Posts Tagged ‘pit

03
Mar
14

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) Teen Angst Armageddon

All-the-Boys-Love-Mandy-Lane-poster

a Primal Root review

I gotta say, I look back on my high school years somewhat fondly. Enough time has rolled by now that I can selectively choose the times and moments I care to look back upon with the bittersweet twinge of nostalgia tugging at my steadily aging, withering, heart strings and marvel at how fleeting those four years of my time here in this world were. Still, upon closer inspection, high school was a pretty tricky, nasty little piece of the human experience. Sure, I had it pretty well , but everyone had their hangups and hurts, no matter how confident they came across. It all seemed to mean so much and it felt like everything was at stake. It’s a time when the politics of social interaction are driven home and our lifelong insecurities are so often set in stone. It’s a time of growth, cruelty and burgeoning sexuality. Let’s face it, sometimes it was like a fresh slice of Hell.

This is just where “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” drops us in the middle of, Teen Angst Armageddon time as Amber Heard’s Mandy Lane walks through the halls of her high school and every male eyeball present happens to find it’s gaze dropping upon her blossoming bosom or her noticeably curvaceous posteriors. In the seething cauldron of pubescent hormonal Hell, known as high school, it is to be expected. But as the film plays out, these glances prove to be the tip of an iceberg leading to the flick’s M.O.

See, every inhabitant of this high school possessing a cock and set of balls are in a strange, deep seeded lust for Mandy Lane. According to rumor, she’s still a virgin, (which is some kind of mythic wonder for high school boys. He who deflowers has the power? I dunno, the logic of cherry popping being a big deal, some transcendent moment, has always baffled me) and has become a pro at haulting the advances of the nonstop barrage of  young bucks just aching to stick their drippy teenage jerky basters down her unclaimed love tunnel.  It’s actually quite disturbing watching guy after guy try coaxing and pressuring her into having sex with them. “You don’t know how hot you are.” and ” We’re all trying to get you.” are some of the incredibly tactful lines used by these walking hard-ons in the hopes of being “the first.” When their advances are not met with submission with a smile, many of these fellows respond with frustrated anger and lash out. Yeah, I wonder why this young woman’s not interested?

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

During an opening scene at a high school pool party we get to experience such a moment close up and personal as a bleach blonde jock puts the moves on Mandy Lane before being interrupted by Mandy’s best dude friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). Before you can say, “I am a Golden God” Emmet has this jockular dickhead convinced that the only was to win Mandy Lane’s heart is to jump off the roof of the house and into the pool. Jocko Homo declares his love for Mandy from the roof and jumps to his death as his skull smashes open on the edge of the pool. I think this was supposed to be horrifying, but it made me laugh out loud. Sorry, something about how the moment was executed had tickled my sick little funny bone.  This is possibly the movie’s inciting incident, as we fast forward to 9 months later and it appears Emmet and Mandy Lane are no longer on speaking terms.

Think 9 months has changed anything? Hell no, all the boys are still looking to lay a coat of Mandy’s virgin blood all over their pussy pokers. This lusting even inspires a rare slasher film soliloquy from one of the boys as he watches her jog around the  schools track…

“There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.”

In fact, this young stoner, by the name of Red (Aaron Himelstein), has invited Mandy and group of fellow classmates out to his Father’s ranch for a weekend of acting like idiots, doing drugs, and high pressuring every woman in sight into having sex with them. Believe it, or not, Mandy Lane agrees to go along with these horny teen dogs out for blood.

The first quarter of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” has an unrelentingly dark, mean spirited tone that bodes well for the rest of the picture as we witness the teens fervently cutting one another down as a means of making themselves feel superior. There’s a teenage power struggle going on as the girls claim one another are fat, that someone has far too much pubic hair and the the fragile male ego is bruised when one man is singled out as having the smallest dick at the table during a game of truth or dare.  As fascinating as all this is, after a short while it all just feels like a retread of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a slightly dull emo edge to it. Before long, the teens are butchered one by one in some grisly ways, but none too shocking, and the film falls into the typical slasher conventions where there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. And the film’s slasher, who is obvious from the get-go, is revealed at nearly the halfway point and makes a pretty lackluster boogeyman.

atblml

By the end, when the final twist is revealed and a confrontation in a mass grave filled the corpses of over a dozen diseased, rotting, heads of cattle I was totally dumbstruck and left wondering what the character motivations were to begin with. Just what in the Hell was happening during the flick’s runtime that I missed? By not establishing any of this characterization in the previous two acts, this revelation comes totally out of left field and never quite feels justified. But, perhaps if you look at the people who are now dead, the justification speaks for itself…in an angst high school teen sort of way.

Throughout the film, Mandy Lane keeps a pretty cool, detached demeanor without a whole lot of humanity. Mandy is curvy, gorgeous,  and innocent but never gets fully fleshed out as a character, but that might be entirely the point, as the male and female characters alike only see her as a sexual conquest, and not quite human at all. Through it all, everyone wants a piece of the elusive, untouched, mysterious Mandy Lane and by the film’s end, we don’t get to have her either.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” was  the directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, who would go on to direct the damn fine film “50/50” and that zombie romantic comedy I just cannot bring myself to watch, “Warm Bodies”,  this plus the film’s long delayed release has garnered “Mandy Lane”  a bit of a cult fascination. Watching “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” I can see it having a much bigger impact in 2006, not only in theaters, but with me personally. It feels a little off balanced and falls short in  it’s story telling. That being said, there are some fun performances, a handful of good deaths, ONE pair of breasts, and one excellent final fight in a mud hole filled with rotten cows.  It’s worth checking out, just don’t expect Mandy Lane to give it all up that easy. All well intention and good effort at creating a genre deconstructing slasher flick that concentrate a considerable amount of it’s time and effort focusing on teenage gender roles and individual insecurities. Again, much like high school itself, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is small potatoes.

I’m giving “Mandy Lane” TWO and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

19
Nov
13

The Pit aka: Teddy (1981) Boners, Food and Homicide; The Puberty Triple Threat

pit_poster_01

a Primal Root written review

It’s high time we talked about “The Pit” aka: “Teddy”, one of the creepiest goddamn coming of age movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.  The plot goes something like this; a young, mentally deranged teenage boy named Jamie (Sammy Snyders) with parents who apparently travel quite a bit and regularly leave poor Jamie in the care of attractive female twenty something year old psychology students.  And buy, does he burn through them.  See, Jamie is kind of a creeper. The extent to which this kid will go to express his love aka: raging hard-on for just about anything wearing a bra is pretty impressive. He even tries the old “I dropped my napkin” ruse at the dinner table when he’s being introduced to his summer caretaker, Sandy (Jeannie Elias). Of course, this scheme works a whole lot better when you don;t announce loudly “OH NO! I DROPPED MY NAPKIN!” and then lunge your whole body head-first under the table to gaze up a woman’s skirt and into the crotch fabric of their panties.

You'll wish he'd written "Redrum" when this is all over and done with.

You’ll wish he’d written “Redrum” when this is all over and done with.

But this is the least of Jamie’s issues. See, he also has a teddy bear he he talks to…and Teddy talks back, stoking young Jamie’s deviant behavior and offering up suggestions on how to be a more effective weirdo. Also, Jamie happens to know the location of an isolated pit deep in the woods populated by furry, malevolent, flesh eating creatures with glowing yellow eyes.  Teddy and the Tra-La-Logs (Why, oh, WHY is this not a band name?) are the two folks Jamie feels he can confide in. and it makes sense, seeing as everyone in the town seemingly loathes this kid. From the his teenage classmates who lovingly punch him in the face and pull humiliating pranks on him, to the Librarian lady who refuses his pervish advances, even the elderly woman in the retirement home down the street can’t stand Jamie and even predicts he’ll probably just grow up “to be one of those hippies!”

pit 01

No one understands me like the beasts on the edge of Hell.

So, yes, Jamie airs out all his issues with a the psychotic voice in his head he hears through the inanimate object named Teddy and a batch of vicious monsters living in a hole deep in the woods.  The Tra-La-Logs do not judge Jamie, they simply gnash their teeth, stare at him and drool as he explains the twisted thoughts of his diseased mind. Jamie grows to care a lot about these critters and Teddy hits upon the winning idea of starting to feed the little monsters! So, in between sessions of staring at Sandy’s bare breasts while she sleeps and faking kidnappings in order to snap some Polaroids of  Librarian next door’s  hush puppies, Jamie steals some of Sandy’s cash and buys a ton of hamburger meat and feeds it to the creatures in the woods.

That's a bad touch, Sandy.

That’s a bad touch, Sandy.

 

Of course, this can’t last, as Sandy catches on quickly to the fact her cash is vanishing quicker my singles at a strip club. Where can Jamie find a new, cheap source of meat for this ravaging, razor toothed, carnivorous creatures? Why, yes, tossing the screaming, soon to be devoured bodies of the people who have wronged you is completely valid option!  In a montage of great dark comedy, Jamie lures about a half dozen people to their untimely deaths including Sandy’s boyfriend who he tricks into the pit by throwing a football around with him and making the guy “go long”, which leads him right into the jaws of the enemy. Even better,  Jamie kidnaps the mean old lady from the retirement home, rolling her down the nature trail as she shrieks and waves her hands around in terror, and launches her into the pit where she is ripped to pieces.  I’m not kidding, I laughed so hard I farted.  this is prem-o stuff, Gang.

Suck it, Grandma!

Suck it, Grandma!

There’s even a slightly more profound moment where Jamie is about to roll a young girl into the pit who laughed at him while he was getting the snot beaten out of him.  “You sure are a pretty girl. But only on the outside. Inside you;re ugly and you will probably spend your whole life giggling at the pain of others.”  a pretty chilling statement about the nature of bullying and the violence it spawns. Treat people with kindness or you might find yourself the main course in gore drenched buffet of fury. Never mess with the kid who is rumored to be psychotic, he may just prove you right. It’s a moment I think all kids who were picked on can relate to. I think at some point we all wished we had a giant hole int he ground we could roll our tormentors into so we would never have to hear from them again.  I can see a little bit of wish fulfillment here.

D'Awwww...

D’Awwww…

After making the major miscalculation of actually showing Sandy the Tra-La-Longs down in their pit, she insists they bring out some scientists to check out the discovery when Jamie made her promise to keep them a secret, Jamie ends up accidentally pushing her into THE PIT where she is slowly ripped into meaty chunks and feasted upon by the ever hungry monsters. It might be the bloodies moment of the movie and works like gang busters and Sandy’s bright red entrails and slurped down and her bones and crunched to pieces by the terror of the Tra-La-Logs.  Jamie is traumatized by the death of someone he actually wants to put his penis in, and decides to throw a rope down the hole and let the creatures loose upon an unsuspecting public and, in the process, unleashes holy Hell upon the inhabitants of his little hamlet.

What follows is probably the most ineffective, yet still entertaining, sequence of “The Pit”. The movie takes the focus away from Jamie and, instead, focuses on the rampage of the Tra-La-Logs which are obviously nothing more than short people in furry suits running around the woods. Int he darkness of the pit the creatures came off as scary and mysterious, in the bright light of day they are laughable. Still, they manage to run about the rural area ripping young folks and big breasted teenage skinny dippers (one of which happens to be the director’s daughter) into finger food before a posse of angry, card carrying NRA locals track them back into their pit and blow into blood spattered shag carpeting.

Cut back to Jamie who is now headed to his grandparent’s farm to be taken care of for the rest of the summer, only this time he is not alone. His younger little lady cousin is there and they run off to go play together. It looks like Jamie has finally found a friend. Someone who is not sickened or terrified of his mere presence.  The sun is setting in the sky as the two children laugh and run off into the woods…only, they find something…another pit in the ground. Jamie knows all too well the horror that lies ahead. “They eat people…” he says. “I know.” She replies…

It's basically a prequel to "Ted"

It’s basically a prequel to “Ted”

“The Pit” is one very unique, sleazy, unusual and even disturbing little slice of forgotten horror gold.  It has the usual limitations you might expect from a low budget 80’s horror flick, but it still manages to pull off it’s concept for the majority of the running time. Sammy Snyders’ performance as the bizarre, creepy teenage killer is damned impressive. This is some very strange and often whacky material for a young actor to be performing, but the guy really gives his all and ends up giving a very believable and unsettling performance.  I’ve read interviews with the “The Pit” screenwriter Ian  Stuart and his disappointment in what was originally intended to be a much darker story with far fewer  flourishes of dark comedy. I understand what he’s saying, and I do wish that version could have been made, but the film we ended up with is still one pretty goddamn strange cinematic cocktail. From the bizarre sexual obsessions and oglings of Jamie, to the crew of bloodthirsty Hell beasts and the psychotic voices in Jamie’s head who transmit themselves through the boy’s Teddy bear, it’s one of those movies so peculiar it truly has to be seen to be believed.  I’d put it along side movies like “Tourist Trap” and “Pin”, movies that are damn strange and certainly effective, but lost and waiting to be rediscovered.

Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

12
Sep
11

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark…Well, that’s a load of shit!

a Primal Root written review

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (2011)

My buddy Sam and I recently checked out the Guillermo Del Toro produced and written remake of the cult classic 70’s made for TV horror movie, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. A television movie, I must admit, I had not seen until recntly.  What Del Toro and company have delivered is a moderately entertaining spook show replete with CGI, tooth eating monsters, scared little girls and Katie Holmes looking as dazed and confused as she did in Batman Begins.

Yeah, it passed the time and wasn’t very memorable.  I was never once truly frightening beyond a jump scare level and treaded some pretty well worn Del Toro territory and comes off feeling remarkably similar as if his overrated fantasy flick, “Pan’s Labyrinth” had been cross bred with the original plot line of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. Our central character is a little girl whose negligent father and step mother allow her to wonder around a gigantic mansion that is being renovated without any supervision.  What’s the worst that could happen, right? Well, for one, she could come across a portal to hell where she manages to unleash a bunch of calf-high, albino, hunch back tooth eating demons intent on dragging her tiny ass down to the depths of a hidden fire place pit where she will be mutilated and her soul will be in torment for all eternity. You know kids…

A Crest Kid's worst nightmare.

As you might have guessed, this is exactly what happens and when the little girl tries to tell her father (Guy Pierce, dialing it in as if this were MCI Friends & Family) he refuses to believe and shoves a few more Ritalin in his kid and goes back to focusing on his burgeoning career as an architect and a tool. The only one who kind of believes what’s going on is the little girls new, um, step friend (played by Katie ‘Deer in the Headlights’ Holmes) See, she’s not yet technically the little girl’s step mother. Dad’s still giving her a spin in the sack to see if he wants to go through with the marriage thing from what I gather. Hope the Scientology thing isn’t a deal breaker.

Well, no one fully believes our pint sized protagonist until it’s too late despite the mountains of evidence all over the place in the form of photos shot using the legendary Million Shot Polaroid Camera and even a crushed albino demon carcass that is jammed in a bookcase…but is never mentioned…Did anyone even find this guy’s squished little body? I’m sure that fucker started to stink after a while.  And by the end of the movie, well, let’s just say there are no happy endings. Although there are happier for some than others…Let’s just say, never get caught between a rope and a fire place.

Vague enough? Good. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” looks fantastic! It comes wrapped in a very enticing, glossy, package…but once you look beyond that lovely exterior, there’s not much else there being offered up to the viewing audience.  And don;t even get me started on how they botched the entire story by changing the little creature’s M.O. I was wondering why certain events transpired at the end of this updated ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” when the little creature’s M.O. was teeth…yet they seemed thrilled to tear people to pieces and not even come close to touching their chompers…It wasn’t until I watched the original that I truly understood what had happened with this retelling of the story and why these added elements feel totally unnecessary.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (1973)

The original telling of the “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” tale was broadcast as the ABC Movie of the Week  near Halloween in October 1973. The production was helmed by the late, great,  John Newland (host and director of “One Step Beyond”) and has gone on to become a cult classic in many horror circles. And after my very first viewing it became readily apparent just why it holds such special place in the hearts of so many fans of the genre.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is the sad and frightening tale of a young marriage on the rocks. Lonely housewife, Sally (Kim Darby) who lives with her career obsessed husband, Alex (Jim Hutton) in her Grandmother’s old, gigantic mansion. Sally is left home alone a lot with her only company being an elderly groundskeeper. Yes, I know, this sounds like the beginning of a tale from Penthouse Forum. However, Sally’s boredom and curiosity lead her into her Grandfather’s old study as opposed to the grounds keeper’s drawers.  And, of course, she unleashes a posse of viscous, sadistic, furry fun-sized beasties intent on dragging poor young Sally into their realm through the fire place.

They're just like the Keebler Elves, only they're from Hell.

Sally immediately reports her situation to her husband and he helps her cope with these monsters and the both win the day and live happily ever after. Just kidding! As you might expect, Alex doesn’t believe a word of what Sally’s freaking out about and decides she’s upset and jealous over the fact he’s so devoted to his work (as opposed to her)  and, as matters escalate at a dinner party, he just considers her a raving lunatic and that these monsters  Sally claims are afraid of light, want to “steal her spirit” and kill the interior decorator with a well placed, Home Alone style trip chord, are nothing more than figments of her angry housewife imagination.Who has the last laugh? Well…no one actually.

In the thrilling climax to the film, Sally is sedated and dragged into the basement study by these evil creatures who are intent on stealing her away to their realm. Sally slowly wakes up and tries in vain o grab onto whatever she can to stop this from happening. It;s not enough. In a last ditch effort she grabs a Polaroid camera and snaps one single shot of these malevolent beings. It startles them for a moment…but they quickly regain composure and, again, begin dragging Sally towards her doom.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”  is basically a one woman show and is a decidedly grown-up affair. Sally’s horrific ordeal and pleas for help are greatly ignored by her absentee husband who scolds her as if she’s a child whose acting up. She’s trapped here, in this house, in this marriage, alone to fend for herself. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”  works exceedingly well as a metaphor for a loveless, unhappy marriage where the little things, literally in this case, begin splitting the couple apart.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” functions on so many levels as a psychological horror, a monster flick, a suspense thriller, marital drama…it has something for everyone and these elements all meld together so naturally, so well, that one never overwhelms the other. Also adding to the appeal, for The Root anyway, is the feel of the piece. It never feels rushed or hurried and the story develops naturally, never feeling forced. Plus, the retro look of the film in a way enhances the unsettling nature of the film itself . It’s age certainly shows, but I feel it is to the film advantage.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” works and works well. As I am sure you’ve guessed there are no happy ending here as Sally’s husband comes to his wife’s aid far too late…and the final moments, the final lines of the film are among the most chilling portions of either telling of the tale.  It’s the stuff of nightmares.

In Conclusion

Is it not normal for my bedroom to look like this when I shut off the lights?

I can see where Del Toro is coming from with the remake of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. It’s a film he’s always had an affection for ever since it traumatized him as a child and felt the need to retell the tail with his own spin. I understand and appreciate that and the updating of the tale works on some levels and I am sure will appeal to a mainstream audience.

But why add that whole teeth subplot to the creatures as opposed to going after people for their spirit? And if this is the case, why does a certain individuals spirit speak at the end of the film from the bowels of the fire place? The flick makes some strange choices in an attempt be slightly different than it’s source material( Del Toro’s got a thing for little girls. Just sayin…) yet keeps all the great elements that made the original fantastic…even though it doesn’t make much sense in the context of the new rules they’ve set up.

Both films work on two separate levels.  “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” 2011 works as spectacle. There are jumps scares, more gore, CGI monsters and more Gothic atmosphere and baffelingly bad decisions than you can shake a tooth at.  “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” 1973 works as a story and character piece. The film takes the time to build characters, tell it’s tale, create genuine suspense and dread and then completely devastate and creep out it’s audience by the time the credits roll.

Now there’s a “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” for both camps. I’m sure it’s pretty apparent which version I prefer. But I know times and tastes change and the more they do the more I feel like I come across as some old curmudgeon telling the kids how much better things used to be while I yell at them to stay off my lawn while waving my cane wildly above my head as cream corn dribbles down my chin. I guess I am okay with that…Seems like I am the only living man in America who completely loathed the Fright Night remake.

Either way, the next time you find yourself in a gothic mansion with a creepy study that contains a fire place that leads straight to Hell and the owner tries to comfort you by telling you “Don’t be afraid of the dark?” Fuck that noise and get yourself a nightlight. Better yet, go find a Ramada.

Stay Trashy,

-Root

Please, don’t be afraid of The Darkness.

01
Nov
10

Rotten Reviews presents Saw V

SawV_FM

Hey Gang,

The Primal Root here. I just woke up and I have no idea where I am. Somebody kidnapped me while I was a t work and now I am stuck in this place. I have some kind of contraption fastened around my neck and there’s a TV in front of me. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I have a feeling this is one of those dang Jigsaw traps I’ve heard so much about. I am not sure what I did wrong or what lesson I am going to be forced to learn but it looks like I may have to watch something…something terrible…

Well, if that’s the case I shouldn’t have a problem. Some of my favorite movies are the strangest, sickest, most perverse films ever made! What in the world could Jigsaw possibly show me that would make me consider hurting myself…oh shit…

But is it really Jigsaw behind all this? I guess I’ll have to wait and see. I sense something truly sinister at work here far worse than that megalomaniacal asshole. I guess I’ll have to see this sick game through to the very end and see what twists are in store. Because if I am stuck in a Saw film, there’s one thing I can be sure of…nothing is as it seems.

Stay Trashy,

– Root




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