Posts Tagged ‘psycho

16
Jul
17

(NSFW) Lady Zatanna: July Devil Girl of the Month

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here, and we are in the thick of summer. Time to get away on a relaxing vacation and escape the doldrums of your every day life and it’s mundane hassles. Just remember, it’s best to stay away from those damn tourists traps running up and down every stretch of Florida’s highways and bi-ways or you might end up losing time, money or your mind. Or…in the case of this month’s Devil Girl, the gorgeous and sultry Lady Zatanna, you could end up losing a whole lot more… Before you feast your eyes on Lady Zatanna’s sexy, alarming, cautionary spread and homage to one of the true classics of cinema, let’s get to know our Lady a bit better.

The Primal Root: Lady Zatanna, it is a pleasure to welcome you as Trash Cinema Collective’s July 2017 Devil Girl of the Month. What a gorgeous spread and you look phenomenal in it. What inspired you to recreate the shower scene from the Great Grandfather of slasher cinema,  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho?

Lady Zatanna: I recently got interested in modeling. I have always loved Jeremy’s style of photography (Dark Apple Photography) . I had never saw the movie prior to planning for this shoot.He asked me to get the feel for the scene so he let me borrow the movie; the original movie, the ’98 remake, and the biopic Hitchcock. It really got me prepped and pumped for the shoot.

PR: You know, my Mom always used to tell me that Psycho scarred her for life and that to this day she still gets creeped out when she takes a shower. Are there any horror films that traumatized you for life? 

LZ: The Ring. Anytime i see the tv go to that static it always reminds me of her crawling out of the tv. I have to rush over and turn it off. 

PR: Well, it is the middle of summer in Florida and it has been sufficiently stormy for some horror marathoning. Do you have any favorite summer time horror flicks or Trash Cinema picks?  

LZ:  Some of my favorite horror movies are The Blob, The Exorcist, and all of the Saw movies. They never get old to me.

PR: Three questions about this spread I have gotta ask: 1. Are you really screaming? 2. If so, did it freak out the neighbors? 3. Did you use chocolate syrup for blood like good ol’ Hitchcock did when he shot that scene?

LZ: I was not actually screaming. We shot this in a duplex apartment. So the silent scream was the only way to go. Trying to hold that pose led to constantly laughing. As you can see we eventually got it though. – We did in fact use chocolate syrup. Jeremy and I tried to find every behind the scenes on Psycho. That is where we found that chocolate syrup looks significantly like blood in black and white

PR: Lady Zatanna, tell us a little bit about yourself. What are your hobbies, passions, and plans for the future? 

LZ: I plan on working my ass off to get more shoots out in the open. I want to thank you Trash Cinema for giving us this opportunity. My passions include being a great mom, cooking bomb ass food, making money, and of course modeling.

PR: I see you have some gorgeous tattoos. Any plans for some in additions soon? 

LZ:Unfortunately with this shoot you couldn’t tell that i have eyes on the backs of my knees. It is my newest edition. I plan on being pretty much covered eventually.

PR: As has become tradition, do you have any words of wisdom for The Trash Cinema Collective members viewing your wet, bloody, sexy and horrifying Devil Girl spread? 

LZ: My words of wisdom would be to make sure you keep up with Dark Apple Photography because we have allot of new sets coming out that you wouldn’t expect. Stay positive and true to yourself.

PR: Finally, what song would you like our viewers to have ringing in their ears as the feast their eyes upon your spread?

LZ:  The song that I would choose to listen to while looking at this set is Somebody’s watching me by Rockwell.

Photography by Jeremy Strenth

http://www.facebook.com/mrjsphotos

 

30
Jul
16

Eaten Alive (1976):A Slice of Deep Fried Southern Sleaze

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down and viewing the strangest, nastiest, weirdest films that have ever been made. Years I’ve spend renting, sitting in theaters and even buying movies for my collection before ever having viewed them in the hope of tracking down a little nugget of dirty trash cinema gold.  And in all those years, few have reached the levels of sick, disturbing, nasty southern fried exploitation sleaze and depravity as Tobe Hooper’s 1976 bargain basement horror flick, Eaten Alive (aka: Legend of the Bayou aka: Death Trap aka: Horror Hotel aka: Murder on the Bayou aka: Starlight Slaughter). This flick is about as seedy, filthy and low brow as horror cinema gets. It’s garish, lurid, ultra cheap and is missing so much of the artistic flourishes which made Tobe Hooper 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only a massive success with audiences but critics too, so much so that it is considered an American classic and even has it’s original negatives housed at The American Film Archive.

You will never find Eaten Alive being lauded over and put in a film preservation vault. Not, this is the kind of movie main stream critics use to wipe the turd crusted asses with. This is the ultimate deglamorization of the horror genre. The colors are thick and heavy, the sets rudimentary, ramshackle, and worn down, totally caked in dust, dirt and filth.  And the first lines we ever hear are during a close up shot of a huge belt buckle coming undone as a young Robert (don’t call me Freddy) Englund exclaims, is a raspy southern accent “My name’s Buck and I’m rarin’ to FUCK!” He makes this exclamation as he bends a young prostitute over and attempts to ass fuck her, which she is less than willing to do. Eaten Alive begins…with a man trying to stick his cock up a woman’s ass… Sophie’s Choice, this is not.

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It all gets even more dark and mean spirited from there, as the madame of this particular Pussy Shack, Miss Hattie (Morticia herself, Carolyn Jones) boots the young prostitute , Clara (Roberta Collins), out on the street for refusing to let young Buck savage her inexperienced poop chute with his throbbing, eager, member. She ends up heading deep into the bayou to stay at the run down, once thriving, now absolutely disgusting and grotesque Starlight Hotel. It’s a shanty out in the middle of the swamp and houses not only the disturbed, one legged, bespectacled, murderous proprietor… Judd (Neville Brand), but also is the domain of Judd’s behemoth per crocodile, a crocodile he claims he got directly from The Nile, which stays in a fenced in portion of the swamp right beside the front porch of The Starlight Hotel.

Clara is chopped to pieces and tossed to the crocodile within minutes of arriving when Judd realizes she used to sling leg for cold hard cash back in town. He flips his shit, tucks his scythe into her young, lovely flesh several good times and tosses her still breathing body off the porch, into the swamp to spend her last gasping breaths chocking on her own blood as she is torn to pieces by the resident devourer of anything made of meat. It’s a pretty nasty, unapologetic and fucking cruel way for this character to meat her end. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho…only set in Florida Man’s South. Where these sorts of things are still shocking, but not necessarily surprising and everything is much more gruesome.

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Eaten Alive is a horror movie with no exits, no easy way out from the grueling, unrelentingly malicious story and it’s schlocky tone. From the get go, the audience knows that their emotions, their nerves, will not be spared and, as my close, personal friend, Joe Bob Briggs once said, the key to a good Drive-In movie is that anyone can die at any moment. Tobe Hooper keeps this rule close to his heart in Eaten Alive, as many kind hearted, well meaning characters are introduced and then have scythes rammed through their skulls and an enormous gator tugs at their flailing legs and pulls them in half. It’s that kind of ride. Innocent family pets are shown being bitten into and dragged to their watery deaths while their adolescent owner screams in horror. So, be warned, this movie is for the sicker of us who respect films that can show just how unlikable and horrifying the human condition can be.

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There’s an outstanding sequence where a little nuclear family stops by The Starlight Hotel to stay the night and collect bed bugs. The married couple, Faye and Roy are played by none other than two of my favorite character actors, Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise). Their marriage is obviously a slow burn downward spiral into permanent psychosis and Roy apologizes constantly, fantasies about his wife using his eyeball as an ash tray and barks all night. It’s a tense, wholly bizarre marriage filled with passive aggressive behavior and absolute batshit crazy behavior. I’m not sure what the fuck is exactly going on here with these two when they’re alone together, but I do feel for their little daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) who spends her time screaming in despair with her hands clasped over her ears as her parents act like complete nutty bars. It’s one of those scenes that I;m so happy exists, because it’s so much fun to watch these two actors go tow to tow and go crazy on one another, but the implications are disheartening to say the least.

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Soon, Clara’s sick and slowly dying Father, Harvey (Mel Ferrer), and his blonde, well stacked daughter, Libby show up in town looking for Clara. Harvey knows he will be gone soon and wants to find her so he can make good with her before his imminent demise. Things ended on a sour note and he wants to be the bigger man and is desperate to track her down. Where do they end up staying? You guessed it! The Starlight Hotel! The two begin to investigate her disappearance which gets the local Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman). All the while, Buck (Robert Englund) takes his curvy young girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe) up to The Starlight Hotel for a little consensual sodomy which all leads to a collision course with absolute horror at the dank, gross and inexplicably popular hellhole of a hotel. There’s gotta be a Motel 6 nearby, right?

 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Eaten Alive is the film’s distinct lack of anyone to really root for, it’s lack of humanity and likable characters. There’s not much to distinguish the villain of the piece, Judd, from the rest of the stories inhabitants. We can;t root for Buck, he’s a rapist, a drug dealer and a fucking bully. Sheriff Martin is totally incompetent and impotent as a lawman or any kind of hero. Roy is a failure, a whimpering loser on the verge of a psychotic break down…even Clara’s Dad is so obsessed beyond reason with finding her and comes off as a total jerk. Still, you see these poor sacks of flesh getting filleted by Judd and then ripped to pieces by the voracious crocodile and you genuinely feel bad for these poor, fucked fuckers.  It’s like a treatise against having faith in humanity. Possibly even life itself. Did I mention this movie is dark?

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Some of the women fair a little bit better and are able to save themselves most of the time and work together to overcome the blood thirsty men who happen to be coming after them intent of sinking as much blade into their young soft bodies as possible. But, possibly the only totally sane character in the whole film is Roy and Faye’s young daughter, who is certain to be scarred for life after her long weekend witnessing horror after horror and narrowly escaping being stabbed to death and Eaten Alive… Yeah, I foresee many hefty therapy bills for the rest of this poor child’s life…

 

There’s a lot of joy to be had, also, in watching a young pre A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund playing a pretty nasty piece of white trash dirtbag named Buck in Eaten Alive. He gives his all in what could have been a pretty forgettable character, but that Englund personae pulls through and makes Buck a pretty memorable piece of shit. You can’t help but see the shadow of Freddy in so many of this characters posses and mannerisms. I often like to imagine that Buck is possibly Freddy Krueger’s cousin.

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All this being said, Eaten Alive is a kind of harrowing masterpiece of deep Southern sleaze cinema. The gore is gnarly, the kills palpably unpleasant, the effects all bargain basement which, in it’s own way, adds to the sticky, morbidity of the piece AND there is a plentiful helping of gratuitous tits and ass, which is kind of the sugar that helps this dirty little pill go down. The sleaze on display here is authentic. One walks away from a viewing of Eaten alive feeling dirty and in need of a shower. There’s no deeper meaning to be found in this head first dive into depravity, murder and insanity. It’s a film totally preoccupied in the grimy, the dirty and the disturbing and offers no apologies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only blood, chaos, death and darkness. And what could be more terrifying than that?

I award Eaten Alive 4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

10
Feb
16

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Salutations from the Other Side

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve long held that the golden age of American horror cinema stretched from the late 1960’s to the end of the 1970’s. It was an age when turmoil, violence and change was in the air. Filmmakers of the day were shaken and inspired by the horrifying, nightmarish world around them, internalized this terror and in the end brought it out of the darkness as some of the most devastatingly influential horror films the world will ever witness.  There is one other genre that happened to thrive in the 1970’s, one I know far less about, and that is the Rock Opera.

Flicks like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Wiz not to mention, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would either garner rave reviews and great success or go on to become beloved cult films the world over. However, some fell by the wayside and are just now starting the reemerge and find recognition as beautiful cinematic oddities they are. And there is none I am more proud to see finally garnering the praise it has long deserved, Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, Phantom of the Paradise.

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Phantom of the Paradise blends the horror trappings of The Phantom of the Opera and Faust together and give it a glam rock makeover serving as a dark comic satire of the entertainment industry. Phantom tells the tale of Winslow Leech (William Finley in an awesome performance) a young and naive composer looking to make it big with his life long work, a cantata based on the legend of Faust. No sooner does the the owner of Death Records, an utterly charming, smooth talking, calm, collected and utterly malevolent man who has sold his soul to The Devil and goes by the name of Swan (Paul Williams) hear Winslow’s music does he find a way to steal it, exploit it and turn it into pop music garbage to open his long delayed rock palace, The Paradise, with. Swan frames Winslow and has him sent to jail where he is volunteered for an experiment which requires him to have all his teeth removed and replaced with new metallic chompers.  It isn’t long before Winslow hears his own composition on the radio, recreated as a turd of a pop song, and flees from prison. In a psychotic rage Winslow breaks into Death Records, ends up getting disfigured in a vinyl record press, vanishes into the night and is presumed dead…But soon after his disappearance a masked phantom begins stalking the darks hallways and backstage at The Paradise, determined to rain murderous vengeance upon all of those who have hurt and betrayed him.

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Along the way, The Phantom ends up becoming infatuated and falling in love with a young, inexperienced but quite talented singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the only person The Phantom permits to sing his work. Anyone else who tries, he promises, will be killed. Of course, Swan makes the decision to have The Phantom’s music performed by what he considers to be the future of music, a glam rock monster who goes by the name of Beef (Gerrit Graham, who is funny as shit in the role). Despite mid shower plunger to the gob warning from The Phantom, Beef is convinced to perform as scheduled…

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Phantom of the Paradise functions as great piece of anti-establishment satire against the soulless corporatization of art and artists alike. Not only this, but Phantom is also a full on musical, complete with song and dance routines, with every song written and composed by Paul Williams. These elements together do nothing but accentuate the strangeness of the film, it’s so bizarre, so daring and so breathlessly creative, it leaves the viewer’s mind reeling. All this quirky genre blending and tonal shifts leaves us with an unexpectedly heart wrenching musical tragicomedy. I can think of few other films that achieve this level of absurdity and poignancy.

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Still with me? I know the description above may sound a bit overwhelming, and indeed, there is a whole lot to take in with Phantom of the Paradise. It is sensory overload, but in the best possible way you can imagine. Despite the film’s litany of references to other cinematic greats, (Touch of Evil and Psycho, to mention just the tip of the iceberg) Phantom of the Paradise is among the most singular and unique films ever made. Any attempt at synopsis can only do Phantom so much justice, because the heart of the film lies in the experience of watching it. It is very often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released a year after Phantom of the Paradise, and if I am being honest, the two couldn’t be more different. I suppose it is more inviting to spend time with a group of people basking in their own carnal desires than with a group of tortured artists who sold their soul for rock and roll. It’s just a damn shame Phantom of the Paradise never quite caught on in the states. Of course, I’ve heard the film is fucking HUGE in Canada. And, in face, the two fellows from Daft Punk, according to Paul Williams, met at a screening of Phantom of the Paradise! But that has nothing to with anything…just a cool bit of trivia.

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However, in a way, I kind of hope it remains a hidden gem that exists just below the radar. This way it will never be over exposed to the point of nausea or run into the ground to the point of tedium. Phantom of the Paradise is much beloved by those drawn to it’s peculiar story, dark, comedic, enchanting characters, beautiful songs and unchained artistry. Phantom is a film every bit as much for the misfits as Rocky Horror, but with a much more tragic and lyrical fantasy narrative. You cannot help but feel pity and sympathy for Winslow and righteous indignation once he is transformed from sweet Winslow to the pained and murderous Phantom and finds his revenge. One cannot find something darkly funny about Swans form of easy going, suave, laid back evil as he knowingly manipulates those around him to his bidding, feel sadness as Phoenix is corrupted by fame and absolute astonishment at the the radical comedic performance of Gerrit Graham as Beef.

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Phantom of the Paradise is a marvel of a film. Brian de Palma, Paul Williams and company have crafted something so different, so daring that mainstream audiences had no idea what to make of it. A film so beautiful, poetic, energetic and well played is obviously becoming relic. A thing of the not too distant past, when artistry, creativity and taking chances we heralded above ticket sales and domestic box office grosses. I suppose it’s no big surprise at this point for me to reveal Phantom of the Paradise would rank as one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It’s a story of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and possibly redemption set to some of the grooviest goddamn songs to ever be featured in a motion picture. A story of how monsters are created and the good guys and bad guys we all have the potential to be. For those who have never seen it, I recommend highly recommend checking it out, but keep in mind it is not everyone’s cup of glitter. For those of us who adore the film, it;s always worth heading over the The Paradise from time to time and witnessing one of the funniest, most lyrical, most enjoyable tragic love stories ever told.

I’m awarding Phantom of the Paradise 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

21
Nov
15

The Funhouse (1981): The Reality of Horror

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a Primal Root written review

“Who will dare to face the challenge of the Funhouse? Who is mad enough to enter that world of darkness? How about you, sir…?” -Funhouse Barker, The Funhouse (1981)

 

Who doesn’t love a night amongst the neon lights, swirling machinery, salt of the earth carnies and deep fried delicacies of the fair? As The Primal Root and lifetime admirer of all things filthy, the North Florida Fair is a true thing of beauty. The aroma of artery clogging treats like cotton candy, loaded cheese fries, funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos co mingle with the unmistakable stench of fresh vomit, Carny B.O. and still warm shit straight from the occupants of the livestock pavilions assholes. It’s the smell of a fine, trashy adventure ready to be had! The sound of screaming patrons as they are spun at incredibly unsafe speeds on rides older than their grandparents and just as rickety as the Bacon Blast they just ate moments ago churns within their stomachs threatening to become a technicolor projectile of half digested nastiness! Because. let’s face it, fun is only bolstered when there’s a constant threat of either being puked on or a fate worse than death. These are simple truths.

Case in point, Tobe Hooper often overlooked 1981 low rent, down and dirty slasher shit kicker, The Funhouse! It’s the kind of film that did fairly well when it came out but never created a sustainable franchise and got forgotten about by the mainstream horror aficionados. Which is a shame, really, because The Funhouse is actually a pretty great slice of the old Trash Cinema Grade B meatloaf.

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The story is about a young, very pretty, VERY healthy young lady named Amy (played by the criminally underrated actress, Elizabeth Berridge). She is set up on a date by her two buddies  Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin) with a young stud and gas station attendant, Buzz Dawson (Cooper Huckabee). Against the advice of her parents, Amy and her friends attend the traveling fair that’s in town. Things get off to a rocky start as Buz insults Amy’s Father…but he soon amps up the charm and before you know it, he’s wrapping his arm around her, she’s resting her head on his shoulder and discussing letting Buzz ram his prize winning cock through her fresh harvest cherry with Liz while the hang out in an alarmingly grotesque carnival shit house. That’s right, Amy’s a virgin, Buzz is a”pistol” and Amy’s been saving it for someone special. I mean, this guy DID play that strong man carnival game, ring the bell and win her a stuffed panda, so the least she can do is spread her legs and let him ring her bell, too! Right? Right? Well, that’s how it sorta works in slasher flick logic anyway.  And what better place to lose it than by trespassing into the carnival’s FUNHOUSE and staying the night in there? Honestly, it is kind of a romantic notion to lose one’s virginity in there. Imagine, those things are NEVER cleaned so the drippings of your busted cherry will be all over The Funhouse floor FOREVER! So, one day when the carnival comes to town you can share a ride with the grand kids, point to an old brown stain on the floor and say “That’s where I treated a distant memory named “Buzz” to my unspoiled cooter! No, not Buzz Aldrin. This guy worked a gas pump…” But, I digress.

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Before you can say,  “dead whore”, the kids witness the creepy Funhouse attendant killing a fortune teller by the name of Madame Zena (Oscar nominated actress and Andy Warhol Factory regular, Sylvia Miles) who also doesn’t mind fucking for money on the side. See, Madame Zena simply touches the guy’s dick and he shoots his wad. She keeps the money, says a deal’s a  deal, but the Carny who just blew his load doesn’t see it this way. He yanks her tits out and strangles/electrocutes her to death. It;s a pretty horrifying/awesome scene.  The Carny is soon joined by his Father affectionately known as Funhouse Barker (Kevin Conway, who happens to play all the other Carnival Barkers in the film) and it is revealed that his son is hardly human at all, and is in fact, some kind of red eyed, sharp clawed, protruding fanged, drooling, screeching albino mutant deformity. It’s a pretty amazing reveal and one that puts a huge shit eating grin on my face every time. As Father and son discuss their plan for covering up Madame Zena’s murder we soon discover that this is far from the first time The Funhouse Barker has had to cover for his son’s murderous ways. In fact, it is even mentioned that his son killed two little Girl Scouts once. Yeah, this twosome is pretty vile. There are several shots in the move that linger on what a general ride goer at The Funhouse would consider fake rotten corpse props hanging from the walls of the ride. But the shots last for quite a while after we are made aware of this Father and Son’s past and you start to wonder how many of those crumbling dead bodies might actually be the real thing?

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Father and son decide they will ditch Madame Zena’s body in the woods and then blame her murder on “The Locals.”  As if Columbo couldn’t figure this shit out…ANYHOO, Richie drops his lighter, the Gruesome Twosome get wise to the fact that there are witnesses to the murder and the hunt is on!

The Funhouse is in many way a horror movie about horror movies. At the film’s very beginning, as we are treated to a lovely glimpse at Amy’s beautiful boobs, there are blatant and calculated homages to our horror film heritage represented by blatantly by  John Carpenter’s Halloween in the form of that film’s killer POV shots, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as Amy showers and is menaced by an unknown assailant with a knife. As a viewer, we are well aware of all these tropes. We’ve seen them and we know where it is going. The young, naked, nubile woman in the shower is going to get sliced and diced. That’s how these things work. HOWEVER, in The Funhouse, the sense of menace is soon turned upside down as the masked killer is revealed to be Amy’s little brother Joey pulling a prank and scaring the shit out of his big sis. This is meant to represent the horror film experience. Something scary is seen, but it is at the end of the day, harmless. What is frightening and thrilling on the screen isn’t going to actually harm us. James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein is repeatedly mentioned in one form or another. In Joey’s room there is a poster of Frankenstein’s Monster on this wall above his bed, Amy and Joey’s parent’s are seen watching Bride of Frankenstein on cable TV safe in their living room and even The Killer Carny Creature wears a Frankenstein mask through most of the film to cover his terrifying true appearance. The fictional face of a homogenized, harmless, well loved fictional monster is used to cover up the real terror just under the thin layer of latex.  It is a theme throughout The Funhouse. The kids go on carnival rides, scream are thrilled and have a blast. The ride stops and they step off unscathed. They witness a magician, Marco the Magnificent (played by legendary character actor and The Phantom of the Paradise himself, William Finley) drive a stake into a young girl’s heart. She spews up blood as she screams in agony. The crowd is horrified! But then the lights come up and the young girl is shown to be unharmed, and in fact, Marco’s lovely daughter and assistance. It was all an illusion, a trick, and order is restored. Again and again, the teens face things that outside the carnival would be truly horrendous, but here, it’s all an illusion. They are safe.

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That is, until they witness reality. In one of my favorite sequences in The Funhouse, the teens have snuck into The Funhouse to stay the night. The camera cranes back to show the lights of the traveling carnival shutting off, the rides shutting down, and inside The Funhouse the animatronic figures that populate it wind down to a halt. The notion of being alone, in the dark with all these creepy figures is the stuff of nightmares and is terrifying to contemplate. The camera steadily, slowly pulls back from the traveling carnival as the crowds leave pour out, the rides stop, and the lights shut down. The camera pulls all the way out to the parking lot. The veneer of amusement and fun are now gone and we are alone. Trapped in the dark. And evil is lurking.  Just like the horror film itself. You watch it, you have fun at the thrill of make believe monsters and mayhem. But when the movie is over, the credits roll and you go home…the real world awaits.

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I fucking adore The Funhouse. No other movie captures the sleazy, greasy nastiness of the traveling carnival quite like it. Hooper populates the movie with some great, memorable, believable characters…and some that are a bit cartoonish and over the top, but it all plays into the carnival atmosphere and it pays off exceptionally well. Sure, on the surface it looks just like another one of the popular dead teenager movies that came down the conveyer belt of the 1980’s, replete with plenty of death, destruction and nudity, but if you just pull back that mask, if you dare to look beneath the surface, The Funhouse is a much more thoughtful, much more intelligent horror film than you initially thought.

I award Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Taking a trip through The Funhouse is well worth it, Gang.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

20
Oct
13

The Lords of Salem (2012) a Rebecca Keel review

Lords of Salem

a Rebecca Keel review

Rob Zombie has long demonstrated himself to be among the elite talent of contemporary writer-directors,  and even with such a high bar to clear,  he has succeeded in shocking and impressing me with his recent,  wrenching film The Lords of Salem.  Superficially,  the work stands as a brilliantly innovative horror story about the legacy of colonial witchcraft in modern-day Salem,  Massachusetts,  but with even a prick to the skin of the tale,  the viewer is sucked into a powerful and disturbing allegory for the effect of mental illness on a person’s life.  Poignantly precise and fearlessly thorough,  The Lords of Salem captivates with its insight and its remorseless horror.

The story lays out the events of seven days in the life of Heidi Laroc (stunningly portrayed by Shari Moon Zombie),  a radio DJ in Salem,  after she receives a mysterious vinyl record from “The Lords of Salem”.  The music on the record triggers visions of a coven of notorious witches from the colonial days of Salem.  Unable to resist the fate she inherited from her ancestors,  Heidi’s life begins to spiral into destruction.

A masterfully constructed allegory can be likened to a jigsaw puzzle with an image on both sides of the pieces.  Constructing the puzzle facing one way yields a comprehensible design,  while locking the pieces with their opposite sides up reveals another;  yet the puzzle itself maintains the same shape,  regardless of the image visible.  Each piece has a role to play in the final design,  and this role is the same,  regardless of which image is constructed.  Likewise,  the allegory is made up of diverse pieces,  each of which has a role.  If you lift a single piece and turn it over,  you can see its role in the image on the opposite side,  even though it must lock into its neighboring pieces the same way,  regardless of which meaning is viewed.

A quote from the character Francis Matthias,  a local witchcraft historian,  binds the surface tale of witchcraft to its deeper representation of the destruction of a life due to the inexorable force of mental illness.  He states to Heidi,  “Witchcraft is nothing but a psychotic belief brought on by a delusional state of mind.”  This clear declaration identifies the primary allegorical device in the film:  witchcraft is psychosis.  From this melding of two ideas into a single metaphorical puzzle piece,  the rest of the allegory can be teased from the dense imagery of the visually-stunning film.

It is beyond the scope of this short review to analyze the imagery,  symbolism,  and structure of The Lords of Salem.  However,  certain points bear mention,  as they may affect the way the film is received by its audience.

The overt,  perhaps even garish,  Christian and occult images which permeate The Lords of Salem may distract some viewers from the underlying meaning of the film,  or,  perhaps,  suggest a rebellious philosophical bent which is meaningless to the film’s interpretation.  Christianity plays a twofold role in the allegory.  As the epitome of mainstream normalcy,  it provides a backdrop against which the perverse (on the one hand,  worship of Satan,  and on the other,  debilitating mental instability) can be contrasted.  Christianity further fills the role of the flamboyant,  but useless,  “solution” to the conflict at hand (witchcraft or mental illness).  The latter role is also tied to the character of Francis Matthias,  who bears the names of two important Catholic saints and whose efforts to rescue Heidi from her impending demise are fated to fail from the outset.

Sexual imagery,  particularly in the context of the perversion of Christian symbolism,   can also come across as heavy-handed,  but it,  too,  plays a valuable role in the interpretation of the film.  Explicitly sexual imagery rarely represents sex itself in a symbolic structure.  Over the course of the film,  the character of Heidi is conspicuously asexual,  while the witches are overpoweringly sexual.  This prepares the character of Heidi to be the virgin mother of “the devil’s child”,  as foretold by the witch Margaret Morgan.  Regardless of the character flaws borne by Heidi,  she is,  in fact,  a blameless victim of exogenous—albeit internal to her genetic code and her mind—forces.  This use of contrast between sexuality and asexuality is highly appropriate,  given the wider cultural context of the society into which the film was released.  Specifically,  sexuality is frequently depicted as a negative trait in Western religious culture,  and has long been associated with black magic and devil worship.  This makes it an effective symbolic infrastructure for deflecting blame from the persecuted main character of The Lords of Salem.

The film presents a plot which relies on supernatural events,  such as witchcraft and inescapable fate,  and these elements may irk some fans of Rob Zombie’s horror films,  which typically rely on the capacity for evil within human beings for their conflicts.  However,  all of the supernatural aspects present in The Lords of Salem are pieces of the allegorical puzzle meticulously constructed over the course of the film.  When a viewer sees these elements as fantastic or unbelievable,  they are granted a greater understanding of Heidi’s state of mind.  She has inherited a curse from her forefathers which has doomed her to eventual destruction.  In the literal story,  the curse is the result of evil witchcraft;  in the allegorical story,  it is a predisposition to psychotic mental illness.  Both engender a sense of helplessness and hopelessness;  however,  the use of a literal curse makes this emotional response more accessible to viewers unfamiliar with the experience of heritable mental illness.

I have little of which to complain about The Lords of Salem.  The soundtrack did,  at times,  stray into the realm of clichéd horror tropes,  such as a sudden,  loud bass chord at the appearance of an unexpected apparition,  and in these few instances,  I found myself sighing deeply in resignation.  Other aspects which might garner my criticism in other films,  however,  such as loose ends to supporting characters’ stories,  busy imagery during the film’s climactic scene,  and atypical pacing decisions for the plot,  support the sense of bewilderment and confusion experienced by the character of Heidi,  and add to,  rather than detract from,  the message and value of the film.  I went into my first encounter with The Lords of Salem anticipating a dark and entertaining film.  I was stunned to experience a deeply insightful,  unflinching,  and tragically personal depiction of a life shredded by mental illness.  It isn’t an easy film to watch,  but it’s one which no one should overlook.

15
Sep
13

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-The-Next-Generation-1994

a Primal Root written review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family dynamic has certainly changed over the years and decades since they first made their teenager  barbecuing debut back in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cinematic milestone.  They were originally a disorganized banned of blood thirsty, cannibalistic psychopaths trying to stay alive after being put out of jobs over at the slaughterhouse. In Hooper’s 1986 sequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2” the clan had adjusted to Reagan era politics, yuppie America and capitalism and even managed to run their own award winning barbecue catering company. By 19990’s “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part III” they had gone back to the part of Texas that looks like Los Angeles where the family looks to be expanding a bit and then, by the mid 90’s, Kim Henkel, the was part of the creative force behind the original, steps forward with possibly the strangest and most loathed entry in the entire franchise.

The movie centers on a young, bespectacled girl named Jenny (Bridget Jones herself, Renee Zellweger) who meet as she is getting ready for prom night before being unceremoniously assaulted and nearly raped by her Stepfather. This is in the first five minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and we never see Jenny’s Stepfather or oblivious Mother again.  It’s an unnerving note to begin such a story on and has you feeling apprehensive from the get-go. You get that feeling this is to set up that moment where you have that revelation while Leatherface is biting some nubile teenage girl’s well manicured fingers from her hands and another family member smears shit all over his upper torso and you think to yourself, “Ya know, this family isn’t all that different from any other!” Makes you think, don’t it?

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Well, before anyone gets the chance to twerk to “You Look Wonderful Tonight”, Jenny and three of her fellow prom goers end up lost down a backwoods dirt road after a hit and run fender bender. “People don;t know how to build roads!” one idiotic piece of chainsaw fodder declares as they motor towards their meat hook hanging destinies. Then…THEY GET IN ANOTHER WRECK! One that puts their car out of commission and leaves the driver of the other vehicle unconscious laying in the dirt. Jenny and two of her fellow airheaded teens head off into the night to find help while Jenny’s date stays behind to make sure the young man steadily bleeding to death in the mud isn’t ripped apart by voracious raccoons or something.

After a mile of walking and none stop whining, Jenny and her buddies come across the mobile home offices of Darla, who runs a construction business. She seems friendly enough and enjoys flashing her ample bosoms at anyone who throws a rock through her window (…the Hell?) and phones someone to go check on the wreck out in the middle of nowhere and give these kids a “lift.” This mysterious someone is Vilmer Slaughter, a tow truck driving, greased up lunatic with a remote controlled mechanical leg and penchant for screaming like a frat boy at the homecoming game. Vilmer is brought to life by a scene stealing and completely convincing Matthew McConaughey, and watching him play beside Zellweger it’s clear to see where the real talent in Texas resides.

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

BUT I DIGRESS! Vilmer shows up to the scene of the crash, kills the coma boy on the ground and proceeds to chase down Jenny’s lover boy and repeatedly run over him, grinding his quivering teenage corpse into bloody, raw, hamburger meat beneath his Goodyears while listening to 90’s “Alternative” rock on the tape deck and howling like a hyena on PCP.  Sorry, but this I fell in love with Vilmer immediately. We need to get this guy and Chop-Top from The Texas Chainsaw MAssacre part 2 together and make a sitcom.

Well, Jenny ends up walking back to the scene of the accident to meet her beau and finds a whole lot of nothing, at which point, she decides to sit in the dirt until her two other pals, who have gone off in a different direction, end up dead and her character becomes relevant again.  While she sits the next fifteen to twenty minutes of the film out, her two friends manage to make their way to the home of these lunatics and run into a camouflage wearing, mullet headed Leatherface who screams like a woman whose teacup chihuahua just got run over by a lawnmower for the majority of his screen time. It gives the impression that Leatherface is just as terrified of these kids as they are of him and, in fact, I have a feeling that might just be the case. Either that or these are psychotic screams of redneck frustration. I suppose you can draw your own conclusions.  All I know is that later, once  all the protagonist men have had their skulls bashed in and Jenny’s been thoroughly chased about the Chainsaw clan’s property and is finally tossed into the dining room in a brand new, and very sparkly, evening dress, Leatherface dresses up in drag and, dare I say it, looks rather lovely.  In brain damaged, blood thirsty redneck wearing a hideous female suit of skin kind of way…

"I'd fuck me."

“I’d fuck me.”

The evening devolves into a dinner scene of near epic surrealism as Vilmer continues to go nuts over his take out pizza, dry humping his sister, Darla, and pouring lighter fluid on his captives and then setting them on fire only to stomp their heads into pickled relish all over the dining room floor. And that’s the moderately normal stuff happening in this house!  The family is visited by some mysterious shadow organization manager who apparently has the Chainsaw clan on their payroll as merchants of fear. The clan is paid to pick up and terrorize unsuspecting young people and, from what I can gather, allow the leaders of this shadow group lick ever bead of sweat and smudge of filth off the captives face while showcasing their own strange abdominal mutilations. When did was this deal struck between the carnage minded Chainsaw clan and some strange Illuminati style group that secretly controls the destiny of society? I have no clue. but it is a strange and intriguing idea to stick within a damn Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Just don;t expect an explanation, ’cause there isn’t one coming.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation reaches it’s absurd climax as Jenny escapes with Vilmer and Leatherface in a lovely black satin robe, in hot pursuit. Jenny manages to ruin an elderly couples vacation by putting them in the middle of the action and the chase is cut short by a crop dusting airplane. Yeah, if you want to see the visual representation of the term “cluster fuck” this would suffice.

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, -The Primal Root

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, – Root

All in all, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was a bold attempt to do something a little different with a very stale franchise.  In their attempt to infuse the proceedings with a healthy dose of mid 1990’s alternative rock, MTV culture (every chase seen is punctuated by some shitty alt rock/grunge track) and strange conspiracy theories (The Chainsaw clan working for the government?) it feels as if this entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise kind of get lost under the weight of it’s own absurdity. There’s no consistent tone, only one strange,m off the wall set piece after another. And, although, McConaughey does his damnedest to make this thing lively as Hell, and he does pretty much run the show in this entry even if Zellweger never rises up the remarkable level of both Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams in the first two entries of the series, the movie itself never really takes off.  It has all the elements it needs to be a great Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick, but at some point it starts puttering and finally just stalls out and drifts into the ditch.

I give this flick TWO Dumpster Nuggets out of FIVE!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

25
Jun
13

Sleepaway Camp (1983): The Importance of Boating Safety

Sleepaway-Camp-Poster

a Primal Root written review

There are certain movie watching experiences I”ll never forget; the first time I laid eyes on Jessica Rabbit at the Grand 10 Theater in Winter Haven Florida,  witnessing Tim Burton’s darkly imaginative take on the after life in ‘Beetlejuice’,  and witnessing the adorable mogwai after their pupal-stage lay siege to Mrs. Peltzer’s kitchen before being blown to bits in her microwave. Yes, there are some moments that stay with you forever.

‘Sleepaway Camp’ is one of those films. Loaded like a revolver during a game of Russian roulette, Sleepaway Camp delivers some pretty disturbing jolts as the trigger clicks through some nasty slasher movie shocks and then, at the very end, the movie’s hammer makes contact with the story’s primer and sends a bullet of shock so mind blowing it left a deep seated scar I carry with me to this very day. I can remember renting ‘Sleepaway Camp’ from a local Mom & Pop video store in Fort Pierce Florida back in the late mid to late 90’s and expecting a tongue in cheek, not so serious slasher film.  And it just about has you fooled with it’s opening sequence involving a young father, his two young children(a little boy and girl the same age) and a ludicrous motor boating accident leaving two of the three dead in the water.  I;m still not exactly sure if this sequence is being played for laughs on purpose or not, but the dead pan reactions to the horror that’s unfolding coupled with one teenage girl who witnessed the accident’s hysterical cries for help makes it hard to interpret any other way.

Or maybe I was, and still am,  a cynical kind of kid.

Then again, I had grown accustom to watching these kid of slasher movies with pretty sizable groups of my childhood and teenage buddies, which kind of imbued us with the power to laugh and make fun of the horrors shown to us in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of impunity. Nine times out of ten, the horror was goofy, not very scary or shocking,  and wasn’t tapped into the true stuff of nightmares.   Hell, a lot of the time the movies seemed to make fun of themselves.  However you slice it, I was not prepared for what ‘Sleepaway Camp’ had in store for me.

sleepaway camp John-Dunn

Kid after my own heart.

Like the original Evil Dead, I watched Sleepaway Camp by myself, in a pitch black living room at about two in the morning so the movie’s horror had no filter. No peanut gallery to help soften the blow. It was just me, who started out chuckling at a poorly staged, but somewhat surreal opening inciting incident which introduced us to sweet, naive and incredibly quiet Angela  and her cousin, the cool kid with serious anger management issues and a potty mouth to match, Ricky.  Angela is the one child who survived the tragic boating accident who killed both her father and sibling. These two tweenagers are being packed up and shipped off to Camp Arawak by the slightly comical, slightly unnerving Aunt Martha. Again, this scene can be taken as bizarrely comical or somewhat creepy. There is something off here, something wrong with this family dynamic.

Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha, can you say "Red Flag"?

Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha, can you say “Red Flag”?

Ricky, who is no stranger to Camp Arawak, has taken it upon himself to be Angela’s caretaker and protector, as this is her very first year and she clearly has some deep seated issues we as an audience are not exactly privy to.  As the kids arrive at camp we are immediately introduced to the cooking staff who gather on the lawn an watch as all the children stream off the buses  and run towards some undisclosed location.  Do kids ever run off the bus when they get to camp as it is illustrated here and in countless other summer camp movies? Where the Hell are they going? Anyhoo, of course, the cooking staff is headed by a slimy,  beefy, blonde and bearded pedophile named Artie, who ogles the little girls running by and affectionately explains to his fellow staff members that where he comes from they call these little objects of his carnal lust “baldies”. His cohorts just laugh it off as good matured child rape humor, but something about the way he chews on that stick and leers at the little girls in their tiny jogging shorts tells us this man’s intentions might not be to tickle his staff, but to tickle his pickle in a very tiny pickle jar.  *shudders*

As you might guess, he makes his first move on tiny, silent, Angela who he is asked to give ice cream to. He takes her in a back room and asks her “see anything you like?” as he saunters towards her, unbuckling his belt and drooling like a dog staring at a bag of “Beggin’ Strips”.  Angela simply stares at Pedo Man as Ricky takes this moment to rush in, grab her hand and get her out of corn hole alley! Snidley Rapist screams at them that he will kill them…and then begins making the tallest pot of boiled corn on the cob ever conceived which, thanks to an unseen assailant, he ends up soaking in at it’s peak boiling point as retribution for almost raping a pre-teen child. It;s a fitting, yet undeniably painful, fate for such a slimy child fucker. The last we see of him he is being rolled off on a gurney and covered head to toe in gauze. Thankfully, there is a police detective nearby to explain that every nerve in his body must be on fire and that he is probably experiencing the worst pain that could ever be imagined.  Why, thank you, detective!

Hard Boiled Pedophile. Well, that's one method of reform.

Hard Boiled Pedophile. Well, that’s one method of reform.

There are enough scumbags and assholes employed and/or attending Camp Arawak to give any concerned parent pause. Actually, you know, there’s an equal distribution between mentally deranged employees, cocksucking teenage boys, cont faced teenage girls, and sweet folks genuinely looking for a good time and not trying to harm anyone.  Sleepaway Camp is smartly designed in the “whodunnit” format and there is a pretty good list of suspects to choose from, although it gets whittled down pretty damn quickly as asshole after asshole ends up meeting his or her maker in grisly and imaginative fashions.  The one thing they all have in common? They were all dicks to Angela. Which just about everyone seems to be, so there’s quite a big pool of victims to chop into meaty, bloody, bits for the audience’s pleasure.

Karen Fields as Judy plays one of all time great cunt faces of cinema! At least she's got a way with words.

Karen Fields as Judy plays one of all time great cunt faces of cinema! At least she’s got a way with words.

One of the most memorable, and one of my favorite characters in the movie, is Camp Arawak’s resident uber bitch, Judy. Judy is played by a well developed actress, Karen Fields, who was a good bit older than the rest of her pre-teen cohorts. It pays off though! Because this lady turns in one of the hands down BEST over the top performances in the annals of horror. The way she mugs through infinitely quotable lines such as  ” She’s a real carpenter’s dream! Flat as board and needs a screw!” and makes it her mission to turn Angela’s summer camp experience into a living Hell. In fact, Judy even gets a jerkola camp counselor by the name of Meg to assist her in that unholy mission, and in one depressing scene, even pick Angela up and throw her in the lake to drown, I guess, seeing as Angela can’t swim.

By the grace of pure rage these two villains get what’s coming to them. Meg gets sliced open in the shower and Judy receives a perverse  death that is left almost completly to the audience’s imagination as our killer knocks the bitch out with a well placed right cross, lays her out, spreads her legs and then…in shadow, lowers a piping hot curling iron down towards her…well…down towards her area. The curling iron is opened up, lowerd and the unmistakable sound of sizzling flesh is heard as Judy’s muffled screams of agony fill the air and she raises the “hand of desperation” in the air before succumbing to the deadly hot curling iron, which we can only assume, was shoved up her love cavern. Personally, I imagine the super hot and girthy portion went up the HOOHA and the clippy part of the machine got inserted into the pooper zone.

A police officer is shocked and horrified after witnessing the aftermath of the Judy Curling Iron Massacre. It was so disturbing  his mustache transformed into sculpting putty.

A police officer is shocked and horrified after witnessing the aftermath of the Judy Curling Iron Massacre. It was so disturbing his mustache was transformed into sculpting putty.

By films end, just about every major player who “had it coming” has received his or her just deserts which sets up a final rendezvous with Angela and her little love interest Paul down by the lake.  As the police and camp counselors begin discovering bodies of various victims in age ranging from 6 to 87  strewn all over camp with arrows through their throats, churned into coleslaw in their sleeping bags, or impaled through the vajayjay with curling irons, Angela suggests she and Paul get nekkid lake side…which sets up one of the most mind shatteringly brilliant twist endings in the history of horror cinema. Certainly in the slasher sub-genre. Hell, M. Night, Shyamalan has nothing on the end of Sleepaway Camp.

****SPOILERS, MOTHER FUCKER, SPOILERS!****

As two counselors approach Angela on that darkened lake shore, we can barely make out the shape of Angela sitting on the sand, Indian style, with Paul’s head in her lap. The counselors call out to her, Angela rises, Paul’s decapitated head rolls to the ground and there Angela stands. Naked. Growling and inhuman growl, face frozen in a terrible wide eyed, open mouthed face of total insanity and…what’s that dangling between her legs? That a set of cock and balls.  Turns out it was the little girl who died in the boating accident, and her brother survived to be taken in by his Aunt Martha. But aunt Martha, being the unhinged woman that she is, already had her son Ricky and decided she would rather have a girl…and so she dressed this boy up as a girl, treated her like one, and for all intent and purposes transformed her into Angela. Angela was killing all these people not only to protect her/his secret, but out of sexual confusion/frustration.

****END OF SPOILERS! YOU ARE SAFE!****

There I sat in the darkened, empty living room as the end credits began to roll over Sleepaway Camp. I couldn’t move, I was so shocked and disturbed by the finales revelations. I was used to the sting in the tail ending by this point thanks to ‘Carrie’, ‘Friday the 13th’, etc. but ‘Sleepaway Camp’ packs much more than a simple jump scare. The final five minutes of Sleepaway Camp and the chill it sent down my spine that night, the chill that revisits me every time I watch it, are what transform this film from passably good slasher movie to a bonafide cult classic. This flick is packing the goods.

What the fuck is happening here?

Made you look!

It’s honestly one of the most shocking and clever twists I’ve ever witnessed. And just when they reveal this the movie ends while you try to catch your breath and wrap your mind around the reveal. Christ, just telling you about the ending is giving me goose flesh.  Sleepaway Camp follows the summer camp slasher flick formula pretty damn closely, but what sets it apart is how natural these kids and their interactions with one another are. It’s casual, honest, and it gives the proceedings a bit more credibility than other slashers who follow the summer camp formula. Hell, even the majority of the campers are PLAYED by kids. and aren’t played half badly either.

The story isn’t exactly ground breaking, but due to the film’s twist, going back and rewatching ‘Sleepaway Camp’ viewers see things totally differently and can detect every single moment that is setting off the killer and prompting the murders. Everything takes on a new meaning as soon as you know who the killer is and what their motivation was. Sleepaway Camp stands as one of the very best of the Summer Camp slasher films of the 1980’s. If I were being totally honest, I might just confess I enjoy ‘Sleepaway Camp’ more than I do either ‘Friday the 13th’ or ‘The Burning’. It’s a well done piece of summer camp slasher Trash Cinema and one I HIGHLY recommend everyone see at least one. And after you’ve finished watching it, you may want to go back and just watch it one more time, for your own sanity’s sake.

Perverse, darkly comical and quite unsettling, The Primal Root can’t help but give Sleepaway Camp 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

Family circus was REALLY funny this morning.

Family circus was REALLY funny this morning.




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