Posts Tagged ‘lake

03
Mar
14

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) Teen Angst Armageddon

All-the-Boys-Love-Mandy-Lane-poster

a Primal Root review

I gotta say, I look back on my high school years somewhat fondly. Enough time has rolled by now that I can selectively choose the times and moments I care to look back upon with the bittersweet twinge of nostalgia tugging at my steadily aging, withering, heart strings and marvel at how fleeting those four years of my time here in this world were. Still, upon closer inspection, high school was a pretty tricky, nasty little piece of the human experience. Sure, I had it pretty well , but everyone had their hangups and hurts, no matter how confident they came across. It all seemed to mean so much and it felt like everything was at stake. It’s a time when the politics of social interaction are driven home and our lifelong insecurities are so often set in stone. It’s a time of growth, cruelty and burgeoning sexuality. Let’s face it, sometimes it was like a fresh slice of Hell.

This is just where “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” drops us in the middle of, Teen Angst Armageddon time as Amber Heard’s Mandy Lane walks through the halls of her high school and every male eyeball present happens to find it’s gaze dropping upon her blossoming bosom or her noticeably curvaceous posteriors. In the seething cauldron of pubescent hormonal Hell, known as high school, it is to be expected. But as the film plays out, these glances prove to be the tip of an iceberg leading to the flick’s M.O.

See, every inhabitant of this high school possessing a cock and set of balls are in a strange, deep seeded lust for Mandy Lane. According to rumor, she’s still a virgin, (which is some kind of mythic wonder for high school boys. He who deflowers has the power? I dunno, the logic of cherry popping being a big deal, some transcendent moment, has always baffled me) and has become a pro at haulting the advances of the nonstop barrage of  young bucks just aching to stick their drippy teenage jerky basters down her unclaimed love tunnel.  It’s actually quite disturbing watching guy after guy try coaxing and pressuring her into having sex with them. “You don’t know how hot you are.” and ” We’re all trying to get you.” are some of the incredibly tactful lines used by these walking hard-ons in the hopes of being “the first.” When their advances are not met with submission with a smile, many of these fellows respond with frustrated anger and lash out. Yeah, I wonder why this young woman’s not interested?

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

During an opening scene at a high school pool party we get to experience such a moment close up and personal as a bleach blonde jock puts the moves on Mandy Lane before being interrupted by Mandy’s best dude friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). Before you can say, “I am a Golden God” Emmet has this jockular dickhead convinced that the only was to win Mandy Lane’s heart is to jump off the roof of the house and into the pool. Jocko Homo declares his love for Mandy from the roof and jumps to his death as his skull smashes open on the edge of the pool. I think this was supposed to be horrifying, but it made me laugh out loud. Sorry, something about how the moment was executed had tickled my sick little funny bone.  This is possibly the movie’s inciting incident, as we fast forward to 9 months later and it appears Emmet and Mandy Lane are no longer on speaking terms.

Think 9 months has changed anything? Hell no, all the boys are still looking to lay a coat of Mandy’s virgin blood all over their pussy pokers. This lusting even inspires a rare slasher film soliloquy from one of the boys as he watches her jog around the  schools track…

“There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.”

In fact, this young stoner, by the name of Red (Aaron Himelstein), has invited Mandy and group of fellow classmates out to his Father’s ranch for a weekend of acting like idiots, doing drugs, and high pressuring every woman in sight into having sex with them. Believe it, or not, Mandy Lane agrees to go along with these horny teen dogs out for blood.

The first quarter of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” has an unrelentingly dark, mean spirited tone that bodes well for the rest of the picture as we witness the teens fervently cutting one another down as a means of making themselves feel superior. There’s a teenage power struggle going on as the girls claim one another are fat, that someone has far too much pubic hair and the the fragile male ego is bruised when one man is singled out as having the smallest dick at the table during a game of truth or dare.  As fascinating as all this is, after a short while it all just feels like a retread of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a slightly dull emo edge to it. Before long, the teens are butchered one by one in some grisly ways, but none too shocking, and the film falls into the typical slasher conventions where there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. And the film’s slasher, who is obvious from the get-go, is revealed at nearly the halfway point and makes a pretty lackluster boogeyman.

atblml

By the end, when the final twist is revealed and a confrontation in a mass grave filled the corpses of over a dozen diseased, rotting, heads of cattle I was totally dumbstruck and left wondering what the character motivations were to begin with. Just what in the Hell was happening during the flick’s runtime that I missed? By not establishing any of this characterization in the previous two acts, this revelation comes totally out of left field and never quite feels justified. But, perhaps if you look at the people who are now dead, the justification speaks for itself…in an angst high school teen sort of way.

Throughout the film, Mandy Lane keeps a pretty cool, detached demeanor without a whole lot of humanity. Mandy is curvy, gorgeous,  and innocent but never gets fully fleshed out as a character, but that might be entirely the point, as the male and female characters alike only see her as a sexual conquest, and not quite human at all. Through it all, everyone wants a piece of the elusive, untouched, mysterious Mandy Lane and by the film’s end, we don’t get to have her either.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” was  the directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, who would go on to direct the damn fine film “50/50” and that zombie romantic comedy I just cannot bring myself to watch, “Warm Bodies”,  this plus the film’s long delayed release has garnered “Mandy Lane”  a bit of a cult fascination. Watching “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” I can see it having a much bigger impact in 2006, not only in theaters, but with me personally. It feels a little off balanced and falls short in  it’s story telling. That being said, there are some fun performances, a handful of good deaths, ONE pair of breasts, and one excellent final fight in a mud hole filled with rotten cows.  It’s worth checking out, just don’t expect Mandy Lane to give it all up that easy. All well intention and good effort at creating a genre deconstructing slasher flick that concentrate a considerable amount of it’s time and effort focusing on teenage gender roles and individual insecurities. Again, much like high school itself, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is small potatoes.

I’m giving “Mandy Lane” TWO and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Nov
13

V/H/S 2: Cassette Carnage

V-H-S-2_Poster_4_23_13

a Primal Root review

Anthology movies, like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and VHS, are so often a mixed bag of the mediocre, boring and sometimes genuinely outstanding,  which is why I am happy to report the majority of VHS 2 is a pretty horrific and entertaining ride. That is, if you can make it past the the wrap around segments which are just as dull as they were in the original VHS, and the very first story entitled “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” which is a cure for insomnia, you will be okay because it all picks up from there.

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See, in “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” we are shown the story of a young man who loses and eye and gets it replaced with a…bionic one that not only allows him to see, but records everything to a VHS recorder I’m assuming the doctors implanted up his ass. Now, why a hi-tech procedure like this would end up having the recordings of it’s clinical trial dubbed to something as defunct and rarely used as VHS is beyond me, but at least the 15:9 aspect ratio kind of makes sense, I guess. Anyhoo, the new allows this guy to see dead people meandering around his posh house out in the suburbs. He is befucked by a young woman who explains what going on and exposes her lovely tits in the process. Things go from bad, the worse, to I;m going to gouge my bionic eye out with a three pronged kitchen utensil because I’ve seen a couple ghosts over the span of 12 hours.   It’s dull/ Even by my standards, I just could not muster up the effort necissary to be interested, that is, until that fleeting moment when the read head takes her top off. Otherwise, this entry is on par with the wrap around, it fails to engage and feels like it’s there to fill up time. Eye implants have been done (Tobe Hooper’s segment in Body Bags, that terrible movie with Jessica Alba that featured a truly inspired title, etc.) and this one was not an impressive entry into that sub-genre.

DO NOT DESPAIR! I nearly did, too. Trust me, things get better.

VHS 2 MOVIE

Goddamn zombies. Those fucking things are everywhere. Prime time television to baby bibs and lunch boxes, those undead fucks are as inescapable as Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. Enter “A Ride Through the PArk” the story of a young gentleman who goes on, you guessed it, a ride through the park. Things take an interesting turn when a bloody and bitten young woman collapses onto his bike trail screaming for help. Our fellow goes into help her and gets his neck chomped for his trouble. Soon he dies and transforms into a shambling, bloody, undead zombi himself and is able to record his sticky, gruesome, blood soaked escapades via the camera attached to his helmet. What makes this entry somewhat interesting is the use of POV, it’s expected, but this is the first time I have seen it happen from a flesh eating corpses perspective and it actually proves to be an interesting and darkly comical experience.  Our protagonist undead biker guy ends up devouring a couple who stop to help him out, transforming them into zombies in the process. Things hit a high note as soon as the zombies meander upon a little girls birthday party in the park. It’s one of the funniest and wildest moments in a franchise that has seemed overwhelmingly beholden to the morose and ugly. Sure, this is tragic, but my God, it’s fun watching parents scatter and children scream as they flee into the woods and mini-vans.  The zombies are doing their jobs and doing them well as the living  constantly fuck up, you know,m throwing baseball bats at creatures intent on stripping the flesh from your bones rather than hanging on to it, you know the type. Well, some of our undead biker’s humanity still remains and it leads to a sad and, again, guiltily comical finale. This entry has energy, creativity and is a hoot AND a holler. When I found out Eduardo Sanchez directed this puppy, it made me all the happier. The man was half the creative mind that brought us 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” which helped blaze a trail for all the found footage horror film that followed. He’s also had a hand in numerous damn fine horror and sci-fi films over the past decade or so under the radar. It only makes sense that he would join The Collective who brought us he VHS franchise. Well done, sir!

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“Safe Haven” may just be my favorite short film in this batch. It tells the story of a a news crew doing an investigative piece about an Indonesian cult. The leader of this cult is small, wide eyes fellow who, it is implied, sleeps with all the little girls in his cult so that they may be “purified.” At the cult’s headquarters, which are located far off in the sticks, the news crew is thrust headlong into a very important ceremony for this cult. The tension swells as we the viewers know this is not going to end well for anyone. This segment keeps you on your toes to the very end, turns every convention on it’s head, and manages to actually be shocking and horrific in it’s Jim Jones styled story. It’s no surprise, seeing as it was directed by Gareth Evans, the gentleman who delivered one of the best, bobe crushing, martial arts films in sometime “The Raid: Redemption” in 2011. The man understand staging, suspense building and character payoff. “Safe Haven” is one very strong, stiff drink and  I don’t want to spoil a damn thing, you really need to see this short.

VHS 2 slumber

And the final segment “Slumber Party Abduction” is another entry that manages to knock it right out of the park. This entry involves a step brother and sister spending a weekend together as their parents head out of town for a vacation. The older sister invites her arrogant boyfriend over and the younger brother invited his buds and all manner of hijinks ensue.  There are water balloons, interrupted sex acts and masturbation caught on doggie cam. It’s a ll pretty sophomoric and stupid as this kind of shit always is, but THANKFULLY there’s some insidious shit going down that the hardly register to the kids until it’s literally right outside their door. What we end up with a siege film caught on tape and once the chaos begins, the action and horror never lets up until the final, frenetic moment.  you know how the second tale was told from the zombie perspective? This tale is told almost entirely from “Doggie Cam” since the dog has had a waterproof camera attached to his head. The poor little dog, Tank, captures every last terrifying moment on tape and ends this episode on a brilliant, downbeat and heartbreaking note.  Jason Eisner takes advantage of his set up by presenting terror through the eyes of several helpless children and their pint sized pooch. The kids are very natural and easy to believe, and once the shit hits the fan, each loss is felt. Damn fine piece of horror film making.

And then the movie ends with the shitty, uninspired conclusioon to the wrap around story which involves murder, crab walking, a bloody, wagging tongue and a well times thumbs up.  Come on guys, give me a fucking break.

At the end of the day. VHS2 is an upgrade over the original anthology which almost felt like an excuse to expose an ample amount of female flesh rather than present any truly affecting horror stories. Three out of four stories are solid gold which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I was braced for  disappointment and found myself surprised and fairly impressed.  It cool to have a new anthology franchise out there, especially one to feature found footage, it seems like the possibilities are limitless and could produce more great horror stories and bring unappreciated filmmakers some well earned limelight.

3 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Worth checking out!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

25
Jun
13

Sleepaway Camp (1983): The Importance of Boating Safety

Sleepaway-Camp-Poster

a Primal Root written review

There are certain movie watching experiences I”ll never forget; the first time I laid eyes on Jessica Rabbit at the Grand 10 Theater in Winter Haven Florida,  witnessing Tim Burton’s darkly imaginative take on the after life in ‘Beetlejuice’,  and witnessing the adorable mogwai after their pupal-stage lay siege to Mrs. Peltzer’s kitchen before being blown to bits in her microwave. Yes, there are some moments that stay with you forever.

‘Sleepaway Camp’ is one of those films. Loaded like a revolver during a game of Russian roulette, Sleepaway Camp delivers some pretty disturbing jolts as the trigger clicks through some nasty slasher movie shocks and then, at the very end, the movie’s hammer makes contact with the story’s primer and sends a bullet of shock so mind blowing it left a deep seated scar I carry with me to this very day. I can remember renting ‘Sleepaway Camp’ from a local Mom & Pop video store in Fort Pierce Florida back in the late mid to late 90’s and expecting a tongue in cheek, not so serious slasher film.  And it just about has you fooled with it’s opening sequence involving a young father, his two young children(a little boy and girl the same age) and a ludicrous motor boating accident leaving two of the three dead in the water.  I;m still not exactly sure if this sequence is being played for laughs on purpose or not, but the dead pan reactions to the horror that’s unfolding coupled with one teenage girl who witnessed the accident’s hysterical cries for help makes it hard to interpret any other way.

Or maybe I was, and still am,  a cynical kind of kid.

Then again, I had grown accustom to watching these kid of slasher movies with pretty sizable groups of my childhood and teenage buddies, which kind of imbued us with the power to laugh and make fun of the horrors shown to us in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of impunity. Nine times out of ten, the horror was goofy, not very scary or shocking,  and wasn’t tapped into the true stuff of nightmares.   Hell, a lot of the time the movies seemed to make fun of themselves.  However you slice it, I was not prepared for what ‘Sleepaway Camp’ had in store for me.

sleepaway camp John-Dunn

Kid after my own heart.

Like the original Evil Dead, I watched Sleepaway Camp by myself, in a pitch black living room at about two in the morning so the movie’s horror had no filter. No peanut gallery to help soften the blow. It was just me, who started out chuckling at a poorly staged, but somewhat surreal opening inciting incident which introduced us to sweet, naive and incredibly quiet Angela  and her cousin, the cool kid with serious anger management issues and a potty mouth to match, Ricky.  Angela is the one child who survived the tragic boating accident who killed both her father and sibling. These two tweenagers are being packed up and shipped off to Camp Arawak by the slightly comical, slightly unnerving Aunt Martha. Again, this scene can be taken as bizarrely comical or somewhat creepy. There is something off here, something wrong with this family dynamic.

Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha, can you say "Red Flag"?

Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha, can you say “Red Flag”?

Ricky, who is no stranger to Camp Arawak, has taken it upon himself to be Angela’s caretaker and protector, as this is her very first year and she clearly has some deep seated issues we as an audience are not exactly privy to.  As the kids arrive at camp we are immediately introduced to the cooking staff who gather on the lawn an watch as all the children stream off the buses  and run towards some undisclosed location.  Do kids ever run off the bus when they get to camp as it is illustrated here and in countless other summer camp movies? Where the Hell are they going? Anyhoo, of course, the cooking staff is headed by a slimy,  beefy, blonde and bearded pedophile named Artie, who ogles the little girls running by and affectionately explains to his fellow staff members that where he comes from they call these little objects of his carnal lust “baldies”. His cohorts just laugh it off as good matured child rape humor, but something about the way he chews on that stick and leers at the little girls in their tiny jogging shorts tells us this man’s intentions might not be to tickle his staff, but to tickle his pickle in a very tiny pickle jar.  *shudders*

As you might guess, he makes his first move on tiny, silent, Angela who he is asked to give ice cream to. He takes her in a back room and asks her “see anything you like?” as he saunters towards her, unbuckling his belt and drooling like a dog staring at a bag of “Beggin’ Strips”.  Angela simply stares at Pedo Man as Ricky takes this moment to rush in, grab her hand and get her out of corn hole alley! Snidley Rapist screams at them that he will kill them…and then begins making the tallest pot of boiled corn on the cob ever conceived which, thanks to an unseen assailant, he ends up soaking in at it’s peak boiling point as retribution for almost raping a pre-teen child. It;s a fitting, yet undeniably painful, fate for such a slimy child fucker. The last we see of him he is being rolled off on a gurney and covered head to toe in gauze. Thankfully, there is a police detective nearby to explain that every nerve in his body must be on fire and that he is probably experiencing the worst pain that could ever be imagined.  Why, thank you, detective!

Hard Boiled Pedophile. Well, that's one method of reform.

Hard Boiled Pedophile. Well, that’s one method of reform.

There are enough scumbags and assholes employed and/or attending Camp Arawak to give any concerned parent pause. Actually, you know, there’s an equal distribution between mentally deranged employees, cocksucking teenage boys, cont faced teenage girls, and sweet folks genuinely looking for a good time and not trying to harm anyone.  Sleepaway Camp is smartly designed in the “whodunnit” format and there is a pretty good list of suspects to choose from, although it gets whittled down pretty damn quickly as asshole after asshole ends up meeting his or her maker in grisly and imaginative fashions.  The one thing they all have in common? They were all dicks to Angela. Which just about everyone seems to be, so there’s quite a big pool of victims to chop into meaty, bloody, bits for the audience’s pleasure.

Karen Fields as Judy plays one of all time great cunt faces of cinema! At least she's got a way with words.

Karen Fields as Judy plays one of all time great cunt faces of cinema! At least she’s got a way with words.

One of the most memorable, and one of my favorite characters in the movie, is Camp Arawak’s resident uber bitch, Judy. Judy is played by a well developed actress, Karen Fields, who was a good bit older than the rest of her pre-teen cohorts. It pays off though! Because this lady turns in one of the hands down BEST over the top performances in the annals of horror. The way she mugs through infinitely quotable lines such as  ” She’s a real carpenter’s dream! Flat as board and needs a screw!” and makes it her mission to turn Angela’s summer camp experience into a living Hell. In fact, Judy even gets a jerkola camp counselor by the name of Meg to assist her in that unholy mission, and in one depressing scene, even pick Angela up and throw her in the lake to drown, I guess, seeing as Angela can’t swim.

By the grace of pure rage these two villains get what’s coming to them. Meg gets sliced open in the shower and Judy receives a perverse  death that is left almost completly to the audience’s imagination as our killer knocks the bitch out with a well placed right cross, lays her out, spreads her legs and then…in shadow, lowers a piping hot curling iron down towards her…well…down towards her area. The curling iron is opened up, lowerd and the unmistakable sound of sizzling flesh is heard as Judy’s muffled screams of agony fill the air and she raises the “hand of desperation” in the air before succumbing to the deadly hot curling iron, which we can only assume, was shoved up her love cavern. Personally, I imagine the super hot and girthy portion went up the HOOHA and the clippy part of the machine got inserted into the pooper zone.

A police officer is shocked and horrified after witnessing the aftermath of the Judy Curling Iron Massacre. It was so disturbing  his mustache transformed into sculpting putty.

A police officer is shocked and horrified after witnessing the aftermath of the Judy Curling Iron Massacre. It was so disturbing his mustache was transformed into sculpting putty.

By films end, just about every major player who “had it coming” has received his or her just deserts which sets up a final rendezvous with Angela and her little love interest Paul down by the lake.  As the police and camp counselors begin discovering bodies of various victims in age ranging from 6 to 87  strewn all over camp with arrows through their throats, churned into coleslaw in their sleeping bags, or impaled through the vajayjay with curling irons, Angela suggests she and Paul get nekkid lake side…which sets up one of the most mind shatteringly brilliant twist endings in the history of horror cinema. Certainly in the slasher sub-genre. Hell, M. Night, Shyamalan has nothing on the end of Sleepaway Camp.

****SPOILERS, MOTHER FUCKER, SPOILERS!****

As two counselors approach Angela on that darkened lake shore, we can barely make out the shape of Angela sitting on the sand, Indian style, with Paul’s head in her lap. The counselors call out to her, Angela rises, Paul’s decapitated head rolls to the ground and there Angela stands. Naked. Growling and inhuman growl, face frozen in a terrible wide eyed, open mouthed face of total insanity and…what’s that dangling between her legs? That a set of cock and balls.  Turns out it was the little girl who died in the boating accident, and her brother survived to be taken in by his Aunt Martha. But aunt Martha, being the unhinged woman that she is, already had her son Ricky and decided she would rather have a girl…and so she dressed this boy up as a girl, treated her like one, and for all intent and purposes transformed her into Angela. Angela was killing all these people not only to protect her/his secret, but out of sexual confusion/frustration.

****END OF SPOILERS! YOU ARE SAFE!****

There I sat in the darkened, empty living room as the end credits began to roll over Sleepaway Camp. I couldn’t move, I was so shocked and disturbed by the finales revelations. I was used to the sting in the tail ending by this point thanks to ‘Carrie’, ‘Friday the 13th’, etc. but ‘Sleepaway Camp’ packs much more than a simple jump scare. The final five minutes of Sleepaway Camp and the chill it sent down my spine that night, the chill that revisits me every time I watch it, are what transform this film from passably good slasher movie to a bonafide cult classic. This flick is packing the goods.

What the fuck is happening here?

Made you look!

It’s honestly one of the most shocking and clever twists I’ve ever witnessed. And just when they reveal this the movie ends while you try to catch your breath and wrap your mind around the reveal. Christ, just telling you about the ending is giving me goose flesh.  Sleepaway Camp follows the summer camp slasher flick formula pretty damn closely, but what sets it apart is how natural these kids and their interactions with one another are. It’s casual, honest, and it gives the proceedings a bit more credibility than other slashers who follow the summer camp formula. Hell, even the majority of the campers are PLAYED by kids. and aren’t played half badly either.

The story isn’t exactly ground breaking, but due to the film’s twist, going back and rewatching ‘Sleepaway Camp’ viewers see things totally differently and can detect every single moment that is setting off the killer and prompting the murders. Everything takes on a new meaning as soon as you know who the killer is and what their motivation was. Sleepaway Camp stands as one of the very best of the Summer Camp slasher films of the 1980’s. If I were being totally honest, I might just confess I enjoy ‘Sleepaway Camp’ more than I do either ‘Friday the 13th’ or ‘The Burning’. It’s a well done piece of summer camp slasher Trash Cinema and one I HIGHLY recommend everyone see at least one. And after you’ve finished watching it, you may want to go back and just watch it one more time, for your own sanity’s sake.

Perverse, darkly comical and quite unsettling, The Primal Root can’t help but give Sleepaway Camp 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

Family circus was REALLY funny this morning.

Family circus was REALLY funny this morning.

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

VHS-Movie-Poster-2012

a Primal Root review

V/H/S is one of those lucky horror entries who’s sails get caught up in a wind of hype and praise from the horror community, a community ravenous for something worth a damn in this genre that, when not about people eating other people’s shit or featuring a cast made almost entirely of guests from the current horror convention circuit getting torn into chunks by a mad man, is remaking films from decades past and transforming masterpieces into dumbed down fodder for the masses.  So ravenous are they, that V/H/S has become the toast of the community at the moment. Over hyped? Maybe a bit. But V/H/S sure is a fun little anthology film.

Basically, V/H/S, is a found footage horror anthology period piece. It tells six separate tales by different filmmakers all taking place in the mid to late 1990’s.  It’s about two hours of none stop shaky cam footage that will give ‘The Blair Witch Project’ a run for it’s money in stomach churning motion sickness department.

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The central wrap around story of V/H/S features a group of college age hooligans and criminals who tape their Jackass inspired shenanigans and sell them to online distributors. Now, who would pay good money to watch a bunch of twenty something assholes break the windows of abandoned houses and sexually assault random women to show their bare breasts in parking garages is beyond me. But these jerks, the rapist criminals, are our protagonists.  We follow them as these scumbags as they are sent by a mysterious party to break into the residence of an elderly man and retrieve a tape. Easy enough, right? HA! Wrong! If it were that easy we wouldn’t have a fucking movie!

Bizarrely enough, these bros find what looks to be the old man’s lifeless corpse upstairs in a recliner with several TVs flickering snowy static in front of him and surrounded by mountains of VHS tapes. Seems they have their work cut out for them.  So, as these jerk-o’s have never seen a horror movie before, they decide to split up and leave one man behind to review tapes. This feels like the flimsiest of premises, but I’ll take it. Not sure if this even warrants a *SPOILER ALERT*, but the old guy ain’t so lifeless.

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

*SPOILER AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!* I will try to keep things as vague as possible, but the basic premise and plot points to many of these stories might be spoiled if you read the below synopsis. Just a heads up.

vhs - amateur night

First up:

‘Amateur Night’ tells the tale of a trio of guys who strap one of their buddies up with a pair of now-trendy, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ spectacles equipped with a hidden camera as they head out to enjoy a night of drunken debauchery and date rape. The three central male figures all come off as totally legit, obnoxious, collegiate horn dogs who generously rent the seediest of hotel rooms for taking advantage of the two drunken young ladies they’ve picked up. Honestly, the behavior of these young men is far more disturbing, in my opinion, than what happens to them. They gather around, dicks out and at the ready for gang banging, but as they soon realize that the one they undress, a troubling, mousy “girl” with wide creepy eyes, matted dreads, and a nervous way about her, is something they couldn’t have ever imagined. Out of all the tales in V/H/S, this may possibly be my favorite as it utilizes the hand-held, “found footage” aspect in a clever way and beautifully illustrates how being a completely loathsome, gutter-feeding, tool can literally bite you on the ass. These are the type of dudes who seek power and validation that they have penises via lording control over women, but in the end, they get a horrific taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone (something) else looking for validation. One of the cherries on this blood-soaked cake, is in the pretty awesome and grueling final chase scene climax that film-makers of ‘Amateur Night’ managed to put forth. Ultimately, this story works because it doesn’t shy away from its racy subjects of desire, power-mongering, and douchery comeuppance dealing with everything directly, brutally, and unflinchingly.

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‘Second Honeymoon’

These two are married? How old are they, 23? And they are on their second honeymoon? Eh. Okay… This one tells the story of a (very) young married couple driving through the desert. That’s pretty much it. It was strange to find out these two are married since they come across as an awkward, unlikable couple who don’t seem to get one another and might have just started dating a couple months ago. The wife is creating a video diary of their road-trip, which, as we watch it in it’s uncut form, comes off as more of a negative comment card than a tribute to their affectionate good times. She does little more than whip the camera about and complain about where she is and what she’s doing. Yeah, this is the woman you wanna travel with. Her husband is just as unbearable. Anyway, she gets her fortune read for a buck by a redneck buckaroo version of the Zoltan machines at an old west tourist trap, and it makes mention of reuniting with a loved one. That very night a strange woman knocks on their motel room door in the dead of night asking for a ride in the morning. Who is she? What does she want? Why does she like breaking into hotel rooms, filming folks with their own cameras, poking people in the butt with her switchblade, and pulling lame, elementary school pranks on them while they sleep? Who knows! Sure, it builds some much-desired tension, but the stories’ load is blown a bit prematurely, and doesn’t have much weight as it is as we don’t know these characters very well and from what we do gather of them we don’t like, anyway. The story ends leaving the audience hanging with their questions, which is just fine.  These people are dull, and you’ll probably be ready to move on.

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‘Tuesday the 17th’ is a cool concept where a young woman takes some of her friends out to the woods where, in the past, she had encountered a Jason-esque killer who brutally murdered her buddies. Only thing is, he is either invisible and can only be seen through the video camera’s view finder or he is actually conjured to life via the actual presence of the video camera. It is never explained, but the effect of the killer as a humanoid shape appearing on the tape in scratchy glitches, a visual distortion, works well and is pretty damn eerie. The presentation of this killing specter is this story’s greatest asset.  It’s an idea worthy of a feature-length movie but, as it is, the whole thing comes off as a tired Friday the 13th clone as the love-child of Jason Voorhess and ‘The Ring”s Samara stalks down some dumb, canned-character kids in the woods. Despite a cool set up, the story rushes to it’s conclusion and falls apart, as a result. I can’t help but wonder what it could have been had it been fleshed out.

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‘The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Young’ is an intriguing story about a long-distance relationship taking place over video chat as our heroine experiences a haunting and some kind of mystery growth under her arm… It’s a nifty little ‘Outer Limits’  style yarn that’s relatively satisfying. I couldn’t help but wonder how great this story would have been if captured in the format of a normal film narrative as opposed to found footage. Our main girl is remarkably sweet, likeable, and attractive with a vulnerable but outgoing quality to her. Although her beau says he’s working out-of-area for his business, we cannot help but wonder about the nature of this curious long-distance relationship. Does anyone else sense some early commentary possibly co-dependence, manipulation, and abuse in the relationship? I wouldn’t put it past this one as all motives are made clear by story’s end. As it featured a great leading lady  who didn’t annoy the ever-loving shit out of me, ‘The Sick Thing’ was a nice change of pace.

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‘10.31.98’ is right up there with ‘Amateur Night’, vying as a favorite of the anthology. Four surprisingly charming and likable college age fellows, one dressed as a Nanny Cam (teddy bear with a built in camera. CLEVER!), traverse across town to find the Halloween party they were invited to. When they finally come to the address where the party is rumored to be it seems the house is empty, but as they investigate they find they most certainly are not alone. These guys walk into a situation with no frame of reference, expecting the light-hearted frivolity, and come out with the worst possible scenario imaginable. Once they come across what appears to be a damsel in freaky distress the story explodes into an effects-heavy, supernatural nightmare, and works better in its brief running time than all the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films combined.  Matters escalate in the blink of an eye and the guys react with righteous bravery, putting their lives in peril to save a young woman whose life seems to be on the line. This welcomes us to one of the most well-played shocks of the whole film. These guys aren’t out to take advantage of anyone, they don’t act like drooling, poon-hounds. It’s Nice Guys vs. Pure Evil delivering chuckles, anxiety, and, by story’s end, pure terror closing V/H/S out on a high note.

Oh, and the ineffective, brain-dead wrap around of the original tape-retrieval asscapade? Well, they all die. The End.

*END SPOILERS!*

In the final analysis I enjoyed V/H/S, despite myself.  It’s got a bit of everything, post-modern horror, supernatural, psychological serial killer, the whole shebang. It’s almost like a sampler case featuring several of horror’s most beloved sub genres, and when these stories are at their best (see: ‘Amateur Night’, ‘10.31.98’)  they work pretty damn well. At their worst, they still have some cool ideas to dig into (see: ‘Tuesday the 17th’, ‘Second Honeymoon’).

V/H/S proved to be an entertaining collaborative experiment that spins some imaginative tales.  By no means a masterpiece, V/H/S is a creepy excursion into the macabre, the supernatural and the rewindable.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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