Posts Tagged ‘freaks

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.

Safety

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Reality

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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
May
12

Gorgasm: The Ultimate Climax

a Primal Root review

Over the course of my lifetime I’ve come to realize a man happens upon many milestones. Moments in this life that stand out above all others as life altering.  Experiences that leave you stunned, silent, and with the deep realization that you are a changed man and you…will never be the same again.  I had one such moment my sophomore year of high school when I trekked to Video 21 and, after an exhaustive blind search of the Cult section,  I emerged to head to the check out counter with a trio of films that were about to not only solidify my adoration for all things sleazy, cheap, low budget and trashy, but would also cast my love of this most despised of genres in bronze ensuring my love would last a lifetime.

Sorry, I realize that last part sounds like an add for Precious Moments Baby Shoe Bronzing. Stick with me.

I took home a trilogy of films written, produced and directed by Hugh Gallagher that I have grown to dub “The Gore Trilogy.” It’s a series of three woefully  inept, shot on video horror films that have no thematic connection besides the talent behind the camera and their creative penchant for finding new ways to use the word “Gore” in all their titles.  These films are Gorgasm (1990), Gorotica (1993) and Gore Whore (1994).

In the Trial of The Primal Root vs. Misspent Youth, your honor, may we enter into evidence Exhibit A.

Let it be stated, I had no idea what exactly I was walking into with this trio of grainy, poorly made,  laughably bad, sexually freakish videos, but I believe they are part of what shaped me into the demented Trash Cinema lover that I am today.  Now, well over a decade later, I feel it is time to once again take a look at Hugh Gallagher’s  video legacy and share the slimy, mind boggling oddities that make up “The Gore Trilogy”.

First up, Hugh’s directorial debut, the aptly named “Gorgasm: The Ultimate Climax”.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Our film begins with the rarest of horror movie standards, the opening soliloquies! Which has no real bearing on the story at hand other than introducing us to our eternally greasy, bug eyed, sports coat donning hero,  Chase played by Rik Billock, who I was shocked to learn has a rather impressive filmography that includes parts in films like George Romero’s Stephen King adaptation “The Dark Half” and the late Bill Hinzman’s “Flesheater”.  He shares such soul searching deep thoughts as “Religion prepares us for death. Why didn’t anyone prepare me for life?” from behind a lit cigarette, and gets so damned into his little diatribe that he nearly busts out into community theater style tears by monologue’s end.  Again, this is about a five minute spoken word performance right at the beginning of the movie that has nothing to do with ANYTHING that follows. Now this is how you reel an audience in!

Okay, well, maybe the opening title card is a better was to make sure your audience stays in their seat.

Oh man! they just gave away the whole plot!

Soon enough we are introduced to homicidal call girl and power tool enthusiast, Tara, brought to ever-loving life by fully stacked actress, Gabriela, who only has three other films to her credit after her leading role in “Gorgasm” and two of them reference anal penetration in their titles. Basically,  Tara is a high priced call girl who spreads her message through personal ads in scuzzy adult magazines offering “Gorgasm: The Ultimate Climax”.  What service does she provide, you ask? Well, for every dime you have, Tara will come over, tie you up, spin in circles while wearing cheesy Spencer’s Gifts style lingerie. She will then reveal her gargantuan breasts for you to ogle before she brutally murders you!

In fact, our first scene in the film proper is one such business transaction as she spins about, in what looks to be my Grandmother’s kitchen circa 1985, in front of a hairy, sweaty man bound and gagged to a lovely antique dining room table. Tara kicks it up a notch as she begins blasting her cassette tape of the obscure, high energy tune, “Sex Toy”, pops her melons out of the chute and cuts off her neglige with an apparently very dull butcher knife.  Her customer doesn’t seem to mind.

I feel good about myself!

He doesn’t even seem to mind when she begins slicing into his midsection with that big knife of hers, and when I say he doesn’t mind, I mean he doesn’t even flinch as the blade draws large drips of blood with each slash across the man’s chest and gratuitous beer belly.  In all honesty, the captive, paying client looks almost bored at this point. Shit, he doesn’t even register a reaction when Tara eventually approaches from behind,  drapes her ample rack around his bright red neck, like one of those Air Mall stress pillow deal, before hacking his jugular wide open! The fella’s head tips forward and that’s it! Gone! Scianora!  Obviously, money well spent.

Detective Chase, who works in a police station that was apparently built by the wood paneling commission of Illinois, is introduced to us officially as the bottom of the barrel desk dwelling detective no one wants to actually put on a case. Seems he’s more valuable to the force as a paperwork drone.  To his amazement, Sarge (played by mulleted and minimalist actress Paula Hendrix in her one and only screen credit) brings the case involving the throat slashing incident to his desk and asks him to take the lead! Chase is overjoyed until he’s informed it’s only until Detective Sanchez recovers from a cold or something. What I’m saying is that this is temporary. But this doesn’t stop chase from giving the case everything he’s got!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the strange little subplot starring filmmaker Hugh Gallagher’s wife, Paula Gallagher, as Nicole, a woman whose boyfriend wants her to beat him up and sodomize him. She calls him a pervert, breaks up with him, and then plants her knee into his man bits giving him what he probably wanted, anyway. As he drops to the floor sobbing and nursing his jollies, she rushes out the door and back to work at the local Winn-Dixie where she seeks solace in co-worker and possible crypt keeper, Connie (Debbie Patterson). Nicole is convinced by Connie that she might just like kicking the crap out of her weasel of a boyfriend and by the time Nicole returns home she is decked out head to toe in fetish gear looking to enter her fellas fantasy kingdom.

Nicole gets a lesson in love at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. They are the self proclaimed “Beef People”, after all.

Only she is too late! Her boyfriend has called up Tara and her Gorgasmic services which Nicole walks in on just in time to catch Tara in bed with her man and tearing meaty chunks out of his throat with an industrial weed whacker (!) Now, Nicole could have totally escaped this scenario as Tara is so caught up in her work she doesn’t even notice the near-naked, towering, leathery skinned blonde woman who just walked into the room. Sadly, Nicole trips over the weed whacker chord thereby alerting Tara to her presence.  It is only after a very close call with the Tara and her weed whacker of death in the bathroom that Nicole goes for the escape only to trip over her super woman stilettos and sealing her fate. Tara gets down to the nitty gritty and starts choking a bitch.  What really makes this scene work is how Tara tells Nicole how she gets paid “good money” to do this and NOT TO WORRY! “I won’t charge you for this.” This plot thread is worth mentioning because it is never brought up again. The crime scene is never discovered and no one even talks about it. Then again, you look at the police force we’re dealing with, and it’s hard to believe that this is a plot hole.

The Porn Industries’ Seedy Underbelly Welcomes You! In fact, this guy might be my favorite character in the whole movie. No lie.

Chase’s investigation takes him to the seedy underbelly of the porn industry in Hamel Illinois as the detective follows leads to understocked adult stores for lengthy montages of his shopping spree, grotesque XXX film producers who seem to have some form of Downs Syndrome intermingling with  Tourettes, and even to the blood-drenched aftermath of one of Tara’s “Gorgasm” get togethers. One of the better ones, too! This is the aftermath of her most Jigsaw-esque slaying which involved a rope attached to a garage door opener and then tied around some asshole’s neck. At the scene of the crime Sarge calls this  “A brilliant device.” Lady, it’s a garage door opener and a rope. Come on.

What a magnificent device! I’ve never seen anything like this! This woman’s a GENIUS!

During this murder sequence Tara opens up to her next victim and openly discusses her deceased husband who was a”beautiful” man and enjoyed being pushed to the very limits of pleasure and pain. However, it’s a one-sided conversation as her victim is gagged and cannot respond at all to Tara’s sad story of how her husband liked to be whipped repeatedly and have his balls stomped upon. The typical story of star-crossed lovers. In fact, Tara even as a creepy dummy she keeps suspended from the ceiling of her lair of sexual evils that she talks to and calls “sweetheart”. She also practices her lashing skills on the thing.

Don’t think for a second Tara doesn’t have a softer side, though. A hidden part of her personality is revealed in a sequence that comes out of left field in which Tara drives out to a sewage retention pond near a busy overpass to bask in the sun and frolic in nature amongst the rusty discarded beer cans and crunchy used condoms. She spots a rotting romance novel as she gazes over an abandoned, rotten motel, and reads a passage about tender, gentle love that moves her to pick up a red-faced, mulleted youth and fuck him in a motel room. Now that’s romance! Anyhoo, she whips out the hooters, kind of gets near him and then backs off only to break his neck and fondle his dead penis. I guess the lady knows what she likes.  Highlight of this scene, and the reason I even brought it up, is when the actor playing the seduced youth hops into bed he unintentionally bashes his noggin against the head board with an audible “CRAUNCH”. He can’t play it off, let’s out an anguished “ARRGGHH!” before rubbing his head in pain, and then settling down for the loving he’s sure is coming right around the corner. I’m sure this guy just reeks of Miller High Life and Slim Jims.

I don’t feel “brain damage” is much of a concern in this guy’s case.

Just as Chase is making some headway on the “Gorgasm” case he is pulled off of it as Sanchez has fully recovered from his slight cough and Chase swears he will make them all pay! Yeah, the only people who will be paying is the audience who must endure a slow motion dream sequence of his in which he wears a super tiny black pair of underoos and seduces a handcuffed Tara in his living room before slugging her in the face.  Out of all the visuals in “Gorgasm” the only one that haunts me is seeing Chase nearly nude and trying to be sexy while coated in a thing layer of perspiration and nicotine, his thinning blonde hair in greasy disarray and his bugged-out eyes starring into my soul. I’ve seen countless horror films and, to my dismay, this is the image that’s haunted my nightmares for over a decade.

Enough about me, Chase decides to take matters into his own hands, contacts Tara through a personal add, and sets up a “combat” date where only one will leave alive. Of course Tara is totally down with this, but how they both know the dress code of this engagement without ever discussing it has me wondering if this movie has a very subtle supernatural underpinning to it.  How else do you explain Chase wearing a camouflaged  shirt & slacks combo and Tara showing up in a fetching matched camou bikini? Really, what better way to blend in with a middle class suburban living room? Maybe they both just have similar fashion sense? Either way, I guess it illustrates just how similar these two characters are. Or something…?

Tara and Chase: A lot alike? I see two BIG differences right off the bat.

They lock eyes, Chase draws his gun, Tara draws her machete, and the combat is on! Immediately Tara loses her top so she has to spend the rest of the chase bouncing her large breasts all over the screen as she runs from the equally floppy Detective Chase. Tara runs for the garage to hide which leads to one of the funniest moments of the entire film. Chase, gun in hand, slowly walks into the garage, hand first, now knowing Tara is hiding right next to the door on the opposite side with her trusty machete raised high above her head.  In a split second Chase loses both his weapon and hand to the evil call girl! He soon passes out as his nemesis stares him down, no doubt figuring out her next move…In the end, it takes both characters to a fate neither one could have seen coming. Although the audience probably did. Let’s just say there are some mind blowing reveals and guns going off in the place you’d ever want them to go off.

Shock? Pain? Or does he smell Alpo?

Let’s just say, by the end of “Gorgasm” there are no clear winners. Hell, there’s really no clear nice guy or bad guy! Everyone is up to no good. I suppose, in some strange way, Tara is not really the villain of the piece. She’s kind of an anti-hero, I mean, sure she kills people in hilariously gruesome ways but it’s what her clients want! I mean, she’s running a business, yes?  Someone wants their head ripped off by a spinning topless woman? So be it, I say!  The customer is always right.

Can’t say she didn’t get a little head during her killing spree. HA! Be sure to tip your waitress…

“Gorgasm” is a fucking TERRIBLE movie. There is nothing good about it. From the  “acting” to the cinematography, writing, and gore effects absolutely nothing in this film works!  I mean, there’s a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of Gabriela’s tits on display but those breasts are probably the only thing of any quality note.  Still, as I’m sure you all know,  quality does not always determine watchability! Despite its near infinite flaws, “Gorgasm” still manages to be hysterical, exploitative, cheesy, and pretty damn entertaining. It’s a slice of the trash cinema pie that’s more of an acquired taste than most. Those who can enjoy films such as Troll 2 and Samurai Cop would probably be the core audience for this kind of flick.

Tastes like lime!

“Gorgasm”, the first entry in Hugh Gallagher’s Gore Trilogy, is probably the weakest entry but still manages to deliver on the lame-o unintentional hilarity and the sleazeball tits and gore. Not even a cult film, more of a forgotten, never was sort of nada flick, “Gorgasm” is one for the hardcore fans of all things Trash. Be warned, this flick is not for the faint of heart. It’s almost unfathomably bad, but for a certain group of us, it’s the most wonderfully perfect kind of bad imaginable.

Soon to come, The Primal Root’s review of the Second Entry in Hugh Gallagher’s Gore Trilogy, “Gorotica”!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

27
Mar
12

Rotten Reviews Ep. 24: From Beyond

Before we get started, I would like to say that this episode would not have been possible without the selfless help and  hard work of John Kogwheal, Rachel McDirtChild, Dan Ast, Sam Armstrong, Bootsie Kidd,  and Tallahassee’s own Video 21. Thank you for you help, patience and enthusiasm for the project. It means the world to me and I am honored to have you on board as part of The Trash Cinema Collective. – Kevin Cole, The Primal Root

Hey Gang!

Three long months in the making, I, The Primal Root and the rest of The Trash Cinema Collective are VERY proud to finally unveil our Year Four premiere episode of The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews! In this installment The Primal Root will be guiding you through the 1986 Stuart Gordon adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story, From Beyond! Starring Jeffery Combs, Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree, this is one slimy, bloody, multidimensional sex romp you don’t want to miss!

Join Root as he spends the evening watching one of his favorite Trash Classics and deals with the typical late night crowd at the last, surviving, movie rental store in Tallahassee Florida, Video 21. This night will take him farther than he ever might have expected.Get ready for plenty of slime, mutilation, creatures, pink lighting, molestation, electric mixers, fetish gear, leather wrist restraints, floating killer eels, giant malicious cock monsters, eyeball sucking, eyeball spitting, brain feasting, flesh eating confetti, and several nearly naked men in tiny red underoos!

Strange, wonderful, and grotesque drippy things  await as The Primal Root takes a one great step into From Beyond!And keep your eyes peeled, because this episode feature about a half dozen cameos by folks you might just know from the Tallahassee area.  Enjoy our latest episode with someone you love and help spread the word!

Stay trashy!

-Root

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/96762216″>(NSFW) From Beyond (1986) The Primal Root’s Rotten reviews Episode 24</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user24396091″>Kevin Cole</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

08
Sep
10

Frank Henenlotter: The Trash Cinema Collective Profile

Thanks to our friends over at FromDuskTillCon.com, I got the chance to interview one of my heros, Frank Henenlotter. The creative genius behind some of my all time favorite films including Basket Case Brain Damage and Frankenhooker. He’s also responsible for helping keep trash cinema alive through Something Weird Video. Here., we take a look back at his classics, his most recent work, and what he has in store for his fans.

The Primal Root: As a young man I know you spent your formative years taking in the thrills to be had at the 42nd Street grindhouses. For those of us born far too late to take in these legendary theaters could you describe the experience for us? What was it like going to these theaters and taking in what are now beloved trashy exploitation classics?

Frank Henenlotter: Try to imagine a block in New York City in which both sides of the street were lined with movie theaters, one after another, and every one of those theaters was showing double or triple features promising sex and violence. In between the theaters was a scattering of stores, most notably porno stores (or, before the days of porn, “adult bookstores”). It was, of course, absolute paradise.

TPR:  Growing up on a steady diet of these films which titles come to mind as your major influences? What movies or filmmakers got you interested in creating your own pictures?

FH: It was all of it. Not just a couple of memorable movies, but memorable moments in hundreds and hundreds of movies. And, just as exciting as the movies, were the come-ons: the one-sheets, the photos and, most notably, plywood archways that were fitted around the entrance to the theater lobbies decorated with blown-up photos from the film, usually enhanced with painted-on blood, and simple words like “Shock!” “Lurid!” and, of course, “Sex!” Gateways to the soiled treasures unspooling within.

TPR:  The first time I saw Basket Case was on an old worn out VHS tape. I was a kid at the time and it immediately turned me into a fan of excessive violence, toilet humor and deformed freaks of nature. Needless to say, the effect was profound. What was the genesis of this project?

FH: Edgar Ievins had seen a couple of my homemade movies and suggested we do a feature-length film. And we decided to make a horror film since that seemed commercially safe at the time. Meaning, no matter how bad it turned out, it could at least play 42nd Street.

TPR:  What still amazes me about Basket Case when I go back and watch it is not only how well it holds up but there’s still a very touching emotional core to the film. Basket Case is a film with a lot of heart. Was this part of your plan all along or did it develop as the movie went into production?

FH: It wasn’t really a plan. I just had a good visual in mind: a man carrying around a basket from which a monster would leap out when people opened it. The trouble was, *why*? Why would anyone carry around a monster in a basket? One night, while eating hot dogs in a Nathan’s in Times Square, it occurred to me that maybe they were brothers. That provided the answer and the hook and whatever emotion the film has.

TPR: Rex Reed’s quote from his review of Basket Case, “The Sickest movie I have ever seen…” was used in the marketing campaign for the film itself which was a stroke of genius. Was this your idea to turn what some might call bad publicity into a selling point?

FH: I had nothing to do with that. Analysis Films, the first distributor of Basket Case, had a good relationship with Reed and simply asked him for a quote since they knew he had seen the film at Cannes. And he provided that quote which, of course, was a great one.

TPR:  Some have said Basket Case was the last great Drive-In / Grindhouse film. Did you have the pleasure of watching your film with a 42nd Street crowd? How was the experience?

FH: By the time Basket Case played 42nd Street it had already been in release for two and a half years on the midnight circuit, and slowly playing around the country for another two years, and I was sick of seeing it so I didn’t see it play on The Street. Instead, I was thrilled with how the theater was dressed with a garish plywood archway, full of spattered blood, which also gave away the plot: “His brother is a deformed twin!”

TPR:  Kevin Van Hentenryck is really a stand-out as Duane. He makes the character completely believable despite his insane predicament. Did Kevin get the character right away? What kind of direction did you give him?

FH: Kevin immediately got the character of Duane. I don’t remember giving Duane must direction other than us working out individual shots and bits of business. He nailed Duane immediately and I remember constantly chuckling at how hilariously innocent he played him.

TPR: I’ve heard rumors that your crew walked off the set during the filming of one of Basket Case’s more grisly scenes. What exactly happened? Have you ever had to deal with a crew walking off the set since?

FH: Yeah, that’s true. We were shooting the scene where the monster humps the girl at the end. At first, nobody on the crew seemed to be bothered by it. Actually, just the opposite since Terri Susan Smith was lying there naked. But when I added the blood to Miss Smith’s groin, everyone got upset and pissed off and… I don’t know. It seems as crazy now as it did then. But they ended up walking off which was fine with me ‘cause I wasn’t about to wipe the blood off. So it was shot with just me, the two actors – Terri Susan Smith and Kevin Van Hentenryck – and Edgar Ievins under the mattress making Belial work. Virtually the same thing happened on Brain Damage with the “blow job” scene. Fine. Leave the set. And while you’re at it, go fuck yourselves.

TPR: So there’s a big Basket Case reunion coming up in September as part of the Horror Realm Convention. Beverly Bonner, Kevin Van Hentenryck and Terri Susan Smith will all be attending. How long has it been since you’ve hung out with the original cast? Do you have fond memories of working on the film with this group?

FH: I’ve always stayed in touch with Kevin and Beverly. As you probably know, Beverly’s appeared in every film including the latest, Bad Biology. Earlier this year, I was even a guest in one of Beverly’s “Gloria Glitter” comedy shows which was my first and last stab at live theater. And both Kevin and Beverly came to my 60th birthday party this past August 30. I wish I was doing a project I could have them both in again.

TPR: Your follow-up film was 1988’s Brain Damage about a young man named Brian who becomes dependant on an evil, blue, well spoken parasite named Aylmer. The film packs a pretty heavy message about drug abuse and addiction while also mixing in the gory, sick, toilet humor elements that make your films so enjoyable. What was the inspiration behind Brain Damage?

FH: Well, I liked how Duane and Belial interacted and I thought I could do a variation on it, this time with a monster that lives on the young man’s body rather than in a basket. But the same question arose: why would anyone willingly let a monster live on them? Even creepier, why would someone *want* a monster living on them? Came up with dozens of reasons I hated until one day I thought of addiction, especially since I was having problems with a nasty cocaine habit.

TPR: Rick Hearst gives a tremendous performance as Brian. How did you end up casting him and how was he to work with?

FH: Frank Calo, the casting director on Brain Damage, found him and, yes, Rick was perfect. This was his first film and he nailed it beautifully especially since it wasn’t a particularly easy part to play. I’d love to see him again. These days he stars on soaps and keeps winning Emmys.

TPR: Aylmer looks to be a bit more complex than the Belial puppet from Basket Case. Did this present you with a whole slew of new challenges during the production?

FH: Belial was basically a hand puppet. But Elmer (yes, technically “Aylmer” but I’m used to calling him Elmer by now) was an animatronic puppet that was operated by various cables and levers, all put together by Davd Kindlon and Gabe Bartalos. The main problem with Elmer was that it made all sorts of metallic noises, so much so that we had to dub all the dialogue when Aylmer was onscreen. Dave and Gabe also built an oversize Elmer head for closeups.

TPR: I’ve heard rumors that some scenes were cut out of the film altogether on its initial release. What scenes were the MPAA having issues with? Is the current DVD release of the film your cut?

FH: Well, the producers wanted an alternate unrated version for vhs release. That’s why I shot the blowjob and ear pull scene. I never expected that to get an R. But when the film was acquired by Cinema Group Pictures, they hated the film, wanted nothing to do with an unrated version and, anticipating trouble with the MPAA, made a whole bunch of cuts before even submitting the film. Once the MPAA saw it, they wanted more cuts. So the theatrical version as well as the version initially released on Paramount vhs was heavily heavily cut. The version currently on dvd is, finally, the uncut unrated version.

TPR:  John Zacherle as the voice of Aylmer was a perfect piece of casting. His voice is so good-natured and disarming you can’t help but feel like you can trust the little guy. Not to mention, it also provides some comic relief. Did you have John in mind all along? What did he think of Brain Damage?

FH: While writing the script, I kept hearing the voice of veteran actor Ronald Colman – a friendly, intelligent, soothing voice that someone might blindly follow. However, Colman was long dead and certainly wouldn’t have done it even if he were still alive. So I went to an agent that specialized in voices. He asked me if I’d ever heard of Zacherly and I almost passed out. I grew up with Zacherly on TV. His show was where I watched my first horror films. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of him at first. Naturally, I jumped at working with him and it was a joy. He’s an absolute delight. So much so that I also had him do an on-screen bit in Frankenhooker. I never asked him what he thought of the film. I never ask any of the actors because… well, it’s kind of moot.

TPR: The ending of Brain Damage is still one of my favorite endings of all time. Just thinking about it gives me chills. Where did you come up with this image and how did you know this was how the film had to end?

FH: While writing the script for Brain Damage, I wasn’t sure how to end it. One night I was listening to the album Real Life by Magazine. When I heard the song “The Light Pours Out of Me,” I thought, “Yes! That’s my ending!” So you have Howard Devoto to thank for it.

TPR:  Frankenhooker is one of the sleaziest exploitation titles I’ve ever heard. So, did the title come first and then the script?

FH: Edgar Ievins and I were up at Jim Glickenhaus’ office discussing another project with him. But he thought that project was extremely uncommercial so asked me what other ideas I had. I didn’t have any other ideas so I just started making up the plot to Frankenhooker. And Jim kept laughing so I kept making it up until finally he asked me what I wanted to call it. I panicked and quickly started running titles through my head at lightning speed: “Frankenwhore? No. Frankenslut? Awful. Frankenprostitute? Hell, no. Frankenhooker? Uh… yeah! Frankenhooker!”

TPR:  When I watched Frankenhooker for the first time I couldn’t help but notice some overtones of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. Was there a little bit of an influence there as well as some others?

FH: Well, I loved Re-Animator and From Beyond. But we tried to go in a non-graphic, non-bloody direction in the vain hopes of escaping an X rating. So in some ways, I was consciously going in the opposite direction of how Gordon may have done things. It was all rather pointless, of course, since the MPAA still gave Frankenhooker an X rating. In fact, they hated the film. Richard Hefner, then the head of the MPAA, famously called executive-producer Jim Glickenhaus’ office and said to his secretary, “Congratulations. You have the first film rated S.” The secretary was confused, “S? You mean S as in sex,” she asked. “No,” replied the head of the MPAA, “S as in ‘shit’”! Which gives you some idea of the kind of ugly bullshit operation the MPAA was in those days.

TPR: Patty Mullen in the title role is a fucking hoot to watch and has become a bit of an icon in trash cinema circles. How did you end up casting Patty and how was she to work with?

FH: Patty heard about it, came in to audition, and I loved her right away. She was sexy and, at the same time, had that girl-next-door innocence. Plus, she could play comedy! And she was a joy to work with. Every so often she calls me out of the blue and she never says, “Hi.” Instead, she says, “Wanna date? Going out? Looking for some action?”

TPR:  The infamous Super Crack sequence. How was that to film and did it turn out as well as you had hoped? Because that scene, exploding hookers and all, is pure magic.

FH: It turned out great. We really didn’t know what would happen. I mean, the artificial bodies Gabe Bartalos created were filled with explosives and what happened happened. At times, flaming hooker debris rained down on me and the crew while filming. The exploding hookers is the favorite scene from any of my films. I never tire of watching it.

TPR: Bad Biology marked your return to film after a decade of absence from the scene. How did you know this had to be your comeback project?

FH: I didn’t. It just happened to be the script I wrote with producer (and legendary rapper R.A. The Rugged Man). Once we decided to go non-mainstream, it just flowed.

TPR: Bad Biology seems to bring your full circle back to body deformation. First it was Siamese twins in Basket Case, now it’s a woman with seven clitorises and a man with an enormous detachable cock with a mind of its own. When and how did you come up with the concept for the story and its religious angle? What were you saying about faith by giving Jennifer a divine purpose?

FH: That’s somewhat complicated. But I’m sick of hearing the Holier-Than-Thou’s out there tell us what isn’t sexually permissible, who cannot marry who, and what can or cannot be done in the privacy of one’s own bedroom. They make it sound as if God is anti-sex which can’t be true since God created the world’s first penises and vaginas. The whole flow of nature is based on procreation so God is very very pro-sex. Taking that a step further, I thought what if a woman born with seven clits is not an aberration but, rather, a deliberate and holy act of God. The next step in human evolution. Hell, if He can make Adam and Eve, He can make a Penis Baby.

TPR:  It seems like there might be more to tell with the story of Bad Biology. Can we expect to see a sequel or have you sworn off those? Will Penis Boy one day run into Belial?

FH: Basket Case 3 permanently ended the thought of any sequels in my future.

TPR: Where can fans find a copy of your retrospective film Herschell Gordon Lewis: Godfather of Gore? I can think of no person more fitting of paying tribute to the man who changed cinema forever with Blood Feast.

FH: The documentary will be released next year through Image Entertainment. In the meantime, it’s playing various festivals: Sept. 24 at the Somerville Theatre in Boston; Sept. 26 at the Philadelphia Film & Music Festival; October 10 at “It Came from Schenectady”; October 12 at The Cinefamily in Los Angeles; October 23 at the “Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival” in Buffalo; November 12-13 at the “Buried Alive Film Festival” in Atlanta. And probably some others I don’t know about.

TPR: Exploitation and sleaze fans owe you a huge debt of gratitude for helping keep our favorite films alive with Something Weird Video. Can you tell us about the company and what you have in store for the future?

FH: I was recently pulling clips for a new documentary Something Weird is making, That’s Sexploitation, and a friend came over. I was sitting on the floor surrounded by pages and pages of notes and on the TV monitor were naked girls. My friend just looked at me and said, “You’ve got the greatest job in the world.” And he’s right. The company belongs to Mike Vraney but I got involved with it in the early 90s doing all sorts of things. In addition to two new documentaries we’re making, we’ve also got some new projects in the works with Image Entertainment including Blu-rays of Blood Feast and Basket Case. I’ll be doing a Hi-Def transfer of Basket Case early next year from the original 16mm camera negative which we thought lost. So the film should look a lot brighter and cleaner than it’s ever looked before.

TPR:  The majority of your films were ridiculed by most mainstream critics but over time your films, Basket Case, Brain Damage, and Frankenhooker have all grown into cult classics with impressive followings. Do you feel a bit of vindication knowing now that your films are loved and understood by so many?

FH: What’s more important to me than the critics is how many people still love the old films. I honestly thought they were forgotten about. I was very reclusive for a good many years but making Bad Biology brought me back to the world of the living. Part of my reemergence was to go to festivals with the film. And I was floored when fans showed up with posters and videos and photos for me to sign. What I had forgotten was that a whole generation grew up on vhs and my films were part of that. So that really surprised me. Stunned me, actually. So I’ve made an effort to be more accessible which is why I’m attending Horror Realm, Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, and going on Facebook.

TPR: What do you plan on working on next? Now that you’ve made Bad Biology are there any other stories you would like to tell? Because your fans are always champing at the bit for your next film.

FH: I don’t like to talk about future projects other than to say there are two I’d like to do and both are extremely different from the others I’ve done. In fact, one isn’t even a horror film.

TPR:  Do you have any advice for young filmmakers setting forth and trying to create their own strange, sleazy film epics? Any words of wisdom to the new generation of filmmakers you’ve inspired?

FH: Oh, God. The last thing they need is advice from a guy who took 16 years between films. But, unlike me, if they’re serious, they’ve got to keep busy. Which means you’ve got to keep making things. And not just on video. Film is a very different medium and far more rewarding than video. But whatever you’re shooting on, keep shooting. Keep making ‘em.

Frank, it’s been an honor and an absolute pleasure talking with you. Take care of yourself and thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at the Trash Cinema Collective.  Stay Trashy!

20
Jun
09

The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews presents Basket Case!

basket_case_poster_01

Hey Gang!

In our third episode I felt I would talk about a film a bit closer to my heart. This is an all time favorite and one I feel everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. We’re talking Frank Henenlotter’s Drive-In Classic, BASKET CASE!

Sit back and enjoy!

Stay Trashy!

-The Primal Root

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/85098061″>(NSFW) Basket Case (1982) The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews Episode 3</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user24396091″>Kevin Cole</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>




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