Posts Tagged ‘New York

09
Jan
16

Frankenhooker (1990): Let me just find my wallet…

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“WANNA DATE? LOOKIN’ FOR SOME ACTION? NEED SOME COMPANY?” – Patty Mullen, Frankenhooker

a Primal Root written review

My deep abiding admiration of filmmaker and exploitation cinema connoisseur, Frank Henenlotter, cannot be overstated. The man has created some of the of the most endearing, disgusting, weird and darkly hilarious films to ever grace a grind house screen.  I’ve done a Rotten Review of 1982’s Basket Case, Henenlotter’s incredible debut feature, I’ve written up a review for his masterpiece, 1988’s Brain Damage, so today I would like to discuss the maestro’s beautiful, heartfelt tale of sluts and bolts, 1990’s Frankenhooker . 

Frankenhooker tells the intimate love story of Jersey Electrician and part time mad scientist,  Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) and his “girthy” bride to be Elizabeth (the gorgeous and talented Patty Mullen). We meet this lovely young couple on her Father’s birthday, JEffrey surprises his soon to be Father-in-law with a remote control lawnmower. Tragically, in the process if demonstrating the new remote controlled lawnmowers functionality, Elizabeth manages to run herself over with the machine splattering herself all over the garden gnomes and leading to one of the greatest local news segments ever created. I’ll go ahead and treat you to my favorite quote:

“In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad, a salad that police are still trying to gather up, a salad that was once named Elizabeth.”

And this is before the opening credits even begin! We find Jefferey sometime later in a state of deep depression, cutting himself off from the world and planning to revive his fiancee whose head he managed to save in an upright freezer filled with a special estrogen based elixir he’s created that keeps her deceased head perfectly preserved, maintaining it;s freshness until he can find just the right body donor.

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A quick trip to New York city and a meeting with a pimp named Zorro lands Jeffrey right in the middle of prostitute nirvana where he hopes to cultivate all his raw material. Jeffery dreams up a master plan to put hookers down using a form of “Super Crack” he himself has created for this moment. After and hour of measuring all the sleazy, adorable hookers, Jeffry has a crisis of conscience and decides he can’t go through with it. Thankfully, as hookers are drawn to crack like kittens to catnip, the hookers steal his stash, start puffing away and find out first hand the affects of Super Crack are anything but painless as they all being to explode, one after the other, into a perfect storm of meaty, bloody, hooker chunks which litter the crusty motel room.

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In the aftermath of this carnage, Jeffry picks and pulls his favorite parts from those strewn about the room, takes them back to his garage and assembles Elizabeth’s brand new body, consisting of several different skin tones and body sizes. One properly placed bolt of lightning and Elizabeth is resurrected…only thing is, she has the spirit of the dead hookers and their mannerisms alive inside her reanimated body.  Like a reflex action, Elizabeth now blurts out “WANNA DATE? LOOKING FOR SOME ACTION? GOT CASH?” to every man she comes across. Immediately drawn tot he dark back alley’s of New York City, Frankenhooker goes on a carnal rampage of lust and death! That is, before she comes across grieving pimp, Zorro, who begins putting the pieces together which leads to one of the wildest, slimiest, whoreiest fucking finales to ever grace the silver screen.

I wouldn’t say Frankenhooker is Henenlotter’s best film, but I will say that it is by far and away his most unabashedly absurd and most fun. Frankenhooker is an A-1 slice of Trash Cinema Gold and an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s low brow, hysterically funny and unendingly creative in a extraordinarily dark and appealing way. Also, I cannot discuss this film without mentioning the show stealing performance of Penthouse Pet of the Year 1988, Ms. Patty Mullen. She turns in a remarkable, spastic, dare I say BRILLIANT performance as Elizabeth/Frankenhooker. Decked out in enormous platform shoes, a purple skirt, bra, and matching handbag, watching Frankenhooker awkwardly walk around the grimy back streets of New York, subways and seedy motels are the film’s highlights. Ms. Mullen is stunningly beautiful, genuinely talented and gives it everything she’s got in, what is now, her most iconic role. Patty Mullen, in this filthy grovelers heart, you will always be Frankenhooker. And, yes, I am looking for some action.

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Also, the totally fucking bonkers execution of the Super Crack Hooker Massacre sequence is a high watermark in down and dirty horror comedy filmmaking. These girls, when confronted with a huge bag of crack, go totally insane. Screaming, laughing, shaking, stripping naked and slipping each other the tongue, it’s all one fucking radical party…that is until they start exploding in huge fireballs, spewing sparks and hunks of meat all over the place. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch Frankenhooker, this scene has me in tears every time. It’s a goddamn riot and must be seen to be believed. Truly one of the finest moments in 1990’s cinema history.

Frankenhooker. It’s a simple tale told on a very low budget and caked in filth, just like I like ’em. It is grotesque, nasty, and completely unapologetic in it’s presentation of it’s absolutely demented material.  Still, at it;s very core, Frankenhooker is a love story about a man trying to bring his lost love back from the dead. Sure, the guy is kind of a brilliant moron, but his heart is in the right place just like the film itself. The film manages to generate a kind of sweetness that very few films pertaining to the subject matter of running over a woman with lawnmowers and then exploding prostitutes in order to stitch all their remains together and bring back your lover ever have. Frankenhooker is a down and dirty flick, obviously made for next to nothing, but delivers some massive entertainment.

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Frankenhooker, the sum of it’s parts make it well worth taking to bed with you. Just remember to, you know…wrap it up.

I award Frankenhooker 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

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a Primal Root written review

Sam Elliott and Peter Weller are my guys. I’ll see just about anything featuring either of these two actors due to their excellent body of work , both Trashy and Embraced by the Masses. Come on, Elliott’s the main reason to visit Swayze’s “Road House” (1989), not to mention his turn as the enigmatic Stranger in the seldom seen lost classic, “The Big Lebowski (1998)  and Peter Weller’s filmography is basically a who’s who of sci-fi cult cinema, from Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 action  masterpiece, “Robocop” to 1984’s bomb-come-cult flick, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”  And, as we all know, when two legends cross paths, one must always pay strict attention.

To my own shock and amazement, “Shakedown,” a film featuring two icons of cinematic strangeness, and strange plot that takes your from the heights of wacky action to the morose happenings of a court room drama and every imaginable place between, is not heralded as I had originally imagined upon hearing of it’s existence. I am hoping to correct that issue with this review.

Shakedown takes place on the tough, unforgiving streets of New York City and it’s tough, unforgiving courtrooms. It’s a tale of police corruption, murder and badass action sequences. The film begins with a big time drug dealer having to defend his life from a crazed cracker who shows up, asks for a fix, then pulls a gun on him. The cracker ends up dead as rat shit while our drug dealer, Michael (Richard Brooks), ends up wounded and on trial for the murder of a cop who never identified himself and was obviously looking to steal the gentleman’s crops and money. Thankfully, we see Michael press the REC button on his ghetto blaster, but the film forgets all about that until the last act of the movie once it becomes a life or death situation.

Thankfully for Michael the drug dealer, he has two of the coolest mother fuckers ever to live in New York City on his side. We’re talking public defender and avid Jimi Hendrix fan,  Roland Dalton (Peter “Don’t Call Me Buckaroo” Weller) and grimy, greased up, 42nd street undercover cop, Richie Marks (Sam Elliot, as grizzled and awesome as ever.)  Upon hearing of the case, Roland swoops down to defend Michael against the Good Old Boys club of the NYPD who are more than willing to make people disappear in order to cover up their own crimes and deceptions. The thing Roland doesn’t realize is that he will be facing down his old flame, Susan Cantrell, (Patricia Charbonneau) the new District Attorney in this murder case. And wouldn’t you know it, this is all happening on the eve of Roland’s marriage to the young and wholly unlikable Gail Feinberger (Blanche Baker) whose Father just so happens to head the biggest law firm in the city, which means Roland will become a partner and spend his life defending the rich and powerful and making sure those with the money get to keep it. Thankfully, this recent case, plus late night discussions with his district attorney ex-girlfriend, who acts as a cock riding Jiminy Cricket, has led to Roland’s reevaluation of the whole situation. Does he want to continue taking on cases for those who are innocent of any wrong doing but society wants them punished anyway, or to live a life with a woman who scolds him for listening to rock and roll too load in the morning while blending home made Orange Julius’s and wiping the asses of spoiled, rich old geezers? Decisions, decisions…

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To help uncover any evidence pertaining to the case and delve into the police corruption itself, Roland meets up with his old pal, undercover cop, Richie in the shit stained, syringe covered restroom of a dilapidated 42nd Street grindhouse. Over a few drinks in one of New York’s many watering holes, the two decide to team up and put the hurt of the NYPD’s most crooked cops, when Michael’s case and hopefully put away some scumbag pigs in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the law and order proceedings that take place in the court room and are discussed in between the opposing legal team’s fuck sessions are really interesting, but the real stars of “Shakedown” are the go for broke, mind blowing, action sequences scattered throughout the film to keep you from being too mellow. While Roland is either defending or banging, Richie is chasing and beating the snot out of New York’s nastiest criminals and cops on his quest for the truth. The man is willing to use 42nd Street theater neon lights as means to leap onto the top of moving busses while opening fire on suspects! The guy chases a man onto a carnival roller coaster before starting it up and ensuring the car derails thereby sending the criminal soaring to his hysterical death! And, in probably, the greatest action sequence I have ever witnessed, Sam Elliot, as Richie, with the aid of Roland and his Porsche, manages to chase down a private jet. climb onto the jet’s landing gear as it takes off, ride that landing gear to a height where the roof of the World Trade Tower’s are visible; toss a grenade inside and then leap into the ocean before the plane lands and explodes. Yes, Richie survives with no damage worse than a wet pair of Levi’s.

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It’s that combination of serious, intelligent courtroom drama and Gonzo, batshit crazy action that really makes 1988’s “Shakedown” possibly one of the strangest yet endlessly entertaining action films of the 1980’s. A lot of the appeal is derived from watching the film’s two leading men bring the big bad guys to justice as well as watching Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, two very likable cult actors, pal around and makes jokes with one another. These gentlemen never ascended to the pantheon of great action stars like Arnold, Sly and Bruce. No, Peter has become more well known a a science fiction character actor and Sam, outside of The Big Lebowski, is a bit more recognized as a western cinema staple. But here, watching the two unlikely actors turned action stars, one cannot help but marvel as they spray gun fire, make death defying leaps from buildings and spout witty retorts and villains burn to death. It’s like watching the high school A.V. geek and the guy in shop class who never bathes joining forces to crack down on high school crime. To put it bluntly, it’s a mother fucking hoot to behold.

Also, another highlight of the film for me, is that “Shakedown” features New York’s 42nd Street RIGHT before gentrification took hold, the theaters were dismantled, and the strip steadily became home to Disney stores and McDonald’s and attracted more tourists than locals. It’s a final swan song to what was once a sleazy, filthy, dangerous playground, A place of legend that is no more. Watching some good goddamn action sequences explode across this neon sodom is quite a spectacle to behold, but also a lovingly rendered final look at a place that now only exists in memory and cinema.

“Shakedown” is a one of a kind action film. Feeling like Law and Order by way of Robert Rodriguez and Michael Bay’s love child, “Shakedown” mixes together ingredients that should by no means make a tasty concoction, but manages to deliver something unique, exciting, fun and shockingly entertaining. You will be pulled in by the human drama and then blown out of your seat with astonishment and laughter as one rock ’em sock ’em action scene after another pummels you over the head with it’s bizarre and warped sense of reality. My friends, “Shakedown” must truly be seen to be believed.

“Shakedown” will shake your beliefs in action cinema to the ground. Watch it brace yourself for an awakening and an injection of pure, undiluted Trash.

I give “Shakedown” THREE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Jan
14

Ms. 45 (1981): Vengeance be a Lady or Bullets Over Ballsack

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a Primal Root written review

In the late 70’s and early 80’s horror and exploitation cinema saw a rise in the popularity of the “rape/revenge” sub-genre. In a film of this nature, a woman or man is raped and violated followed by the person violated, or someone close to them, going on a roaring rampage of blood soaked revenge against those who have so violently attacked them or those they love.  Movies like “I Spit on your Grave”,  “Deliverance”, “Last House on the Left”, “Straw Dogs” and countless others were all part of this trend towards vigilante revenge fantasy films, where innocence is raped and the victim must seek their vengeance.  My own idea why this sort of sub-genre sprung up and became so popular were the crime statistics of the time and the general unease in society that the system, and those sworn to protect us, weren’t up to the task and that the only way for us to survive was to take matters into our own hands. The rape/revenge film taps into that deep, dark, fantasy where the victim gets the last laugh against the low lives who savaged them.  In most cases there is a clear line between good and evil and the vengeance is always righteous and well justified in the viewers eye. This evil redneck sodomized this young woman for an hour, so she cuts his dick off and lets him bleed to death in her lovely Airbnb log cabin rentals art deco bathroom. You get to cheer on these folks as they fight fire with fire and watch with glee as the wicked are punished.  It’s a very base, primal formula and story.

Enter Abel Ferrara’s 1981 “Ms. 45″ (aka: Angel of Vengeance”), the story of Thana, a young, mute seamstress working for an up and coming fashion designer and living in New York City where there just so happens to be a constant single file line of sleazeballs and scum bags garnishing the streets, ogling women, and serenading them with wolf whistles and cat calls as they walk by. We get to experience this uncomfortable, sexist deluge through the female POV came of those unlucky ladies having to ignore and endure this harassment and MAN is it effective.  As Thana makes her way home from work she is accosted and raped at gun point in broad daylight down an alleyway by a man in a Halloween mask. Before departing, the man threatens that he’ll be back before booking it off into the sunset and surely haunting Thana’s every waking moment for the rest of her life. And in one terrifying moment, actually does appear as a nightmarish phantom hallucination to Thana as she tries to undress and take a shower after the attack.

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Thana, in shock, makes her way back to her apartment only to find a burglar has broken in and is waiting for her. Again, she is raped at gunpoint…but this time she strikes back and bashes her assailant’s skull in with an iron. As she begins disposing of attackers dead body, which she has sawed into several pieces and begun depositing all over New York City wrapped in shopping bags, she’s chased on foot by a young man that has mistaken one of these bags as something she accidentally dropped and is trying to give back to her. For his trouble, Thana shoots this poor sucker in the face.

Before you know it, Thana is a woman on a mission. As she gains confidence and a thirst for vengeance she transforms from a mousy young woman to a deadly black widow. Dressing more provocatively, wearing makeup and pulling her hair back, Thana takes to the night time streets of New York to murder as many abusive, rapey, evil men as she can find. She ends up blowing away a pimp seen beating a hooker, a gang of would be rapists and a man in a limousine who tries to offer her cash for sex. It’s a blast watching Thana take out these sleazy, violent cocksmiths. One can clearly see how Thana perceives these men as threats  and you cannot help but cheer as she delivers hot, blood spattering, genital mutilating vengeance from the barrel of her gun. I must admit a certain feeling of satisfaction witnessing this carnage.

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But “Ms. 45”  is a more complex film than your typical black and white, Good vs. Evil rape/revenge film.  “Ms.45” exists in a more realistic world painted in varying shades of grey.  Thana pursues the advances of a creepy, aggressive photographer. The man comes on to her in a restaurant, follows her down the sidewalk yapping her ear off until she agrees to go to his studio. Once there, she guns this guy down in cold blood. The man was obviously a creeper, treated Thana as subhuman, another conquest to stick his teeny weenie in, but did the slimy bastard deserve to die? He never actually succeeded in harming Thana or actually proved he had any intention to.  He was gross, nasty and aggressive…but he never actually hurt anyone during his time on screen.  As a viewer, I sure as shit didn’t want to spend any time with this guy, but did he earn the bullet riddled dose of death he received?

For Thana, it steadily grows from a quest for vengeance to a gender specific killing spree as she begins targeting anyone with the offending genitals. she stalks down a young, Asian man who she eyed making out with his girlfriend. The man was just kissing the woman he is attracted to and it’s completely mutual! No force, no rape, but Thana no longer seems capable of  discerning what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and in her bloody quest for revenge has found herself becoming a monster herself.

“Ms. 45” reaches it’s climax at her fashion designer bosses’ Halloween party. Thana dresses up as a nun, attends the party as her bosses’ date, and packs some heat below her garter. In a chilling, horrifying, slow motion finale Thana opens fire on every man at the Halloween party. The crowd screams, begins panicking and trying to escape the barrage of gun fire.  This woman we were once rooting for has blurred the line so completely between good and evil that she is willing to kill any man at all because she sees every man as a threat. It isn’t until a friend of Thana’s,  one of her female co-workers, grabs a butcher knife, sneaks up behind Thana holding the blade at crotch level, making the phallic symbolism unmistakable, and then plunges it into Thana’s back, that the killing finally stops. Thana turns, her eyes widen in shock as she realizes it was a fellow woman who has killed her, sliding the phallic knife into her. The mute Thana then whispers her one and only line, her dying word, “sister” and falls to the ground dead.

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Abel Farrara created one of the most unique, disturbing and thought provoking films in this sub-genre of horror, and incidentally, one of the more interesting of the 1980’s. The film seeks to bring the idea of blind vengeance into the discussion of rape and revenge. When does  revenge simply start becoming mindless killing? Is it ever justified? When does the hero become the villain? These are questions few films within this sub-genre take the time to ask . In “Ms. 45” we are given plenty of time and opportunity to meditate on just what has happened to Thana, where Thana finds herself at the end of the movie, and the mechanics of our own reaction to the steps in her journey from victim, to vigilante to victimizer.  This very well might be why “Ms. 45” is so effective, so chilling and so infinitely open for debate and discussion.

Thana is a voiceless woman in a city overrun with outspoken, sexually aggressive men. Once irrevocably turned into a victim she finds an artificial voice in violence, in the firing of her gun and the killing of others. She cannot scream for anyone to stop, but her gun has the power to scream and stop her tormentors.  It isn’t until the end, when she is stabbed to death by another woman, that she finds her true voice, and in my opinion, opens her eyes to the horror of what she has begun. She is no longer an angel of vengeance but a demon of destruction. By the evil of others, she herself, has become an evil doer.

Of course, this is just The Primal Root’s take on the movie. I would love for you to check it out sometime and share your thoughts on the “Ms. 45” and just what you took away from this flick.

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Also, let me just say Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who played Thana, is remarkable. with only one line of dialogue in the course of the film, Zoë manages to make Thana into a fully fleshed out,  believable, human character.  Zoë was one remarkable, creative talent and a natural beauty with screen presence to spare. She even went on to co-write Abel Ferrara’s notorious “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel.   Sadly, Zoë was a long time heroin addict and died of drug related heart failure in 1999. she was 37 years old.  For more on Zoë I highly recommend http://www.zoelund.com/ which is run by Robert Lund.

I forgot to mention, there is also a subplot featuring Thana’s obnoxious landlady and her yapping mutt. At one point Thana takes her land ladies’ dog for a walk intent on killing it. She ties the dog to a pole, and draws her gun ofn the cornered mutt. We never see Thana kill the pooch but it’s assumed that she did only to have the poor little guy return home right before the credits roll. It’s an interesting note to end the movie on, that Thana so easily can kill a man, ANY man, before she could kill a dog.

Certainly not a feel good movie, and surely as shit, it ain’t for everyone, “Ms. 45” is an excellent piece of exploitation, horror, Trash Cinema. It’s well worth checking out and deserving of it’s Cult Classic status.  I’m giving “Ms. 45” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

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a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

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Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

08
Mar
12

Necropolis (1987): Of Satan, Flattops and Eyeliner

a Primal Root written review

Before we get started, a big THANK YOU to my buddy Aslan for letting me borrow his VHS copy of this sucker. My eyes are open!

The evil ’80s, huh? The golden age of the yuppie, trickle down economics, Marty McFly, and satanic cults. Remember back to the early days of the 1980s when there was a nationwide rumor that grew to a near-hysterical panic over the stories that satanic cults were roaming the countryside looking for infants, valley girls and grandparents to sacrifice in the name of their dark master? Believe it or not, as people were rocking out to Bananrama and Soft Cell they were also all nervous about getting tied to an alter and being slit open to appease someone’s religious figure. All of this panic seemed to stem from the popularity and publicity generated by “Michelle Remembers”, an autobiography that documents a woman’s recollections under hypnosis of being forced to attend rituals performed by “The Church of Satan” back in the ’50s. An entertaining read, sure, but it was also a load of bullshit. No one was being abducted for the purpose of human sacrifice, especially not in the “ME” decade. Official investigations into the phenomenon turned up nothing and everyone in the U.S. seemed to move on when the ’90s rolled in. Well…most of us got over it…http://freewestmemphis3.org/

Still, this couldn’t stop every filmmaker on the block from exploiting the decade’s unbridled fear of falling victim to satanism! Enter “NECROPOLIS”, the bargain-basement tale of a 300 year old, metal head, Satan worshiping, motorcycle riding witch from New Amsterdam by the name of Eva (LeeAnne Baker of “Riot on 42nd Street” and “Psychos in Love” fame)! This lady roams the seedy back alleys of ’80s New York searching for a virgin sacrifice in order to keep her youth, but not before resurrecting her cult members by draining the life force of “young” recovering junkies at a local halfway house and bursting out into random interpretive dance numbers in front of papier-mâché martian masks in back of crummy New York jewelry shops. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of the film…

Our film opens in the late 1800s where two separate ceremonies are taking place simultaneously. There is a goofy looking young couple joining together in that holy union of marriage while our above-mentioned satanist witch is doing some kind of Jazzercise witchey Satan routine at the altar of her cobwebby, Hot Topic-esque lair which looks more suited to a performance on Head Banger’s Ball than it does to any kind of religious worship. Then again, what do I know, I’m not a satanist.

Before you can say “nauseatingly choppy cross-cutting” the bride has her throat slit, people cry and we fast forward to present day (1986) New York, New York where our witchy woman, Eva, now resides with her bleached blonde flattop, long red nails and more eyeliner than was used on all four Pirates of the Caribbean films combined. Really, it’s as if the top half of her head is painted black. I’m sure it’s a statement.

There are two subplots for the audience to chew on here. The first involves a priest running this sort of halfway house for wayward teens (all played by actors pushing 40) overcoming drug addictions, running away from broken homes or trying to give up spreading tail for money. He’s obviously not cut out for the job as just about everyone in his care ends up alone and being murdered by Eva who sucks out the murdered “teens'” souls and spews them forth in the form of ectoplasm from her six breasts (!!!) as she feeds her zombie cultist brethren back to life. Let me tell you, the feeding scene alone is worth the price of your time to sit through this sucker.

Our second plot involves the reincarnated married couple from the opening of the film. One is a crass, dimwitted Brooklyn detective who goes by the name “Billy” (Michael Conte) and the other is a red headed British journalist with grey teeth named Dawn (Jacquie Fitz). They meet and begin flirting at the scene of a halfway house homicide. Their eyes meet over the cold, bloody corpse of one of the local “youths” and they have an immediate connection. It’s like they’ve met before! They decide to get something to eat, because nothing perks up the appetite like crying preachers and dead children, and begin their whirlwind romance as star crossed, unappealing lovers!

The plot, obviously, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny but the film’s overriding cheap goofiness almost makes up for the lack of a coherent story or any method behind, or in front of, the camera. This is the single directing credit for writer/filmmaker Bruce Hickey and it’s kind of a shame. There are few filmmakers alive who make trash cinema with such purity! This thing is astonishingly bad from beginning to end and I love Necropolis for its commitment to being the strangest, most ridiculous movie it can possibly be. So, to Bruce, his cast and crew, we at The Trash Cinema Collective salute you for your strange little contribution to sleazy satanic horror cinema! Let’s face it, your movie is peerless.

The one thing I came away with from “Necropolis” (which, by the way, doesn’t feature a single cemetery), is that Satanists seem like they just want to have fun! Motorcycles, impromptu dance numbers, three times the normal amount of boobage, and dressing up like a Lady GaGa wannabe? Now that’s a woman I want to party with! Not everyday you meet a woman who excretes ectoplasm from her nipples. Is it wrong that I can’t help but imagine what breast ectoplasm tastes like? I like to think it tastes something like Hi-C’s Ecto-Cooler…

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Aug
10

Friday the 13th part VIII: Jason Takes a Boat Ride

a Primal Root review

Space is a giant vacuum of suck for any slasher franchise to deal with. It’s the fish out of water scenario that doesn’t work for characters so deeply rooted in their mythology.  Jason Voorhees never stood a chance in space because no one takes the guy seriously. Now Manhattan circa 1989? How in the world could this forest dwelling zombified mentally ill-equiped boogieman make it on his own in the Big Apple? Believe it or not, surprisingly well…that is, when he FINALLY arrives.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was the final Friday the 13th film produced by Paramount Pictures. The series had an excellent 8 entry run that proved remarkably profitable for the company who kind of viewed the franchise as an (albeit profitable) black sheep. By the end of the 80’s creative teams kept trying to come up with new gimmicks that would make Jason and his exploits interesting again. Part VI: Jason Lives added a bit of a humor element, PArt VII: The New Blood added and telekinetic teenage spaz girl to battle Jason…what else could they try? Why not a trip to Manhattan?

Honestly, the idea is a winning one. How awesome would it be if the film really was just Jason stomping around Manhattan’s seedy, dark alleyways splattering thugs and punks all over the pavement. Shoving hot dog vedors into their carts and rolling them down the stairs. Crashing the stock exchange and hacking away at day traders. Throwing some schmuck off the top of the empire state building…really, the possibilities are endless.

Even Jason thinks gentrification sucks.

Sadly, the major detractor of the film was the fact they don’t get to the Taking of Manhattan till the last 20-30 minutes of the film. And then when J-Cool gets there he doesn’t so much take the place as just borrow it for a little bit and then hand it back only slightly soiled.

Instead, for most of the film’s running time, we are treated to Jason taking an aquatic journey (after commandeering a teenage couple’s boat) on an old, dilapidated cruise ship named Lazarus which is filled with high school teeny boppers and school faculty members on a graduation trip to New York.  No, it’s not what we were promised by the title but I still get a lot of kicks out of Jason Takes a Boat Ride.

Unlike the previous two entries I’ve reviewed for the 13 Days of Friday the 13th, Part VIII falls squarely in the ‘So Bad, it’s Good’ category, as does just about every entry in the series. The flick itself doesn’t make a lick of sense. For one, when did Jason learn how to man a boat? After killing off two kids on one of their Daddy’s boat he takes it for a spin. But not just in circles and then scuttling it onto dry land, but he actually maneuvers it all the way down some river connected to the lake which then feeds into the Atlantic Ocean.

Excuse me?

Not only this, but Jason climbs off this boat and onto the decrepit cruise ship Lazarus to join a group of recent high school graduates and faculty members on a trip to Manhattan. What is Jason’s motivation to commandeer a boat and take a trip to that Atlantic? What prompted this? Did he need a change of scenery? A vacation?

It’s a film that doesn’t make a lick of sense. Jason can teleport in this movie. You read that right, the guy can be one place and the, without moving, pop up somewhere else. This is not some kind of editing mistake, this was done on purpose. I guess they were trying to establish that Jason was kind fo like a ghost or something. A bit misguided, but it is something different. Even if it is kind of…wacky.

"Let me just check your Lymph Nodes here..."

Then there’s the matter of our final girl’s  little Jason hallucinations. Where do these come from?Does Rennie has a history of tripping out? If so, it’s never established in any way, shape, or form so it kind of comes out of nowhere. Could it tie into the Jason as a ghost concept? Is the ship now haunted because Jason is on board?

And why in the hell does Jason activate the fire alarm after killing the A.V. geek? Did Jason decide to play fair this time around or something? Did he set A.V. Nerd on fire, see that it was growing out of control and then fear for the rest of the teenagers’ safety? Come on, movie! What are you doing?

Better give those kids a heads up. It's the right thing to do.

Better give those kids a heads up. It's the right thing to do.

In these moments, I wish the filmmakers could have spent a bit more time trying to clarify just what the crap was going on. These scenes are quirky and kind of humorous because of how outlandish they are and I’ve grown to find them rather endearing. I can’t help but smile when Jason knocks Julius’ head off, then goes through the trouble of collecting it and placing it inside a police cruiser as if it were a decoration.

Once Jason and the survivors of the Lazarus disaster make it to Manhattan it’s kind of touch and go. One can’t help but feel a bit of a rush watching Jason react to seeing Times Square for the first time or knocking a young man’s head off from the top of a tenement building and into a dumpster down below. There are some fun moments to be had here it’s just a shame we don’t get to spend more time with Jason in Manhattan tearing apart some local color.

And that ending where the sewers of New York flood out with a raging rapids of toxic waste every single night at the stroke of midnight and Jason gets completely soaked and…transforms into a pudgy little white kid in a pair of swimming trunks? Not even a rotten, nasty, dead kid…a regular looking little boy who looks like he’s taking a nap. Is this purely symbolic or are we supposed to buy this melting into a child scenario they just shat onto the screen?

There are some fun performances here. The stand-outs are V.C. Dupree as boxer Julius who turns in a funny, over the top, badass performance. Veteran Actor Peter Mark Richman as Principal McCullom is one of the greatest assholes to ever grace the series–he gives Dr. Cuise from Part VII a run for his money. Kane Hodder returns for his second portrayal of our favorite undead mama’s boy, and brings out all the rage and single mindedness of the character. Whether you love or hate what Kane does with the character you cannot deny he gives all his when behind that mask. And, of course, there is the young Ms. Kelly Hu as the brainy, geeky, asian girl. Yeah, she went on to bigger and better things. Well, certainly bigger, I guess. (Scorpion King, X-Men 2)

Hellooooooooooo, Kelly Hu!

It’s no wonder this entry is possibly the most universally hated by Friday the 13th’s most die hard fans. It doesn’t really deliver on the promise of the title, it’s pretty much bloodless, there’s only one bare female breast and it’s side boob, the plot holes are big enough for Killdozer to drive through, and the lead character’s performances are as stiff as my dick.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is no masterpiece, that’s for goddamn sure, but it is still a stupid good time if you watch it in the right frame of mind. If you read the title to this one and then take the premise seriously you will no doubt be disappointed. The best way to approach Part VIII is with a good group fo friends, a case of brews and a good sense of humor. It’s one of the worst films in the series for sure, but it is still a whole lot of fun.

Trash Cinema Gold!

20
Jun
09

The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews presents Basket Case!

basket_case_poster_01

Hey Gang!

In our third episode I felt I would talk about a film a bit closer to my heart. This is an all time favorite and one I feel everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. We’re talking Frank Henenlotter’s Drive-In Classic, BASKET CASE!

Sit back and enjoy!

Stay Trashy!

-The Primal Root

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/85098061″>(NSFW) Basket Case (1982) The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews Episode 3</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user24396091″>Kevin Cole</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>




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