Posts Tagged ‘mom

21
Nov
17

Blood Rage (1987): This Thanksgiving, put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional!

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a Primal Root written review

“That’s not cranberry sauce…” – Terry, Blood Rage (1987)

Well, the festive holiday season is well underway! First there was Halloween with it’s copious Trash Cinema offerings, soon there will be Christmas with all it’s Yule Tide Trash…BUT FIRST…we must observe our nation’s tradition of celebrating the genocide of the Native American’s be gathering with our closest ken and devouring a roasted dead bird with bread rammed up it’s gaping asshole! Ah yes, THANKSGIVING! We sure love our traditions here in the Land of the Free, but older than even the tradition of Thanksgiving, is the tradition of family tensions, resentments, anger and good, old fashioned violence. Now, Thanksgiving horror films are few and far between. Sure, we all are thankful for Eli Roth’s blood drenched gratuitous mock slasher movie trailer for THANKSGIVING featured in the 2007 Grindhouse Double Feature, and fewer still recall Home Sweet Home from 1981, starring Body By Jake himself, Jake Steinfeld as a sweaty, body building maniac with eyes bulging out even further than his elephant balls sized biceps…which could possibly take place on Thanksgiving, but no one ever mentions the holiday they are celebrating by name. Thankfully, Arrow Films restored a long lost gem of a Thanksgiving slasher film from 1987 entitled Blood Rage aka: Nightmare at Shadow Woods.

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Blood Rage begins with a Mom hot to trot on a date at the Drive-In theater. Her twin boys are in back fast asleep, oddly enough in one shat a child has a double barrel shot gun nestled between his legs pointed at the business end of his junk (WTF?), I;m not sure what this signifies, but it is gone in the very next shot. Mom is fixing to slob knob when the two boys wake up and sneak out of the back of Mom’s station wagon. One young boy, Terry,  finds a hatchet and begins peeping on a young couple doing to forbidden polka in the front seat of their car. The man doing the fucking looks up, sees this creepy blonde kid and promptly freaks the fuck out at him but not NEARLY as hard as Terry freaks out back him. You better believe Terry buries that hatchet into the young man’s skull repeatedly, spraying blood all over the dash, steering column, popcorn bucket and his nekkid and nubile young fuck companion who runs away screaming, bloody and nekkid into the night never to be heard from again. The commotion gets the entire drive-in’s attention and as everyone rushes over to catch a peek of crater face and his dead dong, Terry pulls a past one on his twin brother Todd, smearing blood on his face and handing him the hatchet, effectively framing him.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the ruse works! Everyone buys the story hook, line and sinker and stick Todd in a mental asylum for ten years! Todd constantly proclaims his innocence, but no one listens. They just keep medicating the poor dope and just hope he never kills again. MEANWHILE, over at Shadow Woods Apartment Complex, the now young adult Terry is alive and thriving and living the active lifestyle with his posse of friends and living at his Mom’s place.  During Thanksgiving dinner Mom makes the big announcement that she’s going to marry the landlord of the apartment complex. This apparently triggers Terry who becomes very cold and menacing over the course of the meal. To make matters worse, Todd has escaped from the mental asylum where they hid him away and is heading home.

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Before the leftovers have even begun to cool Terry has started rampaging through the Shadow Woods apartment complex all while laying the ground work to frame his brother Todd yet again. There are some fantastic over the top kills in this flick, but my absolute favorite has to be Terry cutting Todd’s therapist in half with a machete. We do not actually see the cut happen, only a POV shot from Terry’s perspective as he rushes the doctor. We cut to another scene, then back to the doctor who is coughing up bright red cherry Kool-Aid and laying there on the muddy ground in two bloody, drippy, meaty chunks. It’s really a well done little effect and will put a smile on any gorehound’s face.

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The bodies begin to pile up as Terry trots around the complex with ever increasing sick, malicious glee,  killing just about anyone who opens their door all while poor Tood tries to piece his doctor back together, tells little girls to not answer the door for anyone, and actually takes care of his staggeringly drunk mother who passed out int he hallway of her apartment after downing a bottle or two of red after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a pretty brutal affair as people fucking on the diving board are hacked into pieces, gold diggers find their date’s heads hanging from the stairwell and countless Thanksgiving turkey serving utensils are used to break countless kosher laws! It all ends with a desperate chase around the complex between Terry’s on again,off again flame Karen who is running for her life from Terry who is now intent on killing her and chuckling through every last second of it and Todd, who is trying desperately to stop Terry’s reign of horror! Not only that, but Mom, totally shit faces and a little psychotic herself, as grabbed a gun and is looking to put down the bad twin once and for all!

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Blood Rage walks a really fine line between a kind of sleazy tongue in cheek hilarity and truly heartbreaking and disturbing family drama. To watch the film directed by John Grissmer and written by Bruce Rubin, it certainly has a very quirky and alternating vibe to it. One moment you’re laughing at the situation and the pretty impressive practical gore effects, and the next scene you are asked to take the bizarre family situation seriously and feel the deep tragedy of the events that are unfolding for these three mentally unstable people. Not only that, but the leads honestly throw themselves into their roles, often they go a little over the top, but it’s never unbelievable. Many kudos to Mark Soper who plays both Todd and Terry and manages to make these two characters so distinctly different in both character and physicality, I had to look it up to see if these were actually twins or just one guy. I mean, it becomes apparent by the conclusion when they need to be in the same shot together and there’s obviously a guy in a shitty fright wig with his back turned to the camera posing as either Todd or Terry. Still, Mark’s maniacal portrayal of Terry and sympathetic turn as Todd is pretty impressive and makes up for many of those goofy bad wigged short comings. Also, a standout, is Louise Lasser as Todd and Terry’s Mother, Maddy. We get the impression that Maddy might just be insane herself early on in the film, but I initially choked it up to high anxiety. As the movie progresses and her odd behavior escalates and Maddy’s dependency issues become clear, you begin to realize where Todd and Terry may have inherited their instability. There are scenes where Maddy is simply trying to get in touch with her fiancee which are just brutal and anxiety provoking as she continues to lose her mind trying to figure out the right number to contact her dead-at-the-twenty-minute-mark fiancee. But, if you want to talk about a bone crusher of a performance, the finale revelation which comes at the end, will either have you laughing or gasping at the absurd tragedy of it all, but one cannot say that these performers id not give it their all trying to make the material really sing.

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Blood Rage is a true rarity, the seldom to be found Thanksgiving holiday slasher that is not only trashy entertainment, but a flick strives to rise above it’s own admittedly cornball material. To watch a piece of Trash Cinema fully embrace it’s filthy B-Movie Drive-In aesthetic, delivering the goods and then still giving it the old college try to bring an even deeper, more horrifying psychological aspect to the proceedings is a facet I greatly admire in Blood Rage.

So, undo your belt, fix yourself a second plate and gather those you love around the old boob tube for one of the finest Trash Cinema Thanksgiving Slasher Films ever made, Blood Rage. You can thank me later. ❤ Did I mention you can rent Blood Rage on DVD & Blu-Ray at Tallahassee Florida’s own Cap City Video Lounge?

I reward Blood Rage FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

12
Sep
15

The Last American Virgin (1982) or The Heartbreak Kid (NSFW)

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a Primal Root written review

“I’ll take a rocky road!” – Diane Franklin as Karen in The Last American Virgin

Like so many of my peers I spent my pre-teen years glued to the late night cable every Friday and Saturday night hoping to get a glimpse pf some nekkid female flesh. And you know as well as I do that typically the best place to find bouncing, glorious, nekkid young ladies beside slasher movies was the pot o’ gold known as the “Teen Sex Comedy” aka: Teenspolitation. You know the kind, Porky’s, My Tutor, The Cheerleaders, Screw Balls, Private School, etc. where a group of guys, typically three dudes, are on a quest to get laid and/or see naked women and sometimes end up learning a little something about themselves and the nature of mature, adult love along the way. Watching these films as a kid in the cover of darkness in my living room I imagined that this was exactly what was in store for me in the years to come. Sexual escapades, peep holes in the locker room, girls getting naked and attacking me while I slept.

Of course, now I am in my thirties. I am thrilled to be married to the love of my life, and I have a bit of experience under my belt (pun intended) that I will be sure to pass on to our future spawnage one day as they discover the wonderful realm of the opposite sex and Teensploitation. I will do my damnedest to make sure The Last American Virgin is their introduction to the Teen Sex Comedy genre of Trash Cinema. Because it starts out fun and stupid, but becomes something far more honest and dark by the time the credits roll.

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The Last American Virgin tells the story of Gary  (Lawrence Monson of Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter …uh, fame), a young high school pizza delivery guy and the last last American virgin of our film’s title. Gary appears to spend every waking moment when he’s not delivering pizza getting into bizarre, awkwardly comical, borderline criminal sexual misadventures with his two best buds, lady killer and local stud Rick (Steve Antin, that kid who gets propelled off of a toilet while taking a dump in The Goonies) whose hair gel must have cost half the budget of the film and David (Joe Rubbo in his first of only three acting rolls) as the very natural and truly funny overweight comic relief. These three promise the girls cocaine to get them in the sack at Gary’s place, and then under the gun, feed them lines of Sweet & Lo with a side of “Crispy Chips” before Gary’s parent’s show up and discover a bunch of topless teenage girls stomping around the house and nearly leads to Gary’s Mom getting sexually assaulted by David. If they’re not lying to blossoming teenage girls in order to fuck them or trying to fuck one another’s Mothers, they can be counted on to be having a hardon measuring contest in the high school locker room, “The guy with the biggest tool wins the pool!” or waiting in line at the apartment of one of Gary’s horny pizza delivery clients in order to run a train on her, or attempting to drown their recently acquired crabs in a public pool.  Yeah, it’s typical Teen Sex Comedy stuff, but it has a bit of a darker, edgier feel than most.

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Gary happens to be absolutely smitten with a new girl in school, the gorgeous Karen (Diane Franklin, from Terror Vision, Amityville Horror II: The Possession, Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) whose first line, as she orders a scoop of ice cream and the local teen hangout, foretells not only her story, but Gary’s, “I’ll take a rocky road.” In fact, Gary orders the same thing. Maybe I am reading too much into these character’s ice cream preferences, but after watching this movie a couple times, I can’t help but think this is am excellent use of ominous ice cream flavors by the screen writer in order to drop a hint as to where this movie is going to end up drop kicking you to.

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Gary is so creepily in love with Karen he deflates the tire on her bicycle one morning in order to drive by in his “Pink Pizza” car and offer her a ride to school. This is straight up stalker behavior. We’re supposed to empathize with Gary as he offers her help, then a ride to school and is then rejected when he asks her out on a date before she heads off to class. But Gary is kind of a creeper. Karen claims she can’t go out with Gary to a party because she has something else to do. What is this other thing she has to do? Well, turns out she is attending the exact same party but is hanging all over Rick, the local high school cherry buster and go-to fuck buddy. As expected, Gary is heart broken, ends up drinking an entire bottle of Jack Daniels before acting like an idiot an being sent home where he embarrasses himself further by trying to fuck one of his Mom’s friends.

Typical life of a teenage, man.

Also, I just want to state that Karen’s best friend is played by none other than Kimmy Robertson from TV’s Twin Peaks. I think she’s supposed to be playing the annoying nerdy friend, but man is she cute. Plus she looks absolutely fetching in her tiny bikini by the pool. Just sayin,’ I don’t see why no one wants to date her in the movie.

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See, turns out Karen is a virgin just like Gary and he wants to date Karen, and be good to her, treat her right and romantically, gently lose their virginity to one another in his warm or her parent;s warm bed. What is it with people wanting to fuck int heir parent’s bed in teen sex movies? I guess it’s bigger than their own bed? Still, the lack of space of my own bed would be preferable to getting it on in the bed my parents presumably do on a regular basis. ESPECIALLY if I;m popping a girls cherry. How in the Hell do you explain the blood stains to your folks? They go away for the weekend and come home to think their son is an axe murderer who seduces women and then chops them to pieces between the sheets. Is it worth the risk?  I mean, if it were my kid I would laugh my ass off and perhaps take the ruined sheets and have it sewn into a commemorative flag and have it framed for them before hanging it in their room.

Sorry, got side tracked there, Gary know that if Karen dated Rick she will end up unceremoniously getting her fresh virgin pussy torn up by a guy who has any number of STD’s and honestly doesn’t really give a shit about her beyond the fact that she is female and looks to be an easy lay. Quite a bit of The Last American Virgin‘s run time is devoted to Gary trying to keep Rick from busting out Karen. Now, this is a pretty standard, undignified stereotype of a guy coveting a young lady as a thing as opposed to a fellow human being. Something of a trophy to be had. Gary is supposed to be a good guy, but he is so wrapped up in trying to get Karen to do exactly what HE wants as opposed to what SHE wants even though it is apparent to the viewer that she is making the decision to fuck a jerk, but that is HER decision to make, even if it’s a pretty lame one. Hey, girls can fuck whoever they want to, too, Gang. So lay the fuck off. As if Gary would be any better a decision. This guy has possessive “Nice Guy” written all over him. Sure, he would be sweet at first, but I guarantee you he will want to know exactly where you are at all times, what you;re doing and photographic evidence and eye witness testimony  if you are out of his eye sight for more than ten minutes.

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 ****SPOILERS AHOY!****

So, despite Gary’s best efforts, Karen gets fucked by Rick in the announcement booth at the high school football stadium under cover of darkness. It’s actually a pretty great scene as Karen gets mounted by Rick, makes that little *gasp* as she gets tagged all the while sad sack Gary hangs out just below under the bleachers and gently weeps that the girl he wants is getting deflowered at that very moment just a hundred feet or so over his crying eyes. It’s a fantastically sexy/sad moment and the two moments, one of sexual arousal and one of deep self pity is fucking amazing. Few teen sex movies ever go after this kind of emotional punch and it works splendidly well. It’s an emotional place I;m sure most of us have been before. Sure, it;s selfish, it’s probably a little lame, but it’s honest and it’s real. The person we want to be with so much refuses to give you the time of day and enjoys to the company and genitals of some other person who seems to so easily always get their way. It’s rough, and you hate feeling bad for yourself, but you can’t deny these stupid fucking emotions.

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Now, if this were the only scene of such raw emotional content, I would consider The Last American Virgin to be a resounding success. But this film is not satisfied with having us relive one of the darkest moments of our adolescents, no. The Last American Virgin is not done with us yet. See, fast forward after that moment of pleasure in the nicotine stained, B.O. scented announcer’s booth, Rick wants nothing to do with Karen anymore. Why is this? Because it’s almost Christmas break and he wants to go skiing and bang some other random chicks. But more importantly, Karen is pregnant. Gary finds out while trying to comfort an obviously deeply hurt and upset Karen and promptly attacks Rick in the school’s library. Gary claims Karen is a slut and that the baby could be anyone’s before piling into a VW van with a bunch of hot to trot teenage horn dogs and leaving all the responsibility for his actions behind him. Rick, what a guy!

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Well, “Nice Guy” Gary ends up taking care of Karen and paying for her abortion. Yes, he pays for the abortion Karen wants of the baby she and Rick made. In one brilliantly conceived, acted, shot and edited montage we watch as Gary takes Karen to the clinic and then goes around town scraping up cash to pay for the procedure, $250 to be exact. He pawns his stero equipment, raids his parents rainy day fund, and even begs his boss at Pink Pizza for some cash. Gary works his ass off to get the money together and all this is intercut with scenes of Karen undressing, the doctor snapping on rubber gloves, her legs being spread and bound down as she is prepared for the abortion. There is one shot during this montage that haunts me. It’s a shot that lasts no longer than maybe ten seconds, yet speaks volumes. The shot begins on Karen’s panties as she begins to slowly take them off in the doctor’s office. We see her pubic hair peek over the top of her panties as the camera pans up across her belly past her beautiful breasts and up to her lovely face as she begins to cry. Mother fucker, THIS is one incredible moment in teensploitation! This is cause and effect! We are instantly titillated, as we have been programmed to be, we see the objectification, crotch, sexy belly, a lovely rack, and then we see the face of this beautiful young woman in absolute agony. We register the pain, regret and the horror. It’s a shot of dark, brutal reality applied directly to your trashy, jaded little heart and it stings, man. It stings bad. Because the point is made abundantly clear, simply, efficiently. That these moments of pleasure, these brash decisions we follow in the sake of fleeting passion, these fucking choices have consequences! Again, it;s an ingenious moment of juxtaposition unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in a movie of this ilk. Sure, Fast Times at Ridgement High has an abortion take place, but it was off screen and no one ever really looked all that torn up about it. The Last American Virgin fucking guts it’s audience, breaking the conventions of the teensploitation form, and shows us that the teenage quest to get laid is a fools quest, that if you are irresponsible, if you rush into things you are not yet ready for, you will face the horribly consequences and be faced with some serious choices. Wrap it up EVERY TIME, kiddos! Did I mention this fucking montage is set to U2’s I Will Follow? I will never hear this sone the same way again…

Well, after these harrowing events, Karen and Gary bond a bit during her recovery and Gary buys her a ring he is going to present to her at a party, he assumes he has finally won Karen;s heart by showing he’s responsible, caring, non-judgmental and will to lie, beg and steal in order to resolve Karen’s bad decisions. Gary  shows up to the party and finds Karen making out with Rick, her aborted fetus’s Daddy, who is back from his Christmas Ski and Fuck Fest Gary splits, understandably devastated. The final shot of the film is of Gary as he drives off into the dark night in tears and the credits roll over his sopping wet face. Still a virgin, forever alone. Ever been kicked in the balls with a steel toed boot? Well, get ready to experience the cinematic equivalent.

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The Last American Virgin is one excruciatingly dark story. Unapologetically honest, brutally raw in it’s depiction of the wages of teen sex, The Last American Virgin is a phenomenal flick. It’s like the Requiem for a Dream of Teen Sex Comedies. Sure, the first half is a lot of laughs and whacky sexual hijinks, but that last half sure busts up that party pretty fast. I’ve never seen a flick like The Last American Virgin. I mean is this a feminist film? The “Nice Guy” manifesto? I think this film is far beyond either, really. It drop these conventions, these labels, and portrays these teens as inexperienced, often times selfish, often irresponsible human beings where the typical teen movie creates nothing more than characatures of tired, old stereotypes. There are no easy answers in The Last American Virgin. Like life itself, so many of these moments that shape us, the traumas that make us who we are go without any closure or reconciliation. The Last American Virgin captures this perfectly. Sure, it starts out as a bit of goofy, escapist tits and ass fueled teen sex comedy, but by the end you will feel like you you got whacked in the but by a sledgehammer as reality rears it’s ugly head.

The Last American Virgin is a classic and I cannot recommend it enough.

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

The Primal Root says you gotta see this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

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“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

FlamingChristine

At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

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Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

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I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

17
Feb
14

(NSFW) Cindy & Donna (1970): House of Sexual Deviants

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a Primal Root written review

“You know, it’s just a big kick. A trip, you know? Look, don’t be so serious. I mean, you know, it’s a groove.” – Cindy’s best friend Karen explains sexual intercourse

Growing up sure can be hard, especially when you’re a disturbingly sexy yet trashy teenage girl from a divorced family, your Dad’s a lecherous creep who’s always staring at your step sister while she’s in her underwear, your stepmother’s a constantly bitching alcoholic and your step sister is forever getting laid and trading pussy for pot while you’re still wearing your hair in pigtails and are just too scared to spread those thighs for some pimply faced classmate at the local high school or one of those college jerks still looking to score teeny-bopper poon.

This is the very basic premise of “Cindy & Donna” a very strange brand of coming-of-age flick, exploitation film and soft-core porn. Cindy and Donna are step sisters, Cindy’s the baby of the two and Donna is the older, more sexually experienced. Cindy’s Pop is a boozer and a perv while Donna’s Mom is kind of a booze hound killjoy that I’m sure her husband blames for his tendency to spend all night at bars after work, bang prostitutes and get boners of his stepdaughter. It’s suburban dysfunction at it’s very finest and not really played for laughs, if anything, it all comes of as shockingly depressing…which makes it really funny…Huh? Stay with me.

“Cindy & Donna” tells the story of the red headed, teenage pixie virgin, Cindy (played by Debbie Osborne of “Country Cousins” and “Tobacco Roody” fame, I also happen to have a bit of crush on this chick who vanished off the face of the earth in 1972.) as she begins to blossom and become increasingly curious about what it is to be a sexually active young woman in 1970’s America. A voyeur by nature, she is constantly peeping in on her family members and being exposed to the truly depraved and disturbing sex lives of her Father and stepsister. We’re going to leave Mom out of this because she’s just an alcoholic who spends the majority of the film either drunkenly shouting out insults or passed out in bed watching what sound like bizarre Indian massacre movies.

Cindy witnesses her older stepsister, Donna (the ever foxy Nancy Ison) sneak out of the house at night and ride her boyfriend Greg’s flesh pole of freedom in order to obtain some grass. Cindy is also aware of her Father’s other vice besides alcoholism and ignoring his family, hookers. Ladies of the night. Prostitutes. We are given a front row seat to this doughy, middle aged man’s sexcapades with the lovely and incredibly well built Alice (Alice Friedland, looking like an American version of Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg) a professional stripper, spank magazine model and, yes, prostitute, who we’re introduced to in an extended sequence of Alice gyrating her crotch into the camera and bouncing her lovely, bountiful, natural boobs in artsy-fartsy low angle shots that make sure her tits and ass take up THE ENTIRE SCREEN. She invites Pops back to her place for a night of awkward genital grinding, fondling and utterances of the phrase, “You blow my mind!”

I can see the artistic intent here.

I can see the artistic intent here.

After Pops and Alice finish up it is revealed that Alice is only 17, the same age as his naive, peeper of a daughter, Cindy. You’d think this was primed to set up some kind of plot point where Pops would approach his daughter and talk openly with her about “the birds and the bees” and perhaps even cause the man to realize what a terrible Father and husband he’s been and get him on the straight and narrow to ensure his wife and children are provided for emotionally as well as financially and go on to live fulfilling lives together.  No such luck, Pops boozes it up the following night, can’t get an appointment to poke Alice and decides to go home and fuck his stepdaughter, Donna. AND HE DOES! He stumbles into her bedroom completely wasted, disrobes and goes to town on her young, naked, nubile self AND SHE OPENLY ENJOYS IT! She pulls him in closer, smooches his whiskey drenched gob with tongue and allows the patriarch of their family to grope her chesticological region and finger her little Donna.  It’s disturbing and totally unbelievable. Of course, it’s revealed that Cindy is watching this whole incestual shindig go down from the doorway of their adjoining bedrooms before throwing herself upon her bed and weeping. Strangely, the incident is never mentioned again, not once, for the rest of the film. And this a bit more horrifying than the incident where Cindy watched Donna get banged by her boyfriend Greg in the back of his sports car as payment for weed, which Cindy then went back to her bedroom and masturbated over. I started wondering if possibly Cindy is imagining all these sexual hijinks she witnesses as part of her own repressive sexual desires and fantasies, but I might be giving “Cindy & Donna” too much credit. But then again, who know, perhaps director Robert Anderson saw something in this material beyond just the TnA and deep, dark, sexual depravity. One thing’s for sure, looking at the film this way opens up a whole new perspective.

BUT I’M GETTING OFF TOPIC!

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in...

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in…

That morning Mom and Pops head to Vegas for the weekend and are never relevant to the “plot” again. Cindy confides all this, minus the Daddy/Stepdaughter action earlier, to her BFF Karen (sexy, confident, Cheryl Powell) who has recently made the transition from naive young girl to slutty, cock starved teenage hellion. Karen’s advice to Cindy? Get laid, basically. They end up going to the beach where they meet two dorky guys in tiny bathing suits. They hardly even introduce themselves before the gentlemen whisk these ladies off to their casual sex shack on the beach and start putting on the moves.  The moment the scene begins Cindy starts shouting about how she just wants to go home as Karen drops her bikini quicker than you get food poisoning from a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich and starts riding her dork pick of the litter as if he were Seabiscuit. “Don’t be a drag, Cindy!” Karen commands as she humps dork boy’s baby batter baton.  The scene goes on for way longer than it should as Karen gets fucked on one bed and Cindy continuously cries “Stop it!” and “No!” on the nearby stained sofa as her zit faced, teen date rapist drools all over her neck and licks her face. This is all taking place in the same room so the camera just sits in medium shot and documents this uncomfortable moment in time for what feels like forever. As soon as Karen gets her rocks off they both head for home where they smoke some weed, put on a record and enjoy some experimental lesbianism so Karen can demonstrate for Cindy “what it feels like.” My, my, it’s been a big day for these two.

Tell me that's not Shia LeBeouf back there.

Tell me that’s not Shia LeBeouf back there.

What’s Donna up to while her parents are out of town? Just hanging out with her boyfriend Greg…and allowing several creepers to take nude photos of her as a way to pay back the money she owes Greg for the weed he purchased her the other day. Rather quickly, the photo shoot devolves (or evolves, depending on your view) into a mild mannered gang bang in Greg’s rumpus room. Donna really gets off on this “groovy” action, despite the men never having to remove their underwear in order to penetrate her baby factory, and the scenes goes on without ever showing the end of the gang bang when they, I assume, smoke a  little reefer, play air guitar and eat Doritos.

The very next morning, after Cindy and Karen spend a night of playing bumper clits together, Karen assures Cindy that she was “marvelous” in the sack and that she should try the ultimate trip and have sex with an actual man.  This gets the wheels turning and Cindy puts her plan into action. She invites Donna’s boyfriend Greg over and they start going at it on the family sofa, which seems like a daring place to lose one’s virginity. I mean, how will Cindy explain that stain to her folks? Anyhoo, Cindy begins taking off her awesome 70’s dress and asks Gregg “Can you dig it?” His reply? “I can dig it.” and she is soon nekkid and rubbing her petite, teeny-bopper body all over Gregg, the Scott Stapp of the 1970’s.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as Cindy’s about to go cock spelunking, Donna comes home and stumbles upon this scene and exclaims “DON’T MESS WITH MY SISTER!” Gregg responds the only reasonable way any man would after being interrupted while about to have his man utter suckled by a young woman, and picks Donna up and throws her out the front door onto her AstroTurf lawn. Donna, confused and mortified (despite the fact she fucked her stepdad a night or two ago) wonders aimlessly into the road and is run over by a car. Cindy watches this happen through the screen door of her Cabrini Green model suburban home and screams. The picture freezes on her shocked and horrified face. We then cut to a brief sequence of her swinging at a jungle gym where we can see her red panties.

The End

 I am speechless. I mean, after the build up of this film I totally expected Donna’s discovery of Cindy boning her boyfriend to end in a threesome, not vehicular manslaughter! This is one Hell of a way to end your sex picture!  I can’t even begin to imagine what poor little Cindy’s therapy bills are going to look like. Acquiring knowledge from afar, as Cindy did, proved only to corrupt her young, curious mind, not enlighten it. Sad, really.”Cindy & Donna” is a bewildering and entertaining exploitation sex picture. Straightforward and shameless to the point of absurdity,” Cindy & Donna” is an ode to teenage indiscretion and skeezy old man perversity that will have you questioning the sanity of those who made it and yourself as you pitch a tent in your corduroy trousers. Filled with copious, unapologetic nudity, drug use, casual incest and experimental lesbianism…the mission statement is blunt. “Cindy & Donna” is a one of a kind, filthy, perverse, sleazy coming of age exploitation film. Yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you don't talk to your kids about sex, who will?

If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, who will?

I’m giving Cindy & Donna FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This puppy’s a must see.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Feb
14

(NSFW) The Naked Cage (1986): Women on the Verge of a Nervous Shanking

naked cage

a Primal Root written review

What is the appeal of a women in prison movie? Could it be the hardened women struggling for power and survival behind bars? The depiction of corrupt officials and politics behind prison walls and how it mirrors our own government? Or is it simply the fact we are almost guaranteed some gratuitous female shower scenes? I ask you, why can’t it be all of the above?

“The Naked Cage”, directed by Paul Nicholas and produced by Cannon, marks what many consider to be among the last truly great women in prison flicks, a genre that became popular and peaked in the mid to late 1970’s.  “The Naked Cage” tells the story of a young, blonde, nubile bank teller and bareback horse rider, Michelle (Shari Shattuck) who ends up getting sentenced to three years in a vicious women’s prison after her bonehead, coke head ex-husband decides to pull a stocking over his head and rob the bank where Michelle works. Of course, none of this would have happened if Michelle’s ex hadn’t recently gotten mixed up with the sexy, murderous, psychotic escaped convict, Rita (Christina Whitaker) who likes killing cops and having cocaine snorted off of her nipples (true story). Michelle ends up unwittingly getting pulled into the heist, which ends in a bizarre getaway that consists of driving around the bank parking lot several times and then in blood, and is thrown in jail after Rita testifies that Michelle was the ringleader of the heist. Me thinks Michelle should get herself a better lawyer.

Michelle takes her sentencing in stride, maintains a good attitude and makes friends quickly with her fellow inmates including her bunk mate and former junky Amy (Stacey Shaffer) and the badass,  muscular behemoth , Sheila (Faith Minton) who runs things on their cell block.  However, Michelle doesn’t quite see eye to eye with the prison’s warden, Diane (Angel Tompkins from one of my favorites, “The Teacher”) who conducts bizarre lesbian BDSM sex games with whichever inmates tickle her fancy. Also on the loose is a sadistic prison guard known as Smiley (Nick Benedict) who takes great pleasure in raping and then murdering female inmates before trying to pass it off as suicides. He justifies this to the warden by explaining “This job is shitty, I might as well do something I enjoy!” It’s not an exact quote, but something along those lines…

I wonder if the warden in "The Shawshank Redemption" ever had Andy dress like this and rub his shoulders?

I wonder if the warden in “The Shawshank Redemption” ever had Andy dress like this and rub his shoulders?

Life behind bars doesn’t treat Michelle that bad, at first. But soon, Rita is released from the hospital, where she was recovering from the bank robbery car chase, and is thrown into prison on the same cell block as Michelle. Rita and Warden Diane join forces and once Rita takes down Sheila, the Warden gives Rita the go ahead to enact her revenge on Michelle. Revenge for what, exactly? Not so sure, seeing as Michelle had little to nothing to do withe the bank robbery turning into a bullet riddled botched bloodbath.  I have this feeling Rita might be projecting her own feelings of inadequacy and failure as a bank robber on to Michelle. Listen, killing Michelle won’t change the fact that you robbed a bank after snorting a mountain of cocaine, let your getaway car get blocked in, and then drove a stolen car in circles around the bank’s parking lot while the police unloaded their weapons into it and you.  Honey, that’s nobody’s fault but yours.

Rita quickly turns the prisons order of power on it’s head, dispatching those who protect Michelle, and turning her closest friends against her.  But Michelle is far more cunning than Rita realizes. As the tables turn, Michelle learns to rely on herself and takes dead aim at Rita and during a violent, awesome prison riot, the two meet in one of the down and dirtiest female convict cat fights I’ve ever seen.

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“The Naked Cage” is a glorious, spitfire of a women in prison film. One of the very last of a dwindling, glorious Drive-In culture. What really sets it apart is that, despite the conventions and obligatory women in prison cliches, is that “The Naked Cage” takes the time to create so really interesting, believable characters. It pulls off one of those rarest of  exploitation tricks where the viewer ends up actually liking characters and are genuinely saddened when certain folks end up being killed off.  By this point in Trash Cinema history, the women in prison genre had become more satirized and played for laughs or simply to titillate an audience rather  than deliver genuine dramatic story telling. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the formerly mentioned brand of women in prison flick, Hell, I love a good goofy romp through a prison filled with nekkid women. Sure, there’s some campy, goofy bits in “The Naked Cage” like the exceedingly awkward scenes with Angel Tompkins rotating her shoulders topless with random female inmates in her neon light clad secret love chamber as they seduce one another, but overall the film plays it pretty straight if not a little over the top. There is something to be admired about a movie of this breed that does all it can to tell a convincing crime story on an exceedingly low budget and not fall back on cheap laughs.  “The Naked Cage” is bold, goes for the your throat and doesn’t let up. Damn fine stuff and one Hell of a send off to a once proliferating genre.

Oh, and there are plenty of shower scenes and gratuitous full frontal nudity.

I give “The Naked Cage” Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-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




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