Posts Tagged ‘haunting

11
Oct
15

Hell Night (1981) Party on, Garth!

POSTER-HELL-NIGHT

a Primal Root written review

“If you weren’t screaming, and we weren’t screaming, then someone is trying to mind fuck us here.” Seth, Hell Night

I’m not going to lie to you, there were a ton of slasher films made in the wake of the independent horror mega hit, Halloween in 1979. They all followed the formula with varying degree of success. Many tried new ground and failed to deliver the goods, others just didn’t understand the appeal and tried for a quick, meaningless cash grab, while others delivered on the gore and tits but left little to be desired in the thrill department.  Being a life long, die hard admirer of the horror genre, I am willing to give anything a go and I am always thrilled to find an example of a genre film that has every excuse in the world to be a lousy phoned in slasher flick actually put forth the effort, rises above the cliched premise, and delivers something entertaining, actually scary and downright fucking solid in execution. 1981’s Hell Night is a perfect example.

Four pledges, Marty (Linda Blair of The Exorcist and Savage Streets fame) Jeff (Peter Barton from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), Seth ( Vincent Van Patten from Rock and Roll High School) and Denise (Suki Goodwin…umm…) must go through with the initiation ritual pleasantly referred to as Hell Night which means they all must spend the night in the abandoned Garth Manor, where a dozen years or so earlier Raymond Garth murdered his wife, killed off all their deformed offspring and then committed suicide. The youngest of their spawnage, Andrew referred to as a…Gork (?), was never found and the legend goes that he still lives somewhere within Garth Manor, which contains numerous secret passages and catacombs running below the enormous mansion.

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Once the four lovely young people are locked in for the night behind the 12 foot tall wrought iron fence which encircles the property, complete with razor sharp spikes at the top where anyone trying to haul their asses over it “might cut their nuts off”, Fraternity and Sorority leaders begin a campaign of pranks in an attempt to scare the shit out of the pledges all while Seth and Denise get all weird and kinky in an upstairs bedroom playing goofy and endearing surfboard role playing, Marty and Pater spend their time chatting and forming a friendship by the living room fireplace. But it isn’t long before the presence of these young people bring to life a dark, malevolent force in the house one that strikes out at the pranksters first and then slowly, mercilessly, begins hunting down our four pledges.

Hell Night works shockingly well despite what comes across as a pretty by the numbers premise. Stick four attractive young people in a dark, forbidding location, unleash a plot contrivance to search them down and kill them one by one according their sluttiness and casual narcotics usage, leave one girl behind to kill the monster and call it a day. But where Hell Night succeeds flawlessly is actually taking the time to create real, interesting, human characters and not some phony, cynical bullshit axe fodder that you can’t wait to see get their heads ripped from their neck stumps. The young people in Hell Night are genuinely likable, shit, even relatable. And this is a huge fucking rarity for a “dead teenage” flick.

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Let’s take a moment to look at Seth, probably my favorite character in the flick. This guy is a muscle bound, blonde, weed smoking surfer guy who, according to himself, only cares about drinking, surfing and screwing. In your run of the mill slasher film, this guy would be written of as dead meat right then in there. Horny jock? That sucker is toast! But in Hell Night, these conventions are kicked to the curb and Seth is proven to be not only quite intelligent, but heroic, loyal, and resourceful. As a long time fan of the slasher genre, I can tell you, Seth’s behavior and acts of heroism are not often seen in the slasher formula. In a way, this makes Seth a kind of wild card, as we so very seldom see this kind of character, we are put of edge not knowing just what might happen to him.

That same sentiment goes for the character of Marty. Linda Blair creates a unique and admirable blue collar badass out of Marty. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, comes from a working class family where she grew up fixing cars along with her mechanic Father (PLOT POINT!) and provides an interesting contrast to the other, more privileged, pledges.  There’s even a great extended conversation early in the film about class structure and capitalism between Marty and Jeff. It’s a fantastic moment where two characters are feeling one another out as they get to know one another along with the audience. We’re not talking anything deeply philosophical here, but it far exceeds what the format typically calls for, and that’s worth praising. These characters are real to life, identifiable and ultimately likable. We fear for them and it really does suck when these characters are killed and are no longer in the movie. You actually mourn the loss. See, this effort makes Hell Night far scarier than it’s next of kin.

Hell Night ghost projection

There are no red herrings in Hell Night, only a menacing, blood thirsty antagonist that remains hidden in the shadows for about 95% of the film’s running time. AGAIN, this works in Hell Night‘s favor, as it adds a legitimate feeling of unease and fear as we imagine just what or whom is lurking in the darkness, in those catacombs, racing towards us down the candle lit hallways of Garth Manor.  However, the number of killers at work here is left in question, which also adds to the uneasy tension Hell Night generates. But, when you stop and think about the premise of Hell Night, it does kind of dawn on you that these college kids ARE trespassing on Private Property…I guess The Garth clan has every right to butcher these assholes invading their home. Who are the real bad guys here? 😉 This flick even manages to create some genuine suspense as one young pledge, in a panic, decides to scale the high fence surrounding Garth Manor and must hoist his weight over numerous spikes poised to pierce his tender young flesh. When looking for help, all the young people can find is useless authority and they must rely on themselves, their cunning and resourcefulness to survive Hell Night.

Alright, so when all is said and done, is Hell Night original? Hardly. What it actually is, is a well crafted and performed Spook Show Haunted House. It’s genuinely thrilling, fun, and even pretty goddamn nightmarish at times. Hell Night is a sadly overlooked piece of slasher film history, one I continually wait to see it becoming rediscovered and reaching the cult status it so richly deserves. Boasting some fine performances, nasty, mean, mother fucking monsters, some outstanding cleavage from a still baby faced Linda Blair, a genuinely creepy score and the patience to really create some worthwhile characters, Hell Night is, in this filthy fright flick fan’s opinion, is one of the better slasher efforts to come out of the 1980’s.

WORD OF WARNING: There is NO nudity in Hell Night.

I’m awarding Hell Night FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

31
Mar
15

It Follows (2014) Sex, Ghosts and Walk-A-Thons

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a Primal Root written review

Let me get this out of the way, I am stupendously happy, thrilled even, when an independent horror movie makes it big, is released wide and actually sells tickets. No matter how good or piss poor, that does not matter to me one single bit, I just want the powers that be to give interesting, strange, unique ideas a fucking chance to thrive. There is a market that exists for oddities. Movies that test boundaries, flesh out ideas never before explored, and whether I go away on the verge of tears over watching something so awe inspiringly great or I walk out with my eyes rolling out of my head over how boring the whole experience was, I want NEW! I want FRESH! I want to see what’s churning inside the melons of all us aging youngsters that came of age on a steady diet of video store horror movie rentals, long summer nights spent gorging or sweet young minds on 90’s MTV, HBO Real Sex, and the rise and proliferation of tabloid journalism!  Whether it’s people getting sewn together ass to mouth, 90 minutes of static video footage of young assholes sleeping while their door movies a centimeter, or some slasher in a shitty mask sets up horrifying home alone style traps and collects his victims, I don;t care. Just keep bringing them on. Because I would rather spend my money on a filmmaker who is trying to do something he or she believes in than some cash in fucking remake of someone else’s vision.

That being said, I saw It Follows directed by David Robert Mitchell this past weekend. I went in blind, actively avoiding trailers and reviews and only hearing buzz from friends and NPR. It payed off when i saw Babadook, one of the better horror offerings I’ve seen in a damn good while, so being the eager horror cinema fan that I am, I offered up my money and braced for impact and the lights dimmed and one of the best reviewed films of the year flickered to life on the screen.

Let me tell me give you the low down. You get fucked and you get cursed by an entity that relentlessly, methodically, slowly follows you, tracking you down no matter where you are so that it can kill you. Only the fucked or fuckers can see the titular “IT” of the title which follows you around. This thing can take on any form, can piss anywhere, and can be stopped by closing a door.  The only way to stop it from following you is to fuck someone else, and then they are cursed to be followed till they pass the Ghost-T-D to some other unlucky bastard willing to spread ’em open wide or poke for your nasty haunted ass.

Cool enough premise, it’s like The Ring but with genitals rather than VHS tapes. There are all kinds of way to go with this thing, my imagination was over run with thoughts of where a concept like this might lead, how the teens encountering such a nightmarish creature would react, I mean, the possibilities are endless. The first twenty minutes or so, leading up the the inciting incident, are actually pretty interesting. We learn about our central characters and our lead ing lady, blonde, budding sexual teenage girl and the masturbation fodder of every young boy in her neighborhood, Jay (Maika Monroe)  who is no stranger to getting laid, as we learn, and without giving everything the movie has in store away, ends up getting cursed with the sex monster early in the film.

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Not quick to believe that anything supernatural is happening, Jay believes what happened to her was a bizarre rape scenario, and leaves it at that. Until “IT” begins hunting her down at school, in her kitchen, in her bedroom, wherever she is, this thing is there showing off it’s Hanes underwear, hairy ball sack or busted gob. The visages “IT” decides to show itself as often relates itself to ac lose personal relationship or some nastier trauma or horror. Sometimes it’s truly creepy, other times it;s awkwardly humorous.  All I can say is that I have my Halloween costume for 2015, all I need is a bag of corn starch, a ladder to climb onto my roof with and to stop trimming my Little Root region. If you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

It’s a great concept that drags on for far too long, plus, these teenagers are all life suckingly dull. Their lives are in peril and they act so bored, so laid back and uninterested, it’s hard for me to work up enough interest to care in their fates. In the film’s climactic battle at an indoor pool we are treated to what feels like ten minutes of kids passively sitting around, napping, looking like they’ve already had the life drained out of them through their pink teenage sexual organs. Maika Monroe, the actress portraying Jay, does a pretty good job freaking out and acting afraid while being attacked, but for the majority of the film it feels like every young actor on screen took a swing of Nyquil before the cameras rolled. Even when these kids lives hang in the balance, they do not have enough character to generate interest in their plight. And there’s about half a dozen of them. And it;s a movie about Fuck Ghosts for fuck’s sake!

There are some pretty nightmarish moments. The initial scene where Jay is confronted by her newly acquired pussygeist, a late night kitchen vision, and a young man confronting his Oedipal fate in his bedroom, but otherwise a lot of the later horror set pieces come off as slapstick comedy more than anything genuinely frightening. “It” starts flinging Goodwill donations at our wet, bikini clad heroine, horny weeny men get thrown through the air by invisible entities, it all just comes of as a little goofy as the movie goes from one ending to another stretching itself out to feature length. I dunno, none of it really had much of an impact on me.

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I will commend the film’s lack of parental units. These kids are basically on their own. No one cares where they are, what they’re doing or with who, and I feel like there just might be something to be something to that. We see parents for split seconds as they sit at kitchen tables with their backs to the camera, or show up as naked spectral visions to scare the shit out of the youngins’, but there is remarkably little interaction between these kids and their parents. ALSO, I really liked how unglamorous the act of teenage sex was depicted. It looks downright boring, and always disappointing. At least if the actors are to be believed. Everyone always seems bored out of their minds both during and after the act. As if you give lobotomies with a stiff cock and wet hatchet wound. Teenage sex was never that dull where I came from, but then again, it wasn’t The Red Shoe Diaries either…I just like that the filmmakers made it look really uneventful and unfulfilling. And, shit, you might just get a skeet-skeet-skeet GHOOOST from that three minutes in Heaven.

Long story short, (too late) I completely respect It Follows for being utterly unique and trying out something totally different. Please, keep making movies this unusual and you’ll see me at the movie theater far more often. Still, I found It Follows to be completely unengaging and and forgettable. It starts off with an enormous amount of promise, but falls apart quickly after the film shows all it;s cards and never regains it’s hold on it’s own story. I’m happy for the praise it’s been getting and the notoriety it has garnered. I can only hope more folks will be willing to take chance on under the radar trash cinema.

Forgettable, but a damn good try. It sure did look really pretty.

ONE AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-The Primal Root

02
Aug
13

The Conjuring (2013): Home Ownership: a Cautionary Tale

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a Primal Root written review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

I’ve always loved a good ghost story. I was raised on the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” anthology, watched Tobe Hooper’s  “Poltergeist” on a near constant loop, on the weekends talked my Mom into renting copies of  black and white classics like “The House on Haunted Hill” and “The Haunting”, and looked forward to the segments of TV’s Unsolved Mysteries featuring “true tales”  of the poor crackers who crossed paths with nocturnal spirits and ghastly apparitions.  The chills were plentiful, but as you grow up you realize just how cheesy a lot of this stuff can be, and it only really gets down to spooking you once it sinks in on a cerebral level much later… when you’re at home, going down that darkened hallway you’ve walked down countless times before  and your mind suddenly begins wondering what inexplicable, otherworldly presence could be lurking behind each door, just biding its time before it springs out and cause you to shit your pants, lose your grip on sanity, and keel over dead from cardiac arrest.

It’s been a long damn time since I’ve seen a movie about a haunting that has actually frightened me beyond the terror felt over wasting money on a movie that promised chills and delivered yawns and moderate chuckles at the lameness of it all. From “Paranormal Activity” and its endless sequels, “A Haunting in Connecticut”  to James Wans’ own “Dead Silence” and “Insidious”, they all just come across as either lazy and predictable or over the top, cheap student films.  I usually wind up joking with my viewing buddies and waiting for something to happen rather than having my pants scared off of me, a rare occurrence that always leaves me breathless and fellow viewers stunned, as I typically go commando.

Okay, where's the fire place?

Okay, where’s the fire place?

I’m getting side-tracked. Okay, “The Conjuring” begins on an creepy-enough note telling the tale of The Warrens’ encounter with what a group of roommates assume is a possessed doll from Hell going by the name of Annabelle. This thing looks like the aborted, fossilized remains of Bozo the Clown and post-face-tightening Nicole Kidman’s love child. Why in the world would ANY schmo would bring this doll home is beyond me. But hey! you get what you pay for, and the doll begins writing on the walls in blood-red crayon, seeming to running around the place on her own (although, unlike your favorite Good Guy and mine, we never get to see her scurry), leaving little love notes of “Miss me?” around the house to be found by the horrified occupants, and banging on doors so loudly your testicles would probably rise into your throat with abject terror.  Anyhoo, we never see these three moron roomies, again, and it’s on to establishing Ed and Lorriane Warren,  the real life team of hardcore paranormal investigators (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and the unfathomably lovely Vera Farmiga) just now decided their most terrifying tale of a supernatural encounter is ready for public consumption.  Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, they present to us, “The Conjuring.”  Ed and Lorraine are leading a pretty action-packed life, as they traverse the country ghostbusting, debunking red herrings as rusty pipes, and giving lectures while leaving their little daughter at home… with an entire stock of possessed and evil artifacts from their many ghost hunting expeditions. But don’t worry! These artifacts are locked behind a door, because nothing keeps the power of evil at bay like a bolted door… It also becomes apparent that Lorraine has in the not-too-distant past encountered something during one of their investigations that has shaken her to her very core. Something that her ever-loving husband, Ed, concerned about bringing his highly sensitive telepathic wife into the ghost hunting fold again.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

To be honest, the story of ‘The Conjuring” is a pretty well-worn tale. A couple and their herd of children (in this instance, all little women) decide to relocate to a beautiful, rural fixer-upper that they purchased for a steal, in the bygone days before full-disclosure was a legal necessity and this particular home’s blood-spattered, demonic, psycho-bitch history was kind of left out of conversation.  The family is loving, always smiling, and ready to play games at the drop of a dime. It might sound like a trite Hallmark card, but as a viewer, I couldn’t help but genuinely like this family. Sweet people brought to life by some very talented folks; Lila Taylor as Carolyn, the sweet, southern, ice tea Mother of the clan, and Ron Livingston as Roger (yes, of Office Space fame) as the hard-working, average dope Dad.  On their first night in their new home they experience a few minor disturbances, many of which we might encounter in our own home from time to time, but, ultimately, nothing too serious occurs. Besides finding a boarded-up, dusty, creepy old basement under the stairs. Everyone is super happy about the discovery (YAY! MORE SQUARE FOOTAGE!) but things very quickly go to Hell as whatever was tucked down in the basement is now roaming around the house offing the family pooch and playing chilling games with every member of the family. Also, a Burtonesque, antique music box happens to present itself right next to an ancient, gnarly oak tree in the back yard.  One of the daughters adopts it, and (que Amityville horror score) unleashes her new imaginary best friend! Her buddy can only be glimpsed in the mirror of the music box once the music within finishes playing. It’s a story we’ve heard and seen countless times before, but to my own shock and amazement, filmmaker James Wan (“Insidious”, “Dead Silence”, “Saw”) uses a slow, old school pace and a nice, subtle touch to really let the suspense and dread sink into the viewer.  I was genuinely impressed that James Wan has grown up so much as a director. Make a few more films as intensively creepy as “The Conjuring”, and I might just become a fan!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn from my wife and our half a dozen daughters!

Some deeply disturbing incidences start to occur in their new  home. The utmost of which involves one of the young daughters seeing something in the darkness behind her bedroom door which, really, might be one of the most horrifying and suspenseful sequences I’ve experienced in a movie theater in years (not a drop of blood spilt, no score, all acting and cinematography). Finally, Carolyn heads to a community college where The Warrens are lecturing, and literally begs them to come check out their own private House on Haunted Hill. The Warrens, initially skeptic, and not-a-little ghost-worn grudgingly but compassionately agree to check it out.  Dressed in their Mod Squad 1971 ensembles, and looking quite fetchingly groovy, the two step into the house and instantly know this place is a deadly death trap of death.  Lorraine has visions, Ed gets nervous, and the once the two investigate the history of the house, whose past tenants were all possessed child murdering evil-doers all in the wake of the original tenant, a witch who, to get in good with The Dark One, sacrificed babies to Satan, and ended up hanging herself from said gnarly oak tree in the backyard… Like I said days pre-total disclosure realtor ethics.

Of course, The Warrens take the case, and decide to rescue the family and exorcise the house of whatever evil is present there.

You smell something?

You smell something?

“The Conjuring” is really the best of both worlds as far a supernatural horror flick is concerned. The first half is expertly crafted horror in which the audience is left holding on to the edge of their seat, completely at the mercy of the increasingly crafty James Wan. The story he is unfolding, waiting for the beast to finally show itself.  And, much to my delight, Wan keeps us guessing and waiting for most of ‘The Conjuring”‘s run time, allowing it to effectively chill our bones and build a truly sinister house of cards around us.  Then, once the other shoe drops, we find ourselves in the eye of an ever-mounting storm of blood, horror, and chaos that, in a lesser film, would probably come off as disenchantingly goofy. Here, however, we have grown to appreciate every one of our central characters so that, once the proverbial ghost shit hits the fan, our pulse rises and we are actually fearful for our new kin. Keeping in mind that the haunted house genre relies heavily on people being too lame-brained to get out of the house the second disturbing shit starts befalling everyone in the family, but this is coming from a guy (and an audience) raised on horror and its tropes. A family in 1971, plagued by this steadily-rising level of creepy encounters might just try and explain things away until things got so bad they have to reach out for help. Plus, a family this size with only one working parent and all their money invested in this house on the edge of Hell hardly has the kind of money to be spending on stays at the local Motel 6.  I guess in most horror films you have to suspend your disbelief, but “The Conjuring” is such a goddamn great spookshow you won’t waste your time questioning such things as little girls are claiming to see creatures in the darkness and the simple clapping of hands send chills down your spine.

“The Conjuring” is by far and away the best horror flick I’ve seen in the theater so far in 2013. It plays it cool, takes its time, and before you know it, you’re sitting in your theater seat, heart thumping in your chest, awaiting the next horror show to befall this poor family and the heroic Warrens.  After the film was over, I found myself sitting with Bootsie Kidd totally worn out, as if stepping off a roller coaster. Both of us, catching our breath and totally awestruck by what we’d just seen. We chatted through the end credits which featured the effectively eerie score by Joseph Bishara, which rivals Lalo Schifrin’s timelessly nerve jangling score to “The Amityville Horror.” And then…we had to go home, where the evens I had seen on screen just minute prior suddenly weighed pretty heavily on my imagination. “The Conjuring” stayed with me long after I left the theater and if that’s not the mark of an effective horror film, I’m not sure what is.

Of course, this is the flick we see just as we begin looking to purchase a home together. Good timing! Jeez…

“The Conjuring” is a smartly executed , old school ghost story excellently told and well worth checking out. Hopfully it will be available to own once Halloween rolls around. 😉 I’m awarding this puppy FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This one is a keeper!

Till next time,

Check your home’s history before moving in and Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

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a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

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Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Jun
10

Shrooms: Drug of the Damned

a Primal Root Written Review

This review must be prefaced with the acknowledgment that I, The Primal Root, have never done drugs. I have never ingested shroom tea in my life nor have I gone out in the woods looking for a particular brand of hallucinogenic mushroom. So I must confess to having no real knowledge of the affects or the rituals regarding the usage of such fungi. However, I do love a side of sautéed mushrooms with a medium rare cut of choice beef…I’m getting off topic…

Okay gang, I just checked out the 2007 drug/slasher/haunting horror film Shrooms. The films about 2 couples and a pseudo-quasi couple, who head to Ireland specifically to hunt down some magic mushrooms and trip some balls( That is what the kids call it, right?).

Our cast of characters are a grab bag of the typical slasher flick sterotypes. We have the kung-fu stoner and his hippie girlfriend with wild underarm growth (yep, that’s her character development. Hairy armpits.) We have the pimply assed, steroid abusing, constantly horny ass hole jock guy and his vapid, angry girlfriend. And of course, we have our super cool guide to shroom land, Ireland’s native son and Mr. Coolesville himself, Jack and our blonde, Kristen Bell look-a-like obvious final girl, Tara.Tara is played by none other than Lindsey Haun! She was one of the lead alien kids in John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned! She grew up, she filled out, let me tell ya.

Lindsey Haun: Our Babe in the Woods

On their way into the foggy, overcast, foreboding forest, they hit an intensely juicy goat with their van which spatters all over their window as they reach speeds upwards of 10. They all pile out of the van to take a look at the quivering, dying goat when the jock decides to abruptly end the beasts suffering with some well placed tire-iron-fu to it’s horned cranium. Mere seconds afterwards two drooling inbred forest dwellers appear in a clearing, creep over and snatch up the goat to presumably eat later. Once they’ve fucked it.

 Keep in mind, all these creepy, bloody, disturbing events take place in a span of about three minutes. This is not subtle. It’s as if life is whacking these kids across the skull with a tack hammer in a fruitless attempt to persuade our drug lusting friends to turn that van around, pick up the scripture, and just say no to drugs.

Kids being kids our troupe marches on to their camp ground, set up base, and begin hunting for the perfect mushrooms. Along the way we are informed by Jack that there are some shrooms that are incredibly deadly. These shrooms have black nipples on the top of them, are affectionately known as “Death Heads” and according to legend they allow those who ingest them to see into the future, commune with the dead, gain super strength and…I think that’s it. Also, according to science, they could also make your heart explode and make you spew blood like a geyser from Hell. Buyer beware.

Mistakes? I've made a few.

Tara is apparently a mile or so away from the rest of the group when this useful tid-bit of information is offered up and she decides, after tripping over something and falling on her face (a constant motif in this film) to eat the first mushroom she sees. Whole. No chaser. It just so happens to be a giant mushroom with *gasp* a big ol’ black nipple on top!

Right on cue Tare flips out after eating the “Death Head” shroom and starts popping and locking all over the ground. Jack carries her back to camp where she continues to hallucinate ALONE in her tent after eating possibly fatal shrooms while everyone else makes an OH so special blend of herbal tea. In the meantime, Jack tells everyone a camp fire tale about the legend surrounding the old abandoned children’s hospital nearby.

Fueled by this ghost story and intense hallucinogenic mushroom tea our group of morons start tripping out, getting lost in the woods, chatting with cows, and begin falling pray to a mysterious killer. Could it be those unaccounted for youths from the old abandoned hospital? Could it be an evil demon dressed in black? Could it all be in their heads? Could I care less?

Shrooms is a beautiful looking movie and is expertly crafted. You can tell the talent behind the lens has a great flair for setting up eye catching shots and interesting compositions. Shrooms succeeds from a technical stand point but as far as a story it kind of falls flat. The characters are all unlikable and under developed. The dialog is trite and seems out of place in a film that looks so damn good. Then again, this movie is told from the perspective of 6 people tripping out…so maybe it;s supposed to be this way? I dunno…I just think I would have liked to have known these kids better before they started getting their heads hacked into and their wieners bitten off.

Once the shrooms kick in and these kids begin freaking out it’s more annoying than scary as they scream, cry and quiver, curled up into little balls on the ground of the forest. We spend the majority of the trip with the girls who begin acting like psycho women from hell almost instantly while the men handle their trip well until they get pegged in the head with some rocks to great comedic affect. Not sure if that’s what they were going for.

Diarrhea is like a thunderstorm raging inside you.

Still, I gotta say, I watched Shrooms to the bitter end and I wasn’t bored the entire time. I found most of it to be pretty watchable and the original concept was enough to leave me wondering just what angle they were going take when the inevitable trip wore off and the twist was revealed.

But if you’ve ever been the sober one hanging out with a couple of friends who have been using you know how fucking annoying it can be to just be around them. It is no different here. These kids suck and every time one of them dies you feel a little bit of relief that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.

Shrooms is a strange brew and I am still not sure if I can wholly recommend it. It just might be a trip worth taking if you’re in the mood for something different. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay Trashy,
-The Primal Root




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