Posts Tagged ‘must see

29
Jul
18

(NSFW) Just Before Dawn (1981): Rise and Die

just before dawn

a Primal Root written review

“There’s nothing out there but God’s little creatures, more scared of you than you are of them.” – Warren, Just Before Dawn

Tales of backwoods hicks slaughtering city folks is as old as the hills themselves. Freshly showered kids in their L.L. Bean disco survival boots, shaved vaginas and cans of Pringles head off to hike and pitch their tents fully exposed in the elements and figure, oh yeah, nothing’s going to happen to me out here among the trees, wildlife and lack of of immediate assistance from someone who knows what the Hell they’re doing. From The Hills Have Eyes, to House of 1,000 Corpses, to Deliverance, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; white-bread, Nike wearing, pink, privileged idiots with six figure incomes load up their campers and right into certain death despite there nearly ALWAYS being some old coot standing by the side of the rarely traversed, nearly grown over dirt road saying the same old speech “You’re doomed if you stay the night up that road!”

And what do those idiots do? Crank up the Def Leppard and rush forward into painful, bloody oblivion. It’s an old yarn always looking for an invigorating new take, or at least a competent hand to at the very least, make it interesting.

Enter the forgotten 1981 backwoods camping slasher gem, JUST BEFORE DAWN, and film that I’d heard a few people mention in decades past, but never in the same sentence as well worn genre fare. Upon finally getting a chance to watch it, I was not only blown blown away by how solid it was, but I would put it among my all time favorite slasher films of this backwoods sub-genre.

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Our pre-credit inciting incident takes place in a rotten, weather worn church where two older hikers are joking around and acting like goofballs trying to make one another laugh as they wonder through this holy relic. By the way, one of these old hikers is none other than Mike Kellin who played Mel, the owner of Camp Arawak in another excellent summer slasher film, Sleepaway Camp from 1983. When one man notices a freakish inbred redneck peering through a hole in th church’s roof and eerily backlit by the sun, he steps out slowly from the church, and in a real dick move, doesn’t mention it to his friend who is too busy being a comedian to notice. Well, as you might imagine, the man left in the church ends up getting possibly the most brutal death in the film and has a massive, multi-pronged machete stuck though his pee hole and right out his poop chute. And the film doesn’t cut away once this happens, oh no, we see the poor hikers horrified, pained reaction to suddenly find his cock and balls forcibly filleted in half and probably shoved right out his own asshole. He reached behind himself to feel the machete blade sticking right out through his jeans…it’s a nightmarish moment and one where the viewer cannot help but imagine the unfathomable agony that bastard must be experiencing as he slowly begins to bleed to death amongst the pews of stink, mildew encrusted old church.  This poor bastard’s bud, Ty, who just left him to die, runs off into the woods and down the side of the mountain with the giant, massively overweight bloodthirsty mountain man in hot pursuit.

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From left to right: Constance, Jonathan, Daniel, Megan & Warren. Who will survive and who will inherit the R.V.?

 

We are then immediately introduced to our core group of young folks headed up the side of the mountain in their camper to spend a long weekend hiking, skinny dipping, and mellowing out in the woods. There’s the fun loving couple Jonathan (Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon) and Megan (Jamie Rose, from Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and a billion TV Shows), the nerdy photographer who didn’t bring a date and will probably be spending the majority of the trip, when not taking photos, masturbating into the bushes, Daniel (Ralph Seymour from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Killer Party, Meatballs part II) and our main course couple, our blonde alpha male and guy steering the RV, Warren (played by none other than Greg Henry who starred in James Gunn’s Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy flicks) and his worry wart, uptight, girlfriend, Constance (Deborah Benson from 1941, 2 Days in the Valley).  On their way up, they are warned by none other than the late, great, George Kennedy as Roy McLean, an old timer plant doctor and horse whisperer who knows there’s something terrible up in them mountains. Not only that, but the kids bust the shit out of a deer with the R.V., and run into Ty, who at some point came across a massive jug of whiskey as he was fleeing for his life, drank three quarters of it, and slurrily begged the kids to take him down the mountain before he is turned into a dick and ass kabob by some horrifying fat fucks in the woods. The kids leave him some food and head up the mountain, as they go, Ty watches as the Mountain Man hops from a nearby tree onto the back of the camper to pursue more nubile and fuckable victims.  Ty laughs his ass of and continues stumbling down the mountain.

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Soon our rag tag group of fresh faced youths have set up camp, hiked behind waterfalls, and noticed some peculiar whistling coming from the woods…the crew even noticed a young woman singing beautifully down by a stream, when they approach her, the girl goes running into the woods. All these strange omens mean little to the young folks as they starts letting loose. The most notable is Constance, who ditches her waist high khakis and long sleeve denims short, and slips on some tight fitting daisy dukes that let her butt cheeks hang out and the ties her button down shirt up to expose her mid-drift and tease at the subtle breasts bouncing around underneath. It’s a transformation that doesn’t go unnoticed by her camping buddies and seems to coincide with the five friends descending deeper into the woods, as if she is becoming a bit more wild herself. She even paints her toenails while sitting on a long. It’s cute, it’s hot, and it’s a little weird, but you know me, I’m down with weird female transformations, especially the wild and sexy kind.

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Before long, the kids find themselves down at the base of the waterfall where Jonathan and Megan decide to go skinny dipping and fool around a little bit while the other’s make breakfast. It’s all fun and games as Megan splashes water around and giggles while Jonathan goes under water, gropes her and floats up pretending to be dead, but soon the scene becomes one of the creepiest in the damn film, as we see one of the filthy, gigantic mountain men descend into the water in the background and go under… Jonathan dips under the water again and vanishes. Megan, assuming Jonathan is playing around, continues to giggle and call out to him. That’s when a filthy big old pair of hands start groping at her above and under water. She assumes Jonathan is playing around and getting frisky and it is really uncomfortable as these hands slide across her skin, and are most certainly poking ad probing some intimate places just below our field of vision. Soon, Jonathan surfaces and walks out of the water at the shore line and waves at Megan as she is being molested. As expected, she begins screaming and running out of the water. It’s a truly freakish moment brimming with suspense and unease, we know what these nasty backwoods killers are capable off and how perverse their methods of dispatch can be. The terror of the moment is only made right by the sight of Megan’s lovely body running out of the water, sopping wet, nekkid, running and beautiful. The moment was absolutely horrifying, but he coming out of the water surrounded by the lush forest sure makes you contemplate the beauty of nature.

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Now, what blows my mind, is the next time we see these kids they’re dancing all sexy like by fire light RIGHT AFTER THIS INCIDENT! Let me tell you, if my wife or anyone I was comping with came to me hysterically crying about being molested, I’d be loading up the camper and booking it down the side of the mountain. But even Megan seems to have gotten overt her trauma in no time and is clapping her ass cheeks on Daniel the nerd boy’s wang doodle like it’s Spring Break at Panama City Beach. Everyone is gyrating the love bits and shaking their money makes when a three piece family of rednecks (Papa, Mama, and the little singing girl from earlier)  bash the fuck out of their radio, emerge from the darkened woods and are now the THIRD people to warn these kids that they’re going to die.  You kids are “Gonna wake up THE DEVILS!”  Time to load up the camper and head to civilization right?

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Of course, the kids don’t listen, and the next day decide to go messing around in the woods in separate groups which leads to some of the most horrifying and suspenseful shit in the movie, with each murder being set up masterfully and pulled off with maximum suspense, which is not exactly the hallmark of the slasher genre. Nine times out of ten I find myself bored to pieces as someone is walking down a dark corridor, or walking around the woods calling out for a friend. But Just Before Dawn knows exactly what TO show us and what NOT TO show us in order to actually give us that sense of dread, or knowledge that something terrible is occurring. What’s also impressive is that the film doesn’t rely on gore effects to sell it’s shocks and scares, instead leaning on it’s actors to make us feel the fear, the pain, the struggle they’re in, which, again to my amazement, the cast fully delivers. Not only do they create characters we believe and genuinely like, but the film take the time to let the actors deliver what they need to in order to bring the audience with them into the horror they’re going through. Also, the score composed by Brad Fiedel is far eerier than most genre entries ever get and creates a nightmarish atmosphere of solitude and doom.

Jeff Lieberman wrote and directed this lean, mean, fucking slasher film which relies on subtlety, allowing the terror to build, and once the shit hits the fan, doesn’t shy away from laying it on us with harrowing set pieces, nail biting suspense and making us witness to some nasty fates. Lieberman’s a name I never hear mentioned when it comes to cult horror film makers, but the brother directed another fantastic down home horror fest, 1976’s Squirm, the LSD shock fest Blu Sunshine in 1977 and even directed the vastly underrated Halloween horror film, Satan’s Little Helper. Also, looking at his IMDB page, the guy directed a documentary about the mysterious death of boxing legend Sonny Liston and wrote, of all thing, The NeverEnding Story part II… Huh…

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Just Before Dawn is a slasher film that NEEDS to be recognized and HAS to be seen by fans of the genre. It’s a standout among a genre that was just at the beginning of going stale, even as early as 1981. Lieberman and company made a flick that pulls no punches and creates a real nightmare scenario. The killers themselves are a little goofy when you finally get a good look at them, but the actors trying to escape from them do a damn good job of selling their menace, even when the killer’s goofy unibrow and giant beer bellies, do not. The final battle at base camp is fucking astounding and in it’s execution, and in it’s final moments, just before dawn, we see a new dawn and the final transformation. It has to be seen to be believed.

I award Just Before Dawn FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

You have got to see this sucker!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Apr
15

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013) Blood Sacrifice for The Movie God

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a Primal Root written review

It takes a certain breed to be a cinema buff.  I became a believer in the beauty, the appeal and the power of the movies in a near religious manner. Friday nights as a child were spent at the local movie theater (Oak Lakes 6, Miracle 5 or Capital Cinema here in Tallahssee FL, Rest in Peace, my friends) or at one of multiple video rental stores. I learned more about morality, courage, compassion, love and humanity from what I watched on the silver screen and through my VCR than I ever did by going to church and all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is make that one perfect film I have in my head. My masterpiece. My chance to project a story upon that screen and make people laugh, scream, cry and think. In this sense I completely understand where someone like the character of Director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) is coming from in the 2013 Japanese gangster, action, comedy, gore epic Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

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Teenage Director Hirata, along with his closest filmmaking comrades known as The Fuck Bombers,  discover a young Sasaki taking part in a back alley brawl. Hirata instantly dubs Sasaki “The New Bruce Lee,” and gives him Lee’s iconic yellow and black track suit and a pair of nunchaku. The group of dreamers spend their formative years at the local community center watching movies and the rest of their free time shooting backyard movies and incidents they come across on the street.

Meanwhile, young Michiko is the singing and dancing star of a toothpaste commercial and has become an overnight sensation. That is, until her Mother, the wife of Michiko’s Yakuai gang leader Father Taizo, is sent to jail after brutally slaughtering a half dozen enemies who invaded her home while she was slicing up carrots.  Michiko’s Mama is thrown in jail for ten years and the powers that be have Michiko’s ridiculously popular toothpaste ad removed from the air. I’m trying to refrain from spoilers as much as possible here, but Michiko comes home to the aftermath of her Mother’s bloody encounter, ends up lsipping sliding through some blood and comes face to face with the man who was sent to kill her family. It’s both incredibly cute, funny, graphic and sets the rest of the film’s story line in motion. A series of mind boggling coincidence, or is it fate (?), that leads to one of the greatest gangster epics ever filmed.

See, Taizo has sworn to Michiko’s Mother that Michiko is starring in an incredible action film, one that will make her proud of her daughter. But when Taizo realizes it’s all fake, that there is no heart behind the camera, no passion and no vision, he enlists the assistance of the now grown up, but still insanely passionate Hirata and The Fuck Bombers to film the epic battle to the death between these two rival gangs with the young and vicious Michiko as the film’s star. See, The Fuck Bombers never realized their dream of making the ultimate Yakuza action film. They made it as far as a mock trailer for the film they lways dreamed of making, but the dream has gone unfulfilled and the group is beginning to fall apart because of it. But this opportunity to film what promises to be the bloodiest gang battles in history. They have prayed to “The Film Gods” their entire lives, and it now seems that their prayers are answered. Director Hirata and his team tackle the project with a manic kind of glee as they rush about the battle with their eyes glued to their camera as blood, limbs, and heads fly the through the air and splash upon their smiling faces.

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I can honestly say it’s the most heartwarming and joyful bloodbaths I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. Everyone is willing to die for this project. Both gang bosses, their henchmen, Michiko, The Fuck Bombers, just to make this piece of cinema as true and spectacular as they feel it should be. And everything is amazing, that is until the fucking police show up (MPAA Ratings Board/Censorship?) and fuck it all up.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell is ludicrous, completely batshit crazy, brutally, cartoonishly violent and a jubilant celebration for the art of filmmaking. Filmmaker Sion Sono has captured perfectly the exhilaration and exasperation of going after any creative endeavor. There is love here for those who dare to dream and are waiting patiently for their moment to come. for their chance to speak through the cinematic medium. It’s impossible to not feel the excitement as hardened Yakuza gangsters become passionate and exacting about sound recording, as Hirata runs through thick puddles of blood, demanding reshoots as the people he’s making these requests to are actually being sliced to ribbons and as the cameramen redefine the art of “Shooting a Movie.”

There’s plenty of carnage candy in this blood encrusted cinematic odyssey, but there is an unmistakable depth of heart present throughout the proceedings. We genuinely care about life long friend, The Fuck Bombers, and their ambitions of making their movie dreams come true.  We find ourselves fully believing that Michiko’s toothpaste jingle could beguile generations of TV watchers including the rival gang’s leader who has been infatuated with her ever since.  It’s the fact that Why Don’t You Play in Hell and it’s wet, nasty, over the top action is grounded in believable, likeable, three dimensional characters that makes the ride of watching it so goddamn exhilirating. You’ll be cheering all the way to the final frame and even shocked to the point of tears by the fate of many of these characters. At least they all died battling for their art, their honor and their dreams. And this mixture of naive optimism and midnight movie bedlam leaves the viewer not only endeared to such shenanigans, but leaves you thirsty for more.

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For fans of not only Trash Cinema but the art of cinema itself,  Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is a flick you MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN. It will knock you flat on your ass, hose you down with blood, then french kiss you with a mouth full of glass, and when it’s all over, you’ll wipe away the blood and beg to go through it again.  Trust me, it’s THAT fucking good.

I award Why Don’t You Play In Hell? FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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