Posts Tagged ‘nerd

28
Aug
14

Killer Party (1986) or I myself prefer a big, fat, cucumber

killer-party-movie-poster-1986-1020199150

a Primal Root written review

Among the most everlasting and endlessly interesting paradoxes of the horror slasher genre are those rare films that charm your cinematic pants off with their absurdity, their unabashed disregard for the established genre rules and conventions and being totally different from anything else you’ve ever thrown down to watch on a Trash Movie Saturday with The Gang. I’ve always found such films to be thoroughly engrossing simply because I don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect, we’re in the hands of an original thinker, one who says “fuck you,” to the old horror genre guards, “we’re going to tell this story my way!” It’s a bold, strange tactic for approaching a horror sub genre and often delivers something unlike we’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, this approach often plays poorly with the genre die hards, and are typically rejected for being “too weird” and are relegated to the ever growing pile of forgotten and neglected horror oddities.

Enter Canadian made slasher horror lost nugget of pure gold, “Killer Party,” Directed by “Funeral Home” helmer,  William Fruet, and written by Barney Cohen, the visionary who wrote 1984’s perennial fan favorite, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”, “Killer Party” is one of the most off beat offerings of the entire slasher era. To describe it would be a disservice, as the film actually contains some fun moments where the rug ends up being pulled out from underneath the audience, leaving us in a form of exhilarated bafflement as to what the Hell movie we’re actually watching…or resentment and annoyance, if you’re looking for another Friday the 13th clone.  Obviously, these two creative minds knew the well treaded rules of the genre and it’s apparent they had a blast fucking with everything audiences had come to expect from their dead teenager opus.

killer party girls

The main story of “Killer Party” centers on three high school best friends who are starting out on their freshman year of college and are pledging to the same sorority together.  Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes, playing the excited optimist), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch, playing the adorable nerd with a penchant for awesome pranks and excellent special effects), and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson, playing the quiet, shy, somewhat repressed young lady). As luck would have it, their hazing ritual will be taking place in an abandoned Frat house that’s been left to rot since a freshman was decapitated by guillotine when an initiation ritual went murderously haywire. Of course, someone on campus has their nuts twisted in a knot over this, as evidenced by the house mother getting her brains bashed in with an oar and smeared all over the steps of this old, sagging, frat house.

The hazing itself, with a ritual highlight being the girls having raw eggs dumped into their mouths and then spitting the aborted baby chicken goo they catch into sundae glasses, but the fun and games come to an end when shit starts getting all poltergeist. Noises are heard, glasses fling themselves off tables and shatter across the floor, and someone puts a light on a dimmer and turns on a fog machine from the other side of the door down to the basement. Vivia goes to investigate on her own as the other Sorority Girls hold each other and cry. Once the ladies gather up enough courage to check on Vivia, they witness her fastened to a guillotine, where her head is unceremoniously, but efficiently, lopped off and sent rolling down the stairs.

killer party head

Turns out this was all a hand crafter prank by the creative, resourceful and immanently lovable Vivia, who not only managed to scare the living shit out of every woman in the house, but also secure herself and her two best friends, spots at the sorority house of their dreams, which seems to be filled with judgmental uber bitches and I can;t for the life of me figure out WHY they want to be a part of this sisterhood so badly. Never the less, the following evening the Sorority sisters will be throwing a celebratory April Fool’s Day party at the abandoned frat house and will be inviting the boys from their fraternity that likes to prank them by unleashing jars full of angry bees upon them while they’re nekkid in the sorority hot tub.  Now that’s fun!

Several university staff members investigate the frat house on their own and go missing on account of their brutal murders, but thankfully for us, no one notices these folks have vanished into oblivion without a trace and the party can commence. The only person who senses that there might be some spooky shit going on in the crusty, dank, frat house is the lovely,  quiet, Jennifer, who gets the oogie-boogies every time she steps foot into that roach motel. Once the festoonery is displayed, the kegs are tapped, and the costumed revelers arrive, things start getting just a little bizarre. Supernatural shenanigans start going down, subtle at first, but then more apparent, pranks are had, but what are pranks and what are vengeance fueled demonic paranormal phenomena?  As an audience, you’re never quite totally sure what the fuck is going on, even when somebody starts trudging around the house in a turn of the century scuba harness and begins spearing folks with a trident. Is this for real, or some sick and twisted joke? By the end of “Killer Party,” all is made clear, and it might be a bit more disturbing than you expect.

Killer-Party-2

Coming out in the same year as “JASON LIVES!: Friday the 13th Part VI,” Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2”, and the year after  Dan O’ Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead,”  it was apparent that the genre had begun having fun with itself, it’s fans and the conventions of the genre they had created in the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the mid 80’s, there had been so many fucking slasher films that the formula was  practically etched in stone. It seems many filmmakers decided one of the best ways to go about eschewing these predictable traditions was to turn those rules on their heads and have fun with what folks were expecting. In a way, those films became final salutes, the last gasping breathes of a cinematic genre that had all but run it’s course and are now hailed as some of the most beloved cult favorites from that time period.  “Killer Party” is another entry in this select group of offerings from the mid 80’s.

What sets “Killer Party” apart from these other offerings is that our lead protagonists, Vivia, Jennifer and Phoebe are incredibly likable characters. They’re not your run of the mill sex pot, teen dream, centerfold, slasher standbys, in fact, the three girls straight up dorks. All three look and are played as your “girl next door” type, they don’t dress for sex appeal, they dress for warmth and comfort (this thing was filmed in Canada, after all). Not only that, but they are intelligent, headstrong and ridiculously funny, never taking themselves too seriously. If I am being honest, I’d rather hang out with these three ladies than anyone in any other slasher franchise. Seriously, they’re that appealing.  And I gotta give credit to Joanna Johnson’s performance, especially in the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the film. That woman goes for broke and it’s pretty goddamn outstanding. My jaw drops to my popcorn littered floor every time I watch her transformation at the end of this thing.

killerparty4

“Killer Party” doesn’t redefine the genre, or anything and it’s lacking in the gore department and the TnA quotient is pretty low.  Hell, it’s not even all that great of a movie, but what it IS, is a very fun and unpredictable piece of Trash Cinema. Filled with bizarre funeral home mishaps, nekkid young women being chased by furious swarms of killer bees, and impromptu rock and roll zombie dance parties taking place at one of the coolest god damn drive-in’s I’ve ever seen, “Killer Party” is a rare, wonderful oddity. The kind you used to see on the video rental store shelf and take a gamble on. Killer Party never ever makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which may rub many hardcore slasher film fans the wrong way. But for the rest of us willing, able and hungry for something refreshingly bizarre and unique, this is a party worth crashing, Gang.

I’m giving this sucker THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Apr
12

The Innkeepers: Clean Linens and Dead Ends

a Primal Root review

Okay Gang, I’m going to try REAL hard not to spoil anything about “The Innkeepers.” You have my word that spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

I remember hearing of Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” through the horror fan grapevine as a cinematic experience those who watched either loved or hated. I decided to give it a go and became a member of the former category. I loved “The House of the Devil” and felt it’s quirky, patient approach to building suspense and creating a genuine atmosphere of dread was so refreshing it almost felt totally new in a cinematic culture where most films are slashed to ribbons in the editing process and paced to the heart rate of a Starbucks junkie. Sure, this technique is nothing new and was perfected by the likes of Hitchcock and De Palma and Carpenter, but to see a young, fresh out the gates filmmaker like Ti West utilize a form of cinematic story telling that seemed all but forgotten instantly made the young man an artist I wanted to keep tabs on.

Enter, “The Innkeepers”, West’s most recent effort. The story of two slacker employees Claire (Sara Paxton from The Last House on the Left remake) and Luke (Pat Healy from Rescue Dawn) of the very soon to be shut down and demolished Yankee Pedlar Inn, a three story, turn of the century kind of place with awesome wallpaper, hard wood floors and the obligatory legend of a tragic death and enduring haunting therein. As the last two employees on staff at the Yankee Pedlar, Clair and Luke take the opportunity to down some cheap beer and launch a full scale investigation into the legendary haunting of deceased bride-to-be, Madeline O’Malley which Luke claims to have encountered on several occasions.

The duo busts out their recording equipment to try and capture some EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and set the stage for the possibility of a ghostly encounter. And honestly, one gets the impression that these two are investigating more our of sheer boredom than any passionate interest. However, as some curious happenings begin to manifest around Clair and Luke they are advised by one of the only guests they have that weekend, Leanne (Kelly McGillis from Top Gun (!) ) who is a former TV actress turned psychic medium.  She comes to Claire as a friend and offers a possible guide to the spirit world while also offering some well timed significant New Age wisdom and a dark warning…

“The Innkeepers” is one scary mother fucking movie. It finally dawned on me that, really, if there’s one genre of horror sure to really get me rattled it’s the kind that involves hauntings and ghosts. Ghosts are a tricky subject in horror movies because they can be handled improperly like they were in the remake of “Paranormal Activity” (2009) or “Insidious” (2011) where everything is revealed, everything explained and everything is showcased in the light of day and leaves nothing to the imagination. I have always been of the opinion that scariest thing we will ever face is that which we don’t understand and what’s left up to us to imagine. Always, this will be far more frightening than anything a filmmaker and his effects crew could ever create and showcase.

For the majority of “The Innkeepers” we join Claire and Luke in their final, modest,  quest to seek any kind of proof of the supernatural at The Yankee Peddler. We see only what they see, hear what they hear and many times adopt their point of view as the camera track closely behind them keep the frame claustrophobic and tense as the viewer joins them in the investigation. Often there’s nothing but silence or the hum of static piping through headphones as they listen to what they’re recording. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation being drawn in both wanting something to happen and being incredibly fucking nervous as to the when and what might be revealed or heard. It’s a film that realizes we’ve seen this sort of film before and that we are familiar with the beats. “The Innkeepers” defies our expectations and repeatedly scares the shit out of the viewer. They may be jump scares, but they are well earned and serve the purpose of the story at hand.

Not only are the scares and techniques used to deliver them excellent, but so is the cast at hand. Our star player, Sara Paxton gives a very genuine and game performance as the adorable, nerdy slacker, Claire. She finds herself in the center of the storm during the proceedings and manages to play up her distress well and also proves to be quite the comedian to boot. Paxton is imminently watchable and young actress I look forward to seeing more from. Pat Healy as Luke is a great foil to Claire and generates some great laughs with his deadpan, sarcastic performance. Like Paxton, Healy is called upon to both be very believably funny and terrified. The brother pulls it off in spades. Kelly McGillis is fantastic as the resident psychic, Leanne, a once famous TV star with a gift for communicating with the other side. As the films most prominent supporting player she proves believable and essential to the tale and really grounds the film in reality. “The Innkeepers” benefits greatly from her presence.

“The Innkeepers” brings to mind Kubrick’s “The Shining” by way of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks”. It’s the story of two intelligent but unmotivated young adults working a literal dead-end job and floating rudderless. When Clair is asked by Leanne what she does Claire can only respond with an awkward and unsure “I’m kind of between things.” as if she’s never given a single thought to what will be coming next for her.  Claire and Luke are very real and well developed characters that feel like people we know. Hell, what might be even stranger is that these characters might even be many of us, stuck in lame jobs and having resigned ourselves to them with no clue as to how we could ever better our situation.  These characters wonder the silent, ancient halls of The Yankee Peddler looking for the smallest evidence that there is something more there. Evidence that there could be any truth to legend of Madeline O’Malley. It may seem like a futile search to some, pointless even when faced with the crushing reality of oncoming unemployment, but the truth is that some of us might never find anything better than what we’ve got and grown accustomed to. Many find themselves in the exact same trap Claire and Luke find themselves in. Walking the halls of the place they can’t stand in a kind of purgatory.I can think of few things scarier than that.

Well, beside mother fucking ghosts…

The Innkeepers is an intelligent and brilliantly constructed horror film. One that doesn’t spoon feed it’s story or characters to the audience.  The Yankee Peddler itself feels like a character int he film, much in the same way The Overlook Hotel played the same sort of significance in the proceedings of The Shining. Every hall tells a story, every room has witnessed thousands of tales unfold. One can only imagine what frightening memories such a place might have. And this is the ultimate strength if “The Inkeepers”, we are given the ammunition necessary to fill in the blanks and imagine many of the films horrors. Some are blatant and in your face, but “The Innkeepers” is a smart enough film to allow room for mystery, ambiguity and interpretation.  The mark of truly good film is that it trust it’s audience and doesn’t talk down to it. “The Innkeepers” is just such a film.

It’s a slow burn that takes it’s time to build up the suspense and lay on the dread as thick as molasses while dropping in some well timed laughs and plenty of fun, snappy banter.  Ti West knocked it out of the park with this one, yes, “The Innkeepers” is well worth the visit.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

25
Feb
11

My Soul to Take…eh, you can keep it.

A film as inspired as it's poster art...

a Primal Root written review
Man, oh, man, do I remember a time when Wes Craven was the man. When he was the sick hippie sadist who brought us flicks like the brutal rape/revenge classic Last House on the Left and the road-trip mutant fiasco film, The Hills Have Eyes. He created (althoughRobert Englund deserves just as much credit) the most iconic and important boogieman of the last 30 years in hideously scarred, murderous, dreamstalker, Freddy Krueger… He even brought the slasher film back for a post-modern rebirth with the Kevin Williamson-penned Scream franchise. But then something went horribly wrong. Scream 3 sucked. As did his werewolf flick, Cursed…Red Eye was really his last decent film before he went into producer mode and got on board the remake wagon to oversee the re-imaginings of some of his beloved earlier works with varying degrees of success…
And then, in 2010, Wes Craven came back with a new and original horror film in 2010! One that would prove once again why he is considered a Master of Horror! A supernatural horror film about schizophrenia, possession, soul collecting, California Condors, superstition, urban legend, prayer, pregnancy, blow jobs and two male leads who have terrible hair look like they smell even worse. Oh yes, here comes My Soul to Take…IN 3D!!!
As a horror fan I try to defend Wes to the best of my ability. The guy has seriously made some fantastic films, many of which he penned himself. He’s created memorable, timeless horror classics that are still viewed, still entertaining and still discussed today. He once upon a time proved that truly memorable horror didn’t just go after your guts, but after your mind as well. Sure, you can gross people out but if you really want your audience to be thinking about your movie when they go to bed the best place to attack is upstairs where their deepest, darkest fears live.
My Soul to Take was the last straw.
Our film begins with a grizzly killing spree in which a husband and father has the revelation that he is “The Ripper”, a serial killer that’s been going around town gutting folks with his super cool knife he must have ordered from swordsofmight.com. See, this fellow didn’t realize he was “The Ripper” because he’s schizophrenic…*sigh*. He calls his shrink but it’s already too late because he’s already slashed up and killed his pregnant wife. When the police arrive he has stabbed himself multiple time and is about to hack up his tiny daughter when the cops blow him away. But not very well. Because this asshole wakes up for approximately a dozen goddamn jump scares that are far more hilarious than they are shocking. The film’s prologue ends with an ambulance explosion, about five more dead bodies and three critically injured…and the killer somehow crawls off the gurney and is never heard from again…
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER!

Turns out on the night The Ripper was killed SEVEN children were born. That’s right, seven kids in this small community were born on the night The Ripper died. And on their collective birthday these kids go down to the river and perform some kind of passion play where they invoke The Ripper’s spirit and then knock over a puppet…I dunno. The cops show up just as all our stock characters are listed off. Several of them gather behind a fallen log o spend what feels like 20 fucking minutes discussing the myths and urban legend surrounding The Ripper. See, we already know everything that happened. We just saw it at the very beginning of the film. So to hear all these stories surrounding The Ripper is mind numbingly tedious.

What't the blind character looking at over there?

 

We’ve all seen Wes Craven’s magnum opus, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Remember how well Freddy’s back story was handled? It was always kept in the shadows. It was whispered about and the audience learned along with our hero Nancy just who her nemesis was. This added to our interest as an audience and gave the whole film a veil of mystery and suspense. When you show your audience from the outset what the back story of your villain is there’s not much left to reveal. But, then again, we still haven’t gotten to the California Condor/ Soul Collector shit yet…
Once My Soul to Take’s opening gore soaked hilarity comes to an end and our 7 possibly evil teens are introduced the pacing slows down to a snail’s pace. After one teen is dispatched in a relatively well handled murder sequence the film, once again, takes detour into Expositionville, where it spends the majority of its running time. We get a little taste of all 6 (sorry, one dies early on) of these kids’ lives but none of them are developed. Even our lead red herring, Bug, is never clearly defined. We know he makes really cool puppets and costumes, speaks in creepy voices,  likes the blonde girl but is only liked by the red headed uber-christian…I dunno, he’s the lead and I can’t tell you anything more about him than this without revealing any of the twists you’ll guess right from the beginning. Still, I will try to be a gentleman and let you figure it out on your own.
It’s apparent that the creative force behind My Soul to Take has no clear grip on what it is to be a teenager in America.  All the typical Breakfast Club characters are present. The pretty one, the outcast, the nerd, the unbelievably violent jock…with the added bonus of an asian weho has 5 minutes screen time, a blind black kid who has 10 and a very attractive red head fire and brimstone religious fanatic. Do any of these character or their clichéd traits add anything of significance to the story? Are you kidding?! Of course not. They all end up as lunch meat and do little more than walk around uttering mundane, ridiculous dialog that you would never hear come out of a teenager’s mouth.
Our teeny-boppers attend a droll and disturbingly empty high school. Really, the school is gigantic yet the only people we ever see in the halls or out in the courtyard are our key players. There’s no hustle or bustle between classes and even the gigantic hallways remain empty as our teen protagonists trade off meaningless, vapid dialog for endless, yawn educing stretches.
And The Ripper himself (Which is my nickname every time I eat a helping of baked beans) is little more than a dreary, watered down potty mouthed amalgam of Freddy and Horace Pinker dressed up in a zombie Bob Marley costume.  There’s also shades of Ghostface from the Scream franchise because The Ripper can’t just stalk and kill these kids. He has to give them taunting cell phone calls beforehand.

I suppose you can guess the fate of 'Blow-Job Gil' if you examine this photo. The Farter, er, The Ripper comes in from behind! Murder? Or surprise butt sex? See the movie...

Come to think of it, it’s almost as if Wes Craven put a handful of his films (Shocker, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street) in a blender and hit puree.  Hell, there’s even elements from the lesser Nightmare films to be found. Remember that lame plot device Renny Harlin used in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master? The one where Alice absorbed the souls of her friends when they died and she could utilize the one character trait that made them unique (i.e. karate, strength training, um, the power to plug things into outlets and press the power button…) and used those abilities to defeat Freddy in the end? Well, a certain character in My Soul to Take  has the same ability. He’s called the keeper of souls *face palm* only he doesn’t use any of their unique characteristics to defeat The Ripper, I mean what would he use? Blindness? Faith in God? Extreme Bitchiness? Constant Requests for blow jobs? These are not the weapons one needs to defeat a possibly supernatural monster intent on ripping out your lower intestine and using it as a jump rope.
No, this time around the souls help him figure out probability equations…to figure out the identity of the killer. Could it be one of the 7 kids (obviously not that one that dies in the beginning) or is it The Ripper returned from the grave? Or did The Ripper never die? The answer to this question is a lot lamer than you might initially think.
My Soul to Take is  a film chock full of ideas, not good ones, but ideas nonetheless. Craven just can’t seem to find a way to incorporate all of them and leave space to realistically develop his characters or give them understandable motivations and instead just gives them endless scenes where they try and explain to the audience just what in the name of Hell is even happening. I just watched this film and I couldn’t even tell you what the sentiment was. Did Craven have anything to say?  Near the conclusion of the film one characters whines out a line similar to, “People shouldn’t kill eachother all the time!”  Yeah…what a message.

I swear the lead actor is channeling Jesse from A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2 through the entire film. His sister ain't half bad on the left there...

 

Well, My Soul to Take is a hunk of complete crap.  I have to cut this review short because I could go one for another 2,000 words laying out every gripe I have with this flick. And this is coming from a guy who loves Trash Cinema.  Maybe one day I will be able to laugh at this failure, but in the hands of Wes Craven, I expect more. I expect better.

With Scream 4 on the horizon let us all hope Wes Craven can regain some of the edge he once had and bring us something worth our time. I hope Craven can redeem himself. He’s an intelligent and talented man who should know what works in the genre by now. But after watching My Soul to Take, I cannot help but sense a sense of sadness and dread that one of the best  lost his touch. Over a decade ago.

My Soul to Take. Your time to waste.

Stay Trashy,
-The Primal Root




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