Posts Tagged ‘explosion

12
Jul
15

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) This time it’s Meh…

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a Primal Root written review

“Oh, shit.” – Michael Caine as Hoagie in JAWS: The Revenge (1987)

The protective drive of Motherhood is a very powerful thing. The lengths a Mother will go to to protect her young, to save her own, is the stuff of legend and a tale as old as time. There is one sequel I can think of that gets this right, that perfectly illustrated the bond between Mother and child and the deep-seated maternal instinct to protect their blood at any cost. That film is James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). A really shitty example of this is is JAWS: The Revenge. The piss poor 4th and final installment in the long beleaguered killer fish franchise.

JAWS: The Revenge starts our promisingly enough with a dark Yule Tide return to Amity Island where we catch up with The Family Brody. Turns out Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider)  died of a heart attack some time ago, his wife Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gray) is still in town and his youngest son, Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson), is now an incredibly whiny deputy on the island. A couple days before Christmas a great white shark plants a large piece of driftwood on a channel marker to lure Sean Brody out on his boat and then proceeds to eat the guy by way of really shitty quick editing that leaps from a bloody yellow slicker to close ups of phony shark teeth and footage that repeatedly switches from day to night. Obviously, the production could not afford to create an on screen struggle between man and beast, and instead must rely on these means in a vain attempt to make it appear a horrific attack is occurring.  Poor little ol’ Sean screams for help all along in the dark as several hundred feet away a group of high schoolers sing Christmas carols totally oblivious to the man munching taking place just behind them in the dark water off Amity Island. It’s a brutal, nasty, promising way to start a JAWS film…but it’s all down hill from there.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Ellen Brody, deeply traumatized to the point she laughs her ass off at her own son’s funeral, who is buried in a full size coffin despite the fact you could fit what was left of him into a Happy Meal box, heads to the Bahamas to spend some time screaming at her oldest son Michael (Lance Guest, The Last Star Fighter) and his family to “GET OUT OF THE WATER!” As she is convinced a great white shark is systematically killing off the Brody lineage. That fucking crazy thing about it is SHE’S RIGHT! There is some fucking great white shark out there with a death wish for The Brody Clan. Now, the family relation between this great white shark and the man eating death machines who starred in the previous franchise entries is never revealed, but this beast can somehow hone in on individual members of the Brody bloodline, create elaborate set ups in order to have them in the right place at the right time to attack and can, in fact, teleport and/or travel at warp speed around the earth’s oceans in order to accomplish it’s mission of eating everyone who had something to do with the death of those other killer sharks.

Everyone dies sooner or LADDER! Wokka, wokka, wokka!

Everyone dies sooner or LADDER! Wokka, wokka, wokka!

It’s sheer lunacy and makes not a lick of sense whatsoever, and I am a guy that can suspend my disbelief pretty goddamn far. Anyhoo, this great white shark manages to travel from the cold December waters of Amity Island all the way to the warm, crystal clear waters of The Bahamas in a matter of days to pray upon Michael Brody and his colleagues as they study the migration and mating habits of conchs. It’s really riveting stuff as Michael and his partner Jake (Mario Van Peebles sporting a ridiculous island accent) banter back and forth about how one another’s work sucks. Before long our vendetta shark shows up and starts lunging and chomping as only the most lackluster of animatronic sharks can. The crew decides to keep this news quite as not to alert their worried wives and mothers to the fact a killer shark is trying to settle a score and is after them all. Beside, Ellen Brody is falling madly in love with a pilot/drug smuggler named after my favorite sandwich, Hoagie (Academy Award Winning Thespian Michael Caine, collecting a pay check and soaking up the rays) and is trying to keep her weird sharky sense that causes her to stare intensely towards the ocean and hear bizarre tiger noises to a minimum.

"I'ma fuck you up, Mother Mother Ocean. "

“I’ma fuck you up, Mother Mother Ocean. “

Romance blossoms between Hoagie and Ellen, much to the chagrin of Michael aka: Oedipus, as Michael’s research team tracks the movement of the killer shark, study it, and get attacked and chased around by it in astoundingly silly sequences where the shark moves with the speed and agility of a retarded sloth. These scenes, much like the majority of the film, are an embarrassment to watch and feel like they belong to some half assed movie of the week as opposed to an installment in a cinematic franchise based upon one of the greatest horror films ever made. It is only after the shark cannot seem to wrap it’s JAWS around Michael in a mind numbingly slow chase through a sunken vessel, that is decides to head after Michael adorable little daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi, RIP) as she cruises the waters on the back of a banana boat during the unveiling of her Mother’s modern art piece entitled “Tourist on the Loose.” Thankfully, our Punisher shark decides to take out little Thea and despite all this intricate planning, the shark beyond supernatural ability to target these family members, manages to fucking miss Thea entirely and devours the stunt woman on the back of the banana boat right behind Thea. WHAT THE FUCK, SHARK? I and others have come to a belief, that your heart is not in this. That you don’t have the belly for it.

Fucking sharks...

Fucking sharks…

After this moment of terror where a woman we don;t know is crunched up into chum, Ellen decides to head out to see and kill that bitch shark once and for all! As the ridiculous tot he point of awesomeness ad line says, “This Time It’s PERSONAL!” Ellen makes way out to see before Hoagie, Michael and Jake find her via small air craft just in time Ellen to spout a half assed retread of Martin Brody’s incredible line from the original JAWS, then it was “Smile you son of a BITCH!” only now it’s “Come and get me you son of a bitch.” which made my eyes roll so hard they nearly fell out of their sockets. Hoagie crash lands the plane into the ocean, everyone swims to the boat and they decide to agitate the shark by shoving some doodad down the shark’s gullet and then trigger the doodad with something thingamajig that makes funny noises. I’m not sure what the fuck is going on for sure, or just what the fucking Hell the plan is, but Jake ends up sticking this thing the shark’s gore hole before getting eaten himself. Michael hits the agitator cycle and Ellen steers the sailboat right into the shark which is in mid-leap into the air for some reason. It’s an incredibly lucky shot of Ellen as the sailboat stabs the Revenge Shark right in the self destruct button and the shark actually explodes. Yes, you read that right. The shark gets impaled and then blows up into a huge spray of blood and meaty chunks without having an explosive device of any sort within it’s body. The film then cuts to stock footage from the original JAWS as the carcass of the decimated monstrosity sinks to the sandy bottom of the ocean floor.

What the fuck am I looking at, here?

What the fuck am I looking at, here?

Even less believable, after being last seen almost entirely within the mouth of a great white shark and pouring blood out of numerous deep wounds caused by the crushing jaws filled with razor sharp teeth of the enormous great white shark that is eating him, Jake swims over to the other survivors, spouts a few witty quips as he bleeds tremendous amounts of blood into the ocean…and survives.  Cut to Hoagie flying back to Amity Island as all the survivors smile and wave. The End.

I'm fine.

I’m fine.

JAWS: The Revenge has the kernel of a cool idea and start off promisingly enough with that cool and mean spirited return to Amity Island. But the ridiculous concept that a shark is on some kind of quest for retribution against those who have wronged it’s species sinks the film under it’s own stupidity. I honestly enjoyed the brief glimpse of Amity Island during it’s Christmas celebration and seeing some familiar faces amongst the Islanders, even the oddly staged death of Sean Brody is pretty nifty. For all it’s countless flaws, JAWS: The Revenge has it’s heart in the right place even if nothing else is.  JAWS: The Revenge desperately wants to be every bit the worthiest of sequels to the original masterpiece, JAWS, evidenced by all the goddamn homages and sepia toned flash backs to the original film that constantly take you out of JAWS: The Revenge and makes you wonder why you aren’t simply watching the far superior JAWS.

Too serious for it’s own good and never campy enough to be enjoyed as a B-Movie, JAWS: The Revenge is a pretty slow and dreary affair when it’s not being totally batshit insane as is the case with the film’s ending. However, JAWS: The Revenge is the one film in the franchise that did what none of the others managed to do; kill off the JAWS franchise once and for all.

That is, until JAWS 19 which should be coming out later in 2015. In holovision, no less.

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I award JAWS: The Revenge ONE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

21
Jun
15

JAWS 2 (1978) The Sacred Art of Self Immolation in Times of Crisis

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a Primal Root Review

“Get out the blankets, I’m getting black and blue marks all over my butt, and my mom’s starting to get uptight about them!” Tina, JAWS 2

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front,  Spielberg’s 1975 summer killer fish movie, JAWS, is a masterpiece. It truly is a fantastic piece of entertainment. Thrilling, fun, horrifying, populated with human characters we grow to care about and monster based in our own reality. Every time you hop in the ocean to frolic in the surf with some naked beach bunny looking to snorkel your wang-doodle, there’s a possibility that a 10 ton aquatic death train of razor sharp teeth and an appetite of destruction is bearing down on you with every intent to turn you into pulled pork and leaving nothing behind but a few buckets of human V-8 juice. Being a Florida native I was practically raised at the beach. Once I saw JAWS, I never looked at those waters the same way again. What’s so incredible, is that this 40 year old master class in how to make a fantastic horror film still holds up phenomenally well to repeat viewings. It’s been parodied endlessly, knocked-off and imitated, but no killer great white shark film will ever top it.

Then there’s JAWS 2. Taking place a few years after the events of the first film we find our star and sheriff of little Amity Island, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) patrolling the beaches again. Taking care of children karatying the picket fences and what not. Until, one day, a pair of scuba divers go missing, Brody knows in his guts that it’s a great white who has made it’s way to the warm, calm, inviting waters of Amity Island which has suddenly become a favorite feeding ground for these black eyes, large mouthed death dealers.  As the narrator in the trailer for JAWS 2 explains “In all the vast and unknown depths of the ocean how could there have been only…ONE?” Sure, I can believe in there being more, but holy shit! To come back to the same little piece of turff that Bruce once went on a rampage through? I dunno, I’ll let it slide. After all, stranger things have happened, I guess.

jaws-brody

Brody’s concerns go unheeded by his wife and the Amity Island board of rich assholes, but soon a water skier gets munched into oblivion and her friend who was captain of the vessel towing her when she got gobbled gets so goddamned terrified that, in a moment of sheer bonkers, off the wall violent brilliance, she pours a can of gasoline all over herself and then blows herself up with a flair gun as our shark is gnawing her boat into splintery chunks. It’s absolute lunacy for about 45 seconds of screen time and, in this viewers opinion, marks the absolute high point of JAWS 2. It’s sad, pathetic and hysterical beyond measure. I’m not sure what her plan was, but it really went the Wile Coyote route. But it does end up giving shark 2 a really mean looking burn scar to make it look super tough and cool. It doesn’t really work in achieving this, but Freddy Krueger would take this exact same concept and run with it a few years later to much greater affect and acclaim.

JAWS2_Helicopter02

Now, before you start thinking this is a film concerning adults, I need to clue you in to the fact that the bulk of the movie centers on a group of interchangeable, unlikeable teenagers who enjoy sailing together all day every day. JAWS 2 was looking to tap into the dead teenager slasher market but never really has the stinky shark gonads to follow through. The two Brody boys are among the group of doofy after school special teeny boppers and end up being the focal point of our new blood lusting great white. In the final action set piece that goes on and on and on for what feels like an eternity, our human scarfing shark manages to kill only two of about a baker’s dozen worth of teenagers. And the only likable teen happens to be among those eaten. It’s a group of teenagers stranded in the middle of the unforgiving ocean on tiny catamaran sail boats with tarp bottoms. Bruce was able to crush The Orca in JAWS, what the fuck is this shark’s issue? There are all these screaming, flailing, dumbass teenagers ripe for the picking and our shark can’t handle it? He manages to eat a helicopter (Oh yes, it does occur, true believers) but can’t rip apart a few flimsy pieces of plastic and tarp bundled together by cheap rope. Man, fuck this shark.

But, I digress, there is a rather nifty kill when a one young man falls over the side of his little dingy and gets pulled through the waves in the clutches of the shark. Also, there a pretty inventive nasty moment when a scuba diver, surprised and terrified by the sudden appearance of the shark, shoots up to the surface and suffers a horrendous case of the bends from his scramble for survival. Its vicious and damn good stuff. A few more of these scenarios would have gone a long way as opposed to extended scenes of teenage prayer groups on stranded sail boats. Where’s Hooper and Quint when you need them? Oh, that’s right, Hooper won and Oscar and Quint got eaten. We’re shit out of luck, Gang.  Also, there’s a nice tip of the hat to the far superior ORCA: The Killer Whale aka: Death Wish for Fish in the form of a dead killer whale which is discovered by two horny teens frolicking among the dunes. How these kids did not smell this dead whale carcass baking in the summer sun a mile away, I will never know.

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Roy Scheider does his best to bring back the charm of the original film and plays Brody honestly, staying true to the character. Portraying the man as someone struggling with PTSD after the deeply traumatic events of the very first film. I’m not going to lie to you, I would have probably been more impressed if there were no shark in JAWS 2 and Brody was just delusional and terrified that something was happening again out in those waters. But, audiences want to see fins gliding through the water and people running out of the ocean, so that concept’s not going to sell any tickets.

Of course, by the end of the film Brody is vindicated by a killer shark actually eating people, dons his super tiny Dad shorts, heads out to find his kids, save their friends and ends up the chef of the Friday evening fish fry as he shoves the towns submerged power cable (Huh?) into the sharks gaping maw. There’s no “Smile you son of a bitch!” awesomeness, but Brody mutters something like “Dinner is served!”, “Come and get it!” or “This is going to be a real SHOCKER, wokka, wokka, wokka!”, but the electrified shark death is kind of fun in the same way watching sparklers are. It’s like sparkler, but coming out of a cheap rubber sharks eyes while black smoke billows out of it’s pie hole. Fun, but not as fun as it was when Brody shot that fucker and blew meaty red chunks through the sunny blue Amity Island sky to the delight of the theater patrons and seagulls alike!

Often times the best way to avoid a shark attack is to simply blow yourself up.

Often times the best way to avoid a shark attack is to simply blow yourself up.

JAWS 2 is pretty bland shit. There are some moments of pure fun, but there are 10 times as many halting trips through dullsville. It’s cool seeing the residents of Amity Island again and seeing a bit more of the town itself, but it’s never as fun or electrifying as that fist trip to Amity. It’s certainly the sequel closest in tone to the original JAWS, but it’s also the least retarded of the lot, which makes it kind of a ho-hum entry. It’s sequel business as usual but it’s never downright goofy and awful enough to be enjoyed for it’s badneess like Jaws 3-D or Jaws: The Revenge. It had potential and a cool enough set up, if they had been more daring and bold with what they had. Perhaps making the film darker and meaner than it’s predecessor, which had no balls to not only kill of pretty teenage girls and innocent children, but the holy grail of audience appalling deaths…a dog.

Hey, at least we learned what to do if a shark starts eating your boat. Just explode yourself! If sure as shit can’t touch you now that you’re a crispy critter. Might as well have explained that in the vast and unknown depths of sucker cinema goers wallets how could we not turn this remarkable film into and tepid franchise with a handful of horrible sequels?

I award JAWS 2 TWO out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

jaws-2-red-poster

10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

shakedown-poster

a Primal Root written review

Sam Elliott and Peter Weller are my guys. I’ll see just about anything featuring either of these two actors due to their excellent body of work , both Trashy and Embraced by the Masses. Come on, Elliott’s the main reason to visit Swayze’s “Road House” (1989), not to mention his turn as the enigmatic Stranger in the seldom seen lost classic, “The Big Lebowski (1998)  and Peter Weller’s filmography is basically a who’s who of sci-fi cult cinema, from Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 action  masterpiece, “Robocop” to 1984’s bomb-come-cult flick, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”  And, as we all know, when two legends cross paths, one must always pay strict attention.

To my own shock and amazement, “Shakedown,” a film featuring two icons of cinematic strangeness, and strange plot that takes your from the heights of wacky action to the morose happenings of a court room drama and every imaginable place between, is not heralded as I had originally imagined upon hearing of it’s existence. I am hoping to correct that issue with this review.

Shakedown takes place on the tough, unforgiving streets of New York City and it’s tough, unforgiving courtrooms. It’s a tale of police corruption, murder and badass action sequences. The film begins with a big time drug dealer having to defend his life from a crazed cracker who shows up, asks for a fix, then pulls a gun on him. The cracker ends up dead as rat shit while our drug dealer, Michael (Richard Brooks), ends up wounded and on trial for the murder of a cop who never identified himself and was obviously looking to steal the gentleman’s crops and money. Thankfully, we see Michael press the REC button on his ghetto blaster, but the film forgets all about that until the last act of the movie once it becomes a life or death situation.

Thankfully for Michael the drug dealer, he has two of the coolest mother fuckers ever to live in New York City on his side. We’re talking public defender and avid Jimi Hendrix fan,  Roland Dalton (Peter “Don’t Call Me Buckaroo” Weller) and grimy, greased up, 42nd street undercover cop, Richie Marks (Sam Elliot, as grizzled and awesome as ever.)  Upon hearing of the case, Roland swoops down to defend Michael against the Good Old Boys club of the NYPD who are more than willing to make people disappear in order to cover up their own crimes and deceptions. The thing Roland doesn’t realize is that he will be facing down his old flame, Susan Cantrell, (Patricia Charbonneau) the new District Attorney in this murder case. And wouldn’t you know it, this is all happening on the eve of Roland’s marriage to the young and wholly unlikable Gail Feinberger (Blanche Baker) whose Father just so happens to head the biggest law firm in the city, which means Roland will become a partner and spend his life defending the rich and powerful and making sure those with the money get to keep it. Thankfully, this recent case, plus late night discussions with his district attorney ex-girlfriend, who acts as a cock riding Jiminy Cricket, has led to Roland’s reevaluation of the whole situation. Does he want to continue taking on cases for those who are innocent of any wrong doing but society wants them punished anyway, or to live a life with a woman who scolds him for listening to rock and roll too load in the morning while blending home made Orange Julius’s and wiping the asses of spoiled, rich old geezers? Decisions, decisions…

shakedown white

To help uncover any evidence pertaining to the case and delve into the police corruption itself, Roland meets up with his old pal, undercover cop, Richie in the shit stained, syringe covered restroom of a dilapidated 42nd Street grindhouse. Over a few drinks in one of New York’s many watering holes, the two decide to team up and put the hurt of the NYPD’s most crooked cops, when Michael’s case and hopefully put away some scumbag pigs in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the law and order proceedings that take place in the court room and are discussed in between the opposing legal team’s fuck sessions are really interesting, but the real stars of “Shakedown” are the go for broke, mind blowing, action sequences scattered throughout the film to keep you from being too mellow. While Roland is either defending or banging, Richie is chasing and beating the snot out of New York’s nastiest criminals and cops on his quest for the truth. The man is willing to use 42nd Street theater neon lights as means to leap onto the top of moving busses while opening fire on suspects! The guy chases a man onto a carnival roller coaster before starting it up and ensuring the car derails thereby sending the criminal soaring to his hysterical death! And, in probably, the greatest action sequence I have ever witnessed, Sam Elliot, as Richie, with the aid of Roland and his Porsche, manages to chase down a private jet. climb onto the jet’s landing gear as it takes off, ride that landing gear to a height where the roof of the World Trade Tower’s are visible; toss a grenade inside and then leap into the ocean before the plane lands and explodes. Yes, Richie survives with no damage worse than a wet pair of Levi’s.

shakedown flight

It’s that combination of serious, intelligent courtroom drama and Gonzo, batshit crazy action that really makes 1988’s “Shakedown” possibly one of the strangest yet endlessly entertaining action films of the 1980’s. A lot of the appeal is derived from watching the film’s two leading men bring the big bad guys to justice as well as watching Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, two very likable cult actors, pal around and makes jokes with one another. These gentlemen never ascended to the pantheon of great action stars like Arnold, Sly and Bruce. No, Peter has become more well known a a science fiction character actor and Sam, outside of The Big Lebowski, is a bit more recognized as a western cinema staple. But here, watching the two unlikely actors turned action stars, one cannot help but marvel as they spray gun fire, make death defying leaps from buildings and spout witty retorts and villains burn to death. It’s like watching the high school A.V. geek and the guy in shop class who never bathes joining forces to crack down on high school crime. To put it bluntly, it’s a mother fucking hoot to behold.

Also, another highlight of the film for me, is that “Shakedown” features New York’s 42nd Street RIGHT before gentrification took hold, the theaters were dismantled, and the strip steadily became home to Disney stores and McDonald’s and attracted more tourists than locals. It’s a final swan song to what was once a sleazy, filthy, dangerous playground, A place of legend that is no more. Watching some good goddamn action sequences explode across this neon sodom is quite a spectacle to behold, but also a lovingly rendered final look at a place that now only exists in memory and cinema.

“Shakedown” is a one of a kind action film. Feeling like Law and Order by way of Robert Rodriguez and Michael Bay’s love child, “Shakedown” mixes together ingredients that should by no means make a tasty concoction, but manages to deliver something unique, exciting, fun and shockingly entertaining. You will be pulled in by the human drama and then blown out of your seat with astonishment and laughter as one rock ’em sock ’em action scene after another pummels you over the head with it’s bizarre and warped sense of reality. My friends, “Shakedown” must truly be seen to be believed.

“Shakedown” will shake your beliefs in action cinema to the ground. Watch it brace yourself for an awakening and an injection of pure, undiluted Trash.

I give “Shakedown” THREE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

christine_poster_by_cakes_and_comics-d5ht3mc

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

FlamingChristine

At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

christine-se_shot7l

Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

christine-se_shot6l

I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Oct
13

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

amityville_2_possession_poster_01

 

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

25
Aug
13

Maximum Overdrive (1986) or How to Embrace a “Moron Movie”

maximum_overdrive_poster_01

a Primal Root written review

Ever had a really stupid idea for a story? I mean, a cool idea, but one that makes no logical sense at all? I mean, that’s kind of why story telling is so much fun. you can make up whatever you want to justify just what Hell is occurring on the page, on the screen or in your spoken word.  I know, the law of the land says everything’s gotta make sense, that things have to be believable, but sometimes that stupid, amateur, childish, imaginative idea is just too good to restrain. Enter Stephen King’s one and only directorial effort, his self proclaimed “moron movie”, 1986’s critically bashed “Maximum Overdrive.”

“Maximum Overdrive” tells the story of worldwide horror primarily through the microcosm of one filthy, small, interstate truck stop. What’s the global crisis at hand? I’m thrilled you asked! See, the entire world is caught in the tail of some kind of comet that apparently has the power to bring every single machine to vicious, murderous life! Well, with the exception of any piece of equipment required for the main character’s survival…But still, most;y every single damned machine on God’s green Earth is suddenly out for blood! Everything from steam roller crushing Little Leaguers to electric carving knives ripping up hapless waitresses arms! It’s survival of the fittest as the patrons and staff of The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop are besieged by an onslaught of malicious semi-trucks. What do these trucks want? Why are they here? Home many people are going to end up being crunched into human hamburger? All these questions are asked as the blood and bodies fly to a fucking badass AC/DC soundtrack.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

Stephen King helmed his directorial debut in 1986, right the the peak of his 1980’s popularity, and the critics were chomping at the bit to rip the much beloved horror writer a new asshole. “Maximum Overdrive” provided the perfect opportunity. It’s ridiculous, over the top, gratuitous and deeply, unapologetically dumb. It’s a movie where lawnmowers come to life and chase little kids and soda machines pummel people into bloody pulps, we’re not talking about sophisticated cinema here. One thing I think the critics failed to understand is just how much fun 97 minutes of unabashed mayhem, dopey characters and brain dead dialog can be.

Got coke?

Got coke?

Starring at the time up-and-comer Emilio Estevez, as Bill, a recent parolee employed at The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop and trying to make good all while putting up with his asshole boss/slave driver, Bubba (Pat Hingle) and making love like a hero.  Bill’s situation is pretty shitty…and then machines all of a sudden inherit the Earth, giving the young man the chance to take charge and show just what he’s capable of. Not only that, but he ends up getting stuck in The Dixie-Boy with the lovely Brett (Laura Harrington), an enigmatic tough girl hitch hiker who ends up bedding the sun kissed, perpetually sweaty and over worked Bill and espousing some of the most laughably awkward pillow talk ever heard in cinema all while skull crushing semi-trucks encircle their truck stop hide out and the threat of eminent flattening hangs over everyone’s head.

It’s the ultimate blue collar, underdog, greasy low life action/horror movie as e are asked to root for a batch of characters who would typically be banished to the sidelines in bigger budget apocalypse films. These are not scientists or well worn marines, these are just a bunch of dumb, greasy, rednecks trying to get out of a perilously tough situation and survive.  This, of course, is not your typical end of the world movie scenario. But you know what, it’s about time we got to see a story like this told through the eyes of the average grease monkey. It’s I really love about this flick,

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

In the end, “Maximum Overdrive” is a fuck-all, go for broke, mean as Hell, shit kicker of a film.  Like the goblin faces semi-truck villainous star of the film, it’s completely mindless but dead set on rocking your world.  Stephen King has apologized repeatedly for this tremendous piece of Trash Cinema, and even admitted to the whole film being made in a cocaine fueled haze, but if you ask me it’s really a shame the guy hasn’t gotten back behind the camera. I sure would be curious to see what King would follow this flick up with…  “Maximum Overdrive” is a damn fine and fun piece of B-Movie entertainment. If you don’t take yourself or the premise too seriously, I defy you not to enjoy yourself laughing with or at the movie as it unfolds it’s one of a kind sci-fi/horror/ action yarn about a goofy batch of truckers and yokels duking it  out and fighting for their lives against a world gone mad as machines try to rip their insides out.

“Maximum Overdrive” might not be a classic by the standards of most, but here at The Trash Cinema Collective, it sure as Hell is. Be sure to check this one out, preferably with a cooler full of beer and a handful of pals to share the magic with.

3 1/2 Dumpster nuggets out of 5!

Maximum Overdrive Heavy

See you at The Dixie-Boy SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th for Trash Cinema Nights at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack as we will be screening both “Maximum Overdrive” and “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” back to back starting at 8pm!  Hope to see you there, Gang!  Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster shack is located at 325 N Bronough St  Tallahassee, FL 32301

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Apr
12

“Bride of Chucky”: Une petite morte never killed anybody!

a Bootsie Kidd review

It seems too few flicks are able to juggle sheer playfulness, gore, heart, and raunch to give a film one helluva personality.  But with veteran deviants like Jennifer Tilly (Tiffany) and Brad Douriff (Charles ‘Chucky’ Lee Ray [I-IV]) directed by Ronny Yu (Freddy vs Jason), and the Child’s Play franchise’s head wordsman Don Mancini how could ‘Bride’ not have a style unlike any other.  Though Chucky still has as much of that acerbic charm as ever, ‘Bride’ differs from Child’s Play’s usual thrills that made you want to trade in your Cabbage Patch for a Skip-It.  Both hardcore fans and newcomers to the series may be skeptical of this installment’s ability to deliver, and while it’s true that ‘Bride’ brought Child’s Play into a new scope viewers would do well to remember that like our hero, himself, packaging rarely indicates punch.

 

Yu opens with harkening back to beloved James Whales’ atmospheric originals; a playfully spooky dark and stormy night with an expendable-looking cop nervously slinking through an evidence room.  We’re given just enough lightning flash to make out tagged items from other investigations.  Highlighted are cubbies containing a candid homage to horror legends, Michael, Jason, & Freddie (Jason face & Freddy fingers boxed in together… premonition much?).  All of which seems a not-so-subtle declaration of Chucky’s right to be counted amongst the greats.

Our lackey nabs a bulky black plastic bag and makes his way to the drop-off point, placing a call during which we hear one of Hollywood’s most familiar raspy coos.  Shortly after, owner of said coo makes our film’s first kill and it’s a gusher.  Tiffany slits Officer Crooked’s throat letting us know W.) just where a fair bribe & the moral high-ground can shove it and X.) she isn’t exactly the squeamish type.  Fun side note: he’d just lit a cig possibly making this the best anti-smoking ad ever.  Quothe the Tilly, eat your heart out, Truth.

 

And just who is this slaughtering pigs right out the gate?**  Enter the ultimate in 90’s sex appeal!  Blonde, boobs, and black leather is how Tiffany rolls, and, baby, it’s just fine by me.  She unwraps the loot and we get our first glimpse of our Chucky’s mug, well, 4/5 of a mug and looking like he’s seen better days.  Still, toy in hand Tiff and swaggers off to hostess one killer crafting montage complete with creepy doll appendages & eyeballs, brutally long hooks, thick black wormy string, and staple gun.  Compounded with Rob Zombie’s rough & dirty tunes, Tiff is like the warped, older sister May’s (2002) parents forbid her to be like.

She’s into crafting. No, really…

She’s into crafting. No, really…

     Next up: the ingénues and oppressive fatherly types.  Gordon Michael Woolvett, as David, reminds us we’re in the 90s with his strategically placed frosted tips and that being gay in this decade’s cinema meant you knew EVERYTING about orchids and were attending Princeton to study theatre arts on your figure skating scholarship.  A young-and-feeling-fresh Katherine Heigl, as sweetheart Jade, flexes her prissy-pants, pouty-face shmacting muscles and veteran John Ritter as Chief Warren Kincaid grunts, barks, and squints, firmly establishing himself as the meddling square that must later die in some satisfyingly creative way.

 

David is supposed to be Jade’s date for… prom? Yeah, that unnecessary plot-point thankfully fell to the wayside, but Oh, these wile kids!  We soon find Jade’s all googly-eyed for Tiger Beat hunk Jesse (Nick Stabile) who’s hiding in the backseat & reveals himself just long enough to shove his tongue down her throat.  This moment is the climax of their sexual/emotional chemistry throughout the movie.  However, these rascals are soon pulled over by Lt. “Needle Nose” Preston who, by virtue of his unrelenting grin, remains the absolute creepiest character of this film.

Unless you count Damien, (then Robert Arquette, now Alexis Arquette) one of Tiff’s puppies who she couldn’t take less seriously.  In her defense, it’s no easy task with a dude who looks like Marilyn Manson, acts like Brian Hugh Warner, and sounds like Keanu Reeves.  This pseudo-badass is more Creed than Cradle of Filth despite his best efforts to convince Tiffany that he’s the deranged sociopath of her dreams.   He weirdly crawls all over her bed mispronouncing “la petite morte”, the French idiom for an orgasm, but still manages a surprising sultry line, “Come on, Tiffany, let’s die a little”.  But minimal seductive powers are hardly enough to redeem this guy.  “HEYTIFFANY!” is the perfect introduction for Damien.  “Come on, I’ll catch my death out here!” to which she disinterestedly replies “Promises, promises”.  The contrast of her casual confidence against his pasty fragility makes this one of the best delivered lines of the flick & pretty much this sums up every relationship she’s waded through for 10 years since Chucky’s bizarre toy store demise.

 

Oh, right!  So just prior to Damien whimpering up Tiff’s tree, she successfully summons Chucky’s being back into his trashed little body.  Yu is wise in letting Chucky’s first move be to play on his strong suit, pitter-pattering around and appearing at the perfect moment to monumentally fuck with his prey’s head.  Being the perfect pair, Tiff also likes to play with her food.  She seductively cuffs Lamien to the bed, and though we know his demise is just around the river bend he sports a grin that looks like the unholy hybrid of Gary Busey & Julia Roberts’ mouths.   Upon revealing himself, Chucky tears out Dame’s crucifix labret weirdly rendering a veritable bloodbath, and covers his face with a pillow casually plopping down on it to sit and catch up with Tiff.  It has been 10 years, after all.

He had it coming for the sharpie tribal tatts.

Now, here comes a practical reason for my love of this movie.  Don Mancini, writer of the entire Child’s Play franchise, does a decent of job of getting personalities, chemistry, and history across in a pinch, managing to give you, dear viewer, the info you need while keeping you highly entertained and eager for more.   One of film’s weaknesses, however, is in giving their lackluster teen-vs-world subplot waaaaaay more attention than it merits and making moves like cutting away from Chuck & Tiff’s reunion to make time for dry toast characters.  The kids have to take a breathalyzer in the pouring rain, we get that Kincaid’s a weight-throwing douche bag constantly dogging on poor folk, Jade spouts off a couple awkwardly melodramatic lines, and we get the sense that they’re going to “get the hell outta dodge and nevah look back.”  Okay.  Are we done here?

 

Back to Tiff & Chuck.  Fellas, if your woman ever goes to the trouble of sewing up your tattered ragdoll of a body, holds séances in her (enviably cool Goth-chic) doublewide to call your spirit back from some nebulous limbo, AND cooks you Swedish meatballs… try not to laugh in her face and imply she’s “fuckin’ nuts” when she talks marriage and babies. It’ll just piss her off.  Hell hath no fury as we find when Tiff Masterlocks Chucky in what she’d hoped would be their child’s play pin leaving the casual viewer to wonder, “Was the lock-and-key baby digs really for their potential offspring?!”, already-parents to think, “Hey, now, there’s an idea…”, and Child’s Play aficionados noting, “Yeah, she’s going to need that, later…”

 

-'B-I-T-C-H’. That is incorrect. The correct spelling of woman is W-O-M”
-"Shows how much you know.”

How Chucky can launch the nanny out the window but he can’t break out of some dinky wooden box is beyond me.  But ironic ingenuity prevails when Chucky uses Tiff’s assumed engagement ring to file down the bars and gain freedom (see what they did there?).  In what is a visually spectacular scene, Chucky electrocutes Tiff by way of knocking the boob tube into her bubble bath while she’s watching Lanchester own it in Bride of Frankenstein (see? they did there it there, too).  He does the dirty deed with her dead body… transferring her being into the obnoxiously wholesome bride doll she bought to torture him.  Why?  Y) He’s a vindictive asshole, Z) to get her on board with the plan.  What’s the plan?  To retrieve an amulet buried with Chucky’s rotting corpse in Jersey and trick gullible dope Jesse and increasingly whiney Jade to hand over their bodies for inhabitation.  So now we have to road trip with these kids…  Are we there, yet?

 

Small price to pay, however, for the treat of seeing Tiff school Chucky on how to murder and murder good.  “Who the fuck is Martha Stewart”, Chucky’s inquires after Tiff’s inspiration for improvised “homicidal genius”.  She devises a booby trap (teeheegetit?causeshehasbigtits) that involves literally nailing Kincaid.  Tiffany’s critique of the go-to knife technique as 80s kitsch not only shows that Chucky’s in a new age, but that horror itself is always morphing into new form.  While horror filmmaker and fans seem fairly apt at respecting their roots, horror is a vehicle for reflecting the times and the times do change.  Just as monsters gave way to slashers, so slashers have taken somewhat of a back seat to the theme of ruthless ingenuity manifested through franchises such as Saw and given premonition by Tiff’s airbag nail launcher.  But such a creative genre isn’t given to choppy black and whites.  Chucky proves that that he’s still got it by later finishing off Kincaid with your tried-and-true maniacal multiple stabbing noting that “a true classic never goes out of style”, a move likely to leave true fans grinning and glowing with pride.                   

 

But still Chucky shows he can keep up with the time’s sense of inventive mayhem, with a make-shift car bomb making Needle Nose and his disturbing smile no more.  Ruthless Deviants: 3, Crooked Cops: 0.  Okay, look, Tiff and Chucky have some major bloodlust issues, but they’re not aimlessly drawn to killing.  It’s an enjoyable means to an end.  What’s that? How can you avoid certain death the next time you’re appearing in this movie?   It’s simple, really…

 

Survival Tips:

–  No looking in plastic bags – stay uncurious

–  No tampering with plots & rides

–  No happily allowing a self-professed murderer to cuff you up

–  No stumbling into highway traffic

–  No being an obnoxiously unnecessary character

–  Try your best not work in law enforcement or own a camper

 

Meanwhile, Jesse & Jade cope with their plans getting mucked up and being prime suspects for the past 4 murders by endlessly blaming each other.  So let’s see… now that we know what an irredeemably crappy couple those kids make and now they’re at the top of the FBI’s shit list what scene should we shoot for next?  Oo!  How bout a painfully awkward wedding?  At least it gives Tiff & Chuck the chance to have an actual heart-to-heart and us the chance to get in on some actual character chemistry.

Quick, they’re filming! Look like you’re into me!

Post-nuptials, Jesse & Jade are as supremely miserable as ever in their lavishly hokey honeymoon suite and are soon infiltrated by a couple who make you wonder which you loathe more: their painfully unfunny mayhem or that they resorted to goofy undies to try and trick you into finding them amusing (HAHAHAgetit?causethey’resilly).  They slight Chucky, steal Jesse’s dough, and freak out the kids with schmaltzy advances.  Feeling threatened by this woman’s ability to ruin a scene more effectively than she ever could, Jade kicks them out.

Tiff seeks revenge against the “thieving slut” shattering their ceiling mirror, the shards of which apparently fall at a velocity that impales the raunchy couple and their waterbed splashing tidal waves of bloody water all over the joint.  It’s all over for Chucky, he’s smitten.  He gets down on his knees, bites the ring off the newlydead’s severed finger, proposes in front of a roaring fire, and realizing “all the plumbing works” and “he’s feeling like Pinocchio over here” the saxophone & heavy panting begins.

 

Back on the road, a clusterfuck occurs in which the David’s obliterated by a semi, Chucky & Tiff reveal their alivedness (my review, my vocabulary) and their plans taking Jesse & Jade hostage at gunpoint, and kill a couple poor schmoes for their camper.  Soon after, the planets align and Jessie has the intelligent idea to pit Chucky & Tiff against each other.  Insults are thrown (“Take it from me, honey, plastic is no substitute for a nice hunk of wood!”) and chaos ensues!  Winnebago rolls & explodes, Tiff gets charbroiled, Chucky kidnaps Jade, Jesse kidnaps Tiff, amulet is retrieved, chicks are swapped, in a last second stroke of conscience Tiff dukes it out with Chucky, and a detective arrives just in time to see a possessed doll and clear Jesse & Jade’s names just before she blows him away (apparently high profile investigations are easily put to rest with one dude’s unfounded speculations).  WHEW!  Good thing they managed to magically roll our motor home a block away from the cemetery or this could’ve been complicated.

 

The ultimate Planned Parenthood ad.

Oh, and Tiff gives birth to an evil mutant abomination that eats the detective’s face off.  Completely ruining Jesse & Jade’s alibi this movie ends on what I would consider a bonafide high note!

 

In the end, ‘Bride’ is one of those raunchy rides providing a healthy dose of laughs, sex, and horror.  Although equipped with some righteously bloody moments, its aim is different than its two predecessors; it wants you to get to know your anti-heroes.  A strong part of Chucky’s appeal is that he thinks, talks, and acts like a person… a supremely disturbed person but a person, nonetheless.  He swears, cracks wickedly dirty puns, digs meatballs, gets horny, calls his gf ‘babe’ but has little patience for shmoopy romance, etc.  He’s a colorful dude.  Who wouldn’t want a little peek into his personal life?                                

 

And, my God!  Tiffany, alone, offers more than enough guts & heart to  get you hooked.  Even as her dolls self montages into her usual platinum bombshell- painting herself in magenta & black, donning a classically tough black pleather jacket, and lighting her cig with a zippo swiped from her 2nd to latest victim’s corpse- her wedding dress remains pristine beneath the flash. Underneath a playfully sadistic exterior Tiffany is tender-hearted to the core, wanting only to love and be loved.  Course, Tiff is a total Harvey Dent, so the flip side of that warped coin is in remembering that no matter how canned her dreams of marital bliss & baby-making may seem she is far from your brainwashed Stepford.

 

While prone to “female hysterics”, Tiff manages to put on her big girl panties, hatch the vast majority of their plans, and practically creams at the thought of getting her hands bloody.  She is bad, savvy, & devilishly resourceful.  Tiff seems like Mancini’s response to the new millennium woman’s identity crisis; wanting genuine intimate connection without having to sacrifice our hard-earned sense-of-self to acquire it.  She’ll go above and beyond to prove her love (i.e. 10 years bribing/killing cops to find her bf’s possessed plastic corpse, slave over that hot stove perfecting her Swedish meatballs, etc) but WOE to the man-doll who takes it for granted…  Sound familiar? By now, it’s a cinematic classic- the woman wielding her rolling pin in juggernaut resentment when she isn’t given her due. Domesticity’s alarming 180 from assured subservience to a yammering nag was film’s way of saying,”Wow, woman, your standards for respect are pretty obnoxious”.  Although Tiffany has her cliched lecture & dish throwing down pat, it’s easy to sympathize.  Maybe Barbie can eat her heart out, but Chucky’s a far fucking cry from Ken and a hijacked camper is the dreamiest house they’ll ever have.

The entire Child’s Play franchise seems to reflect a certain fear of role irregularities or reversals.  What was once a thing of comfort becomes the epitome of terror.  That the seemingly sweet, innocent youth could foster something dark and sinister is a trend possibly correlating with two monumentally impactful and sometimes oppositional American movements, women’s and children’s rights.  It’s no well-kept secret that hardcore classics such as Rosemary’s Baby & The Omen helped us deal with the controversies of Roe vs Wade, rewiring our cultural understading to actually consider the needs and wants of women (some would argue even to the detriment of a child’s right to life).  But the 80s and 90s brought on a new a strange blend of children’s rights and a crackdown on child criminal offenses.  Children were being seen less as saintly cherubs and more as actual people, capable of both kind and vicious deeds.

In Child’s Play, Andy & Chucky satisfy these extreme opposites, manifesting both the hopes and fears of parent and society. That little Andy is gradually introduced to the evils of the world through Chucky on such an extremely intimate level threatens these hopes of childlike purity. It addresses the increasing fear many had in those conservative times of children being exposed to too much of the world too quickly, how subversively evil can take form (the Good Guy with a Bad Boy streak), and how deeply that evil might take root in children (a plot to literally infiltrate Andy’s mind and body implying undertones of lewd & lascivious intent, yet ANOTHER sickening issue receiving big-time attention in the 80s and being addressed through other villains such as Freddy).

Christ, was there ANY large-scale issue Child’s Play didn’t cover?!  Well, we could always talk about its representation of single-parent homes, economic crisis, systemic discrimination against women in the workforce, shamelessly kid-focused consumerism, crooked cops (though we kind of covered that one), questioning the legitimacy of diagnosing psychosis… dude, we could go on for a while, right?  But these were and are all very real, very tense issues naturally needing one helluvan outlet.

And, baby, Chucky gave it to ’em.

Thanks for reading and stay trashy, kids!

**Bootsie lovingly respects & supports those in Uniform, even if the characters I love don’t.

 

Many thanks to Chuckyholics for providing killer images!

http://www.chuckyholics.com/site/gallery/bride-of-chucky-screencaps/?nggpage=7

 




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