Posts Tagged ‘film

12
Sep
15

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical life of a teenage, man.

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

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

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

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 ****SPOILERS AHOY!****

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

The Primal Root says you gotta see this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Apr
15

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013) Blood Sacrifice for The Movie God

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a Primal Root written review

It takes a certain breed to be a cinema buff.  I became a believer in the beauty, the appeal and the power of the movies in a near religious manner. Friday nights as a child were spent at the local movie theater (Oak Lakes 6, Miracle 5 or Capital Cinema here in Tallahssee FL, Rest in Peace, my friends) or at one of multiple video rental stores. I learned more about morality, courage, compassion, love and humanity from what I watched on the silver screen and through my VCR than I ever did by going to church and all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is make that one perfect film I have in my head. My masterpiece. My chance to project a story upon that screen and make people laugh, scream, cry and think. In this sense I completely understand where someone like the character of Director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) is coming from in the 2013 Japanese gangster, action, comedy, gore epic Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

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Teenage Director Hirata, along with his closest filmmaking comrades known as The Fuck Bombers,  discover a young Sasaki taking part in a back alley brawl. Hirata instantly dubs Sasaki “The New Bruce Lee,” and gives him Lee’s iconic yellow and black track suit and a pair of nunchaku. The group of dreamers spend their formative years at the local community center watching movies and the rest of their free time shooting backyard movies and incidents they come across on the street.

Meanwhile, young Michiko is the singing and dancing star of a toothpaste commercial and has become an overnight sensation. That is, until her Mother, the wife of Michiko’s Yakuai gang leader Father Taizo, is sent to jail after brutally slaughtering a half dozen enemies who invaded her home while she was slicing up carrots.  Michiko’s Mama is thrown in jail for ten years and the powers that be have Michiko’s ridiculously popular toothpaste ad removed from the air. I’m trying to refrain from spoilers as much as possible here, but Michiko comes home to the aftermath of her Mother’s bloody encounter, ends up lsipping sliding through some blood and comes face to face with the man who was sent to kill her family. It’s both incredibly cute, funny, graphic and sets the rest of the film’s story line in motion. A series of mind boggling coincidence, or is it fate (?), that leads to one of the greatest gangster epics ever filmed.

See, Taizo has sworn to Michiko’s Mother that Michiko is starring in an incredible action film, one that will make her proud of her daughter. But when Taizo realizes it’s all fake, that there is no heart behind the camera, no passion and no vision, he enlists the assistance of the now grown up, but still insanely passionate Hirata and The Fuck Bombers to film the epic battle to the death between these two rival gangs with the young and vicious Michiko as the film’s star. See, The Fuck Bombers never realized their dream of making the ultimate Yakuza action film. They made it as far as a mock trailer for the film they lways dreamed of making, but the dream has gone unfulfilled and the group is beginning to fall apart because of it. But this opportunity to film what promises to be the bloodiest gang battles in history. They have prayed to “The Film Gods” their entire lives, and it now seems that their prayers are answered. Director Hirata and his team tackle the project with a manic kind of glee as they rush about the battle with their eyes glued to their camera as blood, limbs, and heads fly the through the air and splash upon their smiling faces.

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I can honestly say it’s the most heartwarming and joyful bloodbaths I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. Everyone is willing to die for this project. Both gang bosses, their henchmen, Michiko, The Fuck Bombers, just to make this piece of cinema as true and spectacular as they feel it should be. And everything is amazing, that is until the fucking police show up (MPAA Ratings Board/Censorship?) and fuck it all up.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell is ludicrous, completely batshit crazy, brutally, cartoonishly violent and a jubilant celebration for the art of filmmaking. Filmmaker Sion Sono has captured perfectly the exhilaration and exasperation of going after any creative endeavor. There is love here for those who dare to dream and are waiting patiently for their moment to come. for their chance to speak through the cinematic medium. It’s impossible to not feel the excitement as hardened Yakuza gangsters become passionate and exacting about sound recording, as Hirata runs through thick puddles of blood, demanding reshoots as the people he’s making these requests to are actually being sliced to ribbons and as the cameramen redefine the art of “Shooting a Movie.”

There’s plenty of carnage candy in this blood encrusted cinematic odyssey, but there is an unmistakable depth of heart present throughout the proceedings. We genuinely care about life long friend, The Fuck Bombers, and their ambitions of making their movie dreams come true.  We find ourselves fully believing that Michiko’s toothpaste jingle could beguile generations of TV watchers including the rival gang’s leader who has been infatuated with her ever since.  It’s the fact that Why Don’t You Play in Hell and it’s wet, nasty, over the top action is grounded in believable, likeable, three dimensional characters that makes the ride of watching it so goddamn exhilirating. You’ll be cheering all the way to the final frame and even shocked to the point of tears by the fate of many of these characters. At least they all died battling for their art, their honor and their dreams. And this mixture of naive optimism and midnight movie bedlam leaves the viewer not only endeared to such shenanigans, but leaves you thirsty for more.

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For fans of not only Trash Cinema but the art of cinema itself,  Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is a flick you MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN. It will knock you flat on your ass, hose you down with blood, then french kiss you with a mouth full of glass, and when it’s all over, you’ll wipe away the blood and beg to go through it again.  Trust me, it’s THAT fucking good.

I award Why Don’t You Play In Hell? FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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a Primal Root written review

Before the man ended up tackling truly awful films like Baby Geniuses and Karate Dog, late filmmaker Bob Clark made some well loved and enduring films. Hell, they play his film A Christmas Story at least 700 times on every cable station from November to New Year’s Day, and his horror film Black Christmas is held up beside John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the most suspenseful and horrifying slasher films ever made. The deeply unsettling Vietnam era horror film, Deathdream He even created the legendary Trash Cinema Classic, Porky’s back in 1982! The man proved he could do it all and with pizazz. For my money, one of the man’s finest and most under appreciated works is one of his very first. the 1973 horror/comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is the tale of a troupe of hippie thespians who travel out to a secluded burial island off the coast of Florida for an adventure at the witching hour.  Their leader and owner of the theater company is Alan (Alan Ormsby) a complete megalomaniac who take much pleasure in putting his friends down, sexual harassment and has a penchant for loud clothing. He leads his troupe to this island with the promise that he will raise the dead. The gang catches on quick and thinks it’s all a ruse to scare the shit out of them, which proves to be the case as they are attacked by two ghouls that turn out to be fellow actors in pancake makeup. However, soon after this bit of fun, Alan ends up ordering his thespian clan to dig up an actual corpse, that of a deceased fellow named Orville, before actually promising to call up a curse from Satan himself and bring the dead back to life.

After several false starts, the magic incantation actually does work and the undead residents of the island cemetery rise from their graves to devour the usual rag tag group of acid casualties, witchy women and squares in bell bottoms, but this doesn’t happen till nearly the end of the movie. In fact, the majority of the film is spent highlighting the petty power struggles and squabbling that takes place between this group comprised of hand picked members of the Flower Power/Free Love community. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things peels back the facade and takes a long, hard look at the hippie dream of peace, love and community and how this counterculture failed on delivering it’s idealistic vision of a better, new society. Power games, sexism, and sadistic threats are what dominate this unpleasant and corrupt group of young people. In short, this is no longer a utopian world of change, but an exact replica of the society they we seeking to be an alternative to.

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Just beyond the caustic satire of the counterculture is a dark sense of melancholy and despair which is fully embodied in the character of Alan. The villainous Alan does not believe in traditional Flower Power, but espouses on the pointlessness of our very existence, “The dead are losers. If anyone hasn’t earned the right for respect, it’s the dead…Man is a machine that manufactures manure.”  Alan takes great pride in devaluing those around him. Calling his leading man a “slab of meat” and mocking Satan himself in his incantations. Alan lives in a world without value or truth. He even states that he will take Orville home to feed to his dogs and then use his bones as Christmas ornaments. Sure, he might be saying this all for shock value, but from the reaction of those around him you get the impression this is not an act, but who Alan really is.  So, in the end, after Alan spends so much of the film waxing his nihilistic poetry, exposing the pointlessness of life and the non existence of God or Satan, it makes a kind of deeply sick sense that the dead should return to life. Rising like malfunctioning machines comprised of rotted flesh and old bones, moving about as a parody of the living’s pointless, expendable existence.

Instead of embracing these walking dead as the ultimate substantiation of his empty, nihilistic beliefs, Alan does everything in his power to save his own ass. In one of the film;s most memorable moments of absolutely shocking and comical pessimism, Alan and a female friend run up the stairs for safety, followed closely by the flesh hungry dead. Alan, in a moment of complete selfishness, pushes this woman down the stairs and into the arms of the flesh eaters coming for them. The actions stops for a moment as the woman and zombies alike stop in their tracks and stare at Alan, as if astonished at his loathsome cowardice, before taking this young woman off to be eaten.

This is where that vision peace and love got us. Not the most cheerful of thoughts to consider.

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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one brutal in it’s sick, drastically dark satire, but it’s still a fantastic comedy. Filled with quirky performances, snappy dialog, and some fantastic one liners.  On a near non-existent budget, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things manages to be both completely entertaining and utterly engrossing  while reminding you why you dread running into those kids you used to hang out with in drama club back in high school. The thespians are all very real, very human characters and the zombies, in cheap makeup and thrift store clothes, are vivid, nasty customers with facial expressions registering rage and hate rather than the typical benign indifference of a Romero zombie. After being rudely awaken,  these dead folks are back to settle a score.  The makers of this film use their limited budget to their advantage and deliver an intelligent, bleak look into a counterculture that never did take, died,  and simply rotted away like flesh from the bone.  In the end, it’s Death getting the last laugh.

I give Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Oct
14

Ravenous (1999)

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a Rebecca Keel review

I had the pleasure of seeing ‘Ravenous’ for the first time recently.  This 1999 slow-burn horror film starring Guy Pearce,  Robert Carlyle,  and David Arquette surprised me in a lot of ways.  I didn’t know much about the film when I sat down to watch it;  I’d seen it recommended here and there on the Internet,  and I had a vague idea that it was about cannibalism,  but beyond that,  the whole thing was an impressive surprise.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s never gotten the attention it deserves,  and while I definitely agree with that,  it seems like its own quirkiness has been instrumental in keeping it a well-kept secret from the mainstream horror scene.

Cinematically,  ‘Ravenous’ represents the collision of several elements which don’t typically walk around holding hands.  Its pacing,  character development style,  and quite a lot of its cinematographic choices feel more like a classic Western than a modern horror film,  and apparently I was far from the first to make this connection (Jacob Knight over at nerdbastards.com highlights the role of elements from the Western genre as being fundamental to the film:  http://nerdbastards.com/2014/06/03/retro-review-ravenous-is-an-even-better-western-than-it-is-a-horror-film/ ).  It’s also filmed in a retrospective style that often makes it easy to forget that it came out the same year as ‘The Matrix’.  This combination of Western genre film construction and old-fashioned filming style successfully tricked my brain into repeatedly thinking I was watching a film much older than this one actually is.  Meanwhile,  the gore and makeup effects have an offhand realism that reminds me of sweeping,  dramatic war films. The kind of horror story it presents is in tune with the film’s style:  it’s constructed with fairly limited plot twists and instead of relying on cheap startle techniques,  it tells a thoughtful tale which stayed with me long after I watched it,  enticing my mind to play with the sharp edges of its implications.

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The film’s setting was quite unusual as well.  The Mexican-American War,  which went down during the mid-1800s before the outbreak of the American Civil War,  is far from a typical time period setting for any genre of film,  and it seems even more bizarre as the backdrop for a horror flick.  Yet the film’s writer,  Ted Griffin,  and its director,  Antonia Bird,  made good use of the features of the setting to generate genuine feelings of isolation and desperation which sometimes feel forced in horror films set in the Information Age.  Utilizing Native American culture and legends gave the story an air of authenticity that was hard to dispel and made for convincing storytelling of a caliber I typically only associate with a few horror novelists (such as Dan Simmons,  whose historical-fiction horror is some of the best in the field).

Yet it’s easy to see how fans of mainstream horror could lose interest in an artistic film like ‘Ravenous’.  The film’s  score is at times grating,  though the effect seems intentional and helps drive home the events playing out on-screen,  while at other times idyllic background music which seems like it would be more at home in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has a jarring effect when taken alongside the foreshadowed events and the horrors that have already taken place.  Such decisions can alienate viewers who prefer and expect a more conventional film score,  though this technique is increasing in popularity (or at least acceptance) among mainstream viewers.  The pacing of the plot’s revelations requires patience fans of films like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Grudge’ aren’t always willing to grant a film,  and the lack of monster makeup might make it hard for some to swallow a film that is,  frankly,  set up to be a type monster movie.  But for fans of old-fashioned horror,  ‘Ravenous’ has a lot to offer.  Many elements of the film would feel at home in a story by Lovecraft,  Matheson,  or Poe.  And the film’s unabashed frankness and realism in the face of the supernatural leaves me hovering in that delicate space between belief and disbelief which is the hardest form of terror to shake off.

10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

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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…

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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.

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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

17
Feb
14

(NSFW) Cindy & Donna (1970): House of Sexual Deviants

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a Primal Root written review

“You know, it’s just a big kick. A trip, you know? Look, don’t be so serious. I mean, you know, it’s a groove.” – Cindy’s best friend Karen explains sexual intercourse

Growing up sure can be hard, especially when you’re a disturbingly sexy yet trashy teenage girl from a divorced family, your Dad’s a lecherous creep who’s always staring at your step sister while she’s in her underwear, your stepmother’s a constantly bitching alcoholic and your step sister is forever getting laid and trading pussy for pot while you’re still wearing your hair in pigtails and are just too scared to spread those thighs for some pimply faced classmate at the local high school or one of those college jerks still looking to score teeny-bopper poon.

This is the very basic premise of “Cindy & Donna” a very strange brand of coming-of-age flick, exploitation film and soft-core porn. Cindy and Donna are step sisters, Cindy’s the baby of the two and Donna is the older, more sexually experienced. Cindy’s Pop is a boozer and a perv while Donna’s Mom is kind of a booze hound killjoy that I’m sure her husband blames for his tendency to spend all night at bars after work, bang prostitutes and get boners of his stepdaughter. It’s suburban dysfunction at it’s very finest and not really played for laughs, if anything, it all comes of as shockingly depressing…which makes it really funny…Huh? Stay with me.

“Cindy & Donna” tells the story of the red headed, teenage pixie virgin, Cindy (played by Debbie Osborne of “Country Cousins” and “Tobacco Roody” fame, I also happen to have a bit of crush on this chick who vanished off the face of the earth in 1972.) as she begins to blossom and become increasingly curious about what it is to be a sexually active young woman in 1970’s America. A voyeur by nature, she is constantly peeping in on her family members and being exposed to the truly depraved and disturbing sex lives of her Father and stepsister. We’re going to leave Mom out of this because she’s just an alcoholic who spends the majority of the film either drunkenly shouting out insults or passed out in bed watching what sound like bizarre Indian massacre movies.

Cindy witnesses her older stepsister, Donna (the ever foxy Nancy Ison) sneak out of the house at night and ride her boyfriend Greg’s flesh pole of freedom in order to obtain some grass. Cindy is also aware of her Father’s other vice besides alcoholism and ignoring his family, hookers. Ladies of the night. Prostitutes. We are given a front row seat to this doughy, middle aged man’s sexcapades with the lovely and incredibly well built Alice (Alice Friedland, looking like an American version of Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg) a professional stripper, spank magazine model and, yes, prostitute, who we’re introduced to in an extended sequence of Alice gyrating her crotch into the camera and bouncing her lovely, bountiful, natural boobs in artsy-fartsy low angle shots that make sure her tits and ass take up THE ENTIRE SCREEN. She invites Pops back to her place for a night of awkward genital grinding, fondling and utterances of the phrase, “You blow my mind!”

I can see the artistic intent here.

I can see the artistic intent here.

After Pops and Alice finish up it is revealed that Alice is only 17, the same age as his naive, peeper of a daughter, Cindy. You’d think this was primed to set up some kind of plot point where Pops would approach his daughter and talk openly with her about “the birds and the bees” and perhaps even cause the man to realize what a terrible Father and husband he’s been and get him on the straight and narrow to ensure his wife and children are provided for emotionally as well as financially and go on to live fulfilling lives together.  No such luck, Pops boozes it up the following night, can’t get an appointment to poke Alice and decides to go home and fuck his stepdaughter, Donna. AND HE DOES! He stumbles into her bedroom completely wasted, disrobes and goes to town on her young, naked, nubile self AND SHE OPENLY ENJOYS IT! She pulls him in closer, smooches his whiskey drenched gob with tongue and allows the patriarch of their family to grope her chesticological region and finger her little Donna.  It’s disturbing and totally unbelievable. Of course, it’s revealed that Cindy is watching this whole incestual shindig go down from the doorway of their adjoining bedrooms before throwing herself upon her bed and weeping. Strangely, the incident is never mentioned again, not once, for the rest of the film. And this a bit more horrifying than the incident where Cindy watched Donna get banged by her boyfriend Greg in the back of his sports car as payment for weed, which Cindy then went back to her bedroom and masturbated over. I started wondering if possibly Cindy is imagining all these sexual hijinks she witnesses as part of her own repressive sexual desires and fantasies, but I might be giving “Cindy & Donna” too much credit. But then again, who know, perhaps director Robert Anderson saw something in this material beyond just the TnA and deep, dark, sexual depravity. One thing’s for sure, looking at the film this way opens up a whole new perspective.

BUT I’M GETTING OFF TOPIC!

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in...

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in…

That morning Mom and Pops head to Vegas for the weekend and are never relevant to the “plot” again. Cindy confides all this, minus the Daddy/Stepdaughter action earlier, to her BFF Karen (sexy, confident, Cheryl Powell) who has recently made the transition from naive young girl to slutty, cock starved teenage hellion. Karen’s advice to Cindy? Get laid, basically. They end up going to the beach where they meet two dorky guys in tiny bathing suits. They hardly even introduce themselves before the gentlemen whisk these ladies off to their casual sex shack on the beach and start putting on the moves.  The moment the scene begins Cindy starts shouting about how she just wants to go home as Karen drops her bikini quicker than you get food poisoning from a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich and starts riding her dork pick of the litter as if he were Seabiscuit. “Don’t be a drag, Cindy!” Karen commands as she humps dork boy’s baby batter baton.  The scene goes on for way longer than it should as Karen gets fucked on one bed and Cindy continuously cries “Stop it!” and “No!” on the nearby stained sofa as her zit faced, teen date rapist drools all over her neck and licks her face. This is all taking place in the same room so the camera just sits in medium shot and documents this uncomfortable moment in time for what feels like forever. As soon as Karen gets her rocks off they both head for home where they smoke some weed, put on a record and enjoy some experimental lesbianism so Karen can demonstrate for Cindy “what it feels like.” My, my, it’s been a big day for these two.

Tell me that's not Shia LeBeouf back there.

Tell me that’s not Shia LeBeouf back there.

What’s Donna up to while her parents are out of town? Just hanging out with her boyfriend Greg…and allowing several creepers to take nude photos of her as a way to pay back the money she owes Greg for the weed he purchased her the other day. Rather quickly, the photo shoot devolves (or evolves, depending on your view) into a mild mannered gang bang in Greg’s rumpus room. Donna really gets off on this “groovy” action, despite the men never having to remove their underwear in order to penetrate her baby factory, and the scenes goes on without ever showing the end of the gang bang when they, I assume, smoke a  little reefer, play air guitar and eat Doritos.

The very next morning, after Cindy and Karen spend a night of playing bumper clits together, Karen assures Cindy that she was “marvelous” in the sack and that she should try the ultimate trip and have sex with an actual man.  This gets the wheels turning and Cindy puts her plan into action. She invites Donna’s boyfriend Greg over and they start going at it on the family sofa, which seems like a daring place to lose one’s virginity. I mean, how will Cindy explain that stain to her folks? Anyhoo, Cindy begins taking off her awesome 70’s dress and asks Gregg “Can you dig it?” His reply? “I can dig it.” and she is soon nekkid and rubbing her petite, teeny-bopper body all over Gregg, the Scott Stapp of the 1970’s.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as Cindy’s about to go cock spelunking, Donna comes home and stumbles upon this scene and exclaims “DON’T MESS WITH MY SISTER!” Gregg responds the only reasonable way any man would after being interrupted while about to have his man utter suckled by a young woman, and picks Donna up and throws her out the front door onto her AstroTurf lawn. Donna, confused and mortified (despite the fact she fucked her stepdad a night or two ago) wonders aimlessly into the road and is run over by a car. Cindy watches this happen through the screen door of her Cabrini Green model suburban home and screams. The picture freezes on her shocked and horrified face. We then cut to a brief sequence of her swinging at a jungle gym where we can see her red panties.

The End

 I am speechless. I mean, after the build up of this film I totally expected Donna’s discovery of Cindy boning her boyfriend to end in a threesome, not vehicular manslaughter! This is one Hell of a way to end your sex picture!  I can’t even begin to imagine what poor little Cindy’s therapy bills are going to look like. Acquiring knowledge from afar, as Cindy did, proved only to corrupt her young, curious mind, not enlighten it. Sad, really.”Cindy & Donna” is a bewildering and entertaining exploitation sex picture. Straightforward and shameless to the point of absurdity,” Cindy & Donna” is an ode to teenage indiscretion and skeezy old man perversity that will have you questioning the sanity of those who made it and yourself as you pitch a tent in your corduroy trousers. Filled with copious, unapologetic nudity, drug use, casual incest and experimental lesbianism…the mission statement is blunt. “Cindy & Donna” is a one of a kind, filthy, perverse, sleazy coming of age exploitation film. Yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you don't talk to your kids about sex, who will?

If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, who will?

I’m giving Cindy & Donna FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This puppy’s a must see.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Jan
14

Ms. 45 (1981): Vengeance be a Lady or Bullets Over Ballsack

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a Primal Root written review

In the late 70’s and early 80’s horror and exploitation cinema saw a rise in the popularity of the “rape/revenge” sub-genre. In a film of this nature, a woman or man is raped and violated followed by the person violated, or someone close to them, going on a roaring rampage of blood soaked revenge against those who have so violently attacked them or those they love.  Movies like “I Spit on your Grave”,  “Deliverance”, “Last House on the Left”, “Straw Dogs” and countless others were all part of this trend towards vigilante revenge fantasy films, where innocence is raped and the victim must seek their vengeance.  My own idea why this sort of sub-genre sprung up and became so popular were the crime statistics of the time and the general unease in society that the system, and those sworn to protect us, weren’t up to the task and that the only way for us to survive was to take matters into our own hands. The rape/revenge film taps into that deep, dark, fantasy where the victim gets the last laugh against the low lives who savaged them.  In most cases there is a clear line between good and evil and the vengeance is always righteous and well justified in the viewers eye. This evil redneck sodomized this young woman for an hour, so she cuts his dick off and lets him bleed to death in her lovely Airbnb log cabin rentals art deco bathroom. You get to cheer on these folks as they fight fire with fire and watch with glee as the wicked are punished.  It’s a very base, primal formula and story.

Enter Abel Ferrara’s 1981 “Ms. 45″ (aka: Angel of Vengeance”), the story of Thana, a young, mute seamstress working for an up and coming fashion designer and living in New York City where there just so happens to be a constant single file line of sleazeballs and scum bags garnishing the streets, ogling women, and serenading them with wolf whistles and cat calls as they walk by. We get to experience this uncomfortable, sexist deluge through the female POV came of those unlucky ladies having to ignore and endure this harassment and MAN is it effective.  As Thana makes her way home from work she is accosted and raped at gun point in broad daylight down an alleyway by a man in a Halloween mask. Before departing, the man threatens that he’ll be back before booking it off into the sunset and surely haunting Thana’s every waking moment for the rest of her life. And in one terrifying moment, actually does appear as a nightmarish phantom hallucination to Thana as she tries to undress and take a shower after the attack.

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Thana, in shock, makes her way back to her apartment only to find a burglar has broken in and is waiting for her. Again, she is raped at gunpoint…but this time she strikes back and bashes her assailant’s skull in with an iron. As she begins disposing of attackers dead body, which she has sawed into several pieces and begun depositing all over New York City wrapped in shopping bags, she’s chased on foot by a young man that has mistaken one of these bags as something she accidentally dropped and is trying to give back to her. For his trouble, Thana shoots this poor sucker in the face.

Before you know it, Thana is a woman on a mission. As she gains confidence and a thirst for vengeance she transforms from a mousy young woman to a deadly black widow. Dressing more provocatively, wearing makeup and pulling her hair back, Thana takes to the night time streets of New York to murder as many abusive, rapey, evil men as she can find. She ends up blowing away a pimp seen beating a hooker, a gang of would be rapists and a man in a limousine who tries to offer her cash for sex. It’s a blast watching Thana take out these sleazy, violent cocksmiths. One can clearly see how Thana perceives these men as threats  and you cannot help but cheer as she delivers hot, blood spattering, genital mutilating vengeance from the barrel of her gun. I must admit a certain feeling of satisfaction witnessing this carnage.

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But “Ms. 45”  is a more complex film than your typical black and white, Good vs. Evil rape/revenge film.  “Ms.45” exists in a more realistic world painted in varying shades of grey.  Thana pursues the advances of a creepy, aggressive photographer. The man comes on to her in a restaurant, follows her down the sidewalk yapping her ear off until she agrees to go to his studio. Once there, she guns this guy down in cold blood. The man was obviously a creeper, treated Thana as subhuman, another conquest to stick his teeny weenie in, but did the slimy bastard deserve to die? He never actually succeeded in harming Thana or actually proved he had any intention to.  He was gross, nasty and aggressive…but he never actually hurt anyone during his time on screen.  As a viewer, I sure as shit didn’t want to spend any time with this guy, but did he earn the bullet riddled dose of death he received?

For Thana, it steadily grows from a quest for vengeance to a gender specific killing spree as she begins targeting anyone with the offending genitals. she stalks down a young, Asian man who she eyed making out with his girlfriend. The man was just kissing the woman he is attracted to and it’s completely mutual! No force, no rape, but Thana no longer seems capable of  discerning what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and in her bloody quest for revenge has found herself becoming a monster herself.

“Ms. 45” reaches it’s climax at her fashion designer bosses’ Halloween party. Thana dresses up as a nun, attends the party as her bosses’ date, and packs some heat below her garter. In a chilling, horrifying, slow motion finale Thana opens fire on every man at the Halloween party. The crowd screams, begins panicking and trying to escape the barrage of gun fire.  This woman we were once rooting for has blurred the line so completely between good and evil that she is willing to kill any man at all because she sees every man as a threat. It isn’t until a friend of Thana’s,  one of her female co-workers, grabs a butcher knife, sneaks up behind Thana holding the blade at crotch level, making the phallic symbolism unmistakable, and then plunges it into Thana’s back, that the killing finally stops. Thana turns, her eyes widen in shock as she realizes it was a fellow woman who has killed her, sliding the phallic knife into her. The mute Thana then whispers her one and only line, her dying word, “sister” and falls to the ground dead.

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Abel Farrara created one of the most unique, disturbing and thought provoking films in this sub-genre of horror, and incidentally, one of the more interesting of the 1980’s. The film seeks to bring the idea of blind vengeance into the discussion of rape and revenge. When does  revenge simply start becoming mindless killing? Is it ever justified? When does the hero become the villain? These are questions few films within this sub-genre take the time to ask . In “Ms. 45” we are given plenty of time and opportunity to meditate on just what has happened to Thana, where Thana finds herself at the end of the movie, and the mechanics of our own reaction to the steps in her journey from victim, to vigilante to victimizer.  This very well might be why “Ms. 45” is so effective, so chilling and so infinitely open for debate and discussion.

Thana is a voiceless woman in a city overrun with outspoken, sexually aggressive men. Once irrevocably turned into a victim she finds an artificial voice in violence, in the firing of her gun and the killing of others. She cannot scream for anyone to stop, but her gun has the power to scream and stop her tormentors.  It isn’t until the end, when she is stabbed to death by another woman, that she finds her true voice, and in my opinion, opens her eyes to the horror of what she has begun. She is no longer an angel of vengeance but a demon of destruction. By the evil of others, she herself, has become an evil doer.

Of course, this is just The Primal Root’s take on the movie. I would love for you to check it out sometime and share your thoughts on the “Ms. 45” and just what you took away from this flick.

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Also, let me just say Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who played Thana, is remarkable. with only one line of dialogue in the course of the film, Zoë manages to make Thana into a fully fleshed out,  believable, human character.  Zoë was one remarkable, creative talent and a natural beauty with screen presence to spare. She even went on to co-write Abel Ferrara’s notorious “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel.   Sadly, Zoë was a long time heroin addict and died of drug related heart failure in 1999. she was 37 years old.  For more on Zoë I highly recommend http://www.zoelund.com/ which is run by Robert Lund.

I forgot to mention, there is also a subplot featuring Thana’s obnoxious landlady and her yapping mutt. At one point Thana takes her land ladies’ dog for a walk intent on killing it. She ties the dog to a pole, and draws her gun ofn the cornered mutt. We never see Thana kill the pooch but it’s assumed that she did only to have the poor little guy return home right before the credits roll. It’s an interesting note to end the movie on, that Thana so easily can kill a man, ANY man, before she could kill a dog.

Certainly not a feel good movie, and surely as shit, it ain’t for everyone, “Ms. 45” is an excellent piece of exploitation, horror, Trash Cinema. It’s well worth checking out and deserving of it’s Cult Classic status.  I’m giving “Ms. 45” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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