Posts Tagged ‘friends

15
Jul
18

Tearing the Heart Out of Saturday Night: Happy Trails, Joe Bob Briggs

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by The Primal Root

I was in middle school and staying over at my Grandparents house for the Christmas holiday. My parents were recently divorced, puberty was kicking in full throttle, we were moving into new places, my parents were always upset and I was, to put it bluntly, a wreck. I had no siblings to talk to, no one to confide in, it was the beginning of the realization that I, for the most part in life, would always be pretty much alone. I was staying up late in my Grandparent’s den and flipping through the channels, no doubt devouring their bag of Cap Cod Potato chips and slurping down cans of Coke. It was the typical mid 90’s hodgepodge of reruns, sports highlight reels, and laundry lists of current political strife scandal and tragedy. TV was a terrible way to cheer up a teenage boy going through deeply troubling changes in his life and coping with the knowledge that everything you thought you knew was about to change forever and you were now becoming a pawn for two people who mean the world to you to hurt one another.

But then I stopped flipping channels when I came across this smiling joker in Western wear sitting in a lawn chair outside a trailer. He was listing Drive-In Totals, speaking of Blood, Breasts and Beasts, laughing, telling incredibly interesting stories about movies he was about to show, and get this, the movies were always cheesy, weird B-Movies and stuff that was normally completely outside the mainstream, stuff mocked and shoved aside and left in the dust pan of history the majority of cinema goers. I immediately knew I had found a kindred spirit and a cool, funny, surrogate brother who I could rely on to be there every Saturday and remind me that I wasn’t totally alone in my passions, my interests or, maybe, in life.

I certainly know I’m not alone in this sentiment. I am now 36 years old and owner of my own video rental store and one screen micro cinema where for a recent 24 hour period I watched Joe Bob Brigg’s Last Drive-In surrounded by a group of the same folks, also now in their 30’s, who made a habit out of watching TNT’s MonsterVision with Joe Bob Brig’s every Saturday night. And as he hosted 13 remarkable sleazy exploitation horror movies, cult and arthouse films, telling jokes, stories and ranting on about the current state of affairs in the world, he would also read letters from the Mail Girl, just like in the glory days. The majority of these letter consisted of middle aged adults, just like myself, pouring over how much Joe Bob meant to them growing up by reenforcing that it was okay to be different and find the joy in what you are into. He taught us to not take it all so dog gone seriously and that our thoughts on how absurd life was, how unfair and ruthless life could be, we all had the ability to find the humor, joy and beauty in our lives, just like we do in those cheesy, outcast movies I grew up to fondly refer to as Trash Cinema.

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Brigg’s was a remarkable experience. The lineup was a smorgasbord of wonderful horror and cult cinema, interspersed with Joe Bob’s one of a kind witty banter, rants and loving remembrances of the movies he was showing and all the folks who took a part in making them, it was once again a glorious celebration of the underdog and the shared community all of us underdogs live in.

THE LINEUP from 9pm Friday July the 13th to Whenever it actually ended Saturday July the 14th :

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Tourist Trap: This is one that Joe Bob and I have always seen eye to eye on as one of those gems of a horror movie that is so eerie, batshit crazy and unusual that it keeps you on your toes throughout wondering just what the Hell is gonna happens next. Chuck Conners is a whole lot of fun to watch and the movie contains one of the most brutal and bloodless kills I’ve ever seen. Borrowing heavily from Psycho, Carrie and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and creating it’s own unique blend of horror with these elements, it blazed it’s own trail that I think deserves more appreciation.

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Sleepaway Camp: Psycho Sexual Summer Camp oOverload! Sleepaway Camp is by far and away my favorite summer time slasher due in no small part to the very natural, very believable performances of the central kids in the story, all in service to one remarkably strange plot for a horror movie based at a summer camp. When most of this ilk are happy to settle for typical Cropsy stuff, Sleepaway Camp gives us something so much freakier and disturbing than we ever expected. There were folks in the audience at Cap City Video Lounge who had never seen this one before and they were shaken long into the next feature after Sleepaway Camp’s conclusion. Plus, that song Angela’s Theme (You’re Just What I’ve Been Looking For) is one groovy track, but during the end credits, is made really creepy. One of the finest from the 80’s and a fine choice.

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RABID: Cronenberg’s sophomore effort, Rabid starring Ivory Sop Girl turned porn star, Marilyn Chambers, is a weird sicky of a film featuring a typhoid mary central character who somehow gets an armpit anus vagina that spurts forth a parasitic gonzo blood sucking penis that thrives on that blood to stay alive. Some folks have claimed it’s all a metaphor for addiction while others compare to the AIDS epidemic. For me, it’s simply a great contagion movie with green goo spewing mutants barfing and biting everywhere. One of Cronenberg’s sleazier ones before he eventually started making Oscar stuff.

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The Prowler: Oddly enough, probably the dullest film to make the marathon. With countless suspenseless scenes of folks walking around white walled dark hallways looking mildly scared and other scenes that take us down narrative dead ins with no pay off,  The Prowler aka: Rosemary’s Killer, isn’t exactly a recipe for excitement. However, with a little help from Tom Savini in the effects department, the film is littered with great moments of outstanding gore effects that wake you up as you try to stay awake during the 24 hour marathon. Plus an absolutely stunning pare of breasts on one of first victims and Joe Bob Brigg’s constant interruptions, it was still a damn fine time.

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Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A-Rama: Holy shit, I love this movie. One of those bargain basement Scream Queen cheapies with plenty of bare breasts and a story so ludicrous, with performances so unfathomably bad, it’s an absolute delight. Played during about the 4am shift of the 24 hour marathon, this was the hot cup of trash cinema coffee I needed to keep me going after the prowler. Featuring some great full frontal and behind nudity from Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley as a badass cat burglar that can’t afford a bra or a full tank top, a malicious little Imp who stuffed in a bowling trophy who awakens with the promise of granting wishes only to try and fucking kill you AND a great recurring cameo by the late, great, George “Buck” Flowers , this was EXACTLY what the marathon needed and payed homage to a handful of Trash Cinema Legends while delivering the sleaze.

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Daughters of Darkness: Now, for probably the most artsy of the films Joe Bob Briggs selected for the 24 hour marathon. Daughter’s of Darkness is an absolutely gorgeous film with some truly inspired performances bringing to life what I would consider to be the best of the female (or lesbian) vampire films. Featuring a strong feminist message, some great nudity, a fantastic score and some downright jarring moments of violence leading up to a :Wha the Fuck did I just witness” climax,  Daughters of Darkness is a ilm that lives up to it’s reputation. A fan actually got a letter read by Joe Bob Briggs read on air where the viewer complained that Daughters of Darkness was”Slow” to which Joe Bob responded, “Yeah, so what? It was MEANT to be slow!” Joe Bob, sir, you are a treasure.

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Blood Feast: I knew he had to show Blood Feast. The movie which created the splatter film genre and a Drive-In Classic directed by the late, great, Herschell Gordon Lewis with the help of the late David F. Friedman in my home state of Florida. Anoyher film that was bittersweet hearing Joe Bob talk about as the man has forever championed this film and became a friend of H.G. Lewis when releasing some of his weird and rare stuff on VHS for the “Sleaziest Movies In the History of the World” collection. Blood Feast is a terrible film by just about everyone’s standards. The script is garbage, the concept is goofy and the performance range from way out there over the top, to I am reading my lines off of the lamp shade. But as a highly entertaining piece of Trash Cinema and a true Drive-In classic, it is hysterical, bloody fun that’s hard to top. Well deserving of it’s place of notoriety in the annals of cinematic history and one of the finest exploitation films ever made. During the marathon Joe Bob Tweeted “Blood Feast is trending nationally? Hershell, are you listening?”  Proving yet again that The Drive-In will NEver Die so long as we keep these legends alive. IT was an honor watching this one with Joe Bob during The Last Drive-In.

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Basket Case: Okay, now we’re cooking with fire! Joe Bob picks out Frank Henenlotter’s debut feature, one of the last of the to Drive-In, Grindhouse greats, the sleazy, filthy, profoundly disgusting BASKET CASE! Another of my all time favorite slices of Trash Cinema, Joe Bob was crucial in making Basket Case a hit. As I recall, he either saw this at a screening as either Cannes or Sundance, and was the only other critic in there besides Rex Reed, who write up the film ended up being it’s selling point and was used in all it’s marketing, “This is the sickest movie ever made.” Joe Bob told that little story during the screening but, otherwise, this was one of the flicks I missed the most of as I was grilling burgers and dogs for the Gang at Cap City Video Lounge during our screening. But, Basket Case was one of those films that needed to be seen. And, again, everyone in our theater during this screening has never seen Basket Case before. So, I was happy to get them fed during the screening of this remarkable, legendary, groundbreaking piece of absolute cinematic filth. What really makes it stand out is the amount of heart and true emotional resonance that exists between the body mutilation, panty sniffing, and stop motion deformed creature tantrums. Henenlotter went on to make Brain Damage and Frankenhooker, but neither really surpasses the mix that Basket Case delivers. One of a kind and true gem of Trash Cinema.

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Re-Animator: Oh, Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon’s gonzo filmic interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic about life and the lengths some in the field of medicine and advanced science will go to in order to preserve it.  This came out in 1985 alone with Dan ‘OBannon’s Return of the Living Dead and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, three of the finest and most game changing zombie flicks ever made. Re-Animator is a a great ride littered with some really fun, cheap gore gags and gross outs, some FANTASTIC gratuitous nudity from the limitlessly attractive and talented Barbara Crampton, but the true saving grace of Re-Animator is the zany, sharp, and gleefully malicious performance of Jeffrey Combs as the unhinged Dr. Herbert West, the man who has created the Re-Animation agent and causes an undead holocaust at Miskatonic University. Featuring some of the most perverse murders, makeup effects and molestations in the history of cinema, Re-Animator was a golden selection for The Last Drive-In. A sure fire crowd pleaser for the Drive-In Mutants.

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Honestly, it wa sa lineup to die for and one Joe Bob obviously took good care in covering all the bases whiel selecting from SHUDDER’s catalog of titles. It was ab absolute joy hanging out with great friends, knocking back brews, and eventually, strong black coffee, as we soldiered through with glee to this 24 hour marathon of the macabre hosted with laughs and vulgarity by the man who brought us here, Joe Bob Briggs.

But there was always a little sting in my heart every time a 28 years older Job Bob would mention a talent whom we had lost in the years since the cancellation of MonsterVision. We hold on to our pasts and those things that made us who were are and we cherish these things. They become a part of us, they define us. But time pushes forward and takes what it wants and as we get older and wiser to these facts the pain doesn’t exactly subside, but we do grow to accept it. There was that shared hope that Joe Bob was going to announce he had made a deal to start up a new show on the streaming service, SHUDDER, where he hosted his 24 hour horror movie marathon, but that announcement never came. Instead, he said his goodbyes, the lights turned off on the set of The Last Drive-In and the credits rolled as Joe Bob sat in his recliner, hunched forward, fiddling with his hat with a look of reflection on his face. As if he will always be there.

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I am not going to lie to you, I had to hold back my tears. It was as if I had just hung out with a long lost relative for the past 24 hours and it was as if nothing had changed, and now that relative has gone away, again, and he’s told us he’s never coming back. But, that is exactly how it all works. We have no say in this, or what those around us decide is best for them. Joe Bob is a saint for coming back at all. For 24 hours it was like being that kid I once was all over again, but instead of being alone in a living room, I was surrounded by my friends this time, in a business I created, that may never have existed without the inspiration folks like Joe Bob Brigg’s provided by teaching me it was okay to be myself, believe in myself and to not turn my back on the things that make me happy. What a great lesson to learn. And those of us who took this lesson to heart, and those of us who carry the torch, we will insure that The Drive-In Will Never Die. That spirit, the spirit of the misfit, the outcast, the weird, the mutated, is something that will be in our hearts always.

Thank you, Joe Bob Briggs, for making me Trashy. We will not let you down.

-Root

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25
Jun
16

(NSFW) The Teacher (1974) Too Cheeky

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“Well, come on in a minute… I’m not gonna rape you.” – Angel Tompkins as Diane Marshall in The Teacher

a Primal Root written review

Sexy, taboo, tawdry disturbing with just the right amount of putrid awfulness and sense of shame makes The Teacher (written and directed by Howard Avedis) unintentionally genius. The film is aware of it’s limitations, yet still manages to pull out all the stops and deliver a lowbrow, steamy, creepy chunk of sleazy entertainment that was, to my own amazement effectively erotic, which brought about by subtle, slow simmering means.

Most of the credit, if not all the credit, rest squarely on the capable, sensual shoulders of the ravishing Angel Tompkins (as The Teacher of the title, Mrs. Diane Marshall), but when you are effortlessly lovely and seductive as Ms. Tompkins’, all you need do is glance at local teenage rapscallion and it won’t be long before you have them eating out of your hand. there are many nuanced layers to this seedy, sexual creep fest. The most important of which involves a yellow slicker wearing psychotic stalker Vietnam war veteran named Ralph (played by excellent character actor, Anthony James, who turns the film’s most memorable performance.) who may or may not have been one of Diane’s early student/teacher sexual conquests and is now dangerously, murderously fixated upon her. I don’t believe this is ever made explicitly clear in the film, but Ralph’s doomed little brother, Lou (Rudy Harris Jr.) says his brother claims to have made the sign of double backed mud weasel with her at some point in the not too distant past. Ralph has a headquarters up int he top of a derelict building next to a dystopian marina where Diane parks her boat she somehow affords on a teacher’s salary in 1974. This boat’s primary purpose, it would seem, is for Diane to take it out in the harbor, about 500 yards from where she had it docked, take off her top and sun bath…while Ralph watches through the binoculars he keeps in his red velvet coffin up in his lair.

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And that’s how this whole sordid tale gets going, a pair of binoculars, a pair of sun baked boobs and a deeply disturbed Vietnam war veteran. Lou takes his best friend Sean (Jay North, that’s right, a slightly more grown up version of TV’s Dennis the Menace) to Ralph’s lair after the last day of school to take a peek at their teachers chesticles. As the gawk and stare, Ralph hides in the shadows, sneaks up behind the two unsuspecting high school students and scares the ever loving shit out of them. In fact, he scares his brother Lou so bad he falls of the roof and plummets to his death from the voyeuristic perch, where, from a bird’s eye view after he crunches to the pavement below, we can see blood pouring forth from what seems to be his denim clad asshole. Ralph freaks the fuck out and swears bloody, murderous revenge against Sean the innocent Sean for the murder of his brother. Of course, Sean shortly after become fuckmantically involved with Diane, which sends Ralph even deeper into super psycho homicidal behavior which makes for some very strange, very awkwardly funny and even somewhat affecting trash cinema moments.

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But, as you and I know, the opportunity to sexually experiment as a teenager with someone who looks like Angel Tompkins is an extreme rarity, so, despite the obvious liabilities to his young life, Sean loses his virginity and begins an illicit fuck buddy relationship with the seductive, easy as Sunday morning, Diane Marshall. However, I must acknowledge it took Sean a good amount of the film’s running time to get the courage to finally slip Diane the extra credit she’s been blatantly asking for ever since summer break begins. She seems to be after him in every scene they share together and he always brushes her off with is trademarked excuse, “I gotta go work on my van.” Pool parties, kitchen flirtations, laying around nekkid in the master bedroom asking him to kiss her sweet meat…okay, that last one didn’t ACTUALLY happen, but he does finally give into his desires, overcomes his fear of sex with a married woman who is ALSO his teacher, and they both love every damn second of the deep dicking.  However, as a viewer and a human being, the fact that it took this 18 year old boy so long to give in to his 28 year old teachers sexual temptation frustrated me as a sane human being. I mean, really, who cares if a deranged mad man with a saber and banana yellow rain jacket is out to slice you from groin to sternum and jump rope with a length of your shit filled intestines? All that beer drinking, fucking and frolicking are totally worth it in The Primal Root’s book. I say job well done, Sean! Life is fleeting, anyway. Go fuck your teacher, son.

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Oh, before I forget, Sean’s mother/pimp is played by none other than Miss Universe 1961, Marlene Schmidt, who quite a piece of Devil’s food cake, herself. She even has one of my favorite bizarre-o lines in the entire film as she chats bikini clad poolside with Diane, “I find him very attractive, even if he IS my son.” Man, not since Back to the Future has a film managed an Oedipal moment like that.

At the end of the day, Angel Tompkins really is what I take away from The Teacher. Well, that and an important lesson about never peeping on your teacher with binoculars of lunatics that live in rat infested demilitarized buildings near a pier. Angel is amply equipped and totally convincing in the roll of an experienced seductress. Someone who will stop at nothing until you drop your trousers and irrigate her soy bean field. Sure, she’s not an especially talented actress, but the lack of wardrobe does help take the edge off, but there’s no denying she is fucking stellar in the one moment when Sean admits in her and his parents that he was spying on her while she was nude sunbathing. Her satisfied, utterly aroused little smirk is goddamn lip smacking delicious. Ms. Tompkins seductively saunters from scene to scene with an unparalleled sense of self possession. It’s as if she’s seducing us as we watch, but that could just be me talking over the sound of my own raging boner.

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Anyway, The Teacher is a goddamn remarkable, low brow, trash cinema experience. It has enough  fun sex shenanigans to get your popcorn popping and a nice freakish mean streak to keep you wondering just where the fuck this batshit tale os sluts, psychos and dick brained teens is taking us. they sure as Hell don’t make ’em this sleazy anymore. The Teacher passes the test, every time, Gang.

I give The Teacher a solid 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. 90 minutes of playground love, Gang.

 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10
Jan
16

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I award Phantasm FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

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.

WDYPIH

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.

3

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

12
Jan
14

Mars Attacks (1996): Carnage Candy

 

Mars Attacks quad

a Primal Root written review

Adapting a notoriously gruesome and controversial trading card series from the 60’s into a PG-13 holiday release for the 1990’s cannot be an easy task.  “MARS ATTACKS!” in it’s original form was a blood soaked Topp’s trading card series created in 1962. Of course, there was parental and societal uproar over the gory, frequently sexual card series which led to the series’ original run first being censored and then being halted entirely. Yes, tell the public they cannot have something because they cannot “handle it” and remove it from the market entirely.  Ladies and Gents, this is how you create a cult following.

In the early 1980’s, “MARS ATTACKS!” began it’s resurgence gaining a whole new generation of young fans while banking on the nostalgia of those who once had this gloriously sick and subversive creation snatched from their grasps by the moral watchdogs that know what is best for us all. Bunch of dick holes, I tells ya! This resurgence culminated in a film adaptation featuring and all star cast and directed by, at that point, creative dynamo, Tim Burton fresh of his biographical film “Ed Wood”, everyone’s favorite cross dressing Trash Cinema film director!

Just how in the world do you take a popular cult TRADING CARD series and transform it into a profitable commercial venture? Well, with the restraints of the imposed PG-13 rating, the best path was to tone down the horror elements and amp up the darkly comical elements which the screenplay by Jonathan Gems delivers in spades. Not only is it a damn funny movie from start to finish, it also manages to be highly intelligent, wickedly mean, and  greatly entertaining. Here, let me lay it out for you…

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male's libido.

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male’s libido.

It is brought to the attention of The President of the United States of America, that flying saucers have been spotted surrounding planning Earth originating from our neighboring planet, Mars. To the best we can translate, the Martians come in peace, but as soon as they land, they being disintegrating every living thing they come across with their awesome Martian hand cannons.  The remainder of the movie is a series of sight gags, action set pieces and nasty comedy as humanity fights for survival through a full  on Martian apocalypse.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is a blazingly dark, subversive, wacky sci-fi flick. Sure, it has it’s flaws, like a sluggish pace and a feeling that Tim Burton had a tough time juggling his impressive ensemble cast, but at the end of the day the movie comes off  just as anarchic as the Martians themselves. The film extends it’s middle finger towards societal conventions, and then has fun laughing maniacally as it exposes the shaky pillars that they all stand upon.  MARS ATTACKS! sets it’s sights on lampooning just about everyone.  Conservative military leaders and Wal-Mart families to liberal scientists and new agers, MARS ATTACKS! takes delight in taking them down a peg or two.

For the most part, every character is played as a buffoon,  a cartoon version of stock characters from B-movies past, contemporary leaders and everyday civilians.  The only folks not played for laughs are the handful of societal outcasts and misfits who are played as entirely human like the president’s daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman, channeling Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice), mild mannered New Mexican donut peddler, Richie (Lukas Haas) and, most impressively, Byron and Louise Williams (Jim Brown and the incomparable Ms. Pam Grier) as a blue collar, seperated African American couple trying to make ends meet and raise two young boys.  Louise drives a bus in Washington D.C. while Byron, once a Heavy weight Boxing Champion, now works in Vegas. They are by far the most honorable, loving and genuine characters in the movie and the ones you end up rooting for in the end. When everything else in the film is a lark, you want nothing more than a happy ending for this family.

But it’s not all touchy feely stuff,  let us not forget the fantastically depicted carnage. Holy shit, is this fun stuff to watch! Martians bowl through Easter Island statues, crush mobile homes with their colossal Martian manned robots,  and in my personal favorite gag, crush a troupe of cub scouts with the Washington Monument. See, you don’t get this kind of flesh pulping fun in crap like “Independence Day”. One of the aspects I admire about “MARS ATTACKS!” is how the Martians use the phrase “We Come in Peace” and “We are your friends” to gain our trust several times over in order to implement surprise attacks. Once, killing off several military leaders and countless innocent spectators and the second time killing off Congress. It worked so well int he past that later in the film we see Martians roaming a burning landscape, guns drawn still claiming that they come in peace and blasting anything living they come across while exclaiming “Do Not Run! We Are Your Friends!”   It’s a great joke, but it’s a goddamn chilling one as well.

mars attacks do not run

By film’s end, Earth is saved by a decent young man who went out of his way to save his Grandmother from her rest home which was under siege and, unbeknownst to them, unlock the secret weapon that will destroy the Martian threat and save what remains of planet Earth and it’s inhabitants.  It’s one of the most absurd deus ex machina’s I have ever witnessed in cinema, but in a campy, B-Movie send up such as this, it feels perfectly fitting.

Finally, when Earth is reduced to a smoldering husk of it’s former self, it’s the underdogs who survive. The blue collar workers, those who risk life and limb to save the helpless, and Tom Jones. And in this I see hope. Early in the film, before the Martians reveal their true intentions, Annette Bening’s character states to at her AA meeting that she thinks the Martians have come to save us. And in a way, by destroying the institutions that have always held us back from truly progressing, leaves us with a clean slate to start from. In a way, they’ve given us a second chance and left our world int he hands of the misfits. The survivors.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is one Hell of a flick.  Sharply intelligent, subversive and damn funny.  This is one film well deserving of it’s cult status. highly recommended!

Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

29
Jul
13

Savage Streets (1984): Revenge is Best Served Busty (NSFW)

savage-streets-movie-poster-1984-1020234993

a Primal Root written review

Man, there really isn’t anything quite as life affirming as a good exploitation revenge film done right.  That’s just what we’re dealing with in the 1984 flick, ‘Savage Streets’ starring Linda Blair, John Vernon, Linnea Quigley and Robert Dryer. Battle hardened teenage girls, psychotic greasy 30-something teenage guys with bizarro Flock of Seagulls hairstyle, a hard nosed school principal who calls female trouble makers “tough bitches”,  add in some gratuitous violence and nekkid women and you’ve got yourself the ingredients for a tasty cinematic exploitation stew. I am here to tell you, brothers and sisters, this is one tasty concoction.

Now, I’ve never been to L.A., but apparently in the early 80’s gangs of roving, spandex clad young women roamed the streets at night window shopping for crossbows, porn and bear traps.  One such roving pack of sexy jail bait is led by a teenage girl named Brenda (Linda Blair) who’s hard to miss as she traipses down the sidewalk in a bright turquoise, nipple enhancing ensemble while wearing those giant dark shades they give you at Lens Crafters after you’ve had your pupils dilated.  Her entourage includes several other tough, bubbly girls dressed head to toe in neon and Brenda’s deaf/mute little sister, Heather (Linnea Quigley) who sticks out like a sore thumb in her Librarian inspired number.

Must be cold out.

Must be cold out.

Brenda is your typical badass chick with a heart of gold, sticking up for her friends and extremely protective of her naive, innocent, handicapable little sister. Why would Brenda decide to bring her little sister out to the slums on a bustling Saturday night is unclear, perhaps Brenda wants to expose Heather  to the hunky drug dealing, leather clad sociopaths who roam the streets in their convertible while making out with one another and beating up guys who wear those lame-o polo shirts with little crocodile patches over the left nipple . You know the type.  Brenda soon gets her chance as Heather is nearly run over and crushed into pavement pudding by a foursome of sleazy, knife totting, greased up low lives known as “The Scars.” To be honest,  after a couple viewings of ‘Savage Streets’, I don’t see The Scars being at fault here, as Heather just kind of collapses in front of their car. Heather falls over and Brenda, backed by her posse, begins screaming at The Scars for being reckless fuckheads bent killing every deaf mute teenage girl who happens to stumble in front of their moving vehicle.  If this were true, I have a feeling this band of misfits would have simply put their pedal to the metal and simply killed precious little Heather rather than coming to a halt and not harming her in the slightest.

Oh well, this is just the beginning of ‘Savage Streets.’ There’s plenty of time for The Scars to prove just how loathsome they can be.

The Scars decide to pull repo duty on a pair of implants.

The Scars decide to pull repo duty on a pair of implants.

Not long after the incident with Heather we  are treated to a tender scene of The Scars brutalizing a man who owes them money and illustrating the dangers of being a fully stacked woman walking through seedy alley ways at night wearing a tube top, Brenda comes across The Scars’ convertible and gets a bright idea that will end up costing her, and her friends, greatly. Brenda and the gals decide to provoke The Scars even further by stealing their convertible and speeding by them hollering, laughing and flaunting the fact they just committed grand theft auto. The Scars are not too pleased by this, but thankfully, they’ve gotten a good look at all of the girl’s faces and set out to getting some good, old fashioned rapey revenge after finding their convertible littered with rotten garbage and drippy, rank used tampons. The girls were in the clear until Brenda decided to pull this stunt. Just saying, all that happens later in the film could have totally been avoided if Brenda hadn’t antagonized a group of blood thirsty lunatics. You live, you learn, and those closest to you pay the price.

C'mon, brah! Let's make out our aggression.

C’mon, brah! Let’s make out our aggression.

We soon learn that, for The Scars, revenge is a dish best served…later, as there are other subplots to get to like the one about Brenda being persuade by the head of the football team. Brenda constantly tells him she wouldn’t hop his cock if he were the last man on Earth, but that doesn’t stop the tanned, blonde geek from trying, much to the dismay of the jock’s equally tanned and blonde girlfriend, Cindy. This leads to an incredible confrontation in the girl’s locker room after gym class. As some fully well developed young ladies lather up their assets, Cindy tells Brenda to stay away from her football hero fella, Wes. Brenda restates how much she can’t stand Wes and has no interest in him all, and Cindy lets out her battle cry, as if furious that Brenda doesn’t want to fuck her boyfriend. This leads to a wet and wild shower room beat down as the girls scratch and tear at one another. Cindy in her undies, Brenda fully clothed. but no worries, there are two young girls who start beating the shit out of each other in the background in what I can only assume is an unrelated feud.  Still, this is a directorial choice I can do nothing but praise. Take note, Gang! This is exploitation done right!

So, what are those nekkid ladies in the background fighting about? We will likely never know...

So, what are those nekkid ladies in the background fighting about? We will likely never know…

Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me tell you about the four pack of No Good who call themselves The Scars. These men range in age from late 30’s to mid-40’s and are kind of supposedly in high school. Well, at least they show up there in order to collect drug money, pummel the student body and get into incredible stand-offs with their no nonsense principal, Principal Underwood (John Vernon), who in a stand out moments orders the punks to “Go fuck an iceberg.” Fuck yeah! With this man;s can-do spirit and use of disturbing sexual imagery as insults,  I can see him being Savage Street County superintendent in no time!  The Scars are primarily led by a fellow named Jake (Robert Dryer) who seems to have only two emotional states, malicious glee and deep, furious anger. This man lives to inflict pain on others and has more protruding neck chords than you can shake a stick at. Seriously,The Incredible Hulk’s neck veins could take lessons from those of Jake.  When this man is angry, it is not only printed across his face, but his uncannily expressive neck.

Like an enraged turtle!

Like an enraged turtle!

So, while Linda Blair is getting cracking skulls and bouncing boobs in the ladies locker room, The Scars are steadily closing in on her vulnerable, trusting, deaf/mute little sister,  Heather. The scene slowly and surely ramps up the repulsion as one member of The Scars starts to befriend Heather as she teaches him proper sign language techniques before he busts out the old finger through the hole technique and the ensemble of scum bags assemble, drag poor Heather into a boy’s restroom and begin to savagely rape and brutalize her. It’s a down right traumatizing on screen rape sequence, made all the more chilling due to the fact Heather cannot even scream for help. She is held down as Junior Scars member, Red, is given first dibs in the gang rape, deflowering Heather in what  seems to be a kind of disgusting initiation ritual. Truly, this is some very nasty, harrowing, stuff that’s well executed and staged. It all ends with a boot to Heather’s skull  and she is rushed to the hospital, having lapsed into a coma.

In this kind of movie, we all know this beautiful smile will soon be savagely raped away.

In this kind of movie, we all know this beautiful smile will soon be savagely raped away.

Why this does not IMMEDIATELY invoke the wrath of older, and incredibly protective (if not totally careless)  sister,  Brenda, is beyond me. It takes a few more run ins with The Scars and the daring broad daylight murder of one of  Brenda’s pregnant and soon to married friends before she decides to hit up the Two-4-One Death Wish Store, don her full body latex cat suit and get to painting these Savage Streets red with the drippy entrails of The Scars! And, OH, what an evening of vengeance it is! Three words: WATCH YOUR KNEES!

Savage Streets is an oddly fun piece of exploitation cinema. On one hand, you have some truly sick and disturbing subject matter and on the other you have a lot of goofy, sleazy comedy sequences played out in the high school. I can honestly say I’ve never seen another rape/revenge film like it. Our female protagonists are all likeable and you could sense the connection between. Likewise with the sociopaths, The  Scars. Even in their dysfunctional way, they fit together well as a pack, even if their only real goals are to torture, kill and sell drugs.   Savage Streets it’s a funky, dirty, and abrasive time capsule of mid-80’s trash cinema, it’s a movie that plays by it’s own rules and rises to the occasion throwing in every single element you can imagine.

Linda (Crazy Eyes) Blair: Still got the Devil in her

Linda (Crazy Eyes) Blair: Still got the Devil in her

A cool side note about ‘Savage Streets’ is that is was directed at the very last minute, after the film’s original director dropped out, by Danny Steinman, whose previous work included a Deep Throat cash-in porno flick called ‘high Rise’ and would direct one of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th franchise, ‘Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning’ the following year before, sadly, dropping into obscurity. He only has four films to his credit, and out of the two I;ve seen, I am a huge fan of the guy’s stuff. He knew his audience well and delivered to them what they wanted and I appreciate him for that. I only wish he could have made more flicks in a similar vein to ‘Savage Streets’.  Danny passed away on December 18th, 2012.

This scene is integral to the plot.

This scene is integral to the plot.

I genuinely enjoyed Savage Streets in all it’s sick, demented, exploitative glory. However, if I have one gripe at all about the flicks, it’s that Brenda, after spending the entire movie being a badass, hard as nails teenage hellcat from the streets, devolves into a whimpering,  panicking damsel in distress in the film’s final ten minutes as her quest for vengeance takes a momentary turn for the worst. We’ve watched Linda’s character show he resourcefulness and calm demeanor repeatedly as she’s dealt with jerks, blonde bimbos and the most vile psychopaths humanity has to offer, but once things get only moderately bad and she is called upon to act quickly she starts crying and fumbling like a dipshit bimbo from a half rate slasher flick.  It’s the only blemish in an otherwise phenomenal piece of Trash cinema.

I’m awarding this puppy 5 out of 5 Dumpster nuggets. Well worth your time, chump!

Stay Trashy and keep your nose clean!

-Root

31
Dec
12

Rotten Reviews Episode 27: Home Sweet Home

Home-Sweet-Home-Front

Hey Gang!

It’s your old pal, The Primal Root, and to celebrate the holiday season I’ve decided to throw a Trashmas New Year’s Bash over at my pad and everyone is invited! That includes YOU! But beforehand we’re checking out an all time favorite Trash Cinema Slasher film  from 1981 called ‘Home Sweet Home’. It’s supposedly a holiday themed horror movie, but a turkey dinner does not a holiday make, gang. In fact no one even mentions what holiday it is! From what I understand I think it’s supposed to be Thanksgiving?

I digress, get prepared for feral children, satanic electric guitar playing magical Jewish mimes, Body by Jake, body builder body glaze, sex with your pants on, spanish racial sterotypes, bribing cops with “bazooms”, roid rage, flattened grannies,  disapearing balls, hostage negotiations, the missing peas and so much more! It’s The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews Episode 27: Home Sweet Home! Gather round and share it with those you love.

Thank you for all your support and for spreading the word! See you in 2013!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOMjjUA?p=1 width=”640″ height=”390″]




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