Posts Tagged ‘nightmare

28
Dec
18

Mandy (2018)Crazy Evil and The Depths of an Exquisite Hell

 

MANDY

a Primal Root written review

“I’m your God now.” – Red Miller, Mandy

The stars so rarely align to deliver a piece of art so pure in form and so glorious in it’s delivery as filmmaker Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. Now, the setup is nothing new. Two souls love one another, find comfort in one another’s presence and deep bond beyond story book love evolves between them, a deep er connection more profound, peaceful and meaningful that most are lucky to find in a lifetime. That love is torn asunder and one of the two must seek revenge in order to find any kind of peace ever again. It’s a nightmare scenario, and one all of us can identify with in one way or another. To imagine the person we love and hold closest being taken away, never to be returned…in our heart of hearts, we would all want bloody revenge on those responsible.

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What sets Mandy far apart and leagues ahead of it’s unifying trope is the means by which our tale is told. It has taken elements as familiar and comfortable to us horror fans as well worn pair of loafers and injects those elements with energy, a clean new take, unfettered originality creating a new kind of monster that lumbering, brutal, and ready to fuck your brain hole.

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Mandy takes place in the great Pacific Northwest’s Shadow Mountain in 1983.  Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a mild mannered, bearded, beefy, lumber jack who works in the mountains by night and comes home to his uniquely beautiful artist girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). The two share a log cabin together and live a peaceful existence outside of society where they keep to themselves. That is until a fucking piece of shit christian cult drives through town, and their greasy, psychedelic, long haired, immensely insecure and bullying leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) gets single passing glance at Mandy and decides he MUST HAVE HER. But, in order to do so, Jeremiah and his cult decide they need some help from some horrifying motorcycle riding, spike faced creatures from beyond the edge of Hell to help pull of their seduction/abduction plans.

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That night, as Mandy and Red sit in front of their television watching the trash cinema epic, 1982’s Nightbeast, and chowing down on what looks like steak and taters to me, the cult organizes their Hell creatures and set their horrible plan into action just as Red and Mandy hit the sack. In a nightmarish, dreadful sequence shot with blue strobe lights, these biker Cenobite monstrosities subdue our two protagonists, tie Red up with barbed wire in the backyard and take Mandy to meet Jeremiah who force feeds her some form of hallucinogenic and attempts to seduce in a prolonged trip of scene set in bright, neon red and purples. Of course, Mandy refuses and laughs hysterically at their weak, piece of shit leader as he shows off his nekkid body after his pathetic “join our lame-ass-cult sales pitch, and it is decided that she must meet a truly heinous and cruel death for her disrespect. The excruciatingly painful murder is committed in front of Red, who must witness the love of his life’s death in all it’s agonizing brutality.  We are shown this moment of savagery reflected in the eyes of Red, who is bound and helpless to save her.

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Once the deed is done, the cult packs it up and heads off into the rising sun, leaving Red for dead, still tied up in barbed wire and suffering from a brutal stab wound. Of course, Red manages to get free of the barb wire, has a final, soul crushing moment with his love’s remains, and decides over chugs of vodka and screams of abject horror, agony and rage, that this cult’s time is up and he is bringing them Hell they’ve never even imagined.  What follows is a film that straddles a place between the mystic and the psychotic and it a goddamn wonder to behold. You feel Red’s rage as he sifts through what’s left of a life that he and Mandy built together, a love so pure and care free, it breaks your heart, and to see that light they had together so fucking senselessly snubbed out because of the whims of a fucking ego maniacal fuck face, you, as an audience, just wish you could help him get that revenge he so desperately seeks.

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After gaining advice and weapons from some old friends, his crossbow “The Reaper,” and crafts a badass battle axe, Red sets out on his odyssey alone, to settle the score with the men, women and monsters who tore his life apart. Once by one, Red visits these murderers and viciously attacks and delivers his vengeance. Obviously, Red had some previous training in survivalism, but there is a learning curve for Red, which is pretty refreshing for this kind of film. Red gets his ass kicked a couple times and even finds himself captured, but he tends to get better as he goes along. Especially once he snorts some coke and does some tainted acid in the mobile home of the monstrous creatures we learn go by he name,”Black Skulls,” which turns the world into a new kind of technicolor nightmare. A neon blood bath we will spend the rest of the film in.

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A horror film where The Devil is the good guy, the far right Christian cultists are the fucking hive if perverse villainy and Nicolas Cage, who gives a career best performance as a mild mannered guy who has it all taken away battling the forces of evil among Shadow Mountain? Gang, that’s nothing not to love about this poetic acid head, black hearted, beautiful bitch a fucking masterpiece. This is Trash Cinema at it must unrefined and reaching it’s greatest heights. I know a lot has been said about Nic Cage’s performance in Mandy, how it’s just another “freak out” performance from this most beleaguered of Hollywood actors. To me, this is one of the most naturalistic and honest performances of the man’s entire career. When Red is chugging vodka in his tighty whities in the bathroom while screaming in absolute rage and grief, you cannot tell me this is not exactly how your would react and feel if you just witnessed the love of your life burned alive right in front of you. To have held the ashes of that one person that meant everything to you in your hands, who died only because she refused to give in to a madman.  Gang, this is a performance that deserves all the recognition in the world. Also, that Cheddar Goblin commercial is a thing of Trashy beauty, too. 😉

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Mandy is a powerhouse of a film and my pick for 2018’s Golden Nugget Award, for Best Trash Cinema Film of the Year.

Five Dumpster Nuggets out of Five.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Dec
18

(NSFW) Cannibal Holocaust (1980): Buffet of Brutality or Eat your Heart out. And your liver and your spleen.

 

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a Primal Root written review

“Here we are at the edge of the world of human history. Things like this happen all the time in the jungle; it’s survival of the fittest! In the jungle, it’s the daily violence of the strong overcoming the weak!” – Alan Yates, Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

*DISCLAIMER* Cannibal Holocaust does feature several sequences of onscreen animal cruelty. I. Kevin Cole, The Primal Root, do not in anyway condone the animal cruelty present in Cannibal Holocaust. That being said, I refuse to let that keep me from watching a piece of our cinematic history, which I feel lis important. That being said, I fully support your choice to NOT watch Cannibal Holocaust due to it’s cruelty to animals. I totally understand. 

Like the character Trash says in Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 living dead classic, The Return of the Living Dead, the worst way she can imagine dying is being eaten alive. It’s an honest, primeval statement that is part of our most basic animal instincts, one that still holds firm ever since our primitive ancestors hid from razor toothed beasts with flesh ripping claws intent to turn us into Sunday. What could be more horrifying that that? OF course, the thought that our own species would resort to such barbarism, hunt us down as food, take their time in killing us, and then devour what remains.

It’s a subject that has been well worn in the brutal and exhaustive cannibal exploitation genre that began in the mid 1970’s and remained popular through the 1980’s. The films of the cannibal genre would typically involve a batch of technically savvy contemporary young people looking to exploit the stone-age natives within an Asian or South American rainforest, only for things to turn violent with the young people raping, murdering and terrorizing the natives, and then having the tables turned and being met with horrifically grotesque retribution. These exploitation films also share an attempt to deliver accomplished and startlingly real gore effects as well as genuine on screen animal cruelty. What I’m saying here, is that this genre is aimed at a very small segment of society and would never be made in the same fashion again. However, for a small period of time, this films were being churned out by Italian filmmakers year after year and playing for months on end at grindhouses across America to audiences eager to see if these films actually delivered on the sensational claims their advertisements boasted.

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Few films of the genre have maintained as as much notoriety as Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato’s 1980’s cannibal epic, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Upon it’s premiere the graphic violence garnered so much controversy that the film was seized my a local Italian magistrate and Deodato himself was arrested on obscenity charges and, later on, he was charged with with making an actual snuff film, as rumors began circulating that the main stable of actors were actually murdered on camera. To make matters worse, the supposedly deceased actors had signed on to contracts before filming to ensure that they would not show up in any type of movie, commercial or other media for at least one year after Cannibal Holocaust’s release as to keep the illusion that the film was a genuine found footage documentary. Thankfully, the actors were all contacted and interviewed on Italian television to prove they had not been murdered and eaten in The Green Inferno. Deodato also explained how all the effects worked and provided behind the scenes photos of the cast and crew interacting jovially, and the court dropped murder charges. Still, due to the genuine animal slayings and cruelty, Cannibal Holocaust was banned in Italy, Australia, and reportedly over 50 other countries.  If anything, I feel all this controversy is quite the testament to the power of a truly unique, frenzied, bleak and genuinely horrifying cinematic experience.

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Which brings us to the movie that raised this enduring brouhaha that has left a mark on this piece of entertainment forever more, Cannibal Holocaust. The story focuses on a much acclaimed and celebrated American documentary film crew, known for their brutal, ground level realism and unflinching portraits of bloody reality,  that goes missing in the Amazon rainforest in 1979 as they are filming a new documentary on the indigenous cannibal tribes. The film proper begins with strapping, mustachioed, anthropologist Professor Harold Monroe (played with all the masculine charm and gusto in the world by the legendary trained actor and Adult film Hall of Famer, Robert Kerman)  agrees to put together and lead a rescue team into the “Green Inferno” to find the documentary film crew, or what’s left of them, and recover any footage so that the investors can try and make their money back.

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After days of trekking and several grisly discoveries, clues and encounters with various cannibal tribes such as the Yacumo tribe, Shamatari tribe, and the Yanomami tribe, a picture begins to form that the American film crew brought great unrest to the people of these tribes. The rescue team manages to save a group of Yanomami warriors from certain death and then bathes nude in the river to gain their trust, showing his willingness to be vulnerable in front of them. Once the women of the tribe strip nekkid, hop in the river with him, mess around and inspect his white boy wing-ding for a few minutes, they then lead Professor Monroe and his team to a shrine the tribe has erected. A shrine made of the remains of the American documentary film crew.  Monroe trades a tape recorder with the tribe for the surviving reels of film the crew shot.

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Once back in New York city, Professor Monroe along with the investors screen the footage obtained from the Yanomami tribe, and it becomes apparent how shockingly amoral and inhumane this four man film crew was to the natives in the Amazon rainforest. They are seen staging horrifying mass incinerations of men, women and children, disgusting rapes of native girls where they then impale the woman on a pike, the killing of their livestock for shits and giggles, all in the name of good, usable footage, the filmmakers are willing to maim, murder and desecrate whoever they must in the quest for the perfect footage that will make their film a controversial smash hit with audiences, staging whatever carnage they so deem necessary.  That is, until the tribes turn the tables and come after the film crew in a blood drenched, shaky cam, parade of absolute unflinching brutality, it must be seen to be believed.  There is rape, penises are hacked off, people are drawn and quartered by the bare hands of the tribe. The American film crew has reaped exactly what they have sewed, and proved themselves just as uncivilized, monstrous and depraved, if not, more so, as the cannibalistic tribes themselves. Needless to say, the investors are deeply disturbed by the footage and the executives order the footage be destroyed. As Professor Monroe leaves, he ponders just who the real cannibals are, before the camera pans up to the high rises of New York City, our societies own concrete inferno, and the film fades to black.

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In all honesty, when the film ended, I had to look up the actors who we watched getting torn to pieces, hacked to death, raped and eviscerated just to make sure they weren’t actually murdered on screen. The final reels of Cannibal Holocaust are, without a doubt, some of the most effective and visceral horror set pieces I have ever witnessed. The shaky came, the effects and the performances feel so damn genuine and real, that the illusion of it all being true is a hard feeling to shake. Some have said this is the Grandpappy of the found footage genre, if that is the case, Grandpappy has yet to be topped.  I honestly think the key element is, as weird as it sounds, subtlety. There is plenty of gratuitous violence, but the blood isn’t spraying across the jungle like a cartoon. It is dark crimson, real, and isn’t the focus of what’s happening. The performances and camera work are what sell the horror of what occurs in Cannibal Holocaust. And I think that’s a lesson filmmakers should take away from it. We see horrible things being done to other human beings, but it’s focused on for mere seconds. It’s the frenzied rush of horror as people are trying to survive their own grotesque demise at the hands of those who so richly deserve their revenge. The feeling of horror that you know you deserve this and you’ve brought this fate worse than death upon yourself.

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I would say, despite many of the films exploitation elements, and their are many, including the actual killing of several actual animals, Cannibal Holocaust cuts to the darkest corners of human nature, and in doing so, is one of the most potent and effective horror films ever made. But, hey, funny piece of trivia: When screened for the tribes they filmed with, the tribes thought the film was hysterical and considered it a comedy!

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This is a MUST SEE for horror aficionados and filth fans alike. Even if you fast forward past the animal cruelty, you will be left shocked and in disbelief by the end.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

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03
Mar
18

(NSFW) Tanya’s Island (1980) : Monkey Trouble In Paradise

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A Bootsie Kidd Review

Tanya’s Island is a love story like so many others, fraught with jungle wilds and imaginary gorilla lovers. Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy spurns girl. Girl turns to primal nature in pursuit of independence, passion, and fulfillment. Boy changes mind, decides he wants girl and that girl needs him. Girl decides she’ll stick with primal nature in pursuit of independence, passion, and fulfillment.

We open with Tanya going for a run. She is the very picture of strength, independence, capability, hard work, and happens to gorgeous as fuck. This is THE Vanity we’re talking about here, so you know she’s a creature like no other. Tanya is an actress starring in a new King Kong film when her director, Kelly (Mariette Lèvesque), approaches her to state how tired she looks, that her career is more important than her personal life, and to get her shit together, but Kelly’s all smiles and warmth so we’re meant to take it as well-meaning pressure and polite disinterest in Tanya’s personal needs. Distressed, Tanya turns to her artist lover, Lobo (Richard Sargent), who greets Tanya with a pretty brutal goodbye saying he won’t let her “own him”. Tanya seems so wholly unaware of how spectacular she is, in and of herself, seeking love, acceptance, and support from people who have no clue of how nor inclination to give it to her. If it was beauty that killed the beast, Tanya plays roles as both.

Suddenly, a sensationally bizarre b&w scene pops up momentarily within a shower depicting Tanya and Lobo covered in blood while Tanya screams and clammers to escape. The scene ends as suddenly as it arrived, and the next moment we’re in a lavish, morbidly decorated home where Tanya seems to be packing for an escape from this shit when another presents itself. She hears heavy panting coming from up the stairs. As she travels a hall lined with footlights, we hear waves crashing, and upon handling an illuminated seashell, the music crescendos, Tanya opens a door flooded with light and fog juice, and we’re whisked away to sepia-toned, butt-neked Tanya fondling and fake-jogging for the duration of the opening credits.

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Tanya has imagined herself to an island that seems to be her own paradise. And hey! Lobo’s there, but he seems enthralled with her and they live, and fuck, and love their days away. She even has her own beach pony to ride around on just in case it wasn’t obvious enough how sexy she and this island are. Only Lobo still isn’t happy. He gets bored and wants to keep exploring the island. Okay, fair enough. It’s a show strength and character when a movie is realistic enough to concede that even paradise has potential for monotony. Lobo’s an artist in want of new inspiration, a yearner, and this is Tanya’s Paradise not Lobo’s, after all, so let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt, for now.

Once they move their tent and relentless chimes to another part of an island, Tanya begins to suspect there’s something on the island with them, tells Lobo of this fear, and Lobo mocks, tricks, and scares the shit out of her. Goddamnit, Lobo! Tanya has had it, y’all, trekking back into the jungle finding herself alone in the wilds of her own imagination. The landscapes are breathtaking, and the further she ventures the more brave and secure she becomes, adorning herself with a crown of flowers as if finally fucking realizes she is the queen of all she surveys. It is an especially gratifying, albeit, simple sequence. As Tanya wanders even deeper in the caverns of her paradise, she comes upon the creature lurking in trees. A gorilla with sterling blue eyes that she befriends and names Blue (Don McLeod).

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Despite Tanya reuniting with fuck boy Lobo, he gets butt-hurt over not having Tanya’s undivided attention and the now-apparent fact she doesn’t need his sour-grapes ass for fulfillment, and he attempts to rape her while mocking her desires and affection for Blue. However, Blue is there to thwart that stank dick allowing for Tayna’s escape. But, of course, this Gauguin wannabe motherfucker HAS to win. Despite Tanya’s constant compassion and tenderness, he literally cages her primitive nature, entrapping Blue, demanding that “my rules” are to be obeyed. Lobo barks orders while Tanya tries to salvage what remaining happiness she can in her own fantasy. Her rage intensifies with Lobo’s upgrading abuse until she frees Blue inciting Lobo to construct ANOTHER literal fucking prison around he and Tanya, claiming it as protection. Now it is up to Blue, Tanya’s manifestation of her own wild spirit and independent nature to free her from the colossal douchewad’s clutches.

Watching Lobo’s transformation from everyday self-involved smugness into the filthy, primitive, insecure, patriarchal, rapist piece of shit that was lurking just beneath his surface with Blue taunting Lobo from outside the cage makes for an intense ride. In a frantic sequence of what-the-shit, Blue breaks Tanya free, Lobo is left crying out in fear of loneliness, Tanya fleas deciding she doesn’t need Blue or Lobo resulting in her primal savior Blue eventually catching and beating her to death rather than letting her live independent of them.

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And wouldn’t you know, it was all just a dream! Ugh. She wakes up to the starkly empty room realizing wounds from her nightmarish encounter. She has a blank canvas to work with from here, but scars remain and need time and care to heal. Our minds construct prisons within prisons as well as the villains and heroes to navigate them, and circumstances idealized in the mind that may have been some pretty unhealthy shit can be overcome for living to fight and love another day.

All in all, Tanya’s Island has a lot more substance than expected given other’s reports! Moral of the story for us and Tanya, listen but, in the end, rely on your own judgement and experience. Sure there’s sultry sexin’ and plenty of bare-backin the beach pony, but all of it fits within the context of Tanya’s frame of paradise. It’s thoughtful AND evocative which is especially remarkable given that these two things are never mutually exclusive though typically treated as such in cinematic critique.  Director Alfred Sole and the solid performances from Vanity, Sargant, and McLeod creatively reimagined important subjects, and it is one that I hope eventually receives the nods it deserves. Check it out for yourself at Cap City Video Lounge or your local movie rental store!

 

10
Aug
16

(NSFW) Little China Brawl: August Devil Girl of the Month (2016)

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here, and it is my privilege to introduce to you our August 2016 Devil Girl of the Month, Little China Brawl. She is gracing us with astounding, dark, wet, sexy set drenched in gore paying homage to the quintessential 1980’s slasher series all Trash Cinema Collective Members hold near and dear to their filthy little hearts, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Let’s get to know Freddy’s wet dream, Little China Brawl, before we delve deep into the naked Nightmare on Elm Street…

 

The Primal Root: Little China Brawl, let me start off by complimenting you on such an incredible Devil Girl spread. It’s absolutely astounding. Why did you choose A Nightmare on Elm Street as your Trashy Devil muse?

Little China Brawl: Thank you for letting me join and take part in this! I think there’s nothing scarier than not being able to escape from your nightmares and what scares you can also be incredibly exciting.

TPR: All that blood! How was it modeling for your nekkid Devil Girl spread under such gory conditions and whose blood was it you used?

LCB: It was ridiculously enjoyable. It was fun to be all squirmy and sticky. It was really hard NOT to laugh… which I did quite a lot. And for legal purposes, I cannot at this time disclose whose blood it used to be. It’s mine now.

TPR: If you could pick one quote from Freddy Krueger that has touched you the deepest and filled your heart with inspiration, what would it be?

LCB: “Every town has an Elm Street.” I think that kind of speaks volumes to the nature that is Freddy. Everyone gets afraid and at some point you have to face it.

TPR: Freddy vs. Jason. Who should have won and why?

LCB:Freddy, because you can’t escape and you can’t stay awake.

TPR: When you aren’t being stalked and slashed in your worst nightmares by one of cinemas most iconic villains, what do you do for fun? What are some of your hobbies and claims to fame?

LCB: I’m either knitting or karaoking or doing comedy or a hybrid of them at the same time. I love keeping my hands busy so I’m either holding knitting needles or a microphone and I love getting loud. I’ve been pretty successful with my knitting and I’ve done conventions locally as well as out of town and fully funded three Kickstarters.

TPR: Alright, Dream Warrior, what are some of your favorite Trashy movies?

LCB: Easily, hands down, Frankenhooker. It’s the reason I wanted to become a devil girl. Exotic Zombie is definitely my devil idol.

TPR: What song would best accompany your Devil Girl spread?

LCB: I Want You by Elvis Costello sung by Fiona Apple. I love her delivery and how shakey and creepy she makes this already aggressive song.

TPR: Last, but not least, do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to The Trash Cinema Collective before we check out your Devil Girl spread?

LCB: Do what you love, and if what you love to do is get weird and naked you’re with the right people. Get trashy. You’re in good company.

Photography by Kayla King of Rewski Photography

 

10
Jan
16

Phantasm (1979): All that we see or seem…

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a Primal Root written review

“First he took Mom and Dad, then he took Jody, now he’s after me.” – Mike, Phantasm

I never planned on writing a review for Phantasm. However, with today’s passing of the beloved horror icon, Angus Scrimm, who breathed life into one of my all time favorite cinematic boogeymen, I felt compelled to take a look back at not only of the most enduring and admired horror films, but one I hold very dear to my heart.

Let me start off by stating that there is no real way to create a summary of Phantasm that honestly does the film any justice. It’s the kind of film that takes place inside between the conscious world and that of the subconscious, the the realm of primal, deep, dark human emotions, and at that, from the perspective of a young boy in his early teens who has lost so much he’s having trouble coming to terms with it. Well, Hell, okay…at least let me TRY to tell you what the film’s about.

Young Michael (Michael Baldwin) is living with his older, adult brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) after the untimely death of their parents. Michael is already having trouble coping with the sudden lose of his parents, when he comes to the realization this Jody is considering leaving town and handing custody of Mike over to their Aunt and Uncle. The thought of not only losing his parents, but being a burden on his older brother, who is thinking of leaving him behind, is adding to Mike’s pain and turmoil. There’s a fantastic, heart breaking sequence where Jody rides his bike down the street as Mike chases after him on foot unbeknownst to his old brother. Mike can’t keep up and eventually, begrudgingly, gives up. It’s a pitch perfect moment that visualizes the dreaded feeling of abandonment and the inevitability of change.

To make matters worse, Mike witnesses some very strange goings-ons at the local Morningside Cemetery and Funeral Home. At the funeral of one of Jody and Mike’s friends, Tommy,  Mike witnesses a shadowy, sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm, Rest in Peace) lift up up Tommy’s corpse filled coffin all by his lonesome…and load it back into the hearse rather than lowering it into it’s grave.

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As young Mike investigates further he discovers there seems to be a sudden infestation of tiny, brown robbed creatures haunting the cemetery, a knife wielding blonde, big breasted seductress intent on poking every man she can lure into the cemetery to death and the mortuary is guarded by brain sucking, high velocity flying killer spheres. And who looks to be behind it all? The black suited Tall Man who has set his evil sights on Mike.

It takes quite a bit of convincing to get Jody to believe that what is happening over at Morningside is true. With the crazy stories Mike keeps spouting, who can blame the guy for chocking it up to a kid’s imagination? But when Mike comes home with a living, moving, nasty little momento from his last encounter with The Tall Man, Jody hops on board as does their ice cream selling buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister). The three lay siege to Morningside cemetery int he hopes of uncovering The Tall Man’s true purpose in their small town and send him back to whatever Hell this monstrous being came from. However, as is the case in Phantasm, nothing is exactly as it seems…And the final revelation of Phantasm is devastating, beautiful and deeply disturbing.

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Okay, I am going to discuss the film a bit and I recommend you see Phantasm first before reading further.

One of Phantasm‘s greatest strengths is it’s respect for a child’s perspective. To try and make sense of what is happening int he world around you. It plays almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that pulls no punches. There is something evil and sinister happening in their small town, and it is up to Mike to convince his older brother and for them to solve this horrible problem. There’s a great since of mystery and wonderment as well as mounting dread and tension, but it’s all handled with a real sentimentality and heart that is hard to find in most popular horror cinema of the 70’s era.

Now, before I start making this film sound like the ultimate bummer, Phtasm also has an excellent sense of adventure and fun on it’s surface. Jody, Mike and Reggie are a damn funny trio and their reactions to the ludicrous happenings around town and pricless. Darkly hysterical moments like Michael finding an enourmous flesh eating bug tangled in his hair, Jody asking Mike is the strange breathing sounds he heard was the “retard” up the street and, my personal favorite, when Mike is confronted inside the mortuary by The Tall Man who stands several passes down the hall from him, Mike, speechless utters in complete My-Goose-Is-Cooked fashion, “Oh, shit…” Phantasm is a damn good time about one darkly sobering mother fucking subject matter.

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Phantasm is a horror movie about the sad but honest fact that everyone we love will die. That those closest to us will have to eventually leave us one day and that no matter how hard we fight, or try to hold on, or battle against it, we will ALWAYS lose. I understand the notion that we carry these people with us forever in our hearts and memories, that they live on forever in the tales we tell of them and the ways that they’ve touched us. But we will never get to sit down and hold their hand, feel the comfort of their presence of enjoy a glass of whiskey with them ever again. They are gone. Gone. And so shall we be. And that’s something we all must face.

At the end of Phantasm Michael and Jody do battle with The Tall Man and end up trapping him in an abandoned mine shaft and dropping a dozen or so gigantic boulders on top of the sucker. Our last glimpse of Jody is from onto of a high hill from where he rolled the boulders on top of The Tall Man, sealing his fate. Mike sees his brother, bathed in light with his arms held high over his head in triumph. Mike and Jody have one. Then the film reverses on Mike and he awakes in his bedroom. He is comforted beside the living room fireplace by he and Jody’s good friend Reggie. Reggie explains that not only are Mike’s parents dead, but Jody is also dead, killed in a car accident.

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This is a moment of true horror, a devastating moment that still breaks my heart just thinking about it. And this is where Phantasm succeeds so well, in making us care for the characters that are part of this tale. You can sense the brotherly love between Jody and Mike, their sense of camaraderie and their shared feelings of grief and confusion over the loss of their parents and the prospect of both their uncertain futures. To find out that Mike has lost the entirety of his immediate family, the people he has known and loved since birth, is a crushing blow.

Phantasm is a horror film that dwells in the dark, most assuredly, but it also has a great deal of heart and warmth to it, which as I stated above, is something of a hard commodity to come across in 1970’s era horror cinema. Just look at Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. It was a bloody horrifying decade for horror. Phantasm, too, explores the shadows of human nature. But, as odd as it might sound, Phantasm reminds us of what makes life worth living and that life is fleeting and serves as a reminder that we must cherish each moment of happiness we have. To show those we hold close that we love them, that we care and that we are here for them. Because one day, as we all know, they will be gone and we will never get that opportunity to hold them near and tell them we love them again.

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Phantasm is a masterpiece, plain and simple. From it’s unique story penned and directed by a very young Don Coscarelli, it’s unforgettable, dreamlike score by Fred Myrow, and it’s natural, engaging performances by everyone involved,  Phantasm is a type of dark fairy tale about the inevitability of  change and loss which digs deep into our most horrifying childhood fears about death. It takes us right back to the time when we were children and had to make sense of this adult world, a real world we were just beginning to become acquainted with. Phantasm is an audacious film which dares to take a trip through the mental landscape of a deeply scarred, traumatized child. By film’s end, Mike and Reggie decide they must leave their small town and find a new start. Mike begins packing his bag so that they can hit the road and head into a new day, a new future where they can begin to come to terms with their pain. Mike closes his closet door revealing The Tall Man in his mirror. “BOOOOOOOOY!” The Tall Man growls…and Michael is caught. Pulled through the mirror and into darkness.

One day you and I will face Death. Inevitably, as The Tall Man says, “The Game is finished. Now, you die.” And when that day comes, that unavoidable day when we reach our ultimate fate, we can only hope that in death we will fine peace and comfort. Not a brutal Hell made up of our most nightmarish childhood fears.

Phantasm and it’s iconic boogeyman, The Tall Man, would live on with many colorful, imaginative, bonkers sequels that pick up and continue the story admirably well. But, if you were to ask me, the tale begins and ends with the original 1979 classic Phantasm. One of the most poetic and lovely horror stories ever told.

I award Phantasm FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

28
Apr
14

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

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

a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

13
Jul
13

RC: Devil Girl of the Month, July 2013

Hey Gang! Take a moment to give a warm welcome to  our latest member of the Devil Girl Family, RC!   This new friend of ours here at The Trash Cinema Collective is just in time to make this hot and sticky Florida summer even hotter. Please, by all means, feast your eyes on the seductive, the alluring, the wicked RC, our July Devil Girl of the Month! And, please,  try to stay cool. 😉

Primal Root:  Would you mind telling The Collective a little about yourself? What you’re into? What you’ve been up to lately?

RC: I’m a shy eco goth. I enjoy spending time in nature, growing my herbs and veggies and playing with my furry children. I try to live as much as a natural and healthy life as possible. I spend my free time hooking…urm, crocheting that is. I design patterns and run a free knitting/crochet pattern site nyanpon.com

PR:  What made you want to be a Devil Girl and can you tell us a bit about your set? What was your inspiration?

RC: First time I saw a Devil Girl I wanted to be one. I LOVE cosplay.Scene: You are alone in the woods. Fog rolls in and you are suddenly lost. You hear faint music, you decide to follow it. The music leads you to a clearing and glowing above you is a creepy sign with Sideshow written on it. Since my dream every since I was a child was to run away and join the circus I went with a sideshow theme.

PR: It’s story time. Do you have any strange, bizarre or trashy stories you can share with us?

RC: This one time at band camp…

PR: As you well know, we have a passion for movies the majority of film goers consider nonredeemable filth that no rational human being should ever watch. We call it Trash Cinema. What are some of your favorites?

RC: I grew up watching black and white B movies, they were my first love. Right now I am on a trashy 70s movies kick, the more boobs the better. Movies like Virigin Witch, Female Vampire, and Caged Heat are all so bad they are funny.

PR: RC, you’re our kind of lady! Thank you for your excellent Devil Girl spread and for keeping it Trashy!
Photography by Nodin Weddington

 

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