Posts Tagged ‘psychic

10
Jan
16

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

phantasm-poster

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.

phantasm

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

26
Apr
12

The Innkeepers: Clean Linens and Dead Ends

a Primal Root review

Okay Gang, I’m going to try REAL hard not to spoil anything about “The Innkeepers.” You have my word that spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

I remember hearing of Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” through the horror fan grapevine as a cinematic experience those who watched either loved or hated. I decided to give it a go and became a member of the former category. I loved “The House of the Devil” and felt it’s quirky, patient approach to building suspense and creating a genuine atmosphere of dread was so refreshing it almost felt totally new in a cinematic culture where most films are slashed to ribbons in the editing process and paced to the heart rate of a Starbucks junkie. Sure, this technique is nothing new and was perfected by the likes of Hitchcock and De Palma and Carpenter, but to see a young, fresh out the gates filmmaker like Ti West utilize a form of cinematic story telling that seemed all but forgotten instantly made the young man an artist I wanted to keep tabs on.

Enter, “The Innkeepers”, West’s most recent effort. The story of two slacker employees Claire (Sara Paxton from The Last House on the Left remake) and Luke (Pat Healy from Rescue Dawn) of the very soon to be shut down and demolished Yankee Pedlar Inn, a three story, turn of the century kind of place with awesome wallpaper, hard wood floors and the obligatory legend of a tragic death and enduring haunting therein. As the last two employees on staff at the Yankee Pedlar, Clair and Luke take the opportunity to down some cheap beer and launch a full scale investigation into the legendary haunting of deceased bride-to-be, Madeline O’Malley which Luke claims to have encountered on several occasions.

The duo busts out their recording equipment to try and capture some EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and set the stage for the possibility of a ghostly encounter. And honestly, one gets the impression that these two are investigating more our of sheer boredom than any passionate interest. However, as some curious happenings begin to manifest around Clair and Luke they are advised by one of the only guests they have that weekend, Leanne (Kelly McGillis from Top Gun (!) ) who is a former TV actress turned psychic medium.  She comes to Claire as a friend and offers a possible guide to the spirit world while also offering some well timed significant New Age wisdom and a dark warning…

“The Innkeepers” is one scary mother fucking movie. It finally dawned on me that, really, if there’s one genre of horror sure to really get me rattled it’s the kind that involves hauntings and ghosts. Ghosts are a tricky subject in horror movies because they can be handled improperly like they were in the remake of “Paranormal Activity” (2009) or “Insidious” (2011) where everything is revealed, everything explained and everything is showcased in the light of day and leaves nothing to the imagination. I have always been of the opinion that scariest thing we will ever face is that which we don’t understand and what’s left up to us to imagine. Always, this will be far more frightening than anything a filmmaker and his effects crew could ever create and showcase.

For the majority of “The Innkeepers” we join Claire and Luke in their final, modest,  quest to seek any kind of proof of the supernatural at The Yankee Peddler. We see only what they see, hear what they hear and many times adopt their point of view as the camera track closely behind them keep the frame claustrophobic and tense as the viewer joins them in the investigation. Often there’s nothing but silence or the hum of static piping through headphones as they listen to what they’re recording. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation being drawn in both wanting something to happen and being incredibly fucking nervous as to the when and what might be revealed or heard. It’s a film that realizes we’ve seen this sort of film before and that we are familiar with the beats. “The Innkeepers” defies our expectations and repeatedly scares the shit out of the viewer. They may be jump scares, but they are well earned and serve the purpose of the story at hand.

Not only are the scares and techniques used to deliver them excellent, but so is the cast at hand. Our star player, Sara Paxton gives a very genuine and game performance as the adorable, nerdy slacker, Claire. She finds herself in the center of the storm during the proceedings and manages to play up her distress well and also proves to be quite the comedian to boot. Paxton is imminently watchable and young actress I look forward to seeing more from. Pat Healy as Luke is a great foil to Claire and generates some great laughs with his deadpan, sarcastic performance. Like Paxton, Healy is called upon to both be very believably funny and terrified. The brother pulls it off in spades. Kelly McGillis is fantastic as the resident psychic, Leanne, a once famous TV star with a gift for communicating with the other side. As the films most prominent supporting player she proves believable and essential to the tale and really grounds the film in reality. “The Innkeepers” benefits greatly from her presence.

“The Innkeepers” brings to mind Kubrick’s “The Shining” by way of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks”. It’s the story of two intelligent but unmotivated young adults working a literal dead-end job and floating rudderless. When Clair is asked by Leanne what she does Claire can only respond with an awkward and unsure “I’m kind of between things.” as if she’s never given a single thought to what will be coming next for her.  Claire and Luke are very real and well developed characters that feel like people we know. Hell, what might be even stranger is that these characters might even be many of us, stuck in lame jobs and having resigned ourselves to them with no clue as to how we could ever better our situation.  These characters wonder the silent, ancient halls of The Yankee Peddler looking for the smallest evidence that there is something more there. Evidence that there could be any truth to legend of Madeline O’Malley. It may seem like a futile search to some, pointless even when faced with the crushing reality of oncoming unemployment, but the truth is that some of us might never find anything better than what we’ve got and grown accustomed to. Many find themselves in the exact same trap Claire and Luke find themselves in. Walking the halls of the place they can’t stand in a kind of purgatory.I can think of few things scarier than that.

Well, beside mother fucking ghosts…

The Innkeepers is an intelligent and brilliantly constructed horror film. One that doesn’t spoon feed it’s story or characters to the audience.  The Yankee Peddler itself feels like a character int he film, much in the same way The Overlook Hotel played the same sort of significance in the proceedings of The Shining. Every hall tells a story, every room has witnessed thousands of tales unfold. One can only imagine what frightening memories such a place might have. And this is the ultimate strength if “The Inkeepers”, we are given the ammunition necessary to fill in the blanks and imagine many of the films horrors. Some are blatant and in your face, but “The Innkeepers” is a smart enough film to allow room for mystery, ambiguity and interpretation.  The mark of truly good film is that it trust it’s audience and doesn’t talk down to it. “The Innkeepers” is just such a film.

It’s a slow burn that takes it’s time to build up the suspense and lay on the dread as thick as molasses while dropping in some well timed laughs and plenty of fun, snappy banter.  Ti West knocked it out of the park with this one, yes, “The Innkeepers” is well worth the visit.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

17
Feb
12

Grignr the Ecordian battles 1982’s “SHE”!

Good morrow, travelers!  I am Grignr, an Ecordian!  Wanderer, carouser, rapscallion, slayer of foes, taker of women, watcher of enchanted moving pictures about warriors and wenches and sorcery!

I come to tell you of one such picture.  “She”, it is called, from the 1,982nd year after the Christ-god was nailed to the Cross of Pain by the Ro-Mans.  “She”, it is claimed, is adapted from the novel of the same name, with which H. Rider Haggard invented the “lost world” subgenre of the adventure tale.  I have not myself read this tome, being but slightly a man of learning and letters.  But in my travels I have heard no rumors of Haggard being stricken with madness, or enslaved by addiction to every mind-raping drug dreamt of by alchemy, and so I must assume this adaptation to be as loose as a she-slut of Gorzom.

By all the gods, what a lunatic picture!  It seems that the intent was to make a picture of swords and sorcery in the grand tradition, but that a scarcity of coin forced the makers to settle for some sort of beggar’s post-apocalypse.  In that way, they were able to use such armor and swords as were at their disposal, and outfit the rest of the cast with whatever came easy to hand, like football pads and baseball bats, and removed any need to find or create any suitably mythic locations.  These failings are easily overlooked by a barbarian such as I, but the hows and whys of the lawless world elude my simple powers of reason.  For an apocalyptic world, there is a puzzling dearth of blasted landscapes and true devastation.  The picture is set 23 years after an event which is called The Cancellation, but never explained.  That seems a scant span of time for a world to recover from scorched earth and poisoned skies to a point of lush vegetation and forbidden forests.  I would love to believe that the Cancellation was a less explosive world-ender, as if perhaps one Tyler Durden succeeded in his quest, and society as was known collapsed.  This solution pleases me, but does little to explain the animation of the opening titles, which depicts a world in space blasted by the light of massive explosions, and twisted landscapes of doom and death swarmed by a Grim Reaper made of smoke.  I should add that this animation was vastly bitching, as I am told such things are described, and gave my heart – which lusts always for battle, adventure, and carnage – great hope for the picture to come.

After the empty promise of the opening titles, what greets us is a metal ferry barge crossing an unimposing river, bearing a mule and three people.  These are Tom, the musclebound blond hero, Dick, his aptly-named cowardly knave of a friend (who resembles Bret McKenzie, if Bret McKenzie were a human rather than an elf), and Tom’s comely sister Hari.

Yea, travellers, I jest not.  Tom, Dick and Hari.

The three enter the village of “Heaven’s Gate”, where a market is in full swing, with items such as board games, shampoo, shoes and yellow kitchen gloves for sale.  No sooner have they arrived with their mule-load of unspecified wares to sell than the village is attacked by a band of brigands we are later to learn are called the Norks.  They wear sports equipment with painted-on swastikas, and whatever Hallowe’en costumes the actors had in their closets.  Our heroes do battle with them, and the Norks do two important things: they drag Hari away by a harpoon fired into her leg, and they serve to make the audience lose all hope for any real suspense to come by knocking Tom and Dick down and beating them extensively, never bothering to use their swords, daggers and scythes on them.  “Ah”, one says to oneself, “a picture with villains who do not try to kill the heroes.  I suppose I’ll have another mead or four to get in the mood.”

If at this point you wish to see the picture, you may do well to skip to the final two paragraphs.  Below I will tell its tale out of a mysterious sense of duty to any who may wish to know, but have the understandible instinct not to bother watching.

Suddenly the scene changes to an art museum, which is the stronghold of the titular “She”.  A hall full of worshipers bow rhythmically and chant “She! She! She!”, seemingly ’round the clock, while two to three male prisoners in diaper-style loincloths stand chained to an altar in front for reasons not revealed.  One struggles against his bonds in a humorously ineffective and nonsensical way.  No man attempting to free himself from chains would move in that way, is all Grignr is saying.

SHE arrives, and She is lovely.  In fact, She is Sandahl Bergman, of Conan fame, clad in a torn floor-length nightgown.  She looks rather as though she is wearing her boyfriend’s tee shirt, and her boyfriend is a giant.  As far as this barbarian can tell, this scene serves no purpose but to allow for the passage of time between the assault on the village and Tom and Dick awakening from their beating, inexplicably left alive, without the editor having to resort to such tricky time-warping effects as the dissolve.

Return we do to Tom and Dick, and the quest is set.  Hari must be rescued.  Our heroes are promptly duped, drugged and put in chains by a beguiling woman, who also reveals that “She” is a goddess, apparently.  The remainder of the picture contains no evidence to back up this claim.  Tom is taken by She and made to walk the “Path of Blood,” a torture gauntlet which is as painful-looking as it is pointless.

"Put on your battle briefs, ladies, it's man-spiking time!"

He is then left alive to learn that only She knows the way to Nork Valley.  Tom finds Dick peeling onions and crying, and frees him.

They promptly infiltrate She’s fortress, which seems to be no great feat, and disguise themselves as worshipers just in time to see She leave.  She is accompanied by Shanda, her lovely but incessantly whiny sidekick, to a barbed wire fence so haphazard that we suddenly know how Tom and Dick got in.  She goes on alone into a junkyard wasteland full of punks in medieval armor who seem to be using kendo, but not well enough to defeat a goddess of extremely human abilities in a nightgown.  Also there is a Frankenstein monster/android.  She comes to a place of fog and red lights, disrobes and bathes in a hot spring.  The only nudity in the picture is welcome, but brief.  As she bathes, an old oracle crone tells her that a man will come to claim her heart, that for him She will break her (unspecified?) vow, and that through him She will be destroyed.

"Nice butt flap. Now get in the tub, I have something to tell you."

 

She returns home and is goddessnapped by Tom and Dick.

The rest of the picture is a succession of setpieces involving odd tribes in silly costumes.  There is a band of chainsaw-wielding lepers in a factory who like to use a Star Wars-esque trash compactor and seem unconcerned by the loss of limbs.  Shanda and company rescue Tom, Dick and She from these crumbling simpletons, Shanda whines because She does not plan to execute the men publicly, and She lets the men go for no clear reason.  She and Shanda then follow them, also for no clear reason.

There is a Grecian garden peopled by decadent freaks (we can tell they are decadent because their leader seems to be gay, and they have balloons) who get even freakier after dark, but only after dressing Tom and Dick in tuxedos.  Tom forgoes a shirt, however.  Like myself, he is too much man for a shirt.

There is the stronghold of Godan, another self-styled god.  Godan seems to have more behind his claim than She, for he has eyes that glow green and powers of mind-sorcery.  His followers dress as Soviet monks.  He orders She and Shanda tortured, and they are whipped, mostly across the wide leather straps covering their stomachs, while Tom and Dick dine in luxury because they feigned allegiance to Godan.  This was Dick’s idea.  Godan takes She for a bit of a rape party, and Tom and Dick save the day (sort of) after they tire of listening to Shanda scream.

There is a forest featuring skeletons tied to trees, a cloud of poison gas which Tom alone escapes, a crazy sort of Doctor Moreau type in a Baron Munchausen suit and a Texas Rangers baseball helmet, and his giant, bearded, hairy-backed assistant in a ballerina costume.  The doctor has poor methods of prisoner retention.

There is a bridge guarded by a cigar-waving loon in a fringed cavalry uniform, who behaves like a more annoying version of Robin Williams at his most annoying, speaking in bad movie star impersonations and singing television theme songs.  His strategy seems to be to irritate all comers to death, which seems a plausible outcome since he spawns a clone every time part of him is chopped off and Tom is too stupid to stop chopping parts of him off.  Dick and She come along later, and She has sense enough to throw the obnoxious fool onto a land mine.  Where his innumerable clones went is unexplained.

Then there is the city of the Norks.  At last, a location that looks as though some sort of apocalypse might have occurred 23 years ago!  Why the producers did not set a much larger portion of the picture in this city is a mystery to me.  Our heroes disguise themselves as Nork army hopefuls and attend a pre-deathmatch banquet.  The Nork general announces: “This is the life of the Norks.  Food, women and war.  Nothing better on the face of this Earth.”  At last, a man after my own heart!

A gladiatorial free-for-all ensues.  The last two survivors will be allowed to join the Norks.  The Nork leader, in a disco haz-mat suit, oversees the bout with Hari at his side.

"I covet his tire throne."

Tom, Dick and She are the last three standing.  When Tom is unmasked and the others realize who they have been fighting, they unmask themselves.  The Nork leader is furious that a woman has infiltrated his sacred bloodsport, and responds by releasing Hari into their company and letting all four of them go, with a promise to enslave She’s people tomorrow.  I swear by the Eye of Argon, not a soul in this picture makes a damn bit of sense.

She decides to wait outside the gate and fight the Nork army by herself.  Of course Tom has come to love her, and stays to help.  And of course Dick and Hari do as well.  In a matter of hours, pits are dug, bows and arrows made, and a mine field relocated by the four heroes.  The following battle is better than most in the picture, because the participants are at least trying to kill each other for the most part.  Shanda shows up at the last minute with reinforcements, and the day is won.  There is much rejoicing.

At long last Tom and Hari return to the barge upon which we first met them.  Dick stays behind with Shanda, whom he has apparently come to love for some reason, and she for equally mysterious reasons shares his feelings.  Tom and Hari cross the river, and Tom and She stare longingly at each other across the water as the picture ends, the oracle’s prophecy of vow-breaking and destruction completely ignored, or forgotten.

SHE is a queer, queer beast of a picture.  Comely wenches, a wide variety of strange characters, and plenty of battle, to be sure.  But the battle is too often pathetically staged and bloodless, and is set in a nonsense world built from a meager budget.  Worst of all is the utter nonsense of the story and the characters’ choices.  Perhaps best of all is the delirious silliness of the whole affair.  The picture certainly does not take itself seriously enough that one senses some artistic target was aimed for and missed.  Also worth noting is the score by Rick Wakeman, he of “Yes” fame.  Grinding guitars and flailing synth riffs abound, and one action sequence is set to a song by… I know not who, but I have heard worse Aretha Franklin impersonators in my travels, of this I can assure you.  The strongest endorsement I can give is that you should watch this picture if you wish to be completely perplexed and amused.  Much strong drink is a necessity, and a small party of like-minded adventurers is recommended.

Until next time, travelers, drink deep of food, women and war, for there is nothing better on the face of this Earth!

Kneel before She!

18
Aug
11

Final Destination 5: Death, Still a Jerk After All These Years.

a Primal Root written review

Death in the cinema is a strange subject. On one hand it can be dealt with as something gentle, life affirming and even heroic. On the other hand…it can be cynical and used to make us laugh and/or vomit. Then there’s The Final Destination franchise…the now five sequel deep slasher franchise that cuts out the middle man by casting Death itself as the main antagonist. And let me tell you, Death is one Hell of a creative genius when a debt is owed.

If you’ve seen the first film you are already in on the basic structure of these stories. A group of cliches get together around some form of transit and end up narrowly escaping a horrific death thanks to someones psychic vision. See, the shitty part of the deal is, now Death has it out for you because it didn’t get to burn you alive or shred you into several dozen meaty chunks when it was supposed to.  This is when Death dons his little black beret, grows a hipster mustache and goatee, grabs his paint brush and gets to work crafting some of the most ridiculous/gut churning deaths it can come up with.

And for whatever reason, I cannot help coming back for more. A lot of that is due to the fact I really enjoy the first three films as excellent examples of grand guignol entertainment kept lively with a mischievous, demented penchant for black comedy and even building suspense, in some cases, as to when and how people will meet their demise which will either be brutal, shocking, hysterical or a combo punch knock out of all three.Final Destination 1-3 delivered the goods for me but the premise seemed to finally be wearing out by the time part part 4 (THE Final Chapter) was farted out into theaters under the guise of being the last installment much like Friday the 13th part 4: The Final Chapter did decades before.  They added 3D, removed any attempt to make the characters interesting or even remotely likable. But worst of all? The kills just felt dreary and uninspired which could be a result of the audience not feeling a damn thing or caring at all for the folks in peril.

And, as we all know, when money talks sequels walk, THE Final Destination turned out to not be the last stop after all! Here we are with a brand new 3D misadventure! Final Destination 5 avoids any pretense of being the final installment in this notorious horror film series and, instead, gives us a return to form from a franchise that really felt dead in the water after it’s shittacular fourth outing.

Who farted, ya'll?

Here, we are introduced to a young man who has to choose between following his culinary dreams of studying under a master chef in Paris, France or his ridiculously attractive and sweet girlfriend. First, he and his fellow coworkers and friends must survive a corporate team building retreat. They all gather on a bus and head for a rickety old suspension bridge…that’s having some work done…as dark clouds and high winds approach…and Dust in the Wind by Kansas (BRILLIANT comic timing by death.) plays on the radio. Who knew he was also a disc jockey on the side?

Anyone with even the tiniest crumb of knowledge of this series of films will know what happens next. Yes, the bridge begins falling apart. Piece by piece and our main cast is  crushed, splattered, impaled, and in possibly the most horrific death I have yet seen in this franchise, (SPOILER!!!!!) doused with a barrel full of molting tar…I’m not going to lie, I genuinely got queasy at this one. (END SPOILER!!!!!) And in this sequence, especially, you can see where that 3-D budget paid off in spades. Sail Boat shot, anyone?

Of course, the gang survives thanks to the young chef fellow’s vision and Death starts visiting them one by one to collect in it’s trademark visceral, grisly fashion. I’m going to try and avoid as many spoilers as possible, but never, ever assume you know what’s going to happen in any of these death scenarios. That fucker is a master of misdirection in this entry and most kills come right out of left field which makes the movie that much more enjoyable to experience. Many times, once you finish cringing in shared agony, you can’t help but crack up a bit in cynical laughter…I call this the America’s Funniest Home Videos principal.

Final destination 5 also features the triumphant return of one of my favorite elements of the franchise, the ever awesome Tony Todd, as William Bludworth, mortician by trade and the only person who seems to really understand the nature of Death’s “design”.  Bludworth was featured in FD 1&2, was the voice heard coming from the Satan Roller Coaster in FD3 but was totally missing from THE Final Destination. Let me tell you, having him back dropping his typical cryptic hints for those waiting on death’s arrival to decipher, is a much welcome and needed element in these films. As a sort of bystander, Bludworth is the only connection or walking dead have to the rules and laws that death goes by. Still, at this point in the series we all know no matter what rules you follow Death will get you in the end. No matter what. No one survives. Bludworth should really just be throwing his arms in the air and saying, “Man, I’m sorry, but you’re kind of fucked.”

"I'll see you soon..." - Bludworth

Another aspect of Final destination 5 that I really appreciate is that the film’s writers tried their damnedest to add some story to this thing. After THE Final Destinations lack of any kind of attempt at narrative story telling I was nervous going into Final Destination 5 expecting the same sad ride of faceless characters getting their poopers sucked out by pool drains. Instead, we are treated to a bit of a love story, an investigation and even a man trying to come to grips with the terrible hand life has dealt him and is steadily driven crazy. It’s no Citizen Kane, that’s to be understood, but I can always grin and appreciate when a screenwriter takes a tired, done to  death (excuse the pun.) premise and tries his or her best to give it something more than just the glorious blood and body parts flying at the audiences faces in the magnificent 3rd dimension!

The cast of the film is rounded out by some familiar and, dare I say, talented faces. Not only is Tonyy Todd (Candyman) in on the festivities, Emma Bell (Walking Dead), Courtney B. Vance ( from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. My favorite incarnation of the series. :D), Miles Fisher (Gods and Generals and a dead ringer for Tom Cruise) and even a few other guest appearances from past Final Destination alumni (hmmm) make the best of their time on screen and give the material more credibility than many would suggest it deserves.

In the final analysis (see what I did there?)Final Destination 5 reestablishes everything I enjoyed about the franchise in it’s early days. This is the 3-D entry that should have been. It’s an apologetically dark film laced with that same sick humor that made the original trilogy an enjoyable viewing experience. Especially with a crowd.

Final Destination 5 gives us some new twists and turns and even packs in an awesome twisted ending that’s sure to please all the old school fans and intrigue those new to the franchise.Final Destination 5 is brutal, trashy and fun and if you are a fan or someone who knows this is something they might enjoy it is definitely worth checking out in it’s 3-D format.

Could Final Destination 5 really be…A New Beginning? 😉

Stay Trashy,

-Root

11
Aug
10

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood or Raising Kane

a Primal Root review

The New Blood was, coincidentally, the very first Friday the 13th movie I ever saw. As a child I was completely forbidden from watching these kinds of films. Sure, I could be traumatized by Speilberg’s JAWS and Hooper’s Poltergeist, but the insanely fun Friday the 13th series was OFF LIMITS.  I think it’s because my Mom didn’t want me seeing bare female breasts. Now look what kind of complex that’s created.

Anyhoo, my first recollection of Friday the 13th part VII was  building up the courage to walk into the theater as a child and just catch a glimpse of what all my friends on the playground were talking about. I don’t recall what I was at the local Winter Haven, Florida movie theater seeing but I had gotten up to go use the boy’s room and it was on this unchaperoned venture I summoned up the courage to walk into the theater for my first ever taste of Friday the 13th.

And oh man, did it deliver. It was that moments towards the end of the film when there are hardly any teens left. Just our telekentic star Tina, love interest Nick and uber bitch, Melissa. I walked into that darkened theater to see Melissa open the door to leave Tina’s cabin only to have Jason firmly plant an axe right in her face and chuck her across the living room over a TV and into a wall.

and a horror nerd is born. Winter Haven, Florida. 1988.

My blood ran cold and my little first grade self finally knew what everyone was talking about. I was frozen in place, eyes wide, jaw on the floor. I felt terrified but excited simultaneously. My mind spun, my pulse raced as soon as my heart began beating again. Jason had the two remaining kids trapped in this house and I couldn’t bear anymore so I bolted back to my correct theater to sit next to the safety of my Mom and watch the rest of Who Framed Roger Rabbit or something.

I was fascinated with a hockey masked, undead, monster from hell.

It wasn’t until Friday the 13th Part VII was shown on USA when I was in 6th grade that I finally saw it in it’s entirety and was my favorite in the series for years.  The kills are brutal even if they were equally brutalized by the MPAA. Jason looked scarier than ever in this incarnation. His decomposing body allowing for cracked ribs and a rotted spinal column to protrude. This look has become my favorite incarnation of Jason, hands down. And for the first time in the series, Jason is pitted against another super natural force that gives him a run for his money in the form of Tina, a troubled and traumatized teenage girl returning to Crystal Lake to confront the demons of her past.

What is it about The New Blood that I love so much? It’s not my favorite in the series anymore and it does have a good amount of sentimental value, but why is this one so high on the list?

One of my favorite sequences in the whole film is the excellent opening montage which had become a bit of a staple in the franchise to keep the audience up to speed with what happened in previous installements. The Final Chapter had a pretty sweet opening montage but The New Blood’s is by far and away the best of the series. Walt Gorney, Crazy Ralph himself, lends his considerable voice talents to retell the legend of Jason Voorhees as footage from previous films are viewed. Some with audio, others are eerily silent. It’s the perfect opening to the film that gets me pumped every time.

"People forget he's down there. Waiting."

Much like one of the most heralded entries in the saga, The Final Chapter, The New Blood focuses on the drama going on in two separate households. There’s Tine, the hysterical and overly dramatic teenage heroine who hates her given telekinetic gifts. Her screeching, hardcore mullet sporting mother, Amanda. And pure evil psycho therapist, Dr. Cruz who is looking to exploit Tina’s powers. This trio has taken up residents in their old lake side abode where Tina killed her Father with her untamed mind bullets about a decade earlier. Yeah, this ought to prove incredibly soothing and therapeutic to the already on edge Tina. Especially after she brings Jason back to life after mistaking him as her Father. Was her Dad into hockey?

Damn, that Power Mullet's sexy as Hell!

The lake house next door has been rented out by a group of teen cliches in order to throw a surprise birthday party for their friend Michael. There’s the geeky guy, the stoner guy, the fun slut, the bitch, the token black couple, everyone is accounted for and then some. Needless to say, I was surprised to see even one of these faceless meat sacks make it to the end credits.

Might as well tattoo "Dead Meat" on their foreheads.

And there’s the little matter of the man behind the mask. Professional stunt man, Kane Hodder, steps up to bat for the first time as the legendary Jason Voorhees and he knocks the ball out of the park and embeds it in the cranium of some poor schmuck 5 miles away. Kane Hodder uses his body to emote whatever is going through Jason’s maggot riddled mind and he does it masterfully and like none other. He uses his shoulders, his breathing, his head movements to reveal levels of Jason never previously seen. Sure, these layers are primarily pissed off and blood thursty but Kane does it with gusto.

Kane Hodder and The Primal Root have a moment at Spooky Empire.

There’s also this fantastic sequence in a shed where Jason is looking for his potential victim and spots her through the slates in a wooden wall. It’s a frightning moment seen from the perspective of the victim, Maddy. Jason is fucking pissed and frustrated throughout the duration of his screen time with a kind of , “Well, it’s a dirty job but someone;s gotta do it.” swagger that immediately endears him to the fans. I still say this is of Kane Hodder’s best of his four Jason performances. He makes the character his own and has always given 100% to the character.

The last thing you ever want to see when hiding from Jason.

And the kills are fantastic in concept even if they are cut down tremendously by the ratings board. A party horn shoved into a young woman’s eye! Two axes to the face! Jason crushing a guys head to the size of a walnut with his bare hands! Weed whacker to the gut!  And, of course, the now iconic sleeping bag death that the mere mention of makes Friday fans all warm and fuzzy inside.

Foreplay. Jason style.

Friday the 13th part VIII is an exercise in excess. There’s just so much bloody, supernatural, horrific fun to be had it’s kind of mind blowing. Levitating severed heads, full on underwater female crotch shots, Maddy’s EXTREME makeover, kittens hidden in closets, bloody psychic visions, “I got a date with a soap on a rope.” I could  go on all day with the little things I love about The New Blood.

It a crass-tastic slice of late 80’s trashy slasher cinema fun.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root

03
Jul
10

Amelia Kinkade, The Trash Cinema Collective Profile

"Back in the day, we did horrible things, and laughed like hell." - Amelia Kinkade

a Primal Root Interview

Thanks to our friends over at FromDuskTillCon.com, I recently received the opportunity to interview the multi-talented actress, dancer, author, artist, animal activist  and animal psychic, Amelia Kinkade. That’s right, the lovely woman behind one of the most blood thirsty and wicked femme fatales to ever ravage Trash Cinema, Angela from the Night of the Demons series.

Continue reading ‘Amelia Kinkade, The Trash Cinema Collective Profile’




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