Posts Tagged ‘nerds

02
Jul
13

The Burning (1981): Reaping the Summer’s Teeny-Bopper Harvest

burning

a Primal Root written review

Summer Camp is a staple of the American experience. Every kid has either attended summer camp or are at least aware of it’s traditions.  Kids corralled into mildewed cabins, dinners in the mess hall, swimming, canoeing, hiking sticky fingers, awkward hand jobs and of course, huddling around the camp fire to roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories. Among these tales there are few more prolific than that of Cropsy, the maniac that haunts just about every east coast summer camp from Key West, Florida to Bangor, Maine. Seems every camp is stalked by a groundskeeper who was kind of a grumpy bastard before some asshole camp counselors tried to pull a deeply mean spirited prank and ended burning the poor fellow alive and transforming him into something much worse. A blood thirsty, disfigured, vengeance seeking maniac now happy to hack to pieces any camper he happens to lay eyes on.  Sure, it was probably just a story to keep kids from sneaking out of the cabin at night to go one panty raids and smoke reefer, but the urban legend still had that kernel of believability that made you think twice before traipsing off into the woods with your buddies.

I know what you’re thinking, ” ‘The Burning’, huh,  sounds like a horror films based around the debilitating pain of a urinary tract infection.” An educated guess, to be sure, but  in fact it is a cash in on the timeless Cropsy camp fire tale brought  to life as a gore drenched, nudity filled, slasher film  that came out right on the heels of  ‘Friday the 13th’ which had been released the previous year, thus establishing the American Summer Camp as the premiere location for teenage debauchery met with eventual brutal dismemberment.

I'm fine.

I’m fine.

The inciting incident remains the same, jerk kids, bad prank,  immolated groundskeeper, but ‘The Burning’ takes the bold step of giving us the straight story. Just what happened next after Cropsey was incinerated and ran blazing like the Human Torch into Camp Blackfoot’s adjoining river? Well, instead of vanishing into the woods, screaming threats of how he will have his revenge, he is sent to a burn unit at the local hospital where the orderleys, nurses and doctors apparently dare one another to go look at the hideously burned Cropsey lying down helpless within his oxygen tent in the intensive care ward.  But one day, Cropsy has found he’s had enough of this stupid shit, (seriously, is this a hospital or a frat house?) and scares the ever loving shit out of a nurse by grabbing the the guy’s arm and squeezing the ever loving shit out of it. This proves three things: 1) Burn victim’s skin often resemble a well worn gob of Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum that’s been stuck to the sole of your sneaker for a day or two and 2) Cropsy is one strong and determined mother fucking mother fucker. and 3) The producers must have realized they made a movie with more crackers in it than Nabisco so they may as well film a scene featuring a black actor.

This is Cropsy for Lubriderm...

This is Cropsy for Lubriderm…

Five years later Cropsy’s is told the skin grafts just aren’t taking and that he needs to hit the streets and find some work ’cause there’s nothing else the hospital can do for him. First things first, Crops goes out, gets himself a prostitute who looks suspiciously like a haggard middle school English teacher, and promptly stabs her to death with a pair of scissors while pushing her out of her bedroom window. However, Cropsy doesn’t allow the woman’s savagely penetrated, still warm corpse go sailing out the window,  he actually pulls her back into her newly vacant apartment because, after all, Cropsy is a gentleman.

No one smolders like that Jason Alexander.! Watch out, ladies...

No one smolders like that Jason Alexander.! Watch out, ladies…

But before you can say ‘What the fuck did that murder have to do with anything?” we are whisked away to Camp Stonewater for a braless/pants optional all female softball game, and let me tell you, it is spectacular! We are treated to Sally (Carrick Glenn) running in slow motion, braless in a tight yellow shirt with pronounced erect nipples and then we join teenage dirt bag Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) and the shockingly studly goofball, Dave (played by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame, and his full head of hair!) as they stare at a scantly clad female butt covering one of the bases. What? This ass has a human face? *please, please, please, sense the sarcasm* Yes it does! It belongs to Karen (Carolyn Houlihan). the rail thin, dark haired camp counselor with a chin to rival Bruce Campbell’s. So, these four are established. The ladies have ample female anatomy intact and have all motor functions at their disposal and the fellas are sex crazed drool cups.  Feel dirty yet? Eh, you probably shouldn’t. These “kids” are all in their twenties.

The Burning and The Case Against Bras

The Burning and The Case Against Bras

And guess who is just chilling out in the forest surrounding the non existent softball field? WHY IT’S OUR CROPSY! Just hanging out with a giant pair of gardening sheers  and stalking blossoming young campers who happen to wonder off looking for foul balls.  Speaking of foul balls, we are soon introduced to the film’s central loser, Alfred (Brian Packer), a man who sweats constantly, runs like an orangutang and is introduced to us by way of peeping on the lovely young Sally as she takes a shower framed from a low medium angle to be sure and capture he boobs in the shot. Oh yes, this is trash cinema at it’s finest, folks!

Burning 22

Calvin Klein’s Objectification: For Women

Anyhoo, Albert complains about…well, pretty much everything and proves to be one of the most unlikable and annoying characters in slasher cinema history. Hell, or in ALL of cinema history, for that matter.  And this kid ends up being our final guy! We are asked to root for this mouth breathing, sweat caked, whiner after many of his infinitely more likable peers have been hacked, chopped, snipped and stabbed into B-movie oblivion! sometimes the movie life’s just not fair.

Also in the victim pool is the muscle heavy, light on brains Cro-Magnun, Glazier who talks like one of Tony’s boys from The Sopranos, and is constantly stalking Sally in the hopes of blowing his dick snot cannon into her love canyon. Watching them interact is painfully awkward and somewhat honest. We’ve all known guys like this, we’ve seen them try to operate on girls like Sally who are starved for attention but just not ready to be pawed and groped by a a sweaty, brain dead muscle headed guy in a sleeveless sweater and nothing to lose.

The name's Glazer, as in Glaze Her Doughnut! Get it? High five, bro!

The name’s Glazer, as in Glaze Her Doughnut! Get it? High five, bro!

Then there are our two stoic and heroic camp counselors, Todd (Brian Mathews) and Michelle (Leah Ayers) who lead a pack of older campers on a camping trip to Devil’s Island and to their deaths. Todd and Michelle and impossibly attractive people who look every bit like a live action version of Backwoods Survival Barbie and Ken as they run to and fro, getting covered in dirt and blood (some theirs, some others) and never looking any worse for wear. Even at the grimiest, I still wouldn’t mind seeing them naked. Seriously, these are some good looking people. Hell, Todd was on The Young and the Restless for, what two years? He’s basically a living, breathing, mannequin.

At the half way point of the film, ‘The Burning’ brings out it’s big guns in the sequence the film is best known for,. That’s right, we’re talking raft red stuff redecoration. As a small group of campers try to make their way back to the main camp from Devil’s Island on a make shift raft, they spot one of their lost chaos and paddle over to reclaim. However, once they get over to the vessel, Cropsy stands straight up in the canoe, shears held high over his head and proceeds to kill every single person on the raft, cutting off limbs, impaling folks, and splitting skulls open. It;s quick scene, but pretty damn memorable. If not just for the carnage, certainly for Cropsy’s display of supernatural balance. I defy anyone to stand straight up in a canoe with your hands above your head while clutching giant garden shears, kill a half dozen children, and NOT fall out of that damn canoe. It just strikes me as highly unlikely. Let’s just say, I can’t see Jason Voorhees pulling off the same feat.

Shears looking at you, kids!

Shears looking at you, kids!

At first glance ‘TheBurning’ looks to be a typical slasher movie carbon copy, but upon closer inspection and when given half a chance, ‘The Burning’ features several aspects that set it apart from it’s contemporary. For one, the cast of actors in this thing are actually pretty damn good at their jobs portraying young, goofy teenagers with good times and sex on their brains. Many of these actors went on to have pretty impressive careers in the entertainment industry, while others, vanished into B-movie oblivion. Not only is everyone pretty damn convincing in their roles,  many of the characters are actually *gasp* likeable! Many of these kids come off as cool, funny, reasonable folks. Sure, there are some jerks in the bunch, but that’s to be expected. There’s a pretty big batch of normal, everyday geeky kids that endear themselves to audience to the point you feel almost bad watching them get their faces scissored open and their fingers sheered off.

Fingering on Devil's Island can be MURDER!

Fingering on Devil’s Island can be MURDER!

Also, the portrayal of sex and romantic relationships are portrayed unlike your usual slasher film. you watch any Friday the 13th film and usual sex scene shows teenagers fucking and it’s the greatest thing ever. The guy and gal bump them uglies together and it’s ecstasy!  Wailing and riding and running their hands through their hair and cumming simultaneously and both get chopped into coleslaw by a masked maniac completely satisfied.  ‘The Burning’ takes this trope and gives it a fresh, nasty does of typical teenage sex session reality.  One couples skinny dip ends with the fella telling her to “get the fuck out of his face” when she refuses to let his tadpole ride her river rapids and yet another couple actually go sleeping bag poking and it’s among the most awkward sex scenes I’ve ever sat through. The fella is on top, groaning and lurching with frustration as the young woman stares upwards with pain and discomfort in her eyes before the guy cums super quickly and goes limp. The cherry on the top of this disappointment sundae? She asks, “Is that it?”  Yeah, not the most glorious sex scene ever films. However, we do get to witness our senior camp counselors, Todd and Michelle as they court one another, stroll through the woods, talk, embrace, and simply enjoy one another’s company which looks to be far more rewarding than either of the other full representations of sex featured in ‘The Burning’.  After years of having my mind shaped by the stereotypical glamorous cinematic sex scene, watching it portrayed this way was probably the most shocking and disturbing aspect of the entire damn movie.

"Let's go talk about our superior relationship."

“Let’s go talk about our superior relationship.”

But i do have one major gripe.  For me, the film is basically botched by a fucking horrendously hacked together ending that has to be scene to be believed. It looks like the filmmakers just didn’t have enough coverage for the ending so they tried in vain the cut something together that looked right. Unfortunately, it’s a fiasco. Probably the most painful moment is when Todd is supposed to stumble upon the corpse of one of his friends and fellow campers. The body is actually a still frame from earlier in the film and is cropped out and apparently floating in space when he finds her and gasps. She is supposed to be in a closet but you can actually make out tree branches and leaves around her from the still frame shot that they couldn’t crop out.  and this is just the tip of the hack job iceberg. It’s got to be seen to be believed. This ending makes the filmmakers look totally inept and it’s a little disheartening.  It’s kind of sad too, because otherwise it’s a pretty solid little summer slasher flick.

Let's play "Roast the Marshmallow", cracker!

Let’s play “Roast the Marshmallow”, cracker!

‘The Burning’ is a damn good entry in the summer camp slasher sweepstakes and one that deserves a bit more notoriety than it gets. coming out so soon after ‘Friday the 13th’ got the poor flick labeled as a cash-in on that film’s success even as the Weinstein Brothers insist that they wrote ‘The Burning’ a couple years before ‘Friday the 13th’ was released.  But now, what does it matter. ‘The Burning’ delivers the goods when it comes to the Blood, Breasts and Beasts and is a highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience if you’re into trashy slasher flicks. Despite it’s flaws, ‘The Burning’ is well worth checking out.

Three and a Half out of Five 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




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