Posts Tagged ‘hallucination

10
Mar
14

Funland (1987) Dancing with the Angel of Death

funland

a Primal Root written review

As a lifelong Floridian, with The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios close by,  you grow up having a special kind of understanding of the amusement park business.  I’m sure to those who travel hundreds or thousands of miles and spend entire fortunes to come visit our state’s economic clit ticklers still feel the magic when walking down main street while wearing your short Dad shorts and fanny pack  in the skull liquifying summer heat or  watching film legend Brendan Frasier mug for the camera as they are thrown around on the indoor roller coaster based on the contemporary cinematic classic, “The Mummy Returns”, but for those of us in Florida who take a stroll through these parks on an almost annual basis, we can tell you there’s some shady shit going on just beneath the fairy tale surface…

This just might be why 1987’s bizarre, skit heavy, amusement park centered comedy/psychological drama “Funland” holds a special place in my rotten, filthy, heart.  “Funland” is one very strange, very off kilter film filled with a dozen or so ideas of which only about a half of them ever take root and really make an impression.

Funland is preparing for another season of family friendly fun and attractions, with hundreds of new recruits just chomping at the bit to press the “START” button on the park’s rides,  clean brat puke off the sidewalks or sell concessions at the ridiculously racist “Fresh Watermelon” stand! Most excited of all is Bruce Burger (David L. Lander, Squiggy from Lavern and Shirley), the clown mascot of “Funland” who was once the head accountant before suffering a complete mental breakdown that left him believing he is the actual incarnation of the parks clown mascot, Bruce Burger. See, the park’s owner, Angus (William Windom) believes in loyalty over profits, and keeps this mentally unstable man on board as Bruce Burger.  It’s a sweet, home spun gesture, but Angus soon meets his end the way most decent men do,  found dead face down in a body of water under mysterious circumstances.  his wife soon after sells the entire business to the mob who are only concerned about the bottom line an begin filling the park with less family friendly attractions like the Celebrity Death and Disease exhibit and dismantling the musical showcase in order to replace it with strippers.. In all honesty, I might actually go to an amusment park with these kind of attractions.

fun1

The mob also decides to fire Bruce Burger and brings in the “National” Bruce Burger whose played by a  classically trained actor who constantly complains about his job and reminisces about his thespian history ad nauseam.  Bruce takes refuge in the recently closed down wax museum and finds solace in long conversations with a hallucination of Humphrey Bogart  (Robert Sacchi, who pulls off an excellent impression of bogie) and a sausage puppet. Bruce continues living at the park and dressing the part, but his hallucinations and psychosis continue to grow worse, culminating in a strange moment in the Funland cafeteria when the gentleman behind the lunch counter begin rapping, The Angel of Death appears briefly, never to be seen again, and the entire crowd drops what they’re doing and start moving and a groovin’. Once this hallucinatory episode comes an end  the ghost of Angus shows up to grab a bite to eat with Bruce and to divulge the horrible truth, he was murdered. So, it is decided over a game of poker between Bruce and his three most prominent hallucinations  to take action. Bruce steals a mafioso’s gun, heads to the top of the theme parks clock tower and opens fire over the strenuous objections of the talking sausage puppet.

“Funland” is among the most bizarre Trash Cinema videos I’ve ever watched.  David L. Lander as Bruce Burger does a damn fine job portraying the gradual mental collapse of Bruce Burger, a man already teetering ont he edge of total insanity. to the film’s credit, Bruce’s steady decline is hardly ever played for laughs. If the awkward, out of place gags featured in “Funland” were edited out you’d have a far darker film on your hands. but, in a way, all the attempts at levity give the movie an even more disturbing quality. One stand out sequence features the aforementioned “Fresh Watermelon” stand where a white junior manager is giving instructions to the four black men who will be working the stand.  The junior manager asks “Is anyone good with knives” and all the black men back away in fear. Can someone tell me just what the Hell this means? What are these guys afraid of? Was there a scene missing where the junior manager stabs a man to death?

Fresh-Watermelon1

When it’s all said and done, “Funland” is far from a  perfect film, but it is the kind of film that you want to watch to the bitter end simply because it’s so unpredictable, so looney and has so many goddamn plot elements you’ll be dying to see how it all gels together. Seldom do you come across a film that manages to undercut it’s amateur execution and redeem it by way of own it’s twisted, surreal  logic.  It’s constantly quirky and strange making all the logical sense of a fever dream.  To my own amazement, this works in the films favor and makes for an enjoyable, head scratcher of a flick.  For fans of unique, one of a kind, absolutely bonkers trash cinema, “Funland” is one you should really check out.

I give “Funland” Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

20
Oct
13

The Lords of Salem (2012) a Rebecca Keel review

Lords of Salem

a Rebecca Keel review

Rob Zombie has long demonstrated himself to be among the elite talent of contemporary writer-directors,  and even with such a high bar to clear,  he has succeeded in shocking and impressing me with his recent,  wrenching film The Lords of Salem.  Superficially,  the work stands as a brilliantly innovative horror story about the legacy of colonial witchcraft in modern-day Salem,  Massachusetts,  but with even a prick to the skin of the tale,  the viewer is sucked into a powerful and disturbing allegory for the effect of mental illness on a person’s life.  Poignantly precise and fearlessly thorough,  The Lords of Salem captivates with its insight and its remorseless horror.

The story lays out the events of seven days in the life of Heidi Laroc (stunningly portrayed by Shari Moon Zombie),  a radio DJ in Salem,  after she receives a mysterious vinyl record from “The Lords of Salem”.  The music on the record triggers visions of a coven of notorious witches from the colonial days of Salem.  Unable to resist the fate she inherited from her ancestors,  Heidi’s life begins to spiral into destruction.

A masterfully constructed allegory can be likened to a jigsaw puzzle with an image on both sides of the pieces.  Constructing the puzzle facing one way yields a comprehensible design,  while locking the pieces with their opposite sides up reveals another;  yet the puzzle itself maintains the same shape,  regardless of the image visible.  Each piece has a role to play in the final design,  and this role is the same,  regardless of which image is constructed.  Likewise,  the allegory is made up of diverse pieces,  each of which has a role.  If you lift a single piece and turn it over,  you can see its role in the image on the opposite side,  even though it must lock into its neighboring pieces the same way,  regardless of which meaning is viewed.

A quote from the character Francis Matthias,  a local witchcraft historian,  binds the surface tale of witchcraft to its deeper representation of the destruction of a life due to the inexorable force of mental illness.  He states to Heidi,  “Witchcraft is nothing but a psychotic belief brought on by a delusional state of mind.”  This clear declaration identifies the primary allegorical device in the film:  witchcraft is psychosis.  From this melding of two ideas into a single metaphorical puzzle piece,  the rest of the allegory can be teased from the dense imagery of the visually-stunning film.

It is beyond the scope of this short review to analyze the imagery,  symbolism,  and structure of The Lords of Salem.  However,  certain points bear mention,  as they may affect the way the film is received by its audience.

The overt,  perhaps even garish,  Christian and occult images which permeate The Lords of Salem may distract some viewers from the underlying meaning of the film,  or,  perhaps,  suggest a rebellious philosophical bent which is meaningless to the film’s interpretation.  Christianity plays a twofold role in the allegory.  As the epitome of mainstream normalcy,  it provides a backdrop against which the perverse (on the one hand,  worship of Satan,  and on the other,  debilitating mental instability) can be contrasted.  Christianity further fills the role of the flamboyant,  but useless,  “solution” to the conflict at hand (witchcraft or mental illness).  The latter role is also tied to the character of Francis Matthias,  who bears the names of two important Catholic saints and whose efforts to rescue Heidi from her impending demise are fated to fail from the outset.

Sexual imagery,  particularly in the context of the perversion of Christian symbolism,   can also come across as heavy-handed,  but it,  too,  plays a valuable role in the interpretation of the film.  Explicitly sexual imagery rarely represents sex itself in a symbolic structure.  Over the course of the film,  the character of Heidi is conspicuously asexual,  while the witches are overpoweringly sexual.  This prepares the character of Heidi to be the virgin mother of “the devil’s child”,  as foretold by the witch Margaret Morgan.  Regardless of the character flaws borne by Heidi,  she is,  in fact,  a blameless victim of exogenous—albeit internal to her genetic code and her mind—forces.  This use of contrast between sexuality and asexuality is highly appropriate,  given the wider cultural context of the society into which the film was released.  Specifically,  sexuality is frequently depicted as a negative trait in Western religious culture,  and has long been associated with black magic and devil worship.  This makes it an effective symbolic infrastructure for deflecting blame from the persecuted main character of The Lords of Salem.

The film presents a plot which relies on supernatural events,  such as witchcraft and inescapable fate,  and these elements may irk some fans of Rob Zombie’s horror films,  which typically rely on the capacity for evil within human beings for their conflicts.  However,  all of the supernatural aspects present in The Lords of Salem are pieces of the allegorical puzzle meticulously constructed over the course of the film.  When a viewer sees these elements as fantastic or unbelievable,  they are granted a greater understanding of Heidi’s state of mind.  She has inherited a curse from her forefathers which has doomed her to eventual destruction.  In the literal story,  the curse is the result of evil witchcraft;  in the allegorical story,  it is a predisposition to psychotic mental illness.  Both engender a sense of helplessness and hopelessness;  however,  the use of a literal curse makes this emotional response more accessible to viewers unfamiliar with the experience of heritable mental illness.

I have little of which to complain about The Lords of Salem.  The soundtrack did,  at times,  stray into the realm of clichéd horror tropes,  such as a sudden,  loud bass chord at the appearance of an unexpected apparition,  and in these few instances,  I found myself sighing deeply in resignation.  Other aspects which might garner my criticism in other films,  however,  such as loose ends to supporting characters’ stories,  busy imagery during the film’s climactic scene,  and atypical pacing decisions for the plot,  support the sense of bewilderment and confusion experienced by the character of Heidi,  and add to,  rather than detract from,  the message and value of the film.  I went into my first encounter with The Lords of Salem anticipating a dark and entertaining film.  I was stunned to experience a deeply insightful,  unflinching,  and tragically personal depiction of a life shredded by mental illness.  It isn’t an easy film to watch,  but it’s one which no one should overlook.

17
Oct
11

‘Savage Lust’ or Why you shouldn’t have Sex with Women you meet in Haunted Houses

a Primal Root written review

 savage |ˈsavij|
adjective
(of an animal or force of nature) fierce, violent, and uncontrolled : tales of a savage beast | a week of savage storms.
• cruel and vicious; aggressively hostile : they launched a savage attack on the budget.
• (chiefly in historical or literary contexts) primitive; uncivilized.
• (of a place) wild-looking and inhospitable; uncultivated.
• (of something bad or negative) very great; severe : this would deal a savage blow to the government’s fight.

lust |ləst|
noun
very strong sexual desire : he knew that his lust for her had returned.
• [in sing. ] a passionate desire for something : a lust for power.
• (usu. lusts) chiefly Theology a sensual appetite regarded as sinful : lusts of the flesh.
verb [ intrans. ]
have a very strong sexual desire for someone : he really lusted after me in those days.
• feel a strong desire for something : pregnant women lusting for pickles and ice cream.

 

Okay, so, according to the above definitions if you’ve rented and popped ‘Savage Lust’ (AKA: Deadly Manor) into your VCR and pressed play you assume you;re in for a horrific, brutal sex picture with plenty of nudity and gore to burn your dirty retinas on. And you would be partially correct in that assumption. I rented the crusty old VHS copy of  ‘Savage Lust’ from my local haunt, Video 21, and brought it on home where I gave it a spin.

Right away I was shocked to see this thing came out in the year 1990 since it looked to have the fashion sense and production value of a film shot roughly a decade earlier. Not only that, but this sucker was directed by José Ramón Larraz who helmed some pretty decent horror movies in Europe including an all time favorite of mine, the flesh filled, lesbian blood sucker epic, ‘Vampyres’ in 1975 (under the name Joseph Larraz). Which makes this one even stranger, seeing as it looks really, really, shitty. Which I ‘m not sure is due to a ridiculously low budget, filmmaker apathy towards the material or maybe both…

Anyway, the film starts off just like any old slasher flick with a group of friends heading to a secluded cabin by the lake. No, not Crystal Lake, but Lake…uh, Okapanukey? Along the way they pick up a potentially dangerous hitchhiker, get a flat tire, and encounter a goofy police officer all in the span of ten minutes. And, no, the cliches do not end there. As the sun begins to set our gang pulls over and heads into the woods where they come across an old, presumably abandoned mansion. A secluded, abandoned mansion with a wrecked car as a predominantly displayed lawn ornament, several coffins in the basement, preserved scalps in a closet, a bedroom plastered with black and white photos of a creepy nekkid lady, and the typical coffee table photo album of neatly lined up nekkid dead people.

Oddly enough, this hardly raises a red flag for any of our thirty-something year old teenage protagonists and they decide to SPEND THE NIGHT THERE. What could possibly go right?

How quaint...

But just as you begin to feel comfortable as a jaded, scene it all, horror fan the movie starts throwing curve balls. People start getting killed off in a completely random order unlike any slasher film I’ve ever watched. People you expect to be heroes are killed mid way through, folks you assume will be red herrings till the end die at the most unexpected times and this gives the film a cool effect  because you’re never, ever, really sure who is going to die and when. The beat of the typical slasher film is way off and this creates a feeling of unease and even dread in the viewer. This could be intentional or just really poorly done pacing, but in the end it works in the film’s favor.

Also, when the killer is revealed it is pretty bizarre. Is it a ghost? A creature of some sort? A deformed psychopath? Who knows? The movie keeps you wondering just what the fuck is going on up until the final reveal and explanation which I found to be somewhat unique in the realm of the slasher film. It’s an M.O.  that’s become a little customary but the dealer of death this time around doesn’t feel old and worn to death.

But what is burned into my brain is this really sleazy sex scene between one of our main fellas, whose girlfriend goes missing early on in the film and he hardly cares, and a mysterious Afroed red headed big hootered woman. It’s this strange sequence which comes out of left field and seems almost hallucinatory gratuitous, totally nekkid, bump and grind sequence is inter cut with visuals of deformed faces, busted eye balls and pulpy, freshly yanked off scalps. Now, the woman doing the bonking is not an attractive lady by any means, but she is smiling ear to ear and looks to be having a blast as she simulates getting it on with her mildly latino, chiseled beef cake fuck buddy.  It’s the stand out scene of the whole movie for me and the one I will remember whenever I think about ‘Savage Lust’. And I will think of it.

"Come on, honey, this is fine art! It will look great in the living room!"

 

The mansion itself is also one dang creepy place. It’s dank, dusty, cob webbed and that master bedroom filled with nekkid pictures is just plan disturbing. You cannot help but wonder just what kind of pervy freak lives in this place. you also cannot help but wonder WHY IN THE NAME OF SAM HELL ARE THESE KNUCKLE NOBS STAYING HERE? Man, I would take my chances against the elements in the woods rather than stay in a house with a collection still drippy scalps and a moist, stinky, made bed ready to be slept in by the person who obviously still inhabits the place!I’d much rather risk dying of exposure than worry about those home owners showing up.

‘Savage Lust’ is far from a good movie. No, it’s complete trash. It looks like the film was dipped in beef gravy before being transfered to VHS, the acting is middle school drama department level and the effects are ridiculous. But the film still manages to be a bit creepy and even pulls off something few slasher films ever did after 1984, surprise the viewer!

Maybe I am being overly kind to ‘Savage Lust’ by saying it pulls off a few unexpected treats here and there but I found myself enjoying this little dumpster nugget. It’s so awkward and dodgy that it ended up endearing itself to this sick, disturbed, trash cinema collector’s heart.

I would only recommend ‘Savage Lust’ to those of you who are truly devoted to the art of sleaze and horror hand dipped in thick, nacho, cheese. It’s not a good movie. No, sir. But it’s a lost gem and a perfect example of why we love Trash Cinema.

Now if only I could work the term “Savage Lust” into some pillow talk…

Stay Trashy,

-Root

“She has a lust for life…pray it’s not yours!” Sorry, couldn’t track down a trailer.

 




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