Posts Tagged ‘family

21
Nov
17

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I reward Blood Rage FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

30
Jul
17

(NSFW) Malabimba: The Malicious Whore (1979) The Spirit Wants Inside You…DEEP Inside You.

 

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“You have to look. You have to.” – Malabimba, Malabimba, The Malicious Whore (1979)

a Primal Root written review

You know, some movies you have to wait for them to really warm up and get moving. You’re introduced to characters, you learn who they are, their motives and the roles they play in the narrative, then around the twenty minute mark we get to the inciting incident that sets the thrust of the plot in motion and we continue going through the motions from there. You know what I;m saying? Snooze-A-Rama. Malabimba, the 1979 Italian genre blender flick of supernatural horror and pornography does not suffer from any such issue. No, it hits the ground running and does not let up till the final goddamn frame. Whoever coined the term, “All killer, no filler” might have been talking about Malabimba: The Malicious Whore, because holy fuck is thing a full throttle psycho sexual taboo bending fuck fest like few I’ve ever had the pleasure to endure zipper burn watching, hot diggity dog!

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Young, shy, nubile teenager Malabimba’s (Katell Laennec) mother, and matriarch of a once influential and prosperous (they live in a goddamn CASTLE!) Caroli family, has just recently passed away due to a slight case of MURDER under mysterious circumstances.  The film opens on a seance where the family is attempting to contact her spirit for reasons that are not made clear.   Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the viewing audience, their medium starts flipping the fuck out before becoming possessed by the perverted, malicious, absolutely vicious spirit of the decadent late cousin Lucrezia who immediately begins berating, insulting and sexually assaulting the family. Pop’s  (Andrea played by Enzo Fisichella) has his pants yanked open and his party favor yanked upon before Bimba’s Aunt/Andrea’s voluptuous sister-in-law, Nais (Patrizia Webley) gets her dress torn off exposing her for the entire family to admire then begins making the medium writhe all over the floor in orgasmic screams of horrified ecstacy. As the family carries on with the half nekkid ghostly shenanigans downstairs,  the spirit soon flees to other area of the house, first dropping in on the House Nun/Nurse Sofia (Mariangela Giordano, Peter Bark’s mother in Burial Ground), and gets her masturbating a bit before being forced out of Sofia via Sofia’s strong faith in the big boss man in the sky. NOT TO WORRY!  Quickly after this rejection, the ghost of Lucrezia lays her eyes upon Malabima…who makes the perfect vessel for her rude, perverse, sexually charge atrocities to be acted out upon her family…

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It’s the perfect goddamn set up and Malabimba has it ALL. Incest, profanity, teen sexuality, Nunspolitation, hypocrisy, softcore pornography laced with heavy duty penetration inserts, demonic spirit possession, cock grabbing,  pussy munching, unholy seduction, good vs. evil conflict, murder by oral sex, just to name a few. This is what Malabimba has to offer in a none stop sleazefest that must be seen and experienced to believe. It’s the kind of film that will leave your mind blown out of the back of your head and splattered against the back of your LA-Z-BOY. This is not a sweet, kind, romp in the sheets, no, there is no safety net in any of the unholy love pumping on display in Malabimba, this is a film which boldly charts a moral destroying course to create a filthy, disturbing, highly atmospheric, creepy and erotically charged nightmare unlike any you’ll ever see again.

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Directed by the highly underrated and often overlooked purveyor of many fine Italian Trash Cinema classics as 1981’s Burial Ground, 1976’s Strip Nude For Your Killer and 1972’s What the Peeper Saw, filmmaker Andrea Bianchi has crafted a powerfully nasty, sacrilegious, taboo busting masterpiece in a career built upon such giddy sleaze and exploitation.  Seriously, less than ten minutes in Malabimba’s run time and you already have a 90 minute film worth of drippy, sexual naughtiness. And I am not overstating the facts, it IS this loaded with skin and horror. It feels as if the film is always trying to top itself scene for scene by upping the horror and sex ante, and for this lover of fine filth, it is something I truly admire. This film is all you could ever want and I loved every second of it.

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Honestly, the horror elements are somewhat fleeting as they are generally used as a means to an end leading to sexual encounters which range from disturbing and awkward to down right erotic, sensual and titillating . What really impresses is the fact that the story, as it is, and the characters are not just defined by their salacious nocturnal activities I found myself wondering through the entire film just what will become of the young Malabima and the target of her evil seductive prowess, Sister Sofia, will she stay on the righteous path or end up pulled down to the bowels of Hell by giving in to the cruel sex kitten? Malabimba: The Malicious Whore is sexploitation cinema at it’s down and dirty trashiest, which is it’s grandest form, if you ask me. If you think you might like your sexploitation tasteless and over the edge, and you are not offended by the sight of penises entering vaginas and/or mouths, I highly recommend Malibaba: The Malicious Whore. But you don’t have to take my word for it!

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I PROUDLY award this Grade A slice of filth FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

Do not miss this suckers! By the way, this puppy is available to rent on DVD at Cap City Video Lounge in Tallahassee, Florida. 😉

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Jan
16

Phantasm (1979): All that we see or seem…

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a Primal Root written review

“First he took Mom and Dad, then he took Jody, now he’s after me.” – Mike, Phantasm

I never planned on writing a review for Phantasm. However, with today’s passing of the beloved horror icon, Angus Scrimm, who breathed life into one of my all time favorite cinematic boogeymen, I felt compelled to take a look back at not only of the most enduring and admired horror films, but one I hold very dear to my heart.

Let me start off by stating that there is no real way to create a summary of Phantasm that honestly does the film any justice. It’s the kind of film that takes place inside between the conscious world and that of the subconscious, the the realm of primal, deep, dark human emotions, and at that, from the perspective of a young boy in his early teens who has lost so much he’s having trouble coming to terms with it. Well, Hell, okay…at least let me TRY to tell you what the film’s about.

Young Michael (Michael Baldwin) is living with his older, adult brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) after the untimely death of their parents. Michael is already having trouble coping with the sudden lose of his parents, when he comes to the realization this Jody is considering leaving town and handing custody of Mike over to their Aunt and Uncle. The thought of not only losing his parents, but being a burden on his older brother, who is thinking of leaving him behind, is adding to Mike’s pain and turmoil. There’s a fantastic, heart breaking sequence where Jody rides his bike down the street as Mike chases after him on foot unbeknownst to his old brother. Mike can’t keep up and eventually, begrudgingly, gives up. It’s a pitch perfect moment that visualizes the dreaded feeling of abandonment and the inevitability of change.

To make matters worse, Mike witnesses some very strange goings-ons at the local Morningside Cemetery and Funeral Home. At the funeral of one of Jody and Mike’s friends, Tommy,  Mike witnesses a shadowy, sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm, Rest in Peace) lift up up Tommy’s corpse filled coffin all by his lonesome…and load it back into the hearse rather than lowering it into it’s grave.

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As young Mike investigates further he discovers there seems to be a sudden infestation of tiny, brown robbed creatures haunting the cemetery, a knife wielding blonde, big breasted seductress intent on poking every man she can lure into the cemetery to death and the mortuary is guarded by brain sucking, high velocity flying killer spheres. And who looks to be behind it all? The black suited Tall Man who has set his evil sights on Mike.

It takes quite a bit of convincing to get Jody to believe that what is happening over at Morningside is true. With the crazy stories Mike keeps spouting, who can blame the guy for chocking it up to a kid’s imagination? But when Mike comes home with a living, moving, nasty little momento from his last encounter with The Tall Man, Jody hops on board as does their ice cream selling buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister). The three lay siege to Morningside cemetery int he hopes of uncovering The Tall Man’s true purpose in their small town and send him back to whatever Hell this monstrous being came from. However, as is the case in Phantasm, nothing is exactly as it seems…And the final revelation of Phantasm is devastating, beautiful and deeply disturbing.

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Okay, I am going to discuss the film a bit and I recommend you see Phantasm first before reading further.

One of Phantasm‘s greatest strengths is it’s respect for a child’s perspective. To try and make sense of what is happening int he world around you. It plays almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that pulls no punches. There is something evil and sinister happening in their small town, and it is up to Mike to convince his older brother and for them to solve this horrible problem. There’s a great since of mystery and wonderment as well as mounting dread and tension, but it’s all handled with a real sentimentality and heart that is hard to find in most popular horror cinema of the 70’s era.

Now, before I start making this film sound like the ultimate bummer, Phtasm also has an excellent sense of adventure and fun on it’s surface. Jody, Mike and Reggie are a damn funny trio and their reactions to the ludicrous happenings around town and pricless. Darkly hysterical moments like Michael finding an enourmous flesh eating bug tangled in his hair, Jody asking Mike is the strange breathing sounds he heard was the “retard” up the street and, my personal favorite, when Mike is confronted inside the mortuary by The Tall Man who stands several passes down the hall from him, Mike, speechless utters in complete My-Goose-Is-Cooked fashion, “Oh, shit…” Phantasm is a damn good time about one darkly sobering mother fucking subject matter.

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Phantasm is a horror movie about the sad but honest fact that everyone we love will die. That those closest to us will have to eventually leave us one day and that no matter how hard we fight, or try to hold on, or battle against it, we will ALWAYS lose. I understand the notion that we carry these people with us forever in our hearts and memories, that they live on forever in the tales we tell of them and the ways that they’ve touched us. But we will never get to sit down and hold their hand, feel the comfort of their presence of enjoy a glass of whiskey with them ever again. They are gone. Gone. And so shall we be. And that’s something we all must face.

At the end of Phantasm Michael and Jody do battle with The Tall Man and end up trapping him in an abandoned mine shaft and dropping a dozen or so gigantic boulders on top of the sucker. Our last glimpse of Jody is from onto of a high hill from where he rolled the boulders on top of The Tall Man, sealing his fate. Mike sees his brother, bathed in light with his arms held high over his head in triumph. Mike and Jody have one. Then the film reverses on Mike and he awakes in his bedroom. He is comforted beside the living room fireplace by he and Jody’s good friend Reggie. Reggie explains that not only are Mike’s parents dead, but Jody is also dead, killed in a car accident.

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This is a moment of true horror, a devastating moment that still breaks my heart just thinking about it. And this is where Phantasm succeeds so well, in making us care for the characters that are part of this tale. You can sense the brotherly love between Jody and Mike, their sense of camaraderie and their shared feelings of grief and confusion over the loss of their parents and the prospect of both their uncertain futures. To find out that Mike has lost the entirety of his immediate family, the people he has known and loved since birth, is a crushing blow.

Phantasm is a horror film that dwells in the dark, most assuredly, but it also has a great deal of heart and warmth to it, which as I stated above, is something of a hard commodity to come across in 1970’s era horror cinema. Just look at Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. It was a bloody horrifying decade for horror. Phantasm, too, explores the shadows of human nature. But, as odd as it might sound, Phantasm reminds us of what makes life worth living and that life is fleeting and serves as a reminder that we must cherish each moment of happiness we have. To show those we hold close that we love them, that we care and that we are here for them. Because one day, as we all know, they will be gone and we will never get that opportunity to hold them near and tell them we love them again.

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Phantasm is a masterpiece, plain and simple. From it’s unique story penned and directed by a very young Don Coscarelli, it’s unforgettable, dreamlike score by Fred Myrow, and it’s natural, engaging performances by everyone involved,  Phantasm is a type of dark fairy tale about the inevitability of  change and loss which digs deep into our most horrifying childhood fears about death. It takes us right back to the time when we were children and had to make sense of this adult world, a real world we were just beginning to become acquainted with. Phantasm is an audacious film which dares to take a trip through the mental landscape of a deeply scarred, traumatized child. By film’s end, Mike and Reggie decide they must leave their small town and find a new start. Mike begins packing his bag so that they can hit the road and head into a new day, a new future where they can begin to come to terms with their pain. Mike closes his closet door revealing The Tall Man in his mirror. “BOOOOOOOOY!” The Tall Man growls…and Michael is caught. Pulled through the mirror and into darkness.

One day you and I will face Death. Inevitably, as The Tall Man says, “The Game is finished. Now, you die.” And when that day comes, that unavoidable day when we reach our ultimate fate, we can only hope that in death we will fine peace and comfort. Not a brutal Hell made up of our most nightmarish childhood fears.

Phantasm and it’s iconic boogeyman, The Tall Man, would live on with many colorful, imaginative, bonkers sequels that pick up and continue the story admirably well. But, if you were to ask me, the tale begins and ends with the original 1979 classic Phantasm. One of the most poetic and lovely horror stories ever told.

I award Phantasm FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

21
Nov
15

The Funhouse (1981): The Reality of Horror

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a Primal Root written review

“Who will dare to face the challenge of the Funhouse? Who is mad enough to enter that world of darkness? How about you, sir…?” -Funhouse Barker, The Funhouse (1981)

 

Who doesn’t love a night amongst the neon lights, swirling machinery, salt of the earth carnies and deep fried delicacies of the fair? As The Primal Root and lifetime admirer of all things filthy, the North Florida Fair is a true thing of beauty. The aroma of artery clogging treats like cotton candy, loaded cheese fries, funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos co mingle with the unmistakable stench of fresh vomit, Carny B.O. and still warm shit straight from the occupants of the livestock pavilions assholes. It’s the smell of a fine, trashy adventure ready to be had! The sound of screaming patrons as they are spun at incredibly unsafe speeds on rides older than their grandparents and just as rickety as the Bacon Blast they just ate moments ago churns within their stomachs threatening to become a technicolor projectile of half digested nastiness! Because. let’s face it, fun is only bolstered when there’s a constant threat of either being puked on or a fate worse than death. These are simple truths.

Case in point, Tobe Hooper often overlooked 1981 low rent, down and dirty slasher shit kicker, The Funhouse! It’s the kind of film that did fairly well when it came out but never created a sustainable franchise and got forgotten about by the mainstream horror aficionados. Which is a shame, really, because The Funhouse is actually a pretty great slice of the old Trash Cinema Grade B meatloaf.

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The story is about a young, very pretty, VERY healthy young lady named Amy (played by the criminally underrated actress, Elizabeth Berridge). She is set up on a date by her two buddies  Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin) with a young stud and gas station attendant, Buzz Dawson (Cooper Huckabee). Against the advice of her parents, Amy and her friends attend the traveling fair that’s in town. Things get off to a rocky start as Buz insults Amy’s Father…but he soon amps up the charm and before you know it, he’s wrapping his arm around her, she’s resting her head on his shoulder and discussing letting Buzz ram his prize winning cock through her fresh harvest cherry with Liz while the hang out in an alarmingly grotesque carnival shit house. That’s right, Amy’s a virgin, Buzz is a”pistol” and Amy’s been saving it for someone special. I mean, this guy DID play that strong man carnival game, ring the bell and win her a stuffed panda, so the least she can do is spread her legs and let him ring her bell, too! Right? Right? Well, that’s how it sorta works in slasher flick logic anyway.  And what better place to lose it than by trespassing into the carnival’s FUNHOUSE and staying the night in there? Honestly, it is kind of a romantic notion to lose one’s virginity in there. Imagine, those things are NEVER cleaned so the drippings of your busted cherry will be all over The Funhouse floor FOREVER! So, one day when the carnival comes to town you can share a ride with the grand kids, point to an old brown stain on the floor and say “That’s where I treated a distant memory named “Buzz” to my unspoiled cooter! No, not Buzz Aldrin. This guy worked a gas pump…” But, I digress.

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Before you can say,  “dead whore”, the kids witness the creepy Funhouse attendant killing a fortune teller by the name of Madame Zena (Oscar nominated actress and Andy Warhol Factory regular, Sylvia Miles) who also doesn’t mind fucking for money on the side. See, Madame Zena simply touches the guy’s dick and he shoots his wad. She keeps the money, says a deal’s a  deal, but the Carny who just blew his load doesn’t see it this way. He yanks her tits out and strangles/electrocutes her to death. It;s a pretty horrifying/awesome scene.  The Carny is soon joined by his Father affectionately known as Funhouse Barker (Kevin Conway, who happens to play all the other Carnival Barkers in the film) and it is revealed that his son is hardly human at all, and is in fact, some kind of red eyed, sharp clawed, protruding fanged, drooling, screeching albino mutant deformity. It’s a pretty amazing reveal and one that puts a huge shit eating grin on my face every time. As Father and son discuss their plan for covering up Madame Zena’s murder we soon discover that this is far from the first time The Funhouse Barker has had to cover for his son’s murderous ways. In fact, it is even mentioned that his son killed two little Girl Scouts once. Yeah, this twosome is pretty vile. There are several shots in the move that linger on what a general ride goer at The Funhouse would consider fake rotten corpse props hanging from the walls of the ride. But the shots last for quite a while after we are made aware of this Father and Son’s past and you start to wonder how many of those crumbling dead bodies might actually be the real thing?

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Father and son decide they will ditch Madame Zena’s body in the woods and then blame her murder on “The Locals.”  As if Columbo couldn’t figure this shit out…ANYHOO, Richie drops his lighter, the Gruesome Twosome get wise to the fact that there are witnesses to the murder and the hunt is on!

The Funhouse is in many way a horror movie about horror movies. At the film’s very beginning, as we are treated to a lovely glimpse at Amy’s beautiful boobs, there are blatant and calculated homages to our horror film heritage represented by blatantly by  John Carpenter’s Halloween in the form of that film’s killer POV shots, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as Amy showers and is menaced by an unknown assailant with a knife. As a viewer, we are well aware of all these tropes. We’ve seen them and we know where it is going. The young, naked, nubile woman in the shower is going to get sliced and diced. That’s how these things work. HOWEVER, in The Funhouse, the sense of menace is soon turned upside down as the masked killer is revealed to be Amy’s little brother Joey pulling a prank and scaring the shit out of his big sis. This is meant to represent the horror film experience. Something scary is seen, but it is at the end of the day, harmless. What is frightening and thrilling on the screen isn’t going to actually harm us. James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein is repeatedly mentioned in one form or another. In Joey’s room there is a poster of Frankenstein’s Monster on this wall above his bed, Amy and Joey’s parent’s are seen watching Bride of Frankenstein on cable TV safe in their living room and even The Killer Carny Creature wears a Frankenstein mask through most of the film to cover his terrifying true appearance. The fictional face of a homogenized, harmless, well loved fictional monster is used to cover up the real terror just under the thin layer of latex.  It is a theme throughout The Funhouse. The kids go on carnival rides, scream are thrilled and have a blast. The ride stops and they step off unscathed. They witness a magician, Marco the Magnificent (played by legendary character actor and The Phantom of the Paradise himself, William Finley) drive a stake into a young girl’s heart. She spews up blood as she screams in agony. The crowd is horrified! But then the lights come up and the young girl is shown to be unharmed, and in fact, Marco’s lovely daughter and assistance. It was all an illusion, a trick, and order is restored. Again and again, the teens face things that outside the carnival would be truly horrendous, but here, it’s all an illusion. They are safe.

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That is, until they witness reality. In one of my favorite sequences in The Funhouse, the teens have snuck into The Funhouse to stay the night. The camera cranes back to show the lights of the traveling carnival shutting off, the rides shutting down, and inside The Funhouse the animatronic figures that populate it wind down to a halt. The notion of being alone, in the dark with all these creepy figures is the stuff of nightmares and is terrifying to contemplate. The camera steadily, slowly pulls back from the traveling carnival as the crowds leave pour out, the rides stop, and the lights shut down. The camera pulls all the way out to the parking lot. The veneer of amusement and fun are now gone and we are alone. Trapped in the dark. And evil is lurking.  Just like the horror film itself. You watch it, you have fun at the thrill of make believe monsters and mayhem. But when the movie is over, the credits roll and you go home…the real world awaits.

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I fucking adore The Funhouse. No other movie captures the sleazy, greasy nastiness of the traveling carnival quite like it. Hooper populates the movie with some great, memorable, believable characters…and some that are a bit cartoonish and over the top, but it all plays into the carnival atmosphere and it pays off exceptionally well. Sure, on the surface it looks just like another one of the popular dead teenager movies that came down the conveyer belt of the 1980’s, replete with plenty of death, destruction and nudity, but if you just pull back that mask, if you dare to look beneath the surface, The Funhouse is a much more thoughtful, much more intelligent horror film than you initially thought.

I award Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Taking a trip through The Funhouse is well worth it, Gang.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

11
Oct
15

Hell Night (1981) Party on, Garth!

POSTER-HELL-NIGHT

a Primal Root written review

“If you weren’t screaming, and we weren’t screaming, then someone is trying to mind fuck us here.” Seth, Hell Night

I’m not going to lie to you, there were a ton of slasher films made in the wake of the independent horror mega hit, Halloween in 1979. They all followed the formula with varying degree of success. Many tried new ground and failed to deliver the goods, others just didn’t understand the appeal and tried for a quick, meaningless cash grab, while others delivered on the gore and tits but left little to be desired in the thrill department.  Being a life long, die hard admirer of the horror genre, I am willing to give anything a go and I am always thrilled to find an example of a genre film that has every excuse in the world to be a lousy phoned in slasher flick actually put forth the effort, rises above the cliched premise, and delivers something entertaining, actually scary and downright fucking solid in execution. 1981’s Hell Night is a perfect example.

Four pledges, Marty (Linda Blair of The Exorcist and Savage Streets fame) Jeff (Peter Barton from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), Seth ( Vincent Van Patten from Rock and Roll High School) and Denise (Suki Goodwin…umm…) must go through with the initiation ritual pleasantly referred to as Hell Night which means they all must spend the night in the abandoned Garth Manor, where a dozen years or so earlier Raymond Garth murdered his wife, killed off all their deformed offspring and then committed suicide. The youngest of their spawnage, Andrew referred to as a…Gork (?), was never found and the legend goes that he still lives somewhere within Garth Manor, which contains numerous secret passages and catacombs running below the enormous mansion.

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Once the four lovely young people are locked in for the night behind the 12 foot tall wrought iron fence which encircles the property, complete with razor sharp spikes at the top where anyone trying to haul their asses over it “might cut their nuts off”, Fraternity and Sorority leaders begin a campaign of pranks in an attempt to scare the shit out of the pledges all while Seth and Denise get all weird and kinky in an upstairs bedroom playing goofy and endearing surfboard role playing, Marty and Pater spend their time chatting and forming a friendship by the living room fireplace. But it isn’t long before the presence of these young people bring to life a dark, malevolent force in the house one that strikes out at the pranksters first and then slowly, mercilessly, begins hunting down our four pledges.

Hell Night works shockingly well despite what comes across as a pretty by the numbers premise. Stick four attractive young people in a dark, forbidding location, unleash a plot contrivance to search them down and kill them one by one according their sluttiness and casual narcotics usage, leave one girl behind to kill the monster and call it a day. But where Hell Night succeeds flawlessly is actually taking the time to create real, interesting, human characters and not some phony, cynical bullshit axe fodder that you can’t wait to see get their heads ripped from their neck stumps. The young people in Hell Night are genuinely likable, shit, even relatable. And this is a huge fucking rarity for a “dead teenage” flick.

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Let’s take a moment to look at Seth, probably my favorite character in the flick. This guy is a muscle bound, blonde, weed smoking surfer guy who, according to himself, only cares about drinking, surfing and screwing. In your run of the mill slasher film, this guy would be written of as dead meat right then in there. Horny jock? That sucker is toast! But in Hell Night, these conventions are kicked to the curb and Seth is proven to be not only quite intelligent, but heroic, loyal, and resourceful. As a long time fan of the slasher genre, I can tell you, Seth’s behavior and acts of heroism are not often seen in the slasher formula. In a way, this makes Seth a kind of wild card, as we so very seldom see this kind of character, we are put of edge not knowing just what might happen to him.

That same sentiment goes for the character of Marty. Linda Blair creates a unique and admirable blue collar badass out of Marty. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, comes from a working class family where she grew up fixing cars along with her mechanic Father (PLOT POINT!) and provides an interesting contrast to the other, more privileged, pledges.  There’s even a great extended conversation early in the film about class structure and capitalism between Marty and Jeff. It’s a fantastic moment where two characters are feeling one another out as they get to know one another along with the audience. We’re not talking anything deeply philosophical here, but it far exceeds what the format typically calls for, and that’s worth praising. These characters are real to life, identifiable and ultimately likable. We fear for them and it really does suck when these characters are killed and are no longer in the movie. You actually mourn the loss. See, this effort makes Hell Night far scarier than it’s next of kin.

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There are no red herrings in Hell Night, only a menacing, blood thirsty antagonist that remains hidden in the shadows for about 95% of the film’s running time. AGAIN, this works in Hell Night‘s favor, as it adds a legitimate feeling of unease and fear as we imagine just what or whom is lurking in the darkness, in those catacombs, racing towards us down the candle lit hallways of Garth Manor.  However, the number of killers at work here is left in question, which also adds to the uneasy tension Hell Night generates. But, when you stop and think about the premise of Hell Night, it does kind of dawn on you that these college kids ARE trespassing on Private Property…I guess The Garth clan has every right to butcher these assholes invading their home. Who are the real bad guys here? 😉 This flick even manages to create some genuine suspense as one young pledge, in a panic, decides to scale the high fence surrounding Garth Manor and must hoist his weight over numerous spikes poised to pierce his tender young flesh. When looking for help, all the young people can find is useless authority and they must rely on themselves, their cunning and resourcefulness to survive Hell Night.

Alright, so when all is said and done, is Hell Night original? Hardly. What it actually is, is a well crafted and performed Spook Show Haunted House. It’s genuinely thrilling, fun, and even pretty goddamn nightmarish at times. Hell Night is a sadly overlooked piece of slasher film history, one I continually wait to see it becoming rediscovered and reaching the cult status it so richly deserves. Boasting some fine performances, nasty, mean, mother fucking monsters, some outstanding cleavage from a still baby faced Linda Blair, a genuinely creepy score and the patience to really create some worthwhile characters, Hell Night is, in this filthy fright flick fan’s opinion, is one of the better slasher efforts to come out of the 1980’s.

WORD OF WARNING: There is NO nudity in Hell Night.

I’m awarding Hell Night FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

04
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989) Love and Agony or What Scares You?

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

a Primal Root review

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” – Jud Crandall, Pet Sematary 

Recently a friend of mine proposed this question, “What horror film really scares you?” Of course, several gents responded with the standby response, “Horror movies don’t actually scare me,” but I took a moment to ponder this. The first film to come to mind was Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s not the jump scares, or the grisly visages of death returning from the grave to haunt, taunt, and ghoulishly murder the living. Sure, that stuff is down right sickening and terrifying on a visceral level, but for me, the true horror is the idea of losing the ones we love. The moment that still breaks my heart and  has left the deepest scar is the presentation of the sequence where the cute as a button toddler, Gage (Miko Hughes) is run over by a speeding semi outside the family home in full view of his mortified parents and little sister. We hear the agonized screams of Gage’s Father, Louis (Dale Midkiff), as we images of Gage’s all too short life flash before our eyes. In all the horror films I have ever seen, this scares the ever loving shit out of me. This is pain, this is suffering, this is pure horror. It is not played for laughs, it does not rely on special effects, it relies on our empathy and the knowledge that we as viewers understand this grief and dread it everyday. It’s unthinkable, but we always know deep down, that the ones we love can be unceremoniously ripped out of our lives without a moment’s notice. This is primal terror. This is life. Life is horror.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but I used to not like Pet Sematary at all. Honestly, it just never appealed to me as a teenager. But one day I decided to give the film another shot and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I was older now and suddenly Pet Sematary made absolute sense to me and chilled me to the core. Horror can be an exceedingly powerful genre, and at it’s very best, it crushes audience expectations and explores societal taboos. What Pet Sematary explores is the inevitability of death. The journey ends for all of us, sooner or later and we’ve created elaborate myths we call religion around death in order to make some sense out of it. That life goes on somewhere beyond our short time here on Earth that there is an eternity in Heaven or Hell, or that we are reincarnated, or turned into Star Childs, etc.  We will get the answers one day, and I sincerely doubt it is anything any of us will ever expect. I can’t wait to laugh my ass of when it all fades to black and there;s simply nothing just like there was before I was born. But, I won’t be able to. Because I am gone.

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Pet Sematary plays out like a Greek tragedy. The Creed family moves into their gorgeous new home out in the country or rural Maine. it’s miles from town, but is located near a very busy road where huge semi’s cannonball down it day and night. Also on their property down a wooded path is a Pet Sematary, they are show this by a long time resident and neighbor, Jud Crandall (played by the legendary Fred Gwynne). On Louis’s first day at work as the resident doctor on the local college campus, he treats a jogger, Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who was mowed down by a car and dies on Louise’s operating table. That night, Pascow returns to Louis as a spirit and warns him to not visit that Indian burial ground that lays beyond the Pet Semetary. He warns, “The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”

When Louis and Rachel’s daughter Ellie’s cat, Chuch, is run over on the highway, Jud leads Louis out beyond the Pet Sematary to bury Church on the Indian land. The next day Church returns, but is now malicious and smells of death. It is not the cool cat the family knew before getting creamed out that means stretch of road.  Louis is given precious little time to ponder what has just happened when a far greater tragedy occurs. While flying a kite on a beautiful sunny day, their youngest child, Gage, wonders onto the highway and is crushed under the tires of a speeding truck.

Stricken with sorrow and regret that he could not save his son in time and Gage is gone forever, Louis considers unearthing his dead son’s body and entering it in the “sour” ground of the Indian burial mound. Over the objections of both Jud and Pascow’s spirit, Louis bury’s little Gage in the soul of the Indian burial ground and it isn’t long before Louis and Jud must face the reckoning of their decisions.

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In the horror genre death is a given. Characters are killed off all the time to the point we actually look forward to seeing how folks are going to meet their maker. Franchises like Friday the 13th, The Omen, Saw and the like revel in the graphic depictions of the splattery deaths of people we don’t know or really care about.  It has become the punchline to a joke for the majority of slasher horror cinema and it’s played for thrills, humor and entertainment. This is perfectly fine, horror can be a damn good time and a way for us to let loose, experience something visceral and know that no one actually got hurt or died. It was all for the nasty fun ride and then we get to go home safe in knowing this shit will probably never, ever, happen to us. Rarely do horror films so well conceived staged and vetted that they ask us to confront death head on. Pet Sematary is takes a meaningful, deep dark look into the nature of death, and in the very place we fear it the most, our immediate family and ask us what we will do on that day we lose someone we cherish.

So, yes, I would say Pet Sematary is the one horror film that truly, honestly fills my heart with dread and scares me like none other. Just like it’s source material, it is a story built upon the hardest, most horrible of human experiences and languishes in them. Grief, anguish, desperation, they’re all accounted for. The supernatural elements are intriguing and there, but at the end of the day, it’s the honesty in the human element of Pet Sematary that gives the film it’s power to disturb and to horrify. It is a film that has always stuck with me. It reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. Every smile, every laugh each and every spine cracking bear hug, because we all know that one day, we will never touch these people, hear their voice, know their warmth, these souls  so close to us, so dear to our hearts, ever again.  It’s the inevitable tragedy of life. We must learn to except loss. We must grieve and move on. Like the wise, warm and lovable character Jud Crandall says, “May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”

I award Pet Sematary FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

13
Aug
15

Death Game (1977) Daddy Issues aka: Don’t let your Dick make it a Predicament

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a Primal Root written review

“This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society.” – opening title to Death Game (1977)

Dear Penthouse Forum,

My wife and kid were out of town and I was all alone in my immaculately maintained mansion that my high ranking position at a well-to-do white collar job affords me. I was minding my own business, listening to some records, enjoying the bachelore lifestyle one dark and stormy night when all of a sudden a rapping came at my front door. It was two gorgeous blondes, soaking wet looking to use my phone. I didn’t want to send them back out into the cold stormy night, so I invited them in to use our family telephone and dry themselves off. I mean…it’s the decent thing to do, right? I never for a second had any intention of sticking my penis in either of these blossoming young women…Not a single thought of it…

So commences the simple, provocative, male fantasy the initiates the 1977 horror film, Death Game aka: The Seducers. The film that genuinely gives you a boner and then savagely tears it away, smacks you across the face with it and leaves you standing in your shame.  Loving, caring family man and business man, George Manning (Seymour Cassel, Max Fisher’s Dad from Rushmore), is on his own for the next couple nights. See, his wife had to go on an emergency trip to take care of their young son whose appendix ruptured while staying with his Grandparents on summer vacation.  While at home along in his expensive west coast home a storm rolls in, and with it, two young women, who claim to have lost their way while trying to find a party. Soaked to the bone, they ask to use George’s phone. He kindly obliges them and gives them robes so that they may dry off.

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The two nubile, shapely, incredibly attractive young ladies are Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen “HELLOOOOO NURSE!” Camp) and after lounging by the fire side with George and listening to records, Agatha and Donna strip nude and lure George into and threesome in the downstairs bathroom…which has an enormous jacuzzi tub and a fucking sauna. George is loaded, Gang. George puts up a minor struggle before dropping trou and getting wet wild with the two luscious vixens. Now, I never figured in my wildest dreams that I’d ever watch the Dad from Rushmore in a hot as balls threesome sequence with the likes of Ms. Locke and my long standing wet dream Colleen Camp, but I can say this, it is a pretty amazing spectacle to behold.

Soon comes the morning, and George finds that Jackson and Donna making a mess in the kitchen as they make a sloppy, disgusting breakfast. They spill food and shit all over the house, destroy expensive stereo equipment, smear food on themselves and act like little psychotic hyperactive kids from Hell as we watch reality start to sink in on George’s face.  Donna has even grown a strange, unhealthy attraction to George and has begun calling him, “Daddy.” Gang, this is not good. After threatening to call the police, Jackson and Donna agree to let George drive them to the bus station only to break it no his house later, assault George, tie him up and torture the bastard for the rest of the weekend all while screaming about “Daddy.” Late in the evening Jackson and Donna decide to hold a mock court and put George on trial, accusing him or rape and perversion. George is allowed to defend himself, claiming that his family needs him. The mock court deliberates and find George guilty as charged and will be executed at dawn which is counted down by hour glass.

Now, earlier in the film we see George lovingly spend time with his wife. The two are obviously in love with one another, enjoy each other’s company. He speaks on the phone sweetly to his son. It;s not like George is an abusive, inattentive, cold scum bag. He’s a average guy living the good life. He has everything he could possibly want right at his finger tips. He is happy and content, but never the less, welcomes the sexual attention of the wet, slinky, bosomy foxes who show up on his doorstep while his faithful wife is away.  George is never perceived as a bad guy, just the typical man. Death Game implies that the average Joe, when confronted with two dripping wet nekkid seductresses would, when push come to in-out-in out, give in and start log jammin’. No questions asked. And then they throw the pussy out the window. Literally. It;s pretty awesome.

Jackson and Donna quickly turn from being a straight male fantasy (booty to be plundered) to being sinister, embarrassing reminders of the dark side of our carnal lusts and the damage giving into these animalistic wants can incur. The two girls become a threat to Georges safe and happy life. They threaten to destroy his reputation in the community, end his marriage and tear apart his family, even his awesome house is at stake. Jackson and Donna are the darkest side to the male sexual fantasy of getting away with an affair and, in the eyes of Death Game, exposes men as incapable of being trusted and willing to throw everything away for the possibility of a scott free fuck on the side.

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Whether or not you agree with Death Game’s thesis, it mercilessly pounds it’s point home as George, a pillar of his community, falls prey to his own sexual desires. Sure, we are witness to images of Jackson as she she bites into a juicy red apple and looking every bit the seductive serpent found in the garden of Eden, but the responsibility for everything that happens to him falls solely on George, who was led by the yearning of his throbbing lower appendage. The two young ladies, who claim to be underage after spreading ’em for George, are clearly insane and deeply scarred, one assumes, due to sexual abuse by the hands of their Fathers. It’s something heavily implied in the subtext of Death Game, and it’s not too subtle, either. One listen to the film’s opening song “Good Old Dad” will clue you in to what kind of nasty subject matter we’re dealing with here and the apparent feminist underpinnings of Death Game’s story.

One of my favorite aspects of Death Game is the way the film’s director, Peter S Traynor, utilizes the male gaze to arouse our voyeuristic impulses as soon as Jackson and Donna arrive at George’s door. We are treated and teased with brief glimpses of Jackson’s bare legs and her panties under her robe, a momentary view of Donna’s impressive cleavage, as we begin to view the two as sexual objects, just as George sees them. This is done seamlessly, efficiently and masterfully. We become around along with George. All three of our central character meld together as images overlap one another during their threesome and all seems right, everything perfect, wonderful, a fantasy made flesh.

But, as often seems to occur with these forms of encounters, in the unforgiving first light of morning, reality has a way of annihilating perception of perfection.

Jackson and Donna usurp George’s male authority in his own home, dominating him both mentally and physically in a series of brutal, sadistic, set pieces.  Ultimately, Death Game drives it’s grueling, nasty, (and feminist) take on the man’s true nature home. Donna and Jackson could have knocked on any of George’s neighbor’s door, randomly selected, met any man  and the exact same scenario could have taken place.  What I believe the message Death Game is trying to deliver is that the real horror, the real evil of is not coming from Jackson and Donna, no, they are a result of sexual objectification and abuse in our society. George could be any man whose desires have gotten the better of him, and Death Game associates that failing with Jackson and Donna’s psychotic and homicidal nature.

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You can love or hate, take or leave the feminist politics inherent in Death Game, but you cannot deny how fucking excellent the film is. Sure, the ending is more than a little abrupt and out of left field, but otherwise, the performances are phenomenal and it is directed with precision, skill, and nuance. It manages to both titillate, terrify and leave your pulse racing. But, something I appreciate far more than this, it’s a horror flick that boldly starts a discussion. Death Game is a brilliant film that drudges up the subject of sexual politics and it’s most taboo, discomforting points. The ones we seldom like to bring up or discuss in polite society, again, reinforcing why I pledge my eternal love to horror in all it’s forms. It is not an escape, it is not an exit, it is a long, often deeply disconcerting look in the mirror forcing us to face and question who we are as individuals and as a whole.

Death Game is a damn fine slice of psycho sexual horror and one I cannot dent makes me feel wonderfully, helplessly uncomfortable. I would love for one of The Trash Cinema Collective to show this to either their prospective girlfriend or boyfriend on a first date. Please do, and let me know the outcome.

Also, Colleen Camp, The Trash Cinema Collective salutes. She is one HEALTHY girl!

I award Death Game  FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Watch it with someone you’re sure of. Here’s hoping the upcoming Eli Roth produced remake “Knock, Knock” starring Keanu Reeves *snicker* prompts someone to release a remastered copy of Death Game. Let me tell ya, my DVD of this flick looks like someone shoved the VHS tape up a horses ass and then transferred it directly to a DVD. Really, it looks terrible. Can someone please release a cleaned up copy of this one? Much obliged.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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