Posts Tagged ‘saw

30
Mar
14

Pieces (1982) Bastards and Bloodshed

Pieces

a Primal Root written review

Slasher films were a dime a dozen back in the 1980’s. Once “Friday the 13th” dethroned “The Empire Strikes Back” of it’s number one slot at the box office and proved just how ludicrously profitable this low budget sub-genre that had once been relegated to Grindhouses and Drive-In’s could be,  big studios suddenly hopped on the bandwagon draining every last drop they could out of the fad before leaving the lifeless, dried up corpse of slasher cinema to rot and fester. Yes, it was a glorious time filled with blood, breasts, beasts and masked madmen. Every weekend brought the promise of a new holiday themed slasher film, a new ensemble cast of lovely young people too stupid to stay out of the woods, or the mines, or the haunted house. We hollered our wise advice at the silver screen week after week but to no avail, and we wanted it that way! Boyfriends getting their heads crushed and tossed through windows during the final chase, young actresses we rarely ever heard from again got their quick fifteen minutes of fame as they whipped out they bouncing sweater puppies only to have their throats slit and their sticky, Kayro syrup blood sprayed all over their ample young bosoms. My God, it was a glorious time to be alive.

Of course, I was only 8 when the by the time the 1990’s ushered in the end of that glorious era of the 1980’s. A new cycle of horror began and many pop culture critics considered horror dead which was pretty goddamn stupid of them seeing as “The Silence of the Lambs” swept the Oscars in 1991 and that fuckers one Hell of a horror movie. But it was true in terms of the slasher genre. The well had run dry for the time being and, like long suffering Momma’s Boy Jason Voorhees, went to rest for a while until some new blood could get pumped into the proceedings.  THANKFULLY, at this time in my life there was a plethora of these establishments called “Video Rental Stores” where you (or your parents) could get a membership and you would have an entire collection of movies on VHS right at your finger tips! This, Gang, was where my horror education began.

As a kid I spent countless hours with my butt planted in the Horror aisles picking up every case there, admiring the artwork and reading the descriptions. I was particularly fascinated with the “Friday the 13th” franchise and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” flicks. But one tape at Turtle’s Video always caught my eye. On the front it featured the stitched together corpse of an attractive young blonde with a chainsaw perched over her. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO TEXAS FOR A CHAINSAW MASSACRE!” it boldly proclaimed. I was sold.  It would be several years before I was able to convince my Mom to rent it for me, but once she did and I popped that sucker in my VCR my life was changed forever.

PIECES - Silver Ferox v1 web

The movie was the 1982 Spanish splatter flick “Pieces” and it was everything I could have ever possibly hoped it would be.  A goofy Who-Done-It plot set on a college campus, incredible over the top performances, unintentionally hilarious dialogue,  gallons of fake blood and chainsaw dismemberment, impromptu karate instructor attacks, a plethora of nude women including full frontal and a bit of wiener for the ladies, and one of the greatest, strangest, mind blowing jump scare endings I had ever witnessed.  My little preteen mind was rocked. When the tape finished I immediately hit rewind and watched that sucker again.

 

“Pieces” begins in 1942 where we witness a young boy piecing together a puzzle in his playroom. When his Mother discovers that the puzzle is of a naked woman she goes ballistic, calling the young boy’s absentee  Father a filthy, perverted, degenerate and that she’s going to search all through the house and burn everything that features female nudity. She even strikes her son and repeatedly calls him stupid as she slips further into her suitable for Lifetime Television hysterics. But her young son is having none of it,  when she has her back turned he grabs an axe that’s bigger than he is and surprises her with several well placed chops to the noggin’.  Soon after the murder of his mother the boy grabs a hacksaw and goes to town pulling his dead Mom apart. Yes, the boy finishes his puzzle by the time the police barge in and are side stepping meaty chunks and pools of coagulated lady blood  He cries, blames a “big man, big man” and everyone buys his story hook line and sinker. It’s a nasty. bloody, and darkly comical note to begin “Pieces” on, and it only gets better from there.

Pieces - Boy Saw

Present Day 1982 and we’re on a college campus when women start falling prey to a chainsaw killer. A girl gets decapitated while she is out in the park reading, another young woman gets quartered by the swimming pool, and so on… but this shadowy figure dressed in black doesn’t just kill his victims, he collects body parts.  We discover early on that whoever is doing the killings is, in fact, the same little boy who killed his mother all those years ago and is sawing a trail of blood drenched terror through this college campus as he begins putting together a new puzzle.

There’s a rouges gallery of suspects which includes the creepy, shifty eyed caretaker Willard (Paul L. Smith, Bluto from 1980’s Popeye) a quiet, odd duck anatomy teacher, Professor Brown (Jack Taylor) the uptight Dean (Edmund Purdom) and even the dorkish campus stud, Kendal (Ian Sera) who every woman on campus wants to bang for no readily apparent reason. Well, perhaps it was that lovely singing voice displayed in “Pod People?” Ah, who am I kidding, it STINKS! The suspect pool always seems to be hanging around nearby whenever a murder occurs and never fail to act sketchy as Hell no matter what’s going down.

pieces killer

Two detectives are put on the case, the good natured detectives, Ly. Bracken (Christopher George) and hard case Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana), and they’re both equally clueless. One of my favorite moments with these two is during their investigation of the poolside murder and mutilation of a young college girl. She’s been sawed into a pile of about 6 or 7 hunks of flesh and a bloody chainsaw is laying on the floor next to this tall pile of woman. Lt. Bracken asks Proffessor Brown if he believes the chainsaw might be the murder weapon, to which Prof. Brown replies, after a close examination of the chainsaw, that yes, even a layman can see that this was the murder weapon. Damn fine police work, Bracken!

But these two have a secret weapon! They put two of their very best into action as undercover agents. Tennis Pro and party time law enforcement official, Mary Riggs and possible suspect Kendal, who spends most of the investigation either fucking coeds, trying to get into Mary’s pants or showing up too late to prevent murders or apprehend the suspect. I understand, he’s just a college guy, but the man’s kind of an idiot. Hell, ALL the good guys in this thing are idiots. It’s hard to root for these folks when they’re all so grossly incompetent at what they do for a living! It’s uncanny how they always seem to show up about thirty seconds too late to save the chainsaw killer’s nubile young victim. But it’s never to late to repeatedly scream “BASTARD!” at the top of your lungs.  Well, despite the fact that they all suck, they are at least fun to watch bumble their way through one of the most brutal crime sprees ever to take place on a fictional college campus.

pieces pile

After the climactic final murder that takes place in a  women’s locker room, and yes, you get to view the boner trifecta (Boobs, Bush, buns) where a woman is chased topless by our chainsaw toting lunatic into a bathroom stall where she pisses her pants in closeup as he chainsaws his way in to seal her doom, Kendal and Sgt. Holden get some Wendy’s take out and start going through a bunch of files hoping they just might come across something, and oh boy, do they ever! Kendal ends up cracking the case and figuring out who the killer is, but will he and his detective pals get there in time to save the lovely Mary Riggs? And why in the fuck is Kendal allowed to join the two detectives as they kick down to door into a suspected serial killer’s abode? sure, some idiotic, unarmed, college kid wants to come and hang out in this possibly deadly situation? Yeah, sure! Why not.  Trust me, Kendal pays the price for being a dipshit.

Once the killer is revealed and meets his end “Pieces” drops two of the coolest, meanest, most disturbing shock endings on it’s unsuspecting audience. I am really struggling not to tell you what happens, as it’s one of those ingredients that really clenches “Pieces” as one of my all time favorite slasher flicks. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. All I can say is, Kendal’s stud days are over.

Pieces-horror-movies-24128245-1024-768

I cannot express my love enough for this deeply trashy slice of early 80’s exploitation sleaze.  “Pieces” is one of those rare cases where every weakness it has manages to bolster the film up and make it watchable.  This movie should be a failure,  the last thing it should be is entertaining. But despite all it’s flaws it still manages to keep me entertained from beginning to end with it’s total lack of class, it’s crassness and it’s heart warming lack of politcal correctness. Also, all that nudity sure helps the trash go down smoothly, too.  It’s like a Friday the 13th sequel on steroids.  It’s simple, it’s mindless, it’s filthy and it’s the perfect serving a of junk when you need that Trash Cinema pick me up.

I give “Pieces” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets! Classic Trash Cinema!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

25
Aug
13

You’re Next (2011) Warm Blood & Rich People…plus a short essay on slasher cinema history

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

The late 60’s  through the 1970’s were the golden years for American horror cinema. Not only were young, truly talented filmmakers delivering inspired pieces of art, they gave cinema indispensable time capsules of the days troubled times and the lasting, horrifying impact of our actions on not only the inhabitants of our nation, but the world. films such as Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left”, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and many others illustrated , the brutality both at home and abroad as peaceful protesters were gunned down by our National Guard in cold blood, blacks in our country were beaten and murdered by our police officials, our brothers, sons,  husbands and Fathers were being drafted to serve in a wildly unpopular war and the hippie movement had given way to disillusionment in the wake of Charles Manson and Free Love regrettably spread venereal disease like wild fire through the loins of our nation.  Independent horror cinema had never been more vital, more important in our country as it was during this era.  Horror was the purest illustration, the unfettered subconscious, of our society.

Soon the 1980’s were ushered in and movies such as “Halloween” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, which had proven incredibly profitable, gave way to a sub-genre known as the “slasher” genre, which gained a foothold in this decade and squeezed as much blood out of the concept as  possible. John Carpenter’s Halloween became a franchise, Sean Cunningham’s “Friday the 13th” spawned a series of films repeating the same formula for over 20 years, and Wes Craven delivered a trail blazing, brilliant, post Vietnam horror film in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, but it was soon watered down into a franchisable commodity.  Slasher horror films became a staple of the decade as they proved to be resoundingly profitable for studios, and sequels that regurgitated the story on repeat could be relied upon to turn a profit. It was fun while it lasted, and some pretty damn great slasher films were produced during the decade, but   gradually, a form of horror that had once shown us how fucked up our system was, had been yuppified and sold out. The films became less of a societal rorshach test, and more like a series of Saturday morning cartoon adventure. Hell, it was the 1980’s in a capitalist country! As George “Buck” Flowers said in John Carpenter’s 1988 science fiction masterpiece, “They Live”, “We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team!”

But by the end of 80’s the slasher formula had grown as stale as a year old box of opened and then forgotten about croutons in the pantry, and by 1990, many folks deemed the sub-genre dead.

BUT THEN CAME POST-MODERN SLASHERS!  Ushered in by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and to a much greater extent, his “Scream” franchise, which replaced the usual gang of teenagers ready for the chop, with teenage characters who have been raised in the VHS generation and are completely aware of the slasher formula, it’s cliches and it’s caveats and are loaded up and ready with quips, jokes and references to horror movies history!  The resurrection of the slasher genre was given life thanks to the ever increasing knowledge and awareness of the audience who had spent their youths combing through video rental stores and boning up on their horror movie knowledge.  Two decades earlier, it was Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” who had been savaging the cinema while wearing the remains of his victims. Now, in the 1990’s, the filmmakers were the one’s wearing the remains of the genre’s past and exploiting it as a joke and laughing at the power these movies once, and to the viewer willing to watch without a jaded eye, still contain.

But, there are only so many in-jokes you can make about the genre before Post Modern gives way to straight up spoofs like the Wayans Brother’s brain dead “Scary Movie” franchise.  Oh, what has post modern horror wrought?

In the mid 2000’s, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the War in Iraq marched on with seemingly no plan and no end in sight under the George W. Bush administration, the slasher genre got a heavy, dark, deeply mean spirited and cynical makeover in the form of James Wan’s “Saw” franchise, Now audiences were thrust into morality games where victims and victimizers alike were suddenly forced to endure and try to survive brutal and disturbingly painful forms of grueling torture in order to survive and are expected to walk away having learned some kind of life affirming message. Assumign they survive at all. (Spoiler: most folks end up splattered across the linoleum.)  Also, taking hold in this decade, was a sudden popularity in remakes. Classic horror films like Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” were open game for modern retelling and face lifts. These proved successful as money making ventures since the titles were already well established and could be relied on to turn a profit, but many folks took this as a sign that “Hollywood” had, indeed, run out of ideas and that set of balls they once relied on to give up and coming filmmakers a chance at showcasing original product, had now finally been cut cleen and tossed int he waste basket. The studio now only seemed interested in “sure things.”  Young filmmakers who came of age during the slasher heydays were now creating their own slasher movies…but more times than not, for cynical laughs and nastiness rather than genuine scares or fun.

With the exception of a few sporadic, slasher films produced independently, with varying degrees of success, the blood in the veins of a once extremely popular genre has been cooling down and slowing to a coagulated halt as it’s once thriving body withers up and passed away. Them’s the brakes.  I had very little hope in ever seeing a slasher film worth a piss again on the big screen.

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

A kind of home invasion slasher film that’s done the impossible and taken a tired formula, one that’s been played to death, and made it feel fun, interesting and new again. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun watching a slasher film in…well…YEARS! I know there’s been quite a bit of hype surrounding this flick over the last couple years since it’s premiere in 2011, and although I do feel the praise this thing has gotten is, indeed, a bit overblown, “You’re Next” does a dandy of a job showing it’s audience a good time.

The premise comes across as fairly standard. A very wealthy family reunites for a weekend at their secluded mansion in the middle of winter. It;s cold, it’s snowy, and if a band of crossbow shooting, axe wielding maniacs happen upon their house, they are more or less trapped and/or completely fucked.    One thing I greatly appreciate about “You’re Next’ is that the family and other assorted characters are written as actual human beings, characters and players in the drama at hand rather than just jokes and punch lines ready to be cashed in.  Sure, some situations come off as comical, but never because the characters are anything more than flawed, damaged and mistake making human beings. Things are tense before any psychopaths even show up! Hell, I haven;t seen a dinner scene this tense and uncomfortable since The Sawyer clan sat down to dinner in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” (No, Tobe Hooper’s not paying me to drop that title as many times as possible in this review) The family dynamic feels like a bomb just waiting to go off as it seems some siblings cannot be near one another for more than five seconds without anger and resentment rising and an argument breaking out.  One cannot help but feel bad for Erin (Sharni Vinson) who is there to meet and spend some quality time getting to know her boyfriend Crispan’s (AJ Bowen) family.

Things go from awkward to “Aw, fuck” as family dinner is violently interrupted and suddenly everyone is scrambling to survive. To the amazed wonderment of the family, Erin seems to have the survival instincts of a wild cat and, once the rich families plans are all proven to be disastrously moot, takes control of the situation and ends up being on the the very best, if not the quintessential Final Girl.   Rarely in the slasher genre have I ever witness a final girl so aptly and efficiently tackle with her antagonists.  She turns her aggressors into bumbling idiots over the course of the film and it drew much appropriate applause form myself and the rest of the audience.  This is no screaming, lame-o final girl running around in her panties and hoping to fight the killer to a draw. no, Erin is out for blood and she’s honestly one of the greatest assets “You’re Next” has.  Many folks have labeled “you;re Next” a “feminist” horror film.  Hell, I thought most horror films, especially slashers, featured strong female protagonists besting and hulking male antagonist. By definition, isn’t the majority of slasher films feminist?

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

But, I digress, “You’re Next” also delivers some excellently executed gore set pieces that seem to escalate as the films closes in on it’s graphically violent, over the top conclusion.  People meet their end in brutal, uncompromising fashions at the end of axes, arrows, knives, screwdrivers and countless assorted implements of destruction and kitchen accoutrement.  Those looking for and carnage candy will not leave disappointed.  Another thing I was impressed with was the film;s dark, yet fitting, sense of humor. Unlike other recent slasher films that slowly devolve into “Not Another Teen Slasher Film” over the top, slapstick gore and gags (Hatchet & Hatchet II, I’m looking at you.) or post modern slashers that draw laughs from our knowledge of horror film history,  “You’re Next” keeps things serious and to the point, but manages to draw comedy from it’s bloody situations. The jokes are dark, but the levity is appreciated and doesn’t feel out of place.

On the negative side, once the shit hits the proverbial fan,  “You’re Next” invokes some of the most annoying shaky cam I’ve ever endured. I;m not exactly sure if I got used to it after it’s initial use or if the filmmakers decided it was only necessary for this one moment of panic, but my God, it was distracting and pointless. The actors were doing a fine enough job portraying their shock and horror at what was occurring, the last thing we needed was some guy shaking the camera around like he’s being mauled by a grizzly bear during the shoot.  Seriously, have some faith in your on screen talent. I wanted to watch their performances and not gain a migraine headache for my efforts. Also, sadly, the central question underlying the whole flick is pretty easy to figure out. Boots and I knew what was up as soon as arrows began flying. But, in the end, this didnt diminish my enjoyment of the film at all.

meow.

meow.

Any other gripes? Not really. “You’re Next” is a shockingly solid piece of slasher entertainment in a genre I thought had been bled totally dry by 80’s over exposure, 90’s postmodernism, and new millennial remake dookie splatter.  It was treat being able to watch a fun, TRULY old school style slasher film with an appreciative, loud, and lively audience just as into it as myself and Bootsie Kidd were. Not nearly as revolutionary as many critics and supporters have hyped it up to be, “You’re Next” is still one of the very best times I’ve had seeing a down and dirty slasher flick in ages. It has a keen awareness of the genre itself  which allows the filmmakers a chance to play around with our expectations, passes itself well, contains serviceable performances and has one very cool throwback synth driven score. Almost sounds like John Carpenter himself could have done the music for this sucker.

This is not the second coming, but it is proof that you can play with slasher formula without turning it all into some masturbatory joke. “You’re Next” has given me a smidgen of hope for a long flailing sub genre of horror and I am hoping filmmakers interested in working within it take note of what “You;re Next” has done right. Because there are few roller coaster rides as fun as a fun, well executed slasher film with the right audience. I only wish I got to take the ride more often.

If you’ve ever held even a drop of affection for the slasher genre in your horror nerd heart, you owe it to yourself to see “You’re Next.”

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Aug
13

The Conjuring (2013): Home Ownership: a Cautionary Tale

Conjuring_Online_Art_INTL

a Primal Root written review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

I’ve always loved a good ghost story. I was raised on the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” anthology, watched Tobe Hooper’s  “Poltergeist” on a near constant loop, on the weekends talked my Mom into renting copies of  black and white classics like “The House on Haunted Hill” and “The Haunting”, and looked forward to the segments of TV’s Unsolved Mysteries featuring “true tales”  of the poor crackers who crossed paths with nocturnal spirits and ghastly apparitions.  The chills were plentiful, but as you grow up you realize just how cheesy a lot of this stuff can be, and it only really gets down to spooking you once it sinks in on a cerebral level much later… when you’re at home, going down that darkened hallway you’ve walked down countless times before  and your mind suddenly begins wondering what inexplicable, otherworldly presence could be lurking behind each door, just biding its time before it springs out and cause you to shit your pants, lose your grip on sanity, and keel over dead from cardiac arrest.

It’s been a long damn time since I’ve seen a movie about a haunting that has actually frightened me beyond the terror felt over wasting money on a movie that promised chills and delivered yawns and moderate chuckles at the lameness of it all. From “Paranormal Activity” and its endless sequels, “A Haunting in Connecticut”  to James Wans’ own “Dead Silence” and “Insidious”, they all just come across as either lazy and predictable or over the top, cheap student films.  I usually wind up joking with my viewing buddies and waiting for something to happen rather than having my pants scared off of me, a rare occurrence that always leaves me breathless and fellow viewers stunned, as I typically go commando.

Okay, where's the fire place?

Okay, where’s the fire place?

I’m getting side-tracked. Okay, “The Conjuring” begins on an creepy-enough note telling the tale of The Warrens’ encounter with what a group of roommates assume is a possessed doll from Hell going by the name of Annabelle. This thing looks like the aborted, fossilized remains of Bozo the Clown and post-face-tightening Nicole Kidman’s love child. Why in the world would ANY schmo would bring this doll home is beyond me. But hey! you get what you pay for, and the doll begins writing on the walls in blood-red crayon, seeming to running around the place on her own (although, unlike your favorite Good Guy and mine, we never get to see her scurry), leaving little love notes of “Miss me?” around the house to be found by the horrified occupants, and banging on doors so loudly your testicles would probably rise into your throat with abject terror.  Anyhoo, we never see these three moron roomies, again, and it’s on to establishing Ed and Lorriane Warren,  the real life team of hardcore paranormal investigators (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and the unfathomably lovely Vera Farmiga) just now decided their most terrifying tale of a supernatural encounter is ready for public consumption.  Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, they present to us, “The Conjuring.”  Ed and Lorraine are leading a pretty action-packed life, as they traverse the country ghostbusting, debunking red herrings as rusty pipes, and giving lectures while leaving their little daughter at home… with an entire stock of possessed and evil artifacts from their many ghost hunting expeditions. But don’t worry! These artifacts are locked behind a door, because nothing keeps the power of evil at bay like a bolted door… It also becomes apparent that Lorraine has in the not-too-distant past encountered something during one of their investigations that has shaken her to her very core. Something that her ever-loving husband, Ed, concerned about bringing his highly sensitive telepathic wife into the ghost hunting fold again.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

I get this reaction frequently when women look into my trousers.

To be honest, the story of ‘The Conjuring” is a pretty well-worn tale. A couple and their herd of children (in this instance, all little women) decide to relocate to a beautiful, rural fixer-upper that they purchased for a steal, in the bygone days before full-disclosure was a legal necessity and this particular home’s blood-spattered, demonic, psycho-bitch history was kind of left out of conversation.  The family is loving, always smiling, and ready to play games at the drop of a dime. It might sound like a trite Hallmark card, but as a viewer, I couldn’t help but genuinely like this family. Sweet people brought to life by some very talented folks; Lila Taylor as Carolyn, the sweet, southern, ice tea Mother of the clan, and Ron Livingston as Roger (yes, of Office Space fame) as the hard-working, average dope Dad.  On their first night in their new home they experience a few minor disturbances, many of which we might encounter in our own home from time to time, but, ultimately, nothing too serious occurs. Besides finding a boarded-up, dusty, creepy old basement under the stairs. Everyone is super happy about the discovery (YAY! MORE SQUARE FOOTAGE!) but things very quickly go to Hell as whatever was tucked down in the basement is now roaming around the house offing the family pooch and playing chilling games with every member of the family. Also, a Burtonesque, antique music box happens to present itself right next to an ancient, gnarly oak tree in the back yard.  One of the daughters adopts it, and (que Amityville horror score) unleashes her new imaginary best friend! Her buddy can only be glimpsed in the mirror of the music box once the music within finishes playing. It’s a story we’ve heard and seen countless times before, but to my own shock and amazement, filmmaker James Wan (“Insidious”, “Dead Silence”, “Saw”) uses a slow, old school pace and a nice, subtle touch to really let the suspense and dread sink into the viewer.  I was genuinely impressed that James Wan has grown up so much as a director. Make a few more films as intensively creepy as “The Conjuring”, and I might just become a fan!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn!

This would make a damn fine place to hide my porn from my wife and our half a dozen daughters!

Some deeply disturbing incidences start to occur in their new  home. The utmost of which involves one of the young daughters seeing something in the darkness behind her bedroom door which, really, might be one of the most horrifying and suspenseful sequences I’ve experienced in a movie theater in years (not a drop of blood spilt, no score, all acting and cinematography). Finally, Carolyn heads to a community college where The Warrens are lecturing, and literally begs them to come check out their own private House on Haunted Hill. The Warrens, initially skeptic, and not-a-little ghost-worn grudgingly but compassionately agree to check it out.  Dressed in their Mod Squad 1971 ensembles, and looking quite fetchingly groovy, the two step into the house and instantly know this place is a deadly death trap of death.  Lorraine has visions, Ed gets nervous, and the once the two investigate the history of the house, whose past tenants were all possessed child murdering evil-doers all in the wake of the original tenant, a witch who, to get in good with The Dark One, sacrificed babies to Satan, and ended up hanging herself from said gnarly oak tree in the backyard… Like I said days pre-total disclosure realtor ethics.

Of course, The Warrens take the case, and decide to rescue the family and exorcise the house of whatever evil is present there.

You smell something?

You smell something?

“The Conjuring” is really the best of both worlds as far a supernatural horror flick is concerned. The first half is expertly crafted horror in which the audience is left holding on to the edge of their seat, completely at the mercy of the increasingly crafty James Wan. The story he is unfolding, waiting for the beast to finally show itself.  And, much to my delight, Wan keeps us guessing and waiting for most of ‘The Conjuring”‘s run time, allowing it to effectively chill our bones and build a truly sinister house of cards around us.  Then, once the other shoe drops, we find ourselves in the eye of an ever-mounting storm of blood, horror, and chaos that, in a lesser film, would probably come off as disenchantingly goofy. Here, however, we have grown to appreciate every one of our central characters so that, once the proverbial ghost shit hits the fan, our pulse rises and we are actually fearful for our new kin. Keeping in mind that the haunted house genre relies heavily on people being too lame-brained to get out of the house the second disturbing shit starts befalling everyone in the family, but this is coming from a guy (and an audience) raised on horror and its tropes. A family in 1971, plagued by this steadily-rising level of creepy encounters might just try and explain things away until things got so bad they have to reach out for help. Plus, a family this size with only one working parent and all their money invested in this house on the edge of Hell hardly has the kind of money to be spending on stays at the local Motel 6.  I guess in most horror films you have to suspend your disbelief, but “The Conjuring” is such a goddamn great spookshow you won’t waste your time questioning such things as little girls are claiming to see creatures in the darkness and the simple clapping of hands send chills down your spine.

“The Conjuring” is by far and away the best horror flick I’ve seen in the theater so far in 2013. It plays it cool, takes its time, and before you know it, you’re sitting in your theater seat, heart thumping in your chest, awaiting the next horror show to befall this poor family and the heroic Warrens.  After the film was over, I found myself sitting with Bootsie Kidd totally worn out, as if stepping off a roller coaster. Both of us, catching our breath and totally awestruck by what we’d just seen. We chatted through the end credits which featured the effectively eerie score by Joseph Bishara, which rivals Lalo Schifrin’s timelessly nerve jangling score to “The Amityville Horror.” And then…we had to go home, where the evens I had seen on screen just minute prior suddenly weighed pretty heavily on my imagination. “The Conjuring” stayed with me long after I left the theater and if that’s not the mark of an effective horror film, I’m not sure what is.

Of course, this is the flick we see just as we begin looking to purchase a home together. Good timing! Jeez…

“The Conjuring” is a smartly executed , old school ghost story excellently told and well worth checking out. Hopfully it will be available to own once Halloween rolls around. 😉 I’m awarding this puppy FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This one is a keeper!

Till next time,

Check your home’s history before moving in and Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Jan
13

Texas Chainsaw 3D: The Family That Slays Together…

4-texas-chainsaw-3d-fan-poster

a Primal Root review

“Do your thing, cuz!” -Heather, Texas Chainsaw 3D

*SPOILERS AHEAD!*

Taking up directly after the events of the very first Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, literally the very afternoon after Leatherface,  Hitchhiker, Cook and Grandpa, mercilessly terrorized poor young Sally in their decrepit old farmhouse over supper, The Sawyer household is descended upon by a gang of pick-up truck driving, rifle wielding, vigilantes out for blood. Before you can say “I thought you was in a hurry!” the Sawyer clan, now numbering in the dozens (huh?) is struck down in a bloody, brutal one sided battle waged by beer swilling rednecks.  So much for that whole family of Draculas being such fierce opponents.  But one little baby Sawyer survives to be raised by an unloving, alcoholic white trash couple…sigh.

Almost 40 years later and that little Sawyer baby is now in her early twenties and a burgeoning art student who likes to use dead animal parts in her work, lives in a trendy, spacious loft with her live in unfaithful boyfriend (*spoiler alert* he’s fucking her best friend who is dating a crepe chef or something). The survivng Sawyer baby has been given the name Heather Miller. She’s a strikingly pretty, pale skinned, shapley young thing with jet black hair, a penchant for flannel and the standard issue emo hipster hairstyle. Who knew the Sawyer clan’s backwoods, inbred, hillbilly genes could produce such a sexy thing?

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Heather receives a mysterious message in the mail informing her she has just inherited the estate of a long lost relative who has just recently passed away. You know where this is headed, don’t you? Yep, she is now the proud owner of the Sawyer estate which has undergone some pretty drastic renovations since we last ventured out that way for dinner. Now it’s a two story mansion with a pool table and a Better Homes and Gardens makeover. Oh, and with plenty of room in the basement for the only other survivor of the Texas NRA Massacre, ol’ Buzzsaw Billy himself, Leatherface!

Heather and her dead bodies, I mean, best buddies, road trip it out there, inherit the estate and begin getting acquainted with the townsfolk. All of which seem wary and trigger happy that there’s so much hubbub going down at the Sawyer house.  That very first evening, as Heather pokes around the house (and her boyfriend heads off to the nearby barn to have his man utter milked by Heather’s best bud) Commando Crepe ventures down to Leatherface’s lair unleashing the maniac’s special brand of down home house warming. Nothing says Southern Hospitality like a man wearing someone else’s face and wielding a chainsaw, am I right?

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That’s right, it’s intestinal coleslaw city! Next thing you know, people are getting slammed on meat hooks, getting cut in half,  having their faces re appropriated as fashion accessories, etc. And once all the teen character’s are out of the way, the movie is only half way to the finish line! We still got a whole town of  blood thirsty, Coors swilling, Glen Beck fans to obliterate! You know that subtle gore the original Tobe Hooper “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was known for?  Yeeeeeah, don’t expect such restraint here. There’s gut spilling in this flick that would make Jigsaw blush. It’s a smorgasbord of splatter along the lines of Tobe Hooper’s sequel,  the cleverly titled ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2″. Of course,  I am saying this about the movies gore level. Because the intelligence and wit of the original Chainsaw franchise (well, the first and Part 2) is missing in action.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is about as dumb as they come, you don’t just have to suspend your disbelief for the action that takes place in the film to make sense, you gotta whack your disbelief over the head with a crowbar and ship it to Abu Dhabi for this sucker to pass muster.  The fact that the surviving Sawyer girl is only in her early twenties,  that Leatherface has been just chilling in a basement for the past 30 some odd years, that even after being bound with her arms over her head and having her shirt torn open Heather’s gorgeous heaving breasts would stay totally covered…It’s all very stupid. Almost like… Almost like… *GASP* AN OLD SCHOOL SLASHER SEQUEL!

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Only, if this were an old school slasher film, you;d be seeing all kinds of boobage right now.

I don’t know how it happened but I genuinely enjoyed Texas Chainsaw 3D.  Sure, it was about as dumb a sack of entrails, but it did tap into that exact same level of absurd stupidity as the Friday the 13th and Halloween sequels. It’s just mayhem for mayhem’s sake and feels like some kind of missing 1980’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel! Sure, they try to humanize Leatherface a bit more in this entry, but that’s kind of the plight of the sequel.  They always try to show you more of what makes these monsters tick, and in the process, unintentionally end up make them less scary.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is a bad movie. It’s just plain BAD.  Like my spelling. But you know what, I still had a blast sitting back and letting the movie do it’s business despite the near infinite dumbshit creative decisions. Probably the coolest segment of the whole damn movie was the opening credits which featured retrofitted sequences from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre now rendered  IN 3D! The final chase where Sally is pursued by hitchhiker and Leatherface  was quite a sight to behold in the third dimension, especially after having seen the film several dozen times over the years, it gave the classic a fresh perspective. Hell, they should just re-release the original in 3D like Titanic! If I paid money for this slice of undercooked headcheese I sure as Hell would pay money to see one of the greatest horror films ever made in 3D!

But, I digress…

Texas Chainsaw 3D eschews everything that followed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as if those events  never happened and plays almost like a fan film. With cameos by series cast favorites (and horror convention circuit staples) as well as copious tips of the hat to the franchise, it’s obvious that this flick was made by people who have a deep admiration for the series.  Which makes me scratch my head and wonder why they didn’t make it their concern to write a Great, Hell, even a GOOD screenplay for what is essentially supposed to be the sequel to the landmark original?  Instead, they created this greasy piece of scrapple that’s enjoyable, sure it’s fun, but it doesn’t exactly feel like direct lineage to the original.  Not exactly direct blood but a far of distant second cousin in law that shares the same name.

It's Hammer Time aka: Don't get too attached to the bald guy.

It’s Hammer Time aka: Don’t get too attached to the bald guy.

Gorgeous actress Alexandra Daddario steals the show as Heather, the long lost Sawyer girl who is grappling with her family connection. Seeing her go from a lost soul to Leatherface’s keeper is pretty cool. She also has great crazy eyes that are hidden behind a  sweet, inconspicuous gaze. Seriously, when she embraces the killer inside and starts hacking and slashing while quipping like Freddy, her crazy eyes might just be the most unsettling aspect of the whole damn film. She widens those puppies, grins like the Cheshire Cat, sinks her pitchfork into folks and I ended up with the strangest boner…I still think they really missed an awesome opportunity to create a female Leatherface here. Seriously, how fantastic would it be to see some buxom young woman in a grue spattered apron, wearing someone else’s face while revving up a chainsaw and doing the infamous Leatherface shuffle? Am I alone on this? Bueller? Bueller?

Dan Yeager as Leatherface is…he gets the job done. Neither the best nor the worst Leatherface to cross paths with the franchise. Leatherface sure is getting up there in age though,  but as evidenced by Heather’s age, the basic rules of space and time need not apply in the Chainsawniverse.  Leatherface can still chase after prey with the best of them. Never running out of breath or breaking his hip.  It’s gotta be those Centrum Silvers he’s been taking. Probably his best moment is at the very end of the film when Heather interacts with him at the Sawyer dining room table after one VERY long night. It’s both oddly touching and even almost suspenseful. We finally get an extended look at Leatherface’s eyes and we can almost imagine he’s emoting. Great stuff.

I don't see how this is any different than any other night at the county fair.

I don’t see how this is any different than any other night at the county fair.

I was expecting the absolute worst walking into Texas Chainsaw 3D and, while not very good, I thought it was passable schlock fun. Sure, they turned Leatherface into much more of an anti-hero than he ever was originally, and made the whole Sawyer clan WAY more sympathetic than I feel anyone could ever try and take a family of murderous redneck cannibals, and there are plot holes so big you could speed  a big rig right through them,  but it is a nice big helping of bad movie fun. It plays it straight with no post-modern jabs at slasher movie conventions and is thick and heavy with the red sauce. It doesn’t spend it’s time trying to be witty or clever, it just wants to give us it’s story and serve us up a nice big bowl of  splatter film love.

This movie is terrible, but for those looking for an old school, brain dead,  slasher flick to gnaw on a bit, look no further.   Now get me a female Leatherface!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

21
Apr
11

Insidious? More like Ridicirous

a Primal Root written Review

Man, do I love a good ghost story. I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to ghost stories, haunted houses and supernatural tales in general, but that does not mean the idea of ghosts doesn’t creep me out. This is why I am so saddened that there are so few GREAT haunted house tales at the googaplex anymore.

They are a rarity.

Which is why I had moderately high hopes for Insidious, the latest film from director James Wan (First Red Flag) the director behind the original Saw and the still born Dead Silence. It is also from the producers of Paranormal Activity (Second Red Flag) . But, hey, the early reviews said it was something pretty spooky and the trailers had me curious so I figured I’d give it a go. So, my date and I curled up in our seats and waited for the scares.

"I am scared."

The story concerns a young married couple and their three youngsters who are living in an old, creaky, fire hazard home that’s obviously haunted from the second you lay your eyes on it. It’s also about twelve stories tall. The Dad (Patrick Wilson) is a school teacher who is never home and leaves his lovely songwriting, baby making, wife (Rose Byrne) home alone to deal with the supernatural happening. Early on their young son, (Ty Simpkins) falls down a ladder in the attic after his negligent parents allow him to wonder off in their death trap of a house. Of course, the kid goes into a pseudo coma that cannot be diagnosed and the haunting gets more severe. So they more to nice, boring, modern house…

And shit gets even worse.

The family calls in some paranormal investigators, psychics in gas masks and the whole things plays out like a pitch to Universal Halloween Horror Nights.

"I am concerned."

To my amazement the first half of this film did an okay job of delivering some genuine intrigue and a handful of jolts. But even as these scares were being delivered I couldn’t help but feel like there were gaping holes in the story here. Like there are entire reels missing from the story. The character development is left at establishing how everyone is related and their method of income. There’s really nothing else there for us to hold onto as far as knowing these characters. The exist, they are scared, and that’s all you need to know. And Dad’s a teacher. Okay, let’s move on.

There’s also a great example of missing film when Patrick Wilson sits on the front steps of the house with Rose Byrne as she voices her concern over the supernatural presence in their house. She tells stories of all these creepy things that have happened to her while Patrick Wilson is away at work…things we as an audience never saw. Why are you telling us about the creepy events when you could be, you know, SHOWING us these things? Isn’t that one of the first rules of screenwriting? Don’t tell us. Show us.

BUTT SEX!

But, overlooking these short falls, the movie does excel in creating some excellent nightmare imagery. This is  when ‘Insidious’ really cooks. When Rose Byrne goes to take out the trash and her record changes to a different song and as she looks in the window she sees a small figure dancing to the music a couple rooms away. Or when Patrick Wilson’s Mom, Barbara Hershey, describes a nightmare she had where she encounters a dark presence in their son’s room. All these images and the way they are filmed and presented feel exactly how nightmares do and it’s chilling stuff.

Sadly, the film faulters in it’s final act when ‘Insidious’ shows it’s cards. Patrick Wilson goes tot he other side and we are shown WAY too much of that supernatural world these creatures inhabit. Some things are so much more horrifying when left to the imagination. As Dad faces off against the Darth Maul looking, hoof footed menace who loves tip toeing through the tulips, you get the distinct feeling the flick has completely jumped the shark.  My date actually mentioned how much the second half felt like an ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ episode, and she was spot on. It’s as if James Wan wrote his ass into a corner and took the lazy way out. Rather than paying things off with scares it transforms into a snooze fest as the audience begins looking at their watches wondering when it will all come to an end.

How the audience looked during the second half od Insidious.

The filmmaker tries to pull off a twist ending like his previous films, but anyone who is aware of his penchant for ham handed twists will see this one coming a mile away, and it’s a face palmer of a way to end things. What started out modestly interesting ends in a flash of empty spook house tactics that are somewhat fun to look at but don’t really work when it comes to tapping into the psychology of those watching hoping to go home hoping for that thrill of the ghost story to still be with them when they turn out the light to go to bed…

Stay Trashy!

-The Primal Root

25
Nov
10

Devil Girl November: Mistress Barbie

Hey Gang! This Thanksgiving we are bringing you a main course of sexy with a side of zombie apocalypse. A woman, alone, against some blood thirsty zombies. Playing off the most fundamental of  cliches of living dead cinema, Mistress Barbie takes us on a fun, bloody, and titillating journey. I will let the Mistress set things up…Enjoy, and Stay Trashy!

-Root

Synopsis:

Well the story starts out, with the typical female lead role, a bimbo blonde who is in an over-sized man’s button up shirt. Of course, she doesn’t have time to get fully clothed before the horror begins, but she had time to put on way too much makeup. Eventually, her clothing comes undone through the movie exposing her bra and/or breasts.

Scene:

The setting is in an old country town. The infected neighbor girl who is now a zombie comes back to her babysitter’s house, since zombies always return to places that was memorable to them. As the blonde bimbo runs from the zombie child, she is eventually bitten. The bimbo  gets away from the zombie only to find more trouble. Even though blonde bimbo finds a suitable weapon, she fails to use it or carry it with her. So thus, she continues on her journey of running in circles and eventually meets Chainsaw Guy. She falls many times while trying to escape his terror, but of course all of those times she barely escapes with her life which of course is so believable if it was to happen in real life. Bimbo Girl finally gets away and decides to rest for awhile…so just when she thinks she has escaped the horrible nightmare, she slowly starts to turn into everything she had feared that day.

01
Nov
10

Rotten Reviews presents Saw V

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Hey Gang,

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

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

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

Stay Trashy,

– Root




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