is, if one was being beaten in real life, he or she would not have the time to step back and reflect on the horror of that experience. Art-horror not only allows for, but insists upon that reflection: “…the genre of horror takes its title from the emotion it characteristically or ideally promotes; this emotion constitutes the identifying mark of horror” (14). Carroll also discusses the urge to correlate horror with the appearance of a monster figure. He problematizes this assertion by arguing that although all horror films have monsters, not all monsters signify horror; fairy tales and science fiction texts contain monsters as well, but Carroll does not consider those texts as horror because they are not necessarily intended to evoke art-horror.

The most compelling aspect of Carroll’s definition, and the part from which I will begin to build my own understanding of the genre, is the basis of it: horror is such because it elicits a horrific response from the audience. Admittedly, in this state, this definition is not an especially sophisticated one; after all, the same basic thing could be said about any genre. But that is ultimately my point: any text can be a horror text if one experiences the state of art-horror while consuming it. Carroll gets extremely specific about what he does and does not consider a horror film; for one, the horror movie has to contain a monster borne of some kind of fantastical element, one that could not necessarily exist in real life. This excludes films otherwise thought of as horror, including ones that surround a strange and troubling event (as opposed to a disrupting monster) or films like Cujo or Silence of the Lambs which feature people and animals doing seemingly horrible things (and, arguably, eliciting horrific responses) but are not unexplainable creatures. This construction of the genre speaks to the theory of horrific appeal that he develops later in the book,[2] but is, in my opinion, much too restrictive. Carroll himself notes that the extent to which he develops his definition could be too limiting for some readers, “…but a theory such as the one proposed…may still enhance our grasp not only of horror itself, but also of its contesting neighbors” (Carroll 38).  His point is well taken, and at the heart of the importance of defining the genre in the first place.

[1] Many of the critical texts, save Carroll’s (see below), may offer passing, one-sentence definitions of horror, which can be accounted for by the critic’s general attitude towards the genre: the casual, or unappreciative reviewer could find the definition as self-evident—I know it when I see it; the more focused, sympathetic critic would acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of trying to define with certainly any genre, much less one so engaged with intense ontological and social issues.

[2] Carroll argues, and persuasively, that the horrific subject matter in horror films is incidental to the viewer’s need to see his or her curiosity about the monster figure satisfied. In other words, the draw of the horror film is similar to the draw of the mystery novel: discovery. The monster falls outside of our ideas about how the world works, so we want to see the monster conquered, and the status quo returned. I actually think fairly highly of parts of this theory, but I can’t really entertain it as a whole because it basically discounts any ontological, social, cultural, or political perspectives.

Dumpster Diving