Posts Tagged ‘horror host

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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21
Aug
16

Fright Night (1985)The Rejection of Hot Cocoa or Why Your Girlfriend is Hotter When She’s Evil

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“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.” – Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent: Vampire Killer in Fright Night

a Primal Root written review

By the mid-1980’s horror cinema was dominated by low brow exploitation slasher horror cinema. Every weekend seemed to bring us another holiday themed blood bath filled with nekkid, pot smoking teens being chased down and hacked into oblivion by some silent masked killer or catch phrase spouting dream demon. By 1985, the formula was old hat and there a resurgence in appreciation for the classics. Tom Holland’s fun, sexy, highly entertaining directorial debut, Fright Night, is one of the most unabashed and perfect examples of what can be done when two genres are expertly amalgamated.

Fright Night seamlessly and joyfully the hard lined, effects driven spectacle of the late 1970’s and early 80’s horror genre made famous be the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter and John Landis, along with the fun, campy nature of many Hammer and Universal Classics. Fright Night is a film that generates it’s frights, laughs and boundless charm from the audience’s knowledge of horror cinema history. Fright Night is a film that bridges a gap between a simpler seeming time in the genres past and fully embraces the gnarly, grotesque necessities of the current 1980’s horror audience and succeeds in creating something familiar as well as new and enjoyable from start to finish.

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Fright Night tells the tale of virginal high school horror movie aficionado, Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is having relationship problems with his equally virginal high school sweetheart, Amy (Amanda Bearse). Charlie becomes convinced that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a a serial killer, one who has been decapitating prostitutes and draining their bodies of blood…He is also convinced that Jerry is, indeed, a mother fucking vampire.

When Charlie convinces a police detective to investigate Jerry and his live-in buddy Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but once the detective and Charlie set foot into Jerry’s home and Charlie’s suspicions are made clear, he is mocked, laughed at and told he is a fool…but this also means Jerry Dandridge, who is ACTUALLY a very powerful vampire, now knows the nosey kid next door is on to him and pose a very real threat to his existence.

Jerry comes to Charlie with a compromise; forget that he is a vampire and live, or continue being a little fuck face who tries to convince people that I’m a vampire and I’ll rip your little teeny bopper head off, drink your blood and then shit it down your neck stump. Of course, Charlie being one of the rare breed, pure of heart sort of kids, refuses to ignore evil. In return, Jerry retaliates by seducing both Charlie’s girlfriend Amy and his one and only friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys). Charlie, who has no siblings and whose Mom works the night shift at the hospital and has a singular remedy for  vampire onslaught in a mug of hot cocoa, which Charlie adamantly DOES NOT NEED, is totally useless. Plus his Father is completely absent without a mention of his whereabouts or existence.

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Out of options, Charlie turns to the unlikely aid of a late night horror movie host of the program ‘Fright Night’, classic horror film actor, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, who owns this movie, by the way). Nightly, Mr. Vincent boasts about his knowledge and fearlessness when it comes to battling vampires to their undead deaths. But, in real life, Mr. Vincent is a coward when confronted with the supernatural. It is up to this unlikely duo, Charlie and Peter Vincent, to vanquish the evil Jerry Dandridge in time to save Amy, who is slowly transforming into red headed sexy blood sucking minion of the undead!

So why the lasting impression? The cult status? The deeply devoted fan base and high regard from cinema devotees? Simply put, the film is absolute god damn pleasure to watch. It plays to everyone! Hardcore horror aficionados, casual cinema goers, sick demented trash cinema collective members, Fright Night pleases everyone. The violence is so over the top, colorful, fantasy based and imaginative, it’s never really disturbing as much as it is just good old fashion spook house fun.

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The actors all perform at the top of their game. Chris Sarandon as the incredibly suave and seductive vampire Jerry Dandridge conveys brutal menace and a confident swagger and joyful glee, but also manages to mix in a bit of humanity to a very old, very sophisticated creature of the night, making Jerry an unforgettable antagonist. Ragsdale is a perfect choice for the strong willed, in over his head, Charlie Brewster, likewise, Amanda Bearse as Amy conveys doe eyes innocence so well, it;s kind of annoying as shit. But it works in the favor of the character’s story arch, her relationship with Charlie keeps her almost as a child it is only when she is seduced by Jerry that her sexual awakening occurs, her physical appearance begins to change, drastically so soon after Jerry, *AHEM* slides his fangs into her causing ribbons of warm red blood to stream down her back in a not too subtle symbol of her virginity being taken. As she starts to turn, her hair goes red, she shows off her lovely tits through a see through white gown, and she aggressively attempts to seduce those around her so that she, too, can stick her fangs in them. It’s always fascinated me whenever women go evil in movies how much sexier they become. Like Lily in Legend, sure, she’s cute in all in her white gown, flowery head dress and shit, but as soon as she gets into the all black ensemble and starts dancing around with a confident, assured look of a woman who has been through Hell and back, knows pain, pleasure, desire and is world wary of these things, that’s when I find myself getting a chub. Besides, there are few turn offs greater than innocence. But that could just be me.

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Stephen Geoffries, who notoriously would turn to a career in homoerotic porn for the majority of his career, turns in one of the most excellent, go for broke performances as Evil Ed. Evil Ed is obviously an outsider, seemingly hyper active with a penchant for saying what’s on his mind, he seems like a bit of a nerd and someone who has been picked on his whole childhood. He plays the majority of the film as a kind of gonzo comic relief, but again, one of the strengths of Fright Night is when these seemingly stock and familiar characters are expanded upon. Two stand out scenes for Evil Ed always come to mind as the highlights of the film. When Evil Ed is seduced with the promise over never being picked on or bullied ever again, if only he takes the hand of Jerry Dandridge. It’s a beautiful moment as Evil Ed first cowers and then opens up to the idea of having someone, finally having someone who gives his word to stand up for him. Of course, it;s an evil creature of the night, so he will only become a kind of errand boy or good for Jerry, but I guess it beats going to high school. Also, Evil Ed’s ****SPOILER**** death is pitch perfect. It’s outstanding on so many levels, this teenage boy, who has given his soul away for vampiric powers, has now been impaled through the heart while he is in the form of a wolf. The physical effects are astounding through this sequence as we watch a dying Evil Ed in pure agony transform back into his human form slowly, painfully, mercilessly. He screams out in agony, at first as an unrecognizable half man half beast, who reaches out for comfort from a shell shocked and mortified Peter Vincent, the man who put the stake through his heart. Ed reaches for contact, someone to comfort him as he passes away and Peter almost reaches out to do so, before remembering just what he’s dealing with, and draws his hand back. As Ed fades away, and now looks exactly like himself, he gives Peter Vincent a tearful smile of regret as he dies, soulless, a being of evil and most assuredly heads straight down to Hell. Roddy andStephen are both excellent in the scene, and if you ask me, it might just be the best moment of the entire film, as these two work off one another beautifully.

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Which bring me to Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. This man is the heart and soul of Fright Night. As the aging, retired, reluctant and increasingly irrelevant Fearless Vampire Hunter, Roddy brings a beautiful, funny, sympathetic character to life with so much charm and charisma, you cannot help but love the man. He enlivens each and every scene he’s in with heart and warmth in a performance so wonderful, you;ll forget the man played a monkey four damn times.

There are a lot of overt sexual elements to Tom Hollands’ exceptional horror flick, Fright Night, but one of the messages I always found most noble is that horror, as a genre, is a necessity for youngsters. Suggesting that knowledge of how to deal with the evils of vampires and their ilk will come in handy, we just never know when. Fright Night is provocative, daring but also, in a sense innocent and nostalgic. It arrived at just the right time in 1985 as horror cinema was becoming stale on it’s steady stream of stale slasher flicks. Fright Night is among the finest horror films of the 1980’s. It’s wickedly comical, the performances, again, are all excellent and the practical effects, decades later, hold home remarkably well and are astounding to behold. It’s also  successful in transplanting the vampire myth from far away mountains of Transylvania and establishing them in the suburbs, a place where the forces of evil can move in right next door, and if you’re not paying attention, infiltrate your entire town…

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Bolstered by a rad 80’s soundtrack, Fright Night is a colorful, imaginative, well crafted and most importantly, FUN, non stop love note to horror’s cinematic history. One I feel has never been topped, let alone, matched.

I award Fright Night (1985) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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