Posts Tagged ‘power

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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a Primal Root written review

Before the man ended up tackling truly awful films like Baby Geniuses and Karate Dog, late filmmaker Bob Clark made some well loved and enduring films. Hell, they play his film A Christmas Story at least 700 times on every cable station from November to New Year’s Day, and his horror film Black Christmas is held up beside John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the most suspenseful and horrifying slasher films ever made. The deeply unsettling Vietnam era horror film, Deathdream He even created the legendary Trash Cinema Classic, Porky’s back in 1982! The man proved he could do it all and with pizazz. For my money, one of the man’s finest and most under appreciated works is one of his very first. the 1973 horror/comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is the tale of a troupe of hippie thespians who travel out to a secluded burial island off the coast of Florida for an adventure at the witching hour.  Their leader and owner of the theater company is Alan (Alan Ormsby) a complete megalomaniac who take much pleasure in putting his friends down, sexual harassment and has a penchant for loud clothing. He leads his troupe to this island with the promise that he will raise the dead. The gang catches on quick and thinks it’s all a ruse to scare the shit out of them, which proves to be the case as they are attacked by two ghouls that turn out to be fellow actors in pancake makeup. However, soon after this bit of fun, Alan ends up ordering his thespian clan to dig up an actual corpse, that of a deceased fellow named Orville, before actually promising to call up a curse from Satan himself and bring the dead back to life.

After several false starts, the magic incantation actually does work and the undead residents of the island cemetery rise from their graves to devour the usual rag tag group of acid casualties, witchy women and squares in bell bottoms, but this doesn’t happen till nearly the end of the movie. In fact, the majority of the film is spent highlighting the petty power struggles and squabbling that takes place between this group comprised of hand picked members of the Flower Power/Free Love community. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things peels back the facade and takes a long, hard look at the hippie dream of peace, love and community and how this counterculture failed on delivering it’s idealistic vision of a better, new society. Power games, sexism, and sadistic threats are what dominate this unpleasant and corrupt group of young people. In short, this is no longer a utopian world of change, but an exact replica of the society they we seeking to be an alternative to.

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Just beyond the caustic satire of the counterculture is a dark sense of melancholy and despair which is fully embodied in the character of Alan. The villainous Alan does not believe in traditional Flower Power, but espouses on the pointlessness of our very existence, “The dead are losers. If anyone hasn’t earned the right for respect, it’s the dead…Man is a machine that manufactures manure.”  Alan takes great pride in devaluing those around him. Calling his leading man a “slab of meat” and mocking Satan himself in his incantations. Alan lives in a world without value or truth. He even states that he will take Orville home to feed to his dogs and then use his bones as Christmas ornaments. Sure, he might be saying this all for shock value, but from the reaction of those around him you get the impression this is not an act, but who Alan really is.  So, in the end, after Alan spends so much of the film waxing his nihilistic poetry, exposing the pointlessness of life and the non existence of God or Satan, it makes a kind of deeply sick sense that the dead should return to life. Rising like malfunctioning machines comprised of rotted flesh and old bones, moving about as a parody of the living’s pointless, expendable existence.

Instead of embracing these walking dead as the ultimate substantiation of his empty, nihilistic beliefs, Alan does everything in his power to save his own ass. In one of the film;s most memorable moments of absolutely shocking and comical pessimism, Alan and a female friend run up the stairs for safety, followed closely by the flesh hungry dead. Alan, in a moment of complete selfishness, pushes this woman down the stairs and into the arms of the flesh eaters coming for them. The actions stops for a moment as the woman and zombies alike stop in their tracks and stare at Alan, as if astonished at his loathsome cowardice, before taking this young woman off to be eaten.

This is where that vision peace and love got us. Not the most cheerful of thoughts to consider.

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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one brutal in it’s sick, drastically dark satire, but it’s still a fantastic comedy. Filled with quirky performances, snappy dialog, and some fantastic one liners.  On a near non-existent budget, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things manages to be both completely entertaining and utterly engrossing  while reminding you why you dread running into those kids you used to hang out with in drama club back in high school. The thespians are all very real, very human characters and the zombies, in cheap makeup and thrift store clothes, are vivid, nasty customers with facial expressions registering rage and hate rather than the typical benign indifference of a Romero zombie. After being rudely awaken,  these dead folks are back to settle a score.  The makers of this film use their limited budget to their advantage and deliver an intelligent, bleak look into a counterculture that never did take, died,  and simply rotted away like flesh from the bone.  In the end, it’s Death getting the last laugh.

I give Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

27
Feb
13

In the Mouth of Madness (1995): Licked by the Tongue of Terror

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a Primal Root review

“I think, therefore you are.” -Sutter Cain, In the Mouth of Madness

Few movie openings get me as pumped as that of “In the Mouth of Madness”. The opening synth licks, drums kick in, and the guitar commences to wailing as Sutter Cain’s latest book is being shot through the presses by whirring machines that could draw and quarter you faster than you can say “owee”.  Never has book publishing seemed this incredibly badass. If you can imagine Metallica’s Enter Sandman but without James Hatfield’s goofy vocals and composed by cinematic renaissance man, John Carpenter, you’re halfway there. It’s a fucking spectacular start to a movie that’s basically the dark, evil, alarmist version of Reading Rainbow. Who would have ever guessed reading could be so goddamn cool and menacing? In my own head, I like to imagine that if this film had reached a wider audience, we would have seen cool, greaser types with their slicked-back hair, bad boy shades, a Marlboro dangling from chapped lips, leaning against a support beam in their favorite dive bar and flipping through a well worn-collection of Edgar Allen Poe.

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So, who is this Sutter Cane fellow? Well, in the fictional 1995 realm of “In the Mouth of Madness” he is the most widley read author in history. His stories have been translated into several dozen languages, outsell every other book on the market, and have even begun to lead to riots in book stores (remember? People used to go to stores that sold books!) when they can’t supply enough to meet the demands of the author’s work.   Did I mention this guy does horror? So it stands to reason that the man is also getting the blame for a recent “plague of violence” that has swept the nation with folks brutally attacking one another seemingly at random. Are they getting a little inspired by their page-turner?

As we all know, that’s absolute garbage. Entertainment has as much influence over real life violence as soft serve ice cream consumption has over the migration of gopher turtles.

But, I digress. As it turns out Sutter Cane has gone missing, and his publishing company has hired a cynical, crude, disillusioned insurance fraud investigator named John Trent (Sam Neil) to find out if Cain is alive and if he ever finished his final book, In the Mouth of Madness. Sent along with him is Cain’s editor, the  more open minded and vulnerable Styles (Julie Carmen). After some rather impressive investigating along with some trippy and disturbing nightmares, Trent puts together a map which will lead them to Cane who seems to be stationed in a small New England town. And not just any small New England town, but one named after Old Scratch, himself, and which seems to be the inspiration for one of Cane’s books, “The Hobb’s End Horror”.

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On their drive to the mysteriously elusive Hobb’s End Trent & Styles get to know one another while chit-chatting about Trent’s love of busting people and justifying his stone-cold cynicism with sharing his view that “the sooner mankind is off the planet, the better.” Styles speaks to her lust for horror, and that if reality as we know it should happen to shift how terrifying it would be to be the last sane one left…hmmm, foreshadowing, me thinks. There’s also an impromptu clown horn awakening that leads to a fun-sized Ruffles Potato Chip beat down that adds a little levity but really just makes me want some potato chips. Great product placement, though! I want to put those chips in my OWN personal mouth of madness where they can settle in my belly of batshit… ew.

Along their journey, Trent sleeps in the passenger seat snoring one of those irritating half snores as Styles gets a nice ripe slice of Hell. She catches a glimpse of bicycle reflectors up the road, but as she gets closer it seems to be a young man in his twenties peddling furiously in the same direction on the deserted highway in the pitch black night. As she drives past. he fades into the red of her tail lights and then disappears into the darkness. This is not a thing uncommon to humans. We pass people riding bikes, yeah, pretty much all the time. But there’s just something freakishly unsettling about this one. Something that speaks to us solely in the language of nightmares. Then, of course, there’s the next moment in which we see this soul, and he’s kind of, let’s say, changed a bit.

Several nightmare scenarios later, our dynamic duo find themselves in Hobb’s End, where the main street is lined with lovely little antique shops filled with what Trent eloquently calls “old shit”. The town looks pretty empty with the exception of a tribe of kids who can’t not run in slow motion after their dog. The two check into a quant little inn that seems to be run by Viggo the Carpathian and Mrs. Pickam (the incomparable Francis Bay). OH! and oI guess it bears mentioning that Cane’s there abducting children and transforming them into his own special brood of creatures bent on spreading his signature brand of mayhem and mutation throughout the town. And where else would HQ be but the comfy confines of THE BLACK CHURCH! A creepy, evil, place whereabouts dobermans attack en mass, the doors have a malfunctioning automatic open feature, and where Cane does all of his writing and evil plottin these days.

in the mouth sutter

Still, despite every gruesome event in “The Hobb’s End Horror” playing out around them, Trent still refuses to believe his own eyes and chocks it up to a ridiculously well-staged Disney World level publicity stunt put on just for him in hopes that he’ll high-tail it back to the big city, and talk up Cain’s “haunted little town.” In this one moment, I agree with Trent when he boldly declares, “Well, FUCK THAT!”

Now, you can begin to imagine Trent getting genuinely freaked out at this point, but the man just won’t give up on trying to find the logical explanation. But it seems to become more blazingly apparent that he’s driven himself right into a hotbed of slimy monsters and crazy shit ground zero. Portraits shift and change to creep the fuck out of city folk, grannies handcuff their naked hubbies to their ankles, and giant reptilians sporting a veritable mess of tentacles occupy the outdoor patio. Yeah. Sure, guy, this is all being staged JUST FOR YOU… I’m hopping on the next non demon-riddled Greyhound and heading to Chi-town as you brush chunks of brain and gore off your shoulder from the ‘actor’ who just unloaded a shotgun into his noggin.

As a mob of mutated town folk slowly inch towards Trent and a now totally whacked-out Styles (oh, yeah, she’s been lustily possessed by her demon-crazed client), the two exchange punches to the face in a Three Stooges of Domestic Battery kind of way. It gets a good laugh in (at least from me), and they head to their car to make a quick getaway. Styles gets all emotional and attention-starved, and commences to eating the car keys.  “JEEEEEESUS!” cries our hero and goes fishing down her throat, which, I gotta say, just feels a little gross & sketchy despite the necessity. Trent takes it to that further step, bashing in Styles’s mug, hot-wiring the car, and blazing the fuck out of this podunk Hell hole.

Only Trent can’t get out. No one gets out. He’s stuck in the demonic Groundhog’s Day of road trips as he repeatedly drives down the highway, finds the road lines glow a freakish neon orange, and being transported right back to Main Street USA where a posse of Basket Case 2 rejects await him hungrily. Oh, and by this point Styles is trying to smut it up with Trent, contorted her entire body into a creeping,  crackly-boned, monstrosity. The beauty of this moment? These days  all this would be done in sad, ineffective CGI, but cinematic treasures like this prove that unnerving realness of scenes such as this are actually pulled off by *real* effects such as the sideshow contortionist who rocked even the creepiest of moments.

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After several tedious attempts to escape Trent tries a more direct approach flooring his jalopy right into the crowd! They clear a path which leads right to Styles who just stands there grinning like she just drank all the sherry.  Trent jerks his steering wheel to the right and directly into a nasty collision which leaves him unconscious as the minions of mutations laugh and talk amongst themselves in the distance.

Trent then wakes up to have a one on one with the man, himself, Sutter Cain. Okay, this is it. Here is Trent’s chance to defend humanity! And what does he do? Too preoccupied with trying to light his last cigarette, Trent settles on insulting Cain by telling him his books suck. Eh, I hardly think that’s going to bruise the man’s ego, Trent.  And then he drops the bomb. Trent, himself, is Sutter’s creation. A character in a book he is writes and controls. Nothing more. Understandably, Trent’s more than a little unsettled by all this, even more so when Sutter rips into his own face with is bare hands to reveal a dark pit framed by torn shreds of a novels pages.  Yeah, this is looking less and less like a promotional stunt…

We’re led through a fantastic sequence wherein Trent peers into the darkness while Styles reads from Sutter’s new “bible”.  This, of course, plays as narration as he is living the story she reads. It’s a wonderfully creepy piece of cinema where Trent sees creatures rising from the abyss beyond description and we, the audience, are never given a good clear shot. We are only allowed to see Trent’s face as he reacts to what he sees. Styles presents the manuscript to Trent,  and Trent makes his way back into “his world”. The creatures gain, Trent trips, and all is lost…or so it seems.

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Trent screams in primal terror only to open his eyes and find himself on a dirt road, back in what looks to be classical reality. Birds chirp, kids deliver the newspaper, and there are no creatures beyond description chilling out at the truck stops. Yes, things seem normal, but Trent has seen some pretty heavy shit and can’t so easily shake it. First order of business is to destroy the manuscript, which keeps mysteriously finding it’s way back into his hands. Eventually Trent heads back to the publishing company that hired him in the first place only to find out Styles never existed and that he delivered the In the Mouth of Madness manuscript months ago and that it’s been at the top of the Best Seller list for seven weeks! Trent, having no recollection of this at all, is driven even closer to the edge. He pleads with the publishers to recall the book because what’s in it will drive people insane. Trent is then gently pushed off the edge as it’s revealed that the movie adaptation of the book comes out in a week.

The epidemic of violence continues, no one can put down Sutter’s latest work, our “hero” has gone homicidal as well, bashing in skulls with an axe outside book stores., which is why he has been telling this story from within a padded sell all along. By film’s end we find Trent in a deserted city after the dark power made manifest through Sutter’s work has infected everyone, making them lash out violently and mutate, as he goes into a fully lit theater. What’s playing? In the Mouth of Madness.

in mouth madness trent

Trent sits in an empty theater, popcorn bucket in hand and watches scenes fro the film we have just watched. He begins to laugh a pained, horrified laughter of sad realization. Of being broken. Tears swell up in his eyes as he tits his head back, his laughter becoming desperate and pleading as we cut to black. It”s a cold, dark, deeply unsettling ending because it brings up so many questions about who we are and reality in general.  Trent, obviously was born, grew up, has gone through life and made memories, how devastating would it be to find out it were all false. That, in effect, you aren’t real. That you are simply a means to entertain someone else.

It’s a cold concept to think about, that we might be nothing more than the figment of something’s imagination who can change the rules whenever they like and wipe our slates clean in the process. It takes a pretty active imagination to contemplate such an existence, but what a sad and empty way for our world to end. With the realization that we were never, ever, anything to begin with…

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

VHS-Movie-Poster-2012

a Primal Root review

V/H/S is one of those lucky horror entries who’s sails get caught up in a wind of hype and praise from the horror community, a community ravenous for something worth a damn in this genre that, when not about people eating other people’s shit or featuring a cast made almost entirely of guests from the current horror convention circuit getting torn into chunks by a mad man, is remaking films from decades past and transforming masterpieces into dumbed down fodder for the masses.  So ravenous are they, that V/H/S has become the toast of the community at the moment. Over hyped? Maybe a bit. But V/H/S sure is a fun little anthology film.

Basically, V/H/S, is a found footage horror anthology period piece. It tells six separate tales by different filmmakers all taking place in the mid to late 1990’s.  It’s about two hours of none stop shaky cam footage that will give ‘The Blair Witch Project’ a run for it’s money in stomach churning motion sickness department.

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The central wrap around story of V/H/S features a group of college age hooligans and criminals who tape their Jackass inspired shenanigans and sell them to online distributors. Now, who would pay good money to watch a bunch of twenty something assholes break the windows of abandoned houses and sexually assault random women to show their bare breasts in parking garages is beyond me. But these jerks, the rapist criminals, are our protagonists.  We follow them as these scumbags as they are sent by a mysterious party to break into the residence of an elderly man and retrieve a tape. Easy enough, right? HA! Wrong! If it were that easy we wouldn’t have a fucking movie!

Bizarrely enough, these bros find what looks to be the old man’s lifeless corpse upstairs in a recliner with several TVs flickering snowy static in front of him and surrounded by mountains of VHS tapes. Seems they have their work cut out for them.  So, as these jerk-o’s have never seen a horror movie before, they decide to split up and leave one man behind to review tapes. This feels like the flimsiest of premises, but I’ll take it. Not sure if this even warrants a *SPOILER ALERT*, but the old guy ain’t so lifeless.

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

*SPOILER AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!* I will try to keep things as vague as possible, but the basic premise and plot points to many of these stories might be spoiled if you read the below synopsis. Just a heads up.

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First up:

‘Amateur Night’ tells the tale of a trio of guys who strap one of their buddies up with a pair of now-trendy, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ spectacles equipped with a hidden camera as they head out to enjoy a night of drunken debauchery and date rape. The three central male figures all come off as totally legit, obnoxious, collegiate horn dogs who generously rent the seediest of hotel rooms for taking advantage of the two drunken young ladies they’ve picked up. Honestly, the behavior of these young men is far more disturbing, in my opinion, than what happens to them. They gather around, dicks out and at the ready for gang banging, but as they soon realize that the one they undress, a troubling, mousy “girl” with wide creepy eyes, matted dreads, and a nervous way about her, is something they couldn’t have ever imagined. Out of all the tales in V/H/S, this may possibly be my favorite as it utilizes the hand-held, “found footage” aspect in a clever way and beautifully illustrates how being a completely loathsome, gutter-feeding, tool can literally bite you on the ass. These are the type of dudes who seek power and validation that they have penises via lording control over women, but in the end, they get a horrific taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone (something) else looking for validation. One of the cherries on this blood-soaked cake, is in the pretty awesome and grueling final chase scene climax that film-makers of ‘Amateur Night’ managed to put forth. Ultimately, this story works because it doesn’t shy away from its racy subjects of desire, power-mongering, and douchery comeuppance dealing with everything directly, brutally, and unflinchingly.

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‘Second Honeymoon’

These two are married? How old are they, 23? And they are on their second honeymoon? Eh. Okay… This one tells the story of a (very) young married couple driving through the desert. That’s pretty much it. It was strange to find out these two are married since they come across as an awkward, unlikable couple who don’t seem to get one another and might have just started dating a couple months ago. The wife is creating a video diary of their road-trip, which, as we watch it in it’s uncut form, comes off as more of a negative comment card than a tribute to their affectionate good times. She does little more than whip the camera about and complain about where she is and what she’s doing. Yeah, this is the woman you wanna travel with. Her husband is just as unbearable. Anyway, she gets her fortune read for a buck by a redneck buckaroo version of the Zoltan machines at an old west tourist trap, and it makes mention of reuniting with a loved one. That very night a strange woman knocks on their motel room door in the dead of night asking for a ride in the morning. Who is she? What does she want? Why does she like breaking into hotel rooms, filming folks with their own cameras, poking people in the butt with her switchblade, and pulling lame, elementary school pranks on them while they sleep? Who knows! Sure, it builds some much-desired tension, but the stories’ load is blown a bit prematurely, and doesn’t have much weight as it is as we don’t know these characters very well and from what we do gather of them we don’t like, anyway. The story ends leaving the audience hanging with their questions, which is just fine.  These people are dull, and you’ll probably be ready to move on.

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‘Tuesday the 17th’ is a cool concept where a young woman takes some of her friends out to the woods where, in the past, she had encountered a Jason-esque killer who brutally murdered her buddies. Only thing is, he is either invisible and can only be seen through the video camera’s view finder or he is actually conjured to life via the actual presence of the video camera. It is never explained, but the effect of the killer as a humanoid shape appearing on the tape in scratchy glitches, a visual distortion, works well and is pretty damn eerie. The presentation of this killing specter is this story’s greatest asset.  It’s an idea worthy of a feature-length movie but, as it is, the whole thing comes off as a tired Friday the 13th clone as the love-child of Jason Voorhess and ‘The Ring”s Samara stalks down some dumb, canned-character kids in the woods. Despite a cool set up, the story rushes to it’s conclusion and falls apart, as a result. I can’t help but wonder what it could have been had it been fleshed out.

VHS - Emily Ghost

‘The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Young’ is an intriguing story about a long-distance relationship taking place over video chat as our heroine experiences a haunting and some kind of mystery growth under her arm… It’s a nifty little ‘Outer Limits’  style yarn that’s relatively satisfying. I couldn’t help but wonder how great this story would have been if captured in the format of a normal film narrative as opposed to found footage. Our main girl is remarkably sweet, likeable, and attractive with a vulnerable but outgoing quality to her. Although her beau says he’s working out-of-area for his business, we cannot help but wonder about the nature of this curious long-distance relationship. Does anyone else sense some early commentary possibly co-dependence, manipulation, and abuse in the relationship? I wouldn’t put it past this one as all motives are made clear by story’s end. As it featured a great leading lady  who didn’t annoy the ever-loving shit out of me, ‘The Sick Thing’ was a nice change of pace.

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‘10.31.98’ is right up there with ‘Amateur Night’, vying as a favorite of the anthology. Four surprisingly charming and likable college age fellows, one dressed as a Nanny Cam (teddy bear with a built in camera. CLEVER!), traverse across town to find the Halloween party they were invited to. When they finally come to the address where the party is rumored to be it seems the house is empty, but as they investigate they find they most certainly are not alone. These guys walk into a situation with no frame of reference, expecting the light-hearted frivolity, and come out with the worst possible scenario imaginable. Once they come across what appears to be a damsel in freaky distress the story explodes into an effects-heavy, supernatural nightmare, and works better in its brief running time than all the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films combined.  Matters escalate in the blink of an eye and the guys react with righteous bravery, putting their lives in peril to save a young woman whose life seems to be on the line. This welcomes us to one of the most well-played shocks of the whole film. These guys aren’t out to take advantage of anyone, they don’t act like drooling, poon-hounds. It’s Nice Guys vs. Pure Evil delivering chuckles, anxiety, and, by story’s end, pure terror closing V/H/S out on a high note.

Oh, and the ineffective, brain-dead wrap around of the original tape-retrieval asscapade? Well, they all die. The End.

*END SPOILERS!*

In the final analysis I enjoyed V/H/S, despite myself.  It’s got a bit of everything, post-modern horror, supernatural, psychological serial killer, the whole shebang. It’s almost like a sampler case featuring several of horror’s most beloved sub genres, and when these stories are at their best (see: ‘Amateur Night’, ‘10.31.98’)  they work pretty damn well. At their worst, they still have some cool ideas to dig into (see: ‘Tuesday the 17th’, ‘Second Honeymoon’).

V/H/S proved to be an entertaining collaborative experiment that spins some imaginative tales.  By no means a masterpiece, V/H/S is a creepy excursion into the macabre, the supernatural and the rewindable.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Jan
12

Rawhead Rex Wants to Skull Fuck You and I’m Okay With This.

a Primal Root written review

When I think of monsters larger than life a number of creatures come to mind. Of course, Godzilla, King Kong, Cloverfield…Hell, even Bruce from JAWS and the graboids from Tremors make appearances.  And then there’s Rawhead Rex, the red headed step-child of all giant monsters. Yeah, while Godzilla is off crushing noodle factories in Japan, Rawhead Rex is stomping around rural Ireland ripping the heads off teenage love birds and literally pissing in the faces of local priests. Now this is The Root’s kind of monster. Sure, Rawhead’s not nearly as tall as some of the other monsters on the block, but he makes up for his mere 10 or 11 foot tall stature with plenty of murderous spunk and personality. Unlike other monsters who are brought about by man’s experimenting, or are simply Mother Nature’s own killing machines, Rawhead is just a mean mother fucking demon. He’s not here for sympathy or for us to see ourselves reflected in him…no. This guy just wants to bite your face off and smear his shit on the bloody mess beneath. I doubt you will find a sicker, meaner, more sacrilegious monster in 80’s cinema. I feel it is my duty, as ambassador of the Trash Cinema Collective, to shine a light on one of the nastiest, meanest, most atrocious cinematic monsters ever brought to life, Mister Rawhead Rex.

"I feel good about me!"

Our movie takes place in a dreary farming community in Ireland where a group of men try to remove and ancient totem from one of their fields. Soon, the sky darkens, red lightening rains down and the totem falls releasing a horrifying demonic monster older than the Christian faith whose only purpose in existing is to destroy any and everything in it’s ugly path. At the same time, an American family has come to town headed by historian and writer, Howard Hollenbeck, who is traveling the countryside compiling research on pre-Christian sacred sites and is interested in the local church’s unique history and stained glass windows.  All the while, Rawhead is painting the entire countryside rd with the grue and entrails of the local villagers, twisting off heads, terrifying children, setting people on fire and tearing ladies blouses off to expose their breasts before tossing them into trees. How can Rawhead be stopped? The clues and secrets to the creatures destructon are all held within the walls of the towns ancient church. Can Hollenbeck get aid from the incompetent local authorities, deal with the psychotic Reverend Coot’s and unlock the mysteries to defeating Rawhead Rex before he destroys the town and Hollenbeck’s family?

Rawhead Rex is based of a short story by Clive Barker, the man who brought us Hellraiser and Nightbreed. not only boasting source material from Clive Barker, but a screenplay by the man as well, Rawhead Rex isn’t a very good movie. However, it is a ridiculously fun and entertaining one. The movie actually follows the original story pretty closely but is also devoid of just about all the thought provoking, serious pagan/spiritual concepts that made the story such a brilliant, philosophical read and, instead, just goes berserk and delivers a fucking crazy ass monster movie that delivers all the goods. That is, if you don’t mind a generous helping of cheese with your cinematic entree.

"Oh yeah, your lymph nodes are WAY swollen..."

The film itself is competently made and pretty well acted all around. Director, George Pavlou, does an excellent job of keeping the pace up, composing some fantastic shots and utilizes them to their best affect, and even takes some risky chances with his subject matter. Keep in mind, Rawhead Rex was released right in the midst of the British “Video Nastis” fiasco, so Pavlou had to walk a very fine line in order for his film to see the light of day. In all honesty, the violence here works rather well. It’s kind of muted in parts but it’s still gets the point across. But where Rawhead really scores points with me is that it has the brass balls to put kids in mortal danger, and even goes out of it’s way to kill a few! Yes, Rawhead  completley destroys a kid or two in his rampage. It happens just out of camera shot but with some great post production foley, the sound of these kids getting folded in half and ripped into meaty chunks drives the point home.

Now, I know everyone’s  gripe about Rawhead Rex is how shitty his costume is. You know, I love the way Rawhead looks. It’s cheesy as all hell and nearly destroy the credibility of the film, but there’s something about it I find really endearing that keeps this whole affair on a B-Movie, Drive-In level. Really, the the monster looks like a cross between a dog, a horse, and The Ultimate Warrior. He’s goofy enough to make you laugh, but strange enought that you don’t want that fucker within 1,000 yards of you.  I, for one, appreciate Rawhead’s fantastic dark sense of humor and that so much of the violence is delivered tongue in cheek. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy ideas at play here, a legitimate sense of dread, and a hand full of genuinely shocking scenes… but you cannot deny the film i a Hell of a lot of fun. There are moments when Rawhead runs after people where he looks like a little boy skipping and hopping after them, moments where he celebrates turning over motor homes where he begins dancing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he even whips it out and pisses on a kneeling, willing, Reverand Coot’s in a kind of demonic Golden Shower baptismal cleansing, in what is possibly the film’s most notorious scene. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing.

I can't help but wonder what Rawhead looks like with his mouth shut. Such a Chatty Kathy, that guy...

Within all this bizarre-o action, blood thirsty monster mayhem, and religious nose thumbing, is a pretty interesting story. Sure, it’s not at all what Clive Barker probably envisioned but it still manages to please as crazed, no holds barred, monster movie sporting a larger than usual set of testicles it drags through the dirt behind it. There are so many aspects of Rawhead Rex that are worth praising. I especially loved the ending conceit the Rawhead Rex can only be destroyed by that which he can never be…and finding out exactly what that means. It’s a rather poetic and lovely idea tossed into an otherwise wild, and grotesque mix. But it’s moments like these where the air is cleared of the action and horror campiness and a little bit of heart shines through.

I highly recommend Rawhead Rex as pure, unadulterated B-movie love. If you come across a copy for cheap, snatch it up as quickly as you can. As the runt of the larger than life monster litter, Rawhead is about as fun and lovable as they come and well worth bringing into your home. Even if he’s not house broken.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

19
Nov
11

Land of the Dead: Eat the Rich

a Dirty Thought with The Primal Root

The year was 2004 when all those old rumors surrounding George Romero’s long awaited fourth installment in his Dead series began lumbering back to life. For over a decade there were fan boy speculations  about a “Twilight of the Dead” , which would be really awkward with the popularity of those Twilight flicks,  or some other such continuation of the series. It wasn’t until early in 2000/2001 that steadily these rumors began transforming into fact. Romero was planning a new entry in his beloved, legendary, film series.  My excitement could hardly be contained.

By June 2005 we finally had our long awaited fourth film, “Land of the Dead”.  After years of hoping, false starts and sketchy rumors, there I was sitting in a theater seat, ticket stub in my pocket, about to see what Romero had cooked up for his starving fans. And to tell you the truth, I was a little underwhelmed on my first viewing. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with how much I had built this film up in my head over the two decades worth of anticipation, but I just didn’t think it held a candle to the original trilogy. The message seemed scatter shot, the characters thin, and the dialog cheesier than skating rink nachos.  I left having enjoyed myself but also feeling disappointed.

Now, looking back on Romero’s Land of the Dead almost seven years later, and in light of current events here at home and on Wall Street, his fourth Dead film has suddenly clicked with me and it’s message, it’s purpose, has become very clear.

As Romero’s Dead series has progressed our sympathy has been manipulated and shifted over to the living dead.  The seeds were subtly  planted in Dawn of the Dead but it wasn’t until Bub showed up as the star zombie in Romero’s  Day of the Dead  (85) that we all began the empathize with what we had always seen as a monster. Bub  recalled much of his living memories and even expressed very human, very un-zombie like emotions despite craving oozy living flesh to munch on. There was still something there. Something human. And by the end of Day of the Dead Bub proved to be more human and possess a purer spirit than most the human characters that populated the film. And in that idea Romero brought us as close as we’d ever been to siding with the shambling, decaying, walking corpses. Hell, we even cheer for Bub by the film’s end when he exacts revenge over those who have wronged him.

In Land of the Dead Romero asks us to almost explicitly see ourselves as the Dead, who in this film represent the disenfranchised. Those who have been left behind  with nothing except the possibility of the wealthy, powerful, elite will send in their troops to take whatever they can get their hands on in order for the rich to have their Scotch, cigars and Pringles which I’m pretty sure I spotted  on route to Fiddler’s Green. When the zombie apocalypse happens we will all be longing for the comfort of a can of Pringles.

Fiddler’s Green is a high rise fortress, a kind of utopia, for the wealthiest of zombie apocalypse survivors to spend the rest of their days hiding behind it’s concrete walls wearing the finest of clothes, eating hot meals and shopping their lives away as they towerhigh above the dead who are kept out by the bordering river and strategically placed electric fences.  But,  outside of  Fiddler’s Green is another story.  Also kept out are those deemed unworthy. Other living survivors who, for whatever reason, aren’t worthy of living a life of protected, maintained luxury. Fiddler’s Green is surrounded by make shift shacks, decayed building, sick, tired, dirty and poor humans struggling to survive with no aid of any kind. Those who cannot live in Fiddler’s Green are given few choices: They are put to work as part of the new military force put together to protect the wealthy, manufacture and deal drugs, prostitution, gambling,risk your life as entertainment for the masses as a contestant in a makeshift game of death,  or you can try and survive on the streets. Good luck!

It’s a strange concept thing to imagine that money could mean anything at all after the dead pretty much take over the planet, but if you can put aside your disbelief, there is a very poignant message about the haves, the have nots, and those who are considered less than human as an insurgency rises among the living’s lower class aims to over throw the current power elite and replace it with a more communal government and the dead who have begun communicating, have had enough, join together, and strike back against their oppressors.Because when the power and the dead are placed side by side, there is very little difference besides one being full of warm flesh and blood and the other craving to sink it’s rotten teeth into it.  And as the living dead make their way to Fiddler Green, tear down it’s walls and begin ripping apart the entitled citizens cowering within, it’s impossible not to cheer for those who have been ignored, abused and left to rot beyond the cities borders.

I implore you to go back and watch Land of the Dead again while the memory of the bank bailouts we payed for, the economic crisis that ended in many of us being laid off, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement where peaceful protesters were beaten mercilessly is still fresh in your mind. No matter what demons, creatures or myths we create to symbolize our societal  fears and angst the greatest threat you and I shall ever face is one other. Specifically those who have been corrupted by power and greed.

Land of the Dead worked well as an allegory for Bush era 9/11 anxieties but also seems to fit just as well within our current situations here at home as the division between the classes continues to grow ever wider. In the film, the dead are easily distracted by fire works. As they explode over head in beautiful arrays of bright colors the dead cannot help but stop in their tracks and give these meaningless, momentary bursts of light their full attention.  One cannot help but draw a parallel between the dead’s mindless attention to these fireworks (AKA: sky flowers) and the appeal of reality television, celebrity gossip, and other such none sense we are fed and made to believe is important to our every day lives when there are far more important issues at hand. It’s easy to tune out and focus on the meaningless. The trick is, to get your eyes off the ‘Sky Flowers” and focus on what’s right in front us.  What actually matters.

Romero has a lot to say in Land of the Dead and, in the case of all important works, it’s all open to interpretation.  But when I watch it today I can’t help but see it as a very timely “revenge of the repressed” fable that is perfect for where we are as a society and it’s by no means a happy one. We can only hope that one day, maybe, a new society might come in, devour the old and give us something new and better.

Land of the Free or Land of the Dead?

Stay Trashy,

-Root

04
Feb
10

Legion of Gloom

a primal root review

The first time I laid my black devil eyes on the trailer for the uproariously trashy looking apocalypse at the hands of God and his badass army of angels flick, Legion, you couldn’t have wiped my grin away with a belt sander. It comes across as the kind of bizarre scenario that would have played out in my backyard between my G.I. Joe action figures on a random Saturday afternoon when I was still in short pants. God decides he’s lost faith in humanity and it’s time to wipe them out so he sends in his angel ass kicker dream team to stomp the shit out of us till there’s nothing left. It’s really a ridiculous premise but an interesting one none the less. One of those throw away brain fart ideas that come up from time to time when you’re starring at the ceiling at night or taking a whiz. Not profound, but kind of nifty. Lucky us, someone took our mind dropping and turned it into a feature length motion picture!

too subtle?

Legion concerns the epic battle between grease caked country bumpkins and the horrific evil minions of…God…yeah, the once benevolent and subtle spirit of God is now creating plagues of demons from Hell to try and kill off humanities’ one and only hope for survival. A foul mouthed, chain smoking pregnant woman with a distracting mole on her forehead named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki from Supernatural) is carrying the baby that is going to be our savior. A rebel angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) drops into to inform everyone of this fact. Yeah, you remember, Michael. He was played so memorably by John Travolta a decade or so ago…

Michael before the NRA entered his life.

Anyway, Michael has driven out into the desert and into a quaint little greasy spoon diner/gas station owned by a sweaty grizzled guy named Bob (Dennis Quaid) where Charlie happens to be working. He arrives just after an elderly woman has gone completely ape shit, bitten a guys throat out and climbed across the ceiling like a caucasion Lionel Ritchie from Hell. Michael arrives in a stolen cop car and loaded to the teeth with semi automatic fire power to blow the shit out of God’s demon spawn and angel army as they descend down upon the face palmingly appropriately named locale, Paradise Falls. Those in the diner are informed of their pants shittingly bad situation and are told they must choose to fight or die asking questions.

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s a good assortment of supporting characters caught in the middle of the action, some of whom are a thousand times more interesting than our key players. Ultimate badass Charles S. Dutton plays cook and Vietnam veteran Percy Walker and pretty much steals the show. The character of Percy is infinitely likable so you know his screen time has gotta be limited. Even the typically lame as can be Tyrese Gibson (yeah, the guy from 2 Fast 2 Furious) turns in a subtle and winning performance as a man whose virtues prove to be his undoing.

Evil Granny: Sucking Face and Taking Names

There’s the obligatory three piece yuppie family unit featuring the bitchy Mom, wise cracking Dad (yeah, the guy who gets his ass handed to him by an evil senior citizen) and the attention seeking, ass revealing teenage daughter. Oh yeah, and Bob’s son Jeep, who is supposed to be one of the stars of this film but Lucas Black turns in such a deer-in-the-headlights performance that you never ever really care about him.

What I really enjoyed about Legion is that I never felt like the filmmakers took this whole God’s personal vendetta concept too seriously. They seem intelligent enough that they realized Legion was in the vein of the good old fashioned drive-in trash flick, albeit, one of a much higher budget and sleeker appearance. I’m not saying this is a great flick. But it’s sure as Hell a fun bag full of horror infused gory shoot outs, monstrous ice cream truck drivers (played by none other than Doug Jones) explosions, angel-fu, acid filled exploding body boils, little tiny adolescent demon girls carrying balloons, a half dozen teary eyed duet scenes for young actors, the movie is packed with all kinds of trashy, low brow win. It’s like Maximum Overdrive meets Assault on Precinct 13 meets the 700 Club on acid. Seriously, it’s just as fun as it sounds. Well, despite there being no nudity at all. You will be entertained. I do recommend some spirits of the liquid form in advance of seeing the movie to enhance the affects.

Doug Jones as Ice Cream Guy steals the movie with only 60 seconds of screen time and not a single line of dialog.

It’s always fun to see someone take a dodgy approach to something considered sacred by many. In the case of Legion, it’s cool to see the whole word of God thing given a complete filth covered trash make over. Really, has God ever been portrayed as such a bitch? I mean, other than in real life? I’m so used to seeing him played by Morgan Freeman and Alanis Morissette or offering up wisdom like on The Simpsons. Never have I seen God get his panties in a wad over the assholishness of man that he sent an entire extermination squad of demons and angels. You’d think he would have seen the travesties committed against the natives of this country in his name and would have put a stop to the humanity thing a long time ago.

God’s back with a vengeance in Legion and this time it seems personal. However, thanks to the second amendment and the work of the NRA, humanity stands a fighting chance. Well, at least at a white trash diner in the United States. Remember, if you are about to get touched by an angel…AIM FOR THE HEAD!

Stay Trashy,
-The Primal Root

Adrianne Palicki plays Charlie in the new film Legion.




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