Posts Tagged ‘malevolent

12
Jan
14

Mars Attacks (1996): Carnage Candy

 

Mars Attacks quad

a Primal Root written review

Adapting a notoriously gruesome and controversial trading card series from the 60’s into a PG-13 holiday release for the 1990’s cannot be an easy task.  “MARS ATTACKS!” in it’s original form was a blood soaked Topp’s trading card series created in 1962. Of course, there was parental and societal uproar over the gory, frequently sexual card series which led to the series’ original run first being censored and then being halted entirely. Yes, tell the public they cannot have something because they cannot “handle it” and remove it from the market entirely.  Ladies and Gents, this is how you create a cult following.

In the early 1980’s, “MARS ATTACKS!” began it’s resurgence gaining a whole new generation of young fans while banking on the nostalgia of those who once had this gloriously sick and subversive creation snatched from their grasps by the moral watchdogs that know what is best for us all. Bunch of dick holes, I tells ya! This resurgence culminated in a film adaptation featuring and all star cast and directed by, at that point, creative dynamo, Tim Burton fresh of his biographical film “Ed Wood”, everyone’s favorite cross dressing Trash Cinema film director!

Just how in the world do you take a popular cult TRADING CARD series and transform it into a profitable commercial venture? Well, with the restraints of the imposed PG-13 rating, the best path was to tone down the horror elements and amp up the darkly comical elements which the screenplay by Jonathan Gems delivers in spades. Not only is it a damn funny movie from start to finish, it also manages to be highly intelligent, wickedly mean, and  greatly entertaining. Here, let me lay it out for you…

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male's libido.

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male’s libido.

It is brought to the attention of The President of the United States of America, that flying saucers have been spotted surrounding planning Earth originating from our neighboring planet, Mars. To the best we can translate, the Martians come in peace, but as soon as they land, they being disintegrating every living thing they come across with their awesome Martian hand cannons.  The remainder of the movie is a series of sight gags, action set pieces and nasty comedy as humanity fights for survival through a full  on Martian apocalypse.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is a blazingly dark, subversive, wacky sci-fi flick. Sure, it has it’s flaws, like a sluggish pace and a feeling that Tim Burton had a tough time juggling his impressive ensemble cast, but at the end of the day the movie comes off  just as anarchic as the Martians themselves. The film extends it’s middle finger towards societal conventions, and then has fun laughing maniacally as it exposes the shaky pillars that they all stand upon.  MARS ATTACKS! sets it’s sights on lampooning just about everyone.  Conservative military leaders and Wal-Mart families to liberal scientists and new agers, MARS ATTACKS! takes delight in taking them down a peg or two.

For the most part, every character is played as a buffoon,  a cartoon version of stock characters from B-movies past, contemporary leaders and everyday civilians.  The only folks not played for laughs are the handful of societal outcasts and misfits who are played as entirely human like the president’s daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman, channeling Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice), mild mannered New Mexican donut peddler, Richie (Lukas Haas) and, most impressively, Byron and Louise Williams (Jim Brown and the incomparable Ms. Pam Grier) as a blue collar, seperated African American couple trying to make ends meet and raise two young boys.  Louise drives a bus in Washington D.C. while Byron, once a Heavy weight Boxing Champion, now works in Vegas. They are by far the most honorable, loving and genuine characters in the movie and the ones you end up rooting for in the end. When everything else in the film is a lark, you want nothing more than a happy ending for this family.

But it’s not all touchy feely stuff,  let us not forget the fantastically depicted carnage. Holy shit, is this fun stuff to watch! Martians bowl through Easter Island statues, crush mobile homes with their colossal Martian manned robots,  and in my personal favorite gag, crush a troupe of cub scouts with the Washington Monument. See, you don’t get this kind of flesh pulping fun in crap like “Independence Day”. One of the aspects I admire about “MARS ATTACKS!” is how the Martians use the phrase “We Come in Peace” and “We are your friends” to gain our trust several times over in order to implement surprise attacks. Once, killing off several military leaders and countless innocent spectators and the second time killing off Congress. It worked so well int he past that later in the film we see Martians roaming a burning landscape, guns drawn still claiming that they come in peace and blasting anything living they come across while exclaiming “Do Not Run! We Are Your Friends!”   It’s a great joke, but it’s a goddamn chilling one as well.

mars attacks do not run

By film’s end, Earth is saved by a decent young man who went out of his way to save his Grandmother from her rest home which was under siege and, unbeknownst to them, unlock the secret weapon that will destroy the Martian threat and save what remains of planet Earth and it’s inhabitants.  It’s one of the most absurd deus ex machina’s I have ever witnessed in cinema, but in a campy, B-Movie send up such as this, it feels perfectly fitting.

Finally, when Earth is reduced to a smoldering husk of it’s former self, it’s the underdogs who survive. The blue collar workers, those who risk life and limb to save the helpless, and Tom Jones. And in this I see hope. Early in the film, before the Martians reveal their true intentions, Annette Bening’s character states to at her AA meeting that she thinks the Martians have come to save us. And in a way, by destroying the institutions that have always held us back from truly progressing, leaves us with a clean slate to start from. In a way, they’ve given us a second chance and left our world int he hands of the misfits. The survivors.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is one Hell of a flick.  Sharply intelligent, subversive and damn funny.  This is one film well deserving of it’s cult status. highly recommended!

Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

08
Apr
12

Castle Freak: Inherit Madness

a Primal Root review

Inheriting a castle in Italy has to be pretty dang cool. Finding out you’re descended from royalty? That’s the icing on top of the hoity-toity cake to which so many aspire. Yeah, it all seems great on paper until you take your horrendously dysfunctional family there to assess the situation and sell that hunk of junk off to the highest bidder.  It’s drafty, dull, dusty and, making matters worse,  your wife hates your guts no matter where you take her and the one surviving kid is still blind and your single digit son is still pavement pizza due to your dumb, alcoholic ass driving the family mini…vehicle over a small hill and flipping the vehicle at 25 MPH.  Or 85 MPH in sped up film time…

And then, of course, there’s a horrifying, psychotic, mutilated freak chained up in the castle’s basement. Buyer beware.

TOUCHDOWN!

Castle freak is, at it’s very core, the story of a family dealing with a heart crushingly tragic incident where the family patriarch and reformed alcoholic, John Riley (played pitch perfectly by Gordon collaborator Jeffery Combs) managed to get completely shit-faced before picking up his teenage daughter and 5 year old son during a torrential down pour and then swerving off road resulting in the death of the son and blinding daughter,  Rebecca (played by a very game and sympathetic Jessica Dollarhide).  Of course, there are some resentment issues between John and his gorgeous wife, Susan (always reliable Barbara Crampton) who apparently lives to torture and be spiteful towards John every second of every single day therefore turning his life into a Hell on Earth of guilt, regret, and shame.

As you can tell, the story is already pretty dreadful before there’s even a freak for the family to contend with.

The Reilly’s  move into their new castle after the old woman who was living there died in her bed from a heart attack after beating the chained up freak in the basement within and inch of it’s life which looked to have been a long standing supper time tradition and Casa de le Freak.  This poor creature has obviously never known affection, love or humanity living a life of agony chained up and naked down in the dank bowels of The Reilly castle. Much like John Reilly himself, who is living a life of pain due to his past mistakes and the fact his wife reminds him about it on a near minute by minute basis that he’s responsible for the death of their son.

Castle Freak is a far cry from the what we’ve come to expect from a Gordon, Combs, Crampton, collaboration. Typically fun,m over the top and colorful, Castle Freak is drastically different. Thee pacing takes it’s time, and the whole story is just gruelingly sad. This is not Re-Animator or From Beyond by a long shot. In fact, it’s a very dark and honest look at redemption, forgiveness and family as John must defend his family from what could be seen as his horrific doppelganger, his id or symbolizing the young Reilly boy whose memory they still cling to and is tearing the whole family apart.  There are no laughs to be found here and  no easy outs in Castle Freak.  This is straight ahead horror dealing with some pretty real issues. Only these real issues are set against the backdrop of an Italian castle with a freak looking to molest your cute little blind teenage daughter and frame you for the murder of a hooker and your housekeeper. For a freak, this guy is surprisingly crafty.

Castle Freak Foreplay: Not nearly as fun as you'd imagine.

One night, after Susan gives John a particularly vindictive verbal thrashing, John heads to a local watering hole where he quickly jumps off the wagon. And who can really blame the guy? He takes shot, after shot of some kind of counterfeit rot gut and ends up taking a whore back to his castle’s wine seller where he eagerly chows down on her bowl of “Down South” spaghetti.Again, you can totally understand his need to feel the touch and connection to another person.  Trouble is, he happens to be performing in front of a captive audience as the Castle Freak studies John’s moves like he’s preparing for the S.A.T.’s.  And you know castle freaks, they are more than happy to go after the sloppy seconds…

As our hooker goes to leave the castle, it’s resident freak abducts her, chains her up and has his way with her including a graphic nipple eating and a sickening reveal of the Freak’s genital region that’s sure to make your stomach churn. In fact, the film seems to focus quite liberally on the Freak’s disturbing genitals which, I suppose, does make some sense since that is kind of the Freak’s motivating factor. Looking for affection, someone to be close and have sex with.  Or, director Stuart Gordon could have simply just wanted to showcase a little something for the ladies. Soak it in, girls! Still, even though the Freak, in my estimation, is only looking for compassion, tenderness and a connection to another living creature, he can;t for the life of him understand how to give these things. Remember, this is a person whose entire life since birth has been spend locked away, abused and mutilated only ever understanding violence and pain.  How Freak goes about violently raping the hooker, yet mimicking what he witnessed John do to her, furthers this point. That violence begets violence.

Feel the Excitement!

But, I digress, at the threat of spoiling the whole sleazy, blood encrusted, drippy scrotum flopping affair, let’s just say Castle Freak is a one sad, violent, and effective story of redemption. The story of one man’s quest to find meaning and forgiveness in a world that refuses to see past his mistakes and misdeeds and see the man who is in need of compassion and just wants to feel human again. Now, am I talking about John or the Castle Freak of our title or both?

Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak pulls off an impressive feat in capturing some very deep, dark, human situations and maintaining a fairly well paced and interesting story. As a viewer you grow to like most of the characters, and even the unlikable few are at the very least, you can understand where they’re coming from.  And for a film made in a creepy castle with a miniscule budget, Castle Freak works thanks to some spot on performances, creative shot compositions, great make-up/gore effects and also gains a lot of atmosphere from the genuine Italian castle where the action is set. Which just happens to be owned by the president of Full Moon Pictures.

Castle Freak isn’t exactly a fun, crowd pleasing movie experience but is still a fine piece of trash cinema. One that will certainly speak to anyone who has ever made a grievous mistake and feels they are destined to pay for it the rest of their lives.  Even if we can;t directly relate viewers will empathize and come to understand that there really are a number of fates that can feel worse than death. Only through love, forgiveness and understanding can we ever truly regain what makes us human.

And a good bit of reconstructive surgery and upper plate dental work in the case of The Castle Freak…

Love may be blind but she can still smell you, Freak.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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