Posts Tagged ‘grave

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Jan
12

Rawhead Rex Wants to Skull Fuck You and I’m Okay With This.

a Primal Root written review

When I think of monsters larger than life a number of creatures come to mind. Of course, Godzilla, King Kong, Cloverfield…Hell, even Bruce from JAWS and the graboids from Tremors make appearances.  And then there’s Rawhead Rex, the red headed step-child of all giant monsters. Yeah, while Godzilla is off crushing noodle factories in Japan, Rawhead Rex is stomping around rural Ireland ripping the heads off teenage love birds and literally pissing in the faces of local priests. Now this is The Root’s kind of monster. Sure, Rawhead’s not nearly as tall as some of the other monsters on the block, but he makes up for his mere 10 or 11 foot tall stature with plenty of murderous spunk and personality. Unlike other monsters who are brought about by man’s experimenting, or are simply Mother Nature’s own killing machines, Rawhead is just a mean mother fucking demon. He’s not here for sympathy or for us to see ourselves reflected in him…no. This guy just wants to bite your face off and smear his shit on the bloody mess beneath. I doubt you will find a sicker, meaner, more sacrilegious monster in 80’s cinema. I feel it is my duty, as ambassador of the Trash Cinema Collective, to shine a light on one of the nastiest, meanest, most atrocious cinematic monsters ever brought to life, Mister Rawhead Rex.

"I feel good about me!"

Our movie takes place in a dreary farming community in Ireland where a group of men try to remove and ancient totem from one of their fields. Soon, the sky darkens, red lightening rains down and the totem falls releasing a horrifying demonic monster older than the Christian faith whose only purpose in existing is to destroy any and everything in it’s ugly path. At the same time, an American family has come to town headed by historian and writer, Howard Hollenbeck, who is traveling the countryside compiling research on pre-Christian sacred sites and is interested in the local church’s unique history and stained glass windows.  All the while, Rawhead is painting the entire countryside rd with the grue and entrails of the local villagers, twisting off heads, terrifying children, setting people on fire and tearing ladies blouses off to expose their breasts before tossing them into trees. How can Rawhead be stopped? The clues and secrets to the creatures destructon are all held within the walls of the towns ancient church. Can Hollenbeck get aid from the incompetent local authorities, deal with the psychotic Reverend Coot’s and unlock the mysteries to defeating Rawhead Rex before he destroys the town and Hollenbeck’s family?

Rawhead Rex is based of a short story by Clive Barker, the man who brought us Hellraiser and Nightbreed. not only boasting source material from Clive Barker, but a screenplay by the man as well, Rawhead Rex isn’t a very good movie. However, it is a ridiculously fun and entertaining one. The movie actually follows the original story pretty closely but is also devoid of just about all the thought provoking, serious pagan/spiritual concepts that made the story such a brilliant, philosophical read and, instead, just goes berserk and delivers a fucking crazy ass monster movie that delivers all the goods. That is, if you don’t mind a generous helping of cheese with your cinematic entree.

"Oh yeah, your lymph nodes are WAY swollen..."

The film itself is competently made and pretty well acted all around. Director, George Pavlou, does an excellent job of keeping the pace up, composing some fantastic shots and utilizes them to their best affect, and even takes some risky chances with his subject matter. Keep in mind, Rawhead Rex was released right in the midst of the British “Video Nastis” fiasco, so Pavlou had to walk a very fine line in order for his film to see the light of day. In all honesty, the violence here works rather well. It’s kind of muted in parts but it’s still gets the point across. But where Rawhead really scores points with me is that it has the brass balls to put kids in mortal danger, and even goes out of it’s way to kill a few! Yes, Rawhead  completley destroys a kid or two in his rampage. It happens just out of camera shot but with some great post production foley, the sound of these kids getting folded in half and ripped into meaty chunks drives the point home.

Now, I know everyone’s  gripe about Rawhead Rex is how shitty his costume is. You know, I love the way Rawhead looks. It’s cheesy as all hell and nearly destroy the credibility of the film, but there’s something about it I find really endearing that keeps this whole affair on a B-Movie, Drive-In level. Really, the the monster looks like a cross between a dog, a horse, and The Ultimate Warrior. He’s goofy enough to make you laugh, but strange enought that you don’t want that fucker within 1,000 yards of you.  I, for one, appreciate Rawhead’s fantastic dark sense of humor and that so much of the violence is delivered tongue in cheek. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy ideas at play here, a legitimate sense of dread, and a hand full of genuinely shocking scenes… but you cannot deny the film i a Hell of a lot of fun. There are moments when Rawhead runs after people where he looks like a little boy skipping and hopping after them, moments where he celebrates turning over motor homes where he begins dancing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he even whips it out and pisses on a kneeling, willing, Reverand Coot’s in a kind of demonic Golden Shower baptismal cleansing, in what is possibly the film’s most notorious scene. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing.

I can't help but wonder what Rawhead looks like with his mouth shut. Such a Chatty Kathy, that guy...

Within all this bizarre-o action, blood thirsty monster mayhem, and religious nose thumbing, is a pretty interesting story. Sure, it’s not at all what Clive Barker probably envisioned but it still manages to please as crazed, no holds barred, monster movie sporting a larger than usual set of testicles it drags through the dirt behind it. There are so many aspects of Rawhead Rex that are worth praising. I especially loved the ending conceit the Rawhead Rex can only be destroyed by that which he can never be…and finding out exactly what that means. It’s a rather poetic and lovely idea tossed into an otherwise wild, and grotesque mix. But it’s moments like these where the air is cleared of the action and horror campiness and a little bit of heart shines through.

I highly recommend Rawhead Rex as pure, unadulterated B-movie love. If you come across a copy for cheap, snatch it up as quickly as you can. As the runt of the larger than life monster litter, Rawhead is about as fun and lovable as they come and well worth bringing into your home. Even if he’s not house broken.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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