Posts Tagged ‘pain

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

04
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989) Love and Agony or What Scares You?

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

a Primal Root review

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” – Jud Crandall, Pet Sematary 

Recently a friend of mine proposed this question, “What horror film really scares you?” Of course, several gents responded with the standby response, “Horror movies don’t actually scare me,” but I took a moment to ponder this. The first film to come to mind was Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s not the jump scares, or the grisly visages of death returning from the grave to haunt, taunt, and ghoulishly murder the living. Sure, that stuff is down right sickening and terrifying on a visceral level, but for me, the true horror is the idea of losing the ones we love. The moment that still breaks my heart and  has left the deepest scar is the presentation of the sequence where the cute as a button toddler, Gage (Miko Hughes) is run over by a speeding semi outside the family home in full view of his mortified parents and little sister. We hear the agonized screams of Gage’s Father, Louis (Dale Midkiff), as we images of Gage’s all too short life flash before our eyes. In all the horror films I have ever seen, this scares the ever loving shit out of me. This is pain, this is suffering, this is pure horror. It is not played for laughs, it does not rely on special effects, it relies on our empathy and the knowledge that we as viewers understand this grief and dread it everyday. It’s unthinkable, but we always know deep down, that the ones we love can be unceremoniously ripped out of our lives without a moment’s notice. This is primal terror. This is life. Life is horror.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but I used to not like Pet Sematary at all. Honestly, it just never appealed to me as a teenager. But one day I decided to give the film another shot and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I was older now and suddenly Pet Sematary made absolute sense to me and chilled me to the core. Horror can be an exceedingly powerful genre, and at it’s very best, it crushes audience expectations and explores societal taboos. What Pet Sematary explores is the inevitability of death. The journey ends for all of us, sooner or later and we’ve created elaborate myths we call religion around death in order to make some sense out of it. That life goes on somewhere beyond our short time here on Earth that there is an eternity in Heaven or Hell, or that we are reincarnated, or turned into Star Childs, etc.  We will get the answers one day, and I sincerely doubt it is anything any of us will ever expect. I can’t wait to laugh my ass of when it all fades to black and there;s simply nothing just like there was before I was born. But, I won’t be able to. Because I am gone.

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Pet Sematary plays out like a Greek tragedy. The Creed family moves into their gorgeous new home out in the country or rural Maine. it’s miles from town, but is located near a very busy road where huge semi’s cannonball down it day and night. Also on their property down a wooded path is a Pet Sematary, they are show this by a long time resident and neighbor, Jud Crandall (played by the legendary Fred Gwynne). On Louis’s first day at work as the resident doctor on the local college campus, he treats a jogger, Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who was mowed down by a car and dies on Louise’s operating table. That night, Pascow returns to Louis as a spirit and warns him to not visit that Indian burial ground that lays beyond the Pet Semetary. He warns, “The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”

When Louis and Rachel’s daughter Ellie’s cat, Chuch, is run over on the highway, Jud leads Louis out beyond the Pet Sematary to bury Church on the Indian land. The next day Church returns, but is now malicious and smells of death. It is not the cool cat the family knew before getting creamed out that means stretch of road.  Louis is given precious little time to ponder what has just happened when a far greater tragedy occurs. While flying a kite on a beautiful sunny day, their youngest child, Gage, wonders onto the highway and is crushed under the tires of a speeding truck.

Stricken with sorrow and regret that he could not save his son in time and Gage is gone forever, Louis considers unearthing his dead son’s body and entering it in the “sour” ground of the Indian burial mound. Over the objections of both Jud and Pascow’s spirit, Louis bury’s little Gage in the soul of the Indian burial ground and it isn’t long before Louis and Jud must face the reckoning of their decisions.

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In the horror genre death is a given. Characters are killed off all the time to the point we actually look forward to seeing how folks are going to meet their maker. Franchises like Friday the 13th, The Omen, Saw and the like revel in the graphic depictions of the splattery deaths of people we don’t know or really care about.  It has become the punchline to a joke for the majority of slasher horror cinema and it’s played for thrills, humor and entertainment. This is perfectly fine, horror can be a damn good time and a way for us to let loose, experience something visceral and know that no one actually got hurt or died. It was all for the nasty fun ride and then we get to go home safe in knowing this shit will probably never, ever, happen to us. Rarely do horror films so well conceived staged and vetted that they ask us to confront death head on. Pet Sematary is takes a meaningful, deep dark look into the nature of death, and in the very place we fear it the most, our immediate family and ask us what we will do on that day we lose someone we cherish.

So, yes, I would say Pet Sematary is the one horror film that truly, honestly fills my heart with dread and scares me like none other. Just like it’s source material, it is a story built upon the hardest, most horrible of human experiences and languishes in them. Grief, anguish, desperation, they’re all accounted for. The supernatural elements are intriguing and there, but at the end of the day, it’s the honesty in the human element of Pet Sematary that gives the film it’s power to disturb and to horrify. It is a film that has always stuck with me. It reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. Every smile, every laugh each and every spine cracking bear hug, because we all know that one day, we will never touch these people, hear their voice, know their warmth, these souls  so close to us, so dear to our hearts, ever again.  It’s the inevitable tragedy of life. We must learn to except loss. We must grieve and move on. Like the wise, warm and lovable character Jud Crandall says, “May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”

I award Pet Sematary FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Nov
13

Motel Hell (1980): Hearts in the Right Place…The Meat Grinder

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a Primal Root review

“Sometimes I wonder about the karmic implications of these actions.” -Farmer Vincent

With Thanksgiving mere days away,  I begin contemplating  good old fashioned family values and the anticipation of devouring finely prepared, mouth watering, slaughtered animals. Hell, there’s nothing better than celebrating your thankfulness with the ones you love than by roasting the carcass and then sinking your teeth into the delicious flesh of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, honey cured ham, or human torso. After all, as Farmer Vincent says, “Meat’s Meat and a Man’s gotta Eat.”

This is the central conceit of Kevin Connor’s 1980 black comedy horror masterpiece, “Motel Hell”, the story of a family Motel and Meat curing business torn asunder by the meddling of outsiders who just don’t understand their ways.  Tall, white haired, skinny as a rail Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun, charming as ever) and his large, imposing, deranged sister Ida (Nancy Parson, Coach Balbricker from Porky’s!) run the rural Motel Hello and adjacent Farmer Vincent’s Smoked Meats stand. Their meat and down home hospitality are legendary to those who grew up int he area, and tourists come from far and wide to get a taste at Farmer Vincents secret recipe… I have a feeling you know where I’m going with this, it ain’t just an extra dash of Tabasco in those cocktail weenies!

Yeeeeah, I think I'm gonna go find a Ramada...

Yeeeeah, I think I’m gonna go find a Ramada…

Vincent and Ida spend their evenings laying out intricate traps in order to capture unwary travels who make the mistake of passing near their homestead int he middle of the night. Once they’ve nabbed their prey, those poor souls are interred in the sibling’s “secret garden” and go through a very special procedure to prepare their succulent human flesh for the famous family recipe giving their cured meats that one of a kind flavor. As Farmer Vincent cheerily exclaims, “It Takes All Kinds of Critters, To Make Farmer Vincent’s Fritters!”  The two siblings seems to have a real good thing going, the business sis booming, their little brother and local law enforcement officer, Bruce, has no idea what they’re up to and there’s no lack of dim witted heathens to run off the road and turn into beef jerky treats. But it’s when Vincent takes in one of his victims, the lovely Terry (Nina Axelrod) and decides it might be a good idea to settle down that their whole cannibalistic world begins caving in.

Now, before I go and give you the idea that Vincent and Ida are both out of control backwoods psychopaths ala The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, let me state that these are two of the most friendly, accommodating and thoughtful human flash slurping cannibals in cinematic history. These two are concerned with making their victim’s, er, livestock’s slaughter as painless as possible, and go through some bizarrely comical means in order to make sure of this. Hell, they even have lovely introspective conversations where they ponder the karmic implications of their work and whether or not they will be remembered fondly for the work they do on the farm. Vincent and Ida are murderers, plain and simple, but one cannot help like this introspective, God fearing duo.  Hell, later in the film when Terry starts flashing her tits and Vincent and tries to make out with the old man, he stops her and insists they should be married before there will be such hanky-panky. Could you ever imagine Leatherface doing this? Hell, head probably start hollering, tearing his hair out and rev up his chainsaw…Not Farmer Vincent, that guy’s got one strong, if deeply flawed, moral compass.

don't worry, I'll send the Christ cuts to Hebrew National.

Don’t worry, I’ll send the Christ cuts to Hebrew National.

In one stand out scene from ‘Motel Hell”, Farmer Vincent, Ida, and younger brother and lawman Bruce, tell Terry a down home story about how their long dead Grandmother was the one who taught Vincent everything he knows about curing and smoking meats out of necessity since the family didn’t have an icebox. One day, when Granny was sick and tired of a neighbor’s dog constantly barking, she asked Vincent to go take care of it. Vincent chuckles as he recalls throwing the dog in the meat smoker and serving it up for dinner. Ira and Bruce both chuckle and join in, recalling how the meat was a bit like goat meat, only stringier, as Terry looks on in stunned disbelief before chocking it up to simple hillbilly behavior.  Farmer Vincent justifies his actions by quoting his Granny, “Meat is Meat and a Man’s Gotta Eat!”

Really, being raised with such a mentality it’s totally understandable that Vince and Ida don’t see a difference between the meat of animals and the meat of human beings. Int he end, really, what is the difference? The slaughter, clean and cut up the meat just the same as all the others int he smoke house. It’s just business, nothing personal, plus it gives them their one of a kind flavor which makes them stand out from the competition! It’s literally a dog eat dog world in Motel Hell, as our homicidal duo take care in selecting those they feel don’t contribute to society like bikers, metal bands, working girls, swingers and FDA inspectors, and add them to the ever growing mouth watering deathloaf. Even though the public has no knowledge of the human content in their smoked meats, at least they can rest easy knowing here are no chemicals or preservatives in the product they just ate. Hey, that’s just good, down home quality! Who has time to worry if a couple members of that missing hair band you saw last week are in that jerky stick?

Grazing in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?

Grazing in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?

As we all expected from the beginning, Terry wonders into the smokehouse and stumbles onto the big family secret and end sup bound, gagged and listening to Vincent’s fundamentalist dogma as he explains why it is he does what he do all while chopping a human body into hot dog meat. Vincent goes on to explain that he’s helping out the human condition by controlling over population and handling the food shortage problem all in one fell swoop. “What gives you the right to play God?” Terry asks. “Play God? I wouldn’t even know where to start! I’m just helping out.”  It’s a strange “Greater Good, God’s Plan” argument I feel many folks on the political right could totally get behind, especially when espoused by such a seemingly down to earth and loveable folk hero as Farmer Vincent. Hell, we all have to make sacrifices, right? Might as well be the working class that won’t be missed!

As soon as the heroic, if incredibly dumb and rapey, Bruce bursts into the smokehouse to save the day, “Motel Hell” dives head first into it’s absurd, surrealist underpinnings and bursts through the floodgates with blood spattered jubilant glee as Farmer Vincent dons a severed pigs head, picks up his chainsaw and engages his little brother in chainsaw, to chainsaw combat while laughing like a maniac the entire time. It’s graphic, it’s goofy, it’s gory and unlike anything I’ve seen before or since in the annals of American backwoods cannibal horror cinema. It feels like some kind of blood drenched fever dream you would have after consuming to much Christmas ham and then getting a stomach bug. My words fail to do the finale of “Motel Hell” justice, you’ve gotta see it to even begin to comprehend it.

Babe III: The Reckoning

Babe III: The Reckoning

“Motel Hell” is a queer duck of a horror film. It delivers the horror and the comedy, but it doesn’t exactly mix and ends up more often than, simply being absurd. I laughed my ass either way,  as this is some truly peculiar, yet, entertaining food for thought.  Try not to fall in love with Farmer Vincent and Ida, I dare ya. Those two are such fantastic, memorable characters, you’ll find yourself deeply saddened to see them go by film’s end.

So, this Thanksgiving, be thankful for your family, friends and take a closer look at that dead thing you’re shoveling into your face. you never know just who might be over for dinner.

Four and a Half out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Root highly recommends you spend a night at “Motel Hell!”

Stay Trashy!

-Root

31
Oct
13

Mistress Paine; Halloween Devil Girl 2013

 HALLOWEEN, GANG! Well, it’s that most magical day of the year, the day when the barrier between the living and the dead is thinnest, when we all get to put on disguises and roam the streets without getting arrested, that day when it’s socially acceptable to bang on complete strangers doors and beg for candy! That’s right, Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve or Samhain, whichever you wish to call it is kosher in my book.  Well, one very sexy treat has been offered to us this Halloween in the form of a colorful, spooky and sultry set from the lovely Mistress Paine! Before we unwrap this sickeningly sweet piece of sugary confection, how’s about a little getting to know you chit-chat, hmm?

The Primal Root: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What kind of stuff are you into?

Mistress Paine: I really enjoy modeling but my focus right now is going to be to go back to school to be a vet assistant caring for animals has always been a passion of mine but for now in my free time i spend a lot of time with my best friend shawn and my bf2. As our Halloween Devil Girl, I was wondering which horror flicks you might be watching this October 31st?

PR: As our Halloween Devil Girl, I was wondering which horror flicks you might be watching this October 31st?

MP: This Halloween I’m going old school its not much of a horror but a favorite classic earnest scared stupid is my movie choice.

PR: What song would you recommend The Gang listen to while admiring your lovely Devil Girl set?

MP: A good song of choice to listen to while admiring my photos would have to be Head Like a Hole.

PR: What’s the scariest damn movie you’ve ever seen? What made it so frightening?

MP: Hmmm scariest movie I’ve ever seen is a tough one but id have to go with volcano as corny as it is when it boils down to it there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop a volcano just get out of its way

PR:  When you’re out Trick or Treating Halloween night what sweet is sure to put a smile on your face?

MP: My favorite sweet that i look forward to this time of year is definitely candy corn i can’t get enough of those addicting pieces of pure sugar. 🙂

Well, the only thing sweeter than candy corn this Halloween might just be Mistress Paine’s wicked Halloween Devil Girl spread. Feast your eyes and enjoy! Oh, and Trashy Halloween! -Root

Photography by: Shawn Plunkett

 

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30
Sep
13

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988) Should Have Stayed Dead

If only this movie were half as cool as it's poster.

If only this movie were half as cool as it’s poster.

a Primal Root written review

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Thom Mathews as Joey in “Return of the Living Dead Part 2”

1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”  was a cynical, bleak, hilarious gory, nihilistic balls to the wall reinvention of the living dead zombie tropes,  “Return of the Living Dead part 2” is not a step back in regards to quality and creativity, but a disastrous leap backwards over a cliff onto a landfill full of busted whiskey bottles and used up ideas .  “The Return of the Living Dead’s” horror began with a shambling, rotten, corpse pleading for “More Brains!”, which is exactly what the film delivered. An intelligent, fresh and uncompromising vision of what the living dead could be when you break free from all the steadfast rules and restraint set in place by George Romero in his  1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.”  Return of the Living Dead is fierce, brilliant and everything you could ever want from a horror film of it’s breed. It’s a one of a kind and to make a sequel would be pretty goddamn tough…especially with the ending it delivered.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned such a horrendously bad, wet fart of a sequel than “The Return of the Living Dead Part 2.” Rarely has a cinematic follow up missed the mark so widely, it’s pretty astounding. Long gone is the wit and dark sense of humor that poured forth from the original, in it’s place are lame jokes, Three Stooges Gags and cast members from the previous film, James Karen and Thom Mathews, returning  as grave robbers with nothing to do but recite their funniest lines from the original film and literally succumb to the same fate they did on the first go round. These jokes were great and worked the first time we heard them, but when you lift the best material from the first movie and reuse it line for line, it’s stale and depressing.

That's what the original "Return of the Living Dead" was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

That’s what the original “Return of the Living Dead” was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

Here’s the low down, there’s a little ginger kid named Jesse (Michael Kenworthy who also appeared in the excellent 1988 remake of “The Blob”) who lives in a developing suburb that looks eerily similar to Questa Verde from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” or that suburb where Elliot lived in Speilberg’s “E.T.” Anyhoo, the kid is chock full of quips and one liners which he unleashes on some neighborhood bullies who he ends up getting picked on by and, eventually, discovers one of those  “corpse in a can” barrels the military likes to lose all over this great nation of ours., which has come to rest in a sewage runoff near the local cemetery. Noticing a decomposing body through the barrels glass lid initially has the kids running for their lives, but as you and I both know from “Stand By Me” young boys cannot stay away from dead bodies and the lure of this corpse barrel proves to be the undoing of the two bullies picking on Jesse. Two head back later that day, bang on the barrel a little bit, and for their efforts are greeted with a nice juicy blast of 2-4-5 Trioxin, the reanimation juice introduced in the original, when the canister opens spraying the boys right in the kisser. hold on to your brains, ’cause we all know just where that leads, don’t we?

As night falls in our little hamlet, the Trioxin makes it’s way to the nearby cemetery and, as if Mother Nature is in on the joke, the sky opens up and a downpour begins soaking the soil and the corpses it contains, priming these cadavers for a night of brain skull cracking and brain slurping. Also in the cemetery are, as I mentioned before, a couple of grave robbers who happen to be the two very talented character actors, James Karen and Thom Mathews, who are for the most part just going through the motions and spouting their greatest hits for the run time and earning their paychecks for appearing in such lazy bullshit. Well, the dead come back to unlife right on cue, but this time they rise from their tombs to a goofy, Looney Tunes style score and are prone to slapstick and pratfalls as they try to pull themselves out of their graves. It’s all painfully unfunny, uninspired, and far from exciting.

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Soon the movie gets into the scream-a-thon where in place of the originals frantic, insane pace and sense of panic, director Ken Wiederhorn decides to just have the characters scream nonstop for about thirty minutes. Again, this is tedious and boring. As the core cast goes on screaming and wailing, on and on and on, as they run around the suburbs, peel out in a cherry red convertible and freak out as a disembodied hand wiggles around in the back seat is enough to make you start wondering just where in the Hell you put your handgun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy and the epitome of shitty film making.

As you can guess, Thom Mathews and James Karen both turn into zombies and Thom manages to seduce his girlfriend into letting him eat her brains in an awkward scene where she appears to get some kind of sexual gratification as her boyfriend’s teeth crunch open her skull…Just as this occurs and ROTLDp2 dangles the possibility of getting interesting in our face, it unceremoniously yanks it away from us and we find ourselves stuck with Jesse, his sister (whose bouncing breasts during her workout routine early on hypnotized me when I was in third grade) and the dashing cable repair man (played by Dana Ashbrook from TV’s Twin Peaks) as Jesse solves every problem and saves the day…that’s right, an 8 year old kid halts the zombie apocalypse.  In a matter of hours. By luring them into a power station and then simply electrocuting them all…Ooooh, I don’t know…

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

I cannot express enough just how unfunny and uninspired this shitty Speilberg wannabe hunk of shit is. Replacing bold social satire, dark humor and genre innovation with claptrap kid’s movie nonsense  is a disgrace to the former film. It’s pointless, dull and only succeeds in being exceedingly forgettable. This series is, as of 2013, five films long and every single sequel manages to completely miss the point of what made the original so special. I understand that ROTLDp2 has a kind of cult following, but for the life of me, I cannot find a single person who genuinely likes this movie. If you do, I would honestly love to hear what it’s appeal is because I just can’t figure it out.

The acting is serviceable (Everyone, scream a lot! Little kid, say something sarcastic and obvious that sounds like a screenwriter wrote it as opposed to a child speaking naturally!) , the punk soundtrack and excellent score has been replaced by bargain basement hair metal and a score that would not be out of place in a Woody Woodpecker short, the set pieces are fittingly cheesy and crafted to be as comical and none threatening as possible, and the film and the story itself are lacking any teeth whatsoever which is truly saddening when considering the source material.  At the end of the day, trying to follow up “The Return of the Living Dead” with a worthy sequel is a fool’s errand. Still, to see it spawn something so half hearted, unimaginative and shockingly boring really left this fan of Trash Cinema feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as "Return of the Living Dead Part 2" ended!  Woooooah...

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” ended! Woooooah…

If “The Return of the Living Dead” is lightening in a bottle,   “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” is more like poop in your pants.

I give this shit smear 1/2 out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.  Approach with caution.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Sep
10

Rotten Review Ep. 15: Return of the Living Dead 3


Hey Gang,

The Primal Root is back after a month off and to celebrate I am showcasing a piece of Trash Cinema featuring one of my all time favorite zombie femme fatales. That’s right, Ms. Julie Walker as brought to glorious undead life by the unfathomably gorgeous Melinda Clarke.

Get ready for a Special Guest Appearance from Ms. Jessica Critten (in her final appearance), grotesque body self mutilation, angry Latinos, tortured sewer dwelling do-gooders, half naked dancing zombies in chains and lederhosen, 2-4-5 Trioxin, dumb scientists, brain freeze bullets, teenagers listening to lite rock, necrophilia, terrible government security, brain munching and plenty of slimy, freakish canned zombies.

It’s a wild, bloody, stupid ride with Julie and Curt as they tamper in God’s domain and end up paying the price. It’s not quite Bride of Frankenstein…hell, it’s hardly Bride of the Monster. But Return of the Living Dead cracks me up every time and you cannot deny the appeal of a beautiful  re-animated redheaded  zombie girl with metal stuff shoved through her flesh.

Well, I think I’ve sufficiently creeped you all out enough. Enjoy the latest offering from yours truly, The Primal Root, and The Rotten Reviews.

Stay Trashy!

– Root




Dumpster Diving

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