Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

21
Aug
16

Fright Night (1985)The Rejection of Hot Cocoa or Why Your Girlfriend is Hotter When She’s Evil

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“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.” – Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent: Vampire Killer in Fright Night

a Primal Root written review

By the mid-1980’s horror cinema was dominated by low brow exploitation slasher horror cinema. Every weekend seemed to bring us another holiday themed blood bath filled with nekkid, pot smoking teens being chased down and hacked into oblivion by some silent masked killer or catch phrase spouting dream demon. By 1985, the formula was old hat and there a resurgence in appreciation for the classics. Tom Holland’s fun, sexy, highly entertaining directorial debut, Fright Night, is one of the most unabashed and perfect examples of what can be done when two genres are expertly amalgamated.

Fright Night seamlessly and joyfully the hard lined, effects driven spectacle of the late 1970’s and early 80’s horror genre made famous be the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter and John Landis, along with the fun, campy nature of many Hammer and Universal Classics. Fright Night is a film that generates it’s frights, laughs and boundless charm from the audience’s knowledge of horror cinema history. Fright Night is a film that bridges a gap between a simpler seeming time in the genres past and fully embraces the gnarly, grotesque necessities of the current 1980’s horror audience and succeeds in creating something familiar as well as new and enjoyable from start to finish.

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Fright Night tells the tale of virginal high school horror movie aficionado, Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is having relationship problems with his equally virginal high school sweetheart, Amy (Amanda Bearse). Charlie becomes convinced that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a a serial killer, one who has been decapitating prostitutes and draining their bodies of blood…He is also convinced that Jerry is, indeed, a mother fucking vampire.

When Charlie convinces a police detective to investigate Jerry and his live-in buddy Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but once the detective and Charlie set foot into Jerry’s home and Charlie’s suspicions are made clear, he is mocked, laughed at and told he is a fool…but this also means Jerry Dandridge, who is ACTUALLY a very powerful vampire, now knows the nosey kid next door is on to him and pose a very real threat to his existence.

Jerry comes to Charlie with a compromise; forget that he is a vampire and live, or continue being a little fuck face who tries to convince people that I’m a vampire and I’ll rip your little teeny bopper head off, drink your blood and then shit it down your neck stump. Of course, Charlie being one of the rare breed, pure of heart sort of kids, refuses to ignore evil. In return, Jerry retaliates by seducing both Charlie’s girlfriend Amy and his one and only friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys). Charlie, who has no siblings and whose Mom works the night shift at the hospital and has a singular remedy for  vampire onslaught in a mug of hot cocoa, which Charlie adamantly DOES NOT NEED, is totally useless. Plus his Father is completely absent without a mention of his whereabouts or existence.

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Out of options, Charlie turns to the unlikely aid of a late night horror movie host of the program ‘Fright Night’, classic horror film actor, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, who owns this movie, by the way). Nightly, Mr. Vincent boasts about his knowledge and fearlessness when it comes to battling vampires to their undead deaths. But, in real life, Mr. Vincent is a coward when confronted with the supernatural. It is up to this unlikely duo, Charlie and Peter Vincent, to vanquish the evil Jerry Dandridge in time to save Amy, who is slowly transforming into red headed sexy blood sucking minion of the undead!

So why the lasting impression? The cult status? The deeply devoted fan base and high regard from cinema devotees? Simply put, the film is absolute god damn pleasure to watch. It plays to everyone! Hardcore horror aficionados, casual cinema goers, sick demented trash cinema collective members, Fright Night pleases everyone. The violence is so over the top, colorful, fantasy based and imaginative, it’s never really disturbing as much as it is just good old fashion spook house fun.

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The actors all perform at the top of their game. Chris Sarandon as the incredibly suave and seductive vampire Jerry Dandridge conveys brutal menace and a confident swagger and joyful glee, but also manages to mix in a bit of humanity to a very old, very sophisticated creature of the night, making Jerry an unforgettable antagonist. Ragsdale is a perfect choice for the strong willed, in over his head, Charlie Brewster, likewise, Amanda Bearse as Amy conveys doe eyes innocence so well, it;s kind of annoying as shit. But it works in the favor of the character’s story arch, her relationship with Charlie keeps her almost as a child it is only when she is seduced by Jerry that her sexual awakening occurs, her physical appearance begins to change, drastically so soon after Jerry, *AHEM* slides his fangs into her causing ribbons of warm red blood to stream down her back in a not too subtle symbol of her virginity being taken. As she starts to turn, her hair goes red, she shows off her lovely tits through a see through white gown, and she aggressively attempts to seduce those around her so that she, too, can stick her fangs in them. It’s always fascinated me whenever women go evil in movies how much sexier they become. Like Lily in Legend, sure, she’s cute in all in her white gown, flowery head dress and shit, but as soon as she gets into the all black ensemble and starts dancing around with a confident, assured look of a woman who has been through Hell and back, knows pain, pleasure, desire and is world wary of these things, that’s when I find myself getting a chub. Besides, there are few turn offs greater than innocence. But that could just be me.

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Stephen Geoffries, who notoriously would turn to a career in homoerotic porn for the majority of his career, turns in one of the most excellent, go for broke performances as Evil Ed. Evil Ed is obviously an outsider, seemingly hyper active with a penchant for saying what’s on his mind, he seems like a bit of a nerd and someone who has been picked on his whole childhood. He plays the majority of the film as a kind of gonzo comic relief, but again, one of the strengths of Fright Night is when these seemingly stock and familiar characters are expanded upon. Two stand out scenes for Evil Ed always come to mind as the highlights of the film. When Evil Ed is seduced with the promise over never being picked on or bullied ever again, if only he takes the hand of Jerry Dandridge. It’s a beautiful moment as Evil Ed first cowers and then opens up to the idea of having someone, finally having someone who gives his word to stand up for him. Of course, it;s an evil creature of the night, so he will only become a kind of errand boy or good for Jerry, but I guess it beats going to high school. Also, Evil Ed’s ****SPOILER**** death is pitch perfect. It’s outstanding on so many levels, this teenage boy, who has given his soul away for vampiric powers, has now been impaled through the heart while he is in the form of a wolf. The physical effects are astounding through this sequence as we watch a dying Evil Ed in pure agony transform back into his human form slowly, painfully, mercilessly. He screams out in agony, at first as an unrecognizable half man half beast, who reaches out for comfort from a shell shocked and mortified Peter Vincent, the man who put the stake through his heart. Ed reaches for contact, someone to comfort him as he passes away and Peter almost reaches out to do so, before remembering just what he’s dealing with, and draws his hand back. As Ed fades away, and now looks exactly like himself, he gives Peter Vincent a tearful smile of regret as he dies, soulless, a being of evil and most assuredly heads straight down to Hell. Roddy andStephen are both excellent in the scene, and if you ask me, it might just be the best moment of the entire film, as these two work off one another beautifully.

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Which bring me to Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. This man is the heart and soul of Fright Night. As the aging, retired, reluctant and increasingly irrelevant Fearless Vampire Hunter, Roddy brings a beautiful, funny, sympathetic character to life with so much charm and charisma, you cannot help but love the man. He enlivens each and every scene he’s in with heart and warmth in a performance so wonderful, you;ll forget the man played a monkey four damn times.

There are a lot of overt sexual elements to Tom Hollands’ exceptional horror flick, Fright Night, but one of the messages I always found most noble is that horror, as a genre, is a necessity for youngsters. Suggesting that knowledge of how to deal with the evils of vampires and their ilk will come in handy, we just never know when. Fright Night is provocative, daring but also, in a sense innocent and nostalgic. It arrived at just the right time in 1985 as horror cinema was becoming stale on it’s steady stream of stale slasher flicks. Fright Night is among the finest horror films of the 1980’s. It’s wickedly comical, the performances, again, are all excellent and the practical effects, decades later, hold home remarkably well and are astounding to behold. It’s also  successful in transplanting the vampire myth from far away mountains of Transylvania and establishing them in the suburbs, a place where the forces of evil can move in right next door, and if you’re not paying attention, infiltrate your entire town…

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Bolstered by a rad 80’s soundtrack, Fright Night is a colorful, imaginative, well crafted and most importantly, FUN, non stop love note to horror’s cinematic history. One I feel has never been topped, let alone, matched.

I award Fright Night (1985) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

08
Apr
10

Elm Street Dance Party! Part One: DREAM WARRIORS!

by The Primal Root

Gather round gang and I’ll tell you a tale…one of a bygone age where there were entire channels dedicated to showing what were known as “Music Videos.” These little slices of awesome were used to promote musicians’ latest singles for their new albums while at the same time entertaining and impressing their fans. Some were more successful at the art form than others and the this form of media held strong for about twenty years.

There was even a time when movie studios made awesome music videos that not only promoted a band but tied into their upcoming movie as well! The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is among the most prolific in that department. Freddy’s presence on a little channel known as MTV would help launch him into the pop culture lexicon.

In the week leading up to the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street part 3: The Dream Warriors Freddy was all over the station introducing music videos and threatening the teenage audience either through direct menace or by violently attacking children’s toys.

But I like to think what people remember most is the music video for the title track to the movie, Dream Warriors by Dokken! Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I have no deeper knowledge of this band beyond the music they created for Nightmare on Elm Street 3. But that music is so mind blisteringly awesome in it’s 80’s hair metal glam rock way that I will always consider Dokken among the most badass of goofy 80’s metal bands.

The music video is pure marketing genius. They have taken Dokken and inserted them into all the key sequences of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3. From Kristen’s opening nightmare, to the Freddy giant trouser snake set piece, to the final confrontation in some kind of Freddy Hell! Dokken is always there rocking Freddy’s evil away by declaring “WE’RE THE DREAM WARRIORS! AIN’T GONNA DREAM NO MORE! And maybe tonight…MAYBE TONIGHT YOU’LL BE GONE!”

Shiny happy faces at the Dokken & Freddy photo shoot!

The video is definitely dated but I believe it adds to the charm and nostalgia factor. This was the turning point when Freddy was transforming from a slightly well known horror boogieman to a true pop culture sensation and the most recognizable face in horror second only to Karloff’s Frankenstein monster.

I cannot help but think Freddy running the show at MTV for one week had a major hand in helping Freddy Krueger to the top of the modern horror icon dog pile. And the video for Dream Warriors is what sealed the deal.

So without any further a due, I present, Dream Warriors by Dokken!

Sat Trashy!
-The Primal Root

30
Mar
10

Friends, Family, Chaos and Magic Squirrels : The Hot Tub Time Machine


a review by The Primal Root

Wow, did I just completely throw away my youth? I mean, I had fun and everything…but what about all the shitty decisions I made? The friend I screwed over? The one that got away? All the times I took the easy way out…and how would my life be now if I had the opportunity to do it all over? These are the questions asked of us and our main characters in the straight forwardly titled and beautifully executed film, Hot Tub Time Machine, a midlife crisis movie teaming with raunchy laughs, 80’s nostalgia, amputations and a surprising amount of heart.

Our story begins with Nick (Craig Robinson) digging his fingers into a dog’s sphincter to diagnose a butt itching problem at the posh animal spa he’s employed at. We are then introduced to Adam (John Cusack) who’s girlfriend just ditched him and is living a soulless, self centered existence despite having found wealth in his professional life. Also living with Adam is his nephew, Jacob ( Clark Duke) who spends his days playing Second Life in Adam’s basement but is otherwise aimless. But the ultimate screw up in our band of heroes is Lou (Rob Corddry, finally finding a role he can sink his teeth into) who is hospitalized after nearly asphyxiating himself in his garage while sitting in his running car and singing along to Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home.

Upon hearing the news Adam and Nick arrive at the hospital to check on their old friend. The doctors are afraid it might have been a suicide attempt, although Lou adamantly denis it, and recommend that the old friends spend the weekend together in order to keep an eye on Lou to make sure he’s okay.

Our three friends bring along Jacob and head out to their old stomping ground a once prosperous ski resort town. Once they arrive in the hotel where they lived some of the greatest moments of their youths, the immediately realize the place stands a a metaphor for their lives, it’s run down, smelly, tired old wreck. They check into their suite where the commence a sad sausage fest game of quarters…in the face of such desperation the four stumble upon the impressive hot tub on their back porch. A hot tub time machine…

Male Bonding in the Hot Tub Time Machine

After a drunken night of male bonding our guys wake up in 1986. The exact year when Adam, Lou and Nick vacationed there and made decisions that would shape all their lives forever. And Jacob? Well, he didn’t yet exist…but that existence plays a crucial role here.

It's the 80's! Do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan!

Hot Tub Time Machine isn’t the kind of film you pay to see expected anything besides vomit jokes, possibly some boobs, and good amount of belly laughs. I can report back that Hot Tub Time Machine delivers all of these and more in spades. But what I Wasn’t expecting was the amount of emotional weight the film managed to pack in amongst all the stabbings and awkward threesomes. The film is obvious wish fulfillment for all of us whose young and stupid years are slowly becoming prologue to a life that might not be exactly what we had in mind and our constant meditation is, “What could I have done differently?” It’s a bitter sweet theme dipped in pathos and capturing that often saddening thought that maybe our best years are behind us and just maybe we wasted them.

Mammoaries of a wasted youth.

Through the portal of the Hot Tub Time Machine Adam is given a second chance with the one that got away after she stabbed him the eye with a fork, Nick has another shot at his music career that went bust after a performance at a bar at the ski resort, and Lou gets the opportunity to stand up to some ski instructors that kicked the shit out of him when his friends didn’t show up for the fight. While Jacob must get the Hot Tub time Machine up and running again so they can make their way home…if he can track down the magical Hot Tub repair man played by Chevy Chase in a bizarre cameo.

Traveling through time in search of his career, Mr. Chevy Chase.

Speaking of cameos, and one that steals the entire show at that, is Crispin Glover who plays an disgruntled amputee bellhop in the present who lost his arm sometime in the winter of 86 when he was a happy-go-lucky bellhop eager to please the guests. His performance is hilarious and goofy in typical Crispin fashion and manages to generate some suspense as our main characters keep running into him in situations that could lead to him losing his appendage. This role could have been the stuff of general shrugs and disinterest in the hands of any other thespian but Crispin makes the role a stand out. Good work, sir.

Our hero, ladies and gentelmen!

Hot Tub Time Machine is nothing profound. It’s a damn good time and an excellent party movie. One that doesn’t get too caught up in all the science talk and ramifications of the time travel equations of which all their knowledge comes from films such as Back to the Future, The Butterfly Effect and The Terminator. They do change their fates and even the outcomes of several events oin 1986. Some deirectly…and some through a magic squirrel… The time travel aspect of the film is just the vehicle to bring us a great piece of trashy comedy about the importance of the relationships in our lives, those of our close friends and our family and these bonds are often more important than we can possibly fathom. The universe is ruled by chaos and we are at it’s mercy. We cannot always control who comes into our lives or what happens to them but we do have a choice in how we treat those we care about.

I’m not going to lie, Hot Tub Time Machine is funny as shit. But damn it if there weren’t a couple moments strewn through the proceedings were I got something in my eye. And I don’t mean jizz or vomit.

your pal.
-The Primal Root

Here's to good times, good friends, and good booze!




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