Posts Tagged ‘sorority

22
Nov
19

The Dark Power (1985): Whip It Good With Lash LaRue To Show You How!

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“Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!” Lash LaRue as Ranger Girard in The Dark Power

a Primal Root written review

Whenever Thanksgiving starts creeping closer I always find myself contemplating the many attempts over the years to make horror films based around that specific holiday. Flicks like Blood Rage, and Home Sweet Home (which never explicitly states that it is taking place on Thanksgiving, but the family gathering, turkey dinner and football seem to suggest that it is), the awesome Eli Roth helmed trailer for a nonexistent 80’s slasher entitled Thanksgiving which gave us a taste of what COULD have been if someone decades ago had applied themselves to making a Turkey Day Slasher, and, of course, there’s the Thankskilling movies which blend blood, breasts and beasts with ample amounts of black comedy.

But I tend to veer more towards films which feature the most tenuous of connections to Thanksgiving, things that remind me of the basic elements of the holiday going wrong, primarily family dysfunction. Stuff out there like Desperate LivingThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Parents, and Pet Sematary. But there’s this one hunk of cinematic dog food that has always stuck out in the back of my mind as an unofficial Trash Cinema Thanksgiving film. I say unofficial because it doesn’t take place on Thanksgiving at all…it doesn’t even feature a damn turkey. Okay, shit, it has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving REALLY, but it DOES have to do with Native American Spirits killing off dumbass white crackers who do not respect the heritage which was protecting their uneducated asses since before their great grand parents we even born. So, with my own warped logic, the idea of this land’s native inhabitants coming back from the dead to kill spoiled ass white people who committed genocide against them just rubs me the right way this time of year. It’s a film entitled…THE DARK POWER.

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When a local Native American medicine man passes away, he leaves his estate to his money hungry, yuppie grandson who immediately decides to rent his grandpappy’s old homestead out to a bunch of sorority babes who were recently kicked out of their dorm. Of course, everyone has heard the local legends that Grandpa Medicine Man’s homestead is haunted by four vengeful, murderous, Native American spirits, known as The Toltec Sorcerers, which he had been protecting the area from for years with numerous safeguards and ancient rituals. Sure, some might be creeped out, but no one REALLY believes the stories of this old house. That is, with the exception of  old timer, and close personal friend of the deceased medicine man, Ranger Girard played by none other than the legendary western whipping boy, Lash LaRue! Girard does his damnedest to warn folks, without sounding like a Crazy Ralph, that they’re messing with powers…DARK POWER beyond their understanding and that his old friend has been guarding his game and keeping everyone safe for decades. Sure, it’s all superstition, all these modern, shaved vagina hipsters, say…But Lash LaRue is holding on to that mystical whip the recent worm food medicine man gave him just a little bit tighter.

DarkPower Whip

It isn’t long before the house is full of half nekkid nubile young women, one of which invited her younger brother, who excels at sexual harassment, to live with them, too. The home is frequented by rowdy friends, overweight plumbers and truck stealing 8 year old boys, all of which seem to remove or misplace an artifact set in place to ward off the evil four spirits which will bring unspeakable horrors down on the land they haunt once removed. The girls are all likable enough, one is the main girl, who really doesn’t do a whole lot but survive, there’s the one who is really into fitness and self defense with a good sense of humor and never wears pants, the one that looks like Julia Roberts and is an outspoken racist and future Trump supporter (she’s the one who invited her obnoxious creeper brother to live with them) and there’s the incredibly friendly black girl who ends up having to deal with the Julia Roberts look-a-like’s constant racist bullshit.

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But not for long! Because soon the four evil spirits of The Toltec Sorcerers are awakened and they emerge from the ground in their expressionless Spencer’s Gifts Halloween masks doused in K-Y Jelly and begin slowly, methodically killing all the assholes int he house and whittling through the least enjoyable characters, to the most and then to the boring ones? Will modern means be able to stop this ancient…DARK POWER, or will anyone be able to WHIP into action and  send this…DARK POWER back to Hell?

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This one is a doozy, Gang. First off, let me just say this one is exceedingly cheap looking, which gives it a charming, kind of made at home vibe. That sort of feeling of watching a movie some friends decided to make one afternoon on a budget of $50 which all went to pizza and beer and their cast and crew consists entirely of their friends and ONE Hollywood legend, Mr. Lash (scene stealer) LaRue. This instantly adds to the appeal for me as a fan of low rent film making.  The acting is adorably bad. You can tell these folks are REALLY trying to sell these characters and their bizarre motivations. The standouts are Mary Dalton as Mary Dalton, a local TV reporter, who is an okay interviewer and an A+ horn dog who is constantly hitting on Lash LaRue who is old enough to be her Grandfather. Cynthia Bailey as Tammie, the superstitious and incredibly kind hearted and tolerant young black woman who moves into a house where she will cohabitate with a racist and a racist’s racist sexual harassing brother. Suzy Martin as Suzy, the work out freak, who is forever upbeat and without trousers, even when getting chased by horrifying, bloodthirsty Toltec Sorcerers. Paul Holman as Uncle Earl Coleman who is a pretty solid piece of exceedingly hefty comic relief with a THICK southern accent, a heart of gold and delivers the line “It smells…like a FART!” with perfect diction and excellent comedic timing. Also, there’s a character who just shows up to get in a bathtub, chug a can of Budweiser and show off her boobs, I think her name is Page? Anyway, thank you for providing the ONLY shot of bare female breasts in the entire film with your only moment of screen time.

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And, of course, the MVP is Lash LaRue, who shows up when all hope is lost and whips the fuck out of anything that looks like it’s intent on hurting someone. The movie even opens with this strange scene that has absolutely no connection to the rest of the film which features a little kid getting berated by his mother about the haunted property the medicine man lives on and how he shouldn’t go near it. Well, the kid sneaks out and starts wondering some trails in the woods near the property where he is chased by a pack of vicious dogs. The kid runs for his life with the adorable, I mean HORRIFYING dogs nipping at his heels. The kid gets to a clearing and BEHOLD! LASH LARUE! Who cracks the fuck out of his whip and sends the raging rovers back into the woods they emerged from. The kid weeps with his face in the dirt, Lash puts his whip away and stares at the kid, emotionless…SCENE. WHAT DID THIS TEN MINUTE SEQUENCE HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? 1. It pads the film to make it feature length. 2. It established Lash as a force for good against that…DARK POWER in those woods. Seriously, anytime Lash shows up on screen, his charm and good nature come shining through and just make every moment a pleasure to watch. Especially in the final confrontation at the haunted house where he takes on all The Toltec Sorcerers, whipping the fuck out of them and taunting them the whole time. It’s great watching this old timer do what he does best, crack that whip, and be a hero.

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The effects are effective, but again, pretty cheap. Lots of folks getting shot with arrows, but one death really stands out, there’s this one ginger kid who gets yanked off of a pontoon boat, has his arm slowly pulled off and then has his face, again, SLOWLY ripped off. It’s gruesome and painful, but also delightful in it’s cheesiness. Also, when The Toltec Sorcerers are finally sent back to Hell, their demise is a lot of gooey, melty fun.

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This was the first feature directed by Phil Smoot, who has spent most of his life working behind the scenes as producer or Production Manager of other independent films like Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, Kevin Smith’s Tusk, and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I would LOVE to know more about the making of The Dark Power, but, unfortunately, there’s not a whole heck of a lot out there. One of it’s main claims to fame is being made fun of by Rifftrax.

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All and all, The Dark Power is a tale about the white man’s lack of respect for Native American culture, their people and their rich heritage. It’s easy to shrug off someone’s ancient beliefs as hogwash, but, it’s never a bad idea to just leave some trinkets in the ground if there’s a slight possibility it will keep you from having your entire face ripped off by a malevolent The Toltec Sorcerers raised from the dead because you thought your front yard looked better without the eagle on the skull decoration left there by the medicine man devoted his life to protecting your dumb, ungrateful white ass.

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So, this Thanksgiving, I recommend you pick up this hot, smoked turkey for you trash cinema fans to chow down on. It goes down easy, fills you up with cheap, trashy goodness and doesn’t disappoint. Oh yes, there’s plenty to be thankful for, especially this 1985 slice of Trash.

I award The Dark Power THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. Low-Rent appreciating Trash Cinema devotees, like myself, will adore it. Grab some friends, a case of beer, and have filthy Thanksgiving feast!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

11
Oct
15

Hell Night (1981) Party on, Garth!

POSTER-HELL-NIGHT

a Primal Root written review

“If you weren’t screaming, and we weren’t screaming, then someone is trying to mind fuck us here.” Seth, Hell Night

I’m not going to lie to you, there were a ton of slasher films made in the wake of the independent horror mega hit, Halloween in 1979. They all followed the formula with varying degree of success. Many tried new ground and failed to deliver the goods, others just didn’t understand the appeal and tried for a quick, meaningless cash grab, while others delivered on the gore and tits but left little to be desired in the thrill department.  Being a life long, die hard admirer of the horror genre, I am willing to give anything a go and I am always thrilled to find an example of a genre film that has every excuse in the world to be a lousy phoned in slasher flick actually put forth the effort, rises above the cliched premise, and delivers something entertaining, actually scary and downright fucking solid in execution. 1981’s Hell Night is a perfect example.

Four pledges, Marty (Linda Blair of The Exorcist and Savage Streets fame) Jeff (Peter Barton from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), Seth ( Vincent Van Patten from Rock and Roll High School) and Denise (Suki Goodwin…umm…) must go through with the initiation ritual pleasantly referred to as Hell Night which means they all must spend the night in the abandoned Garth Manor, where a dozen years or so earlier Raymond Garth murdered his wife, killed off all their deformed offspring and then committed suicide. The youngest of their spawnage, Andrew referred to as a…Gork (?), was never found and the legend goes that he still lives somewhere within Garth Manor, which contains numerous secret passages and catacombs running below the enormous mansion.

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Once the four lovely young people are locked in for the night behind the 12 foot tall wrought iron fence which encircles the property, complete with razor sharp spikes at the top where anyone trying to haul their asses over it “might cut their nuts off”, Fraternity and Sorority leaders begin a campaign of pranks in an attempt to scare the shit out of the pledges all while Seth and Denise get all weird and kinky in an upstairs bedroom playing goofy and endearing surfboard role playing, Marty and Pater spend their time chatting and forming a friendship by the living room fireplace. But it isn’t long before the presence of these young people bring to life a dark, malevolent force in the house one that strikes out at the pranksters first and then slowly, mercilessly, begins hunting down our four pledges.

Hell Night works shockingly well despite what comes across as a pretty by the numbers premise. Stick four attractive young people in a dark, forbidding location, unleash a plot contrivance to search them down and kill them one by one according their sluttiness and casual narcotics usage, leave one girl behind to kill the monster and call it a day. But where Hell Night succeeds flawlessly is actually taking the time to create real, interesting, human characters and not some phony, cynical bullshit axe fodder that you can’t wait to see get their heads ripped from their neck stumps. The young people in Hell Night are genuinely likable, shit, even relatable. And this is a huge fucking rarity for a “dead teenage” flick.

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Let’s take a moment to look at Seth, probably my favorite character in the flick. This guy is a muscle bound, blonde, weed smoking surfer guy who, according to himself, only cares about drinking, surfing and screwing. In your run of the mill slasher film, this guy would be written of as dead meat right then in there. Horny jock? That sucker is toast! But in Hell Night, these conventions are kicked to the curb and Seth is proven to be not only quite intelligent, but heroic, loyal, and resourceful. As a long time fan of the slasher genre, I can tell you, Seth’s behavior and acts of heroism are not often seen in the slasher formula. In a way, this makes Seth a kind of wild card, as we so very seldom see this kind of character, we are put of edge not knowing just what might happen to him.

That same sentiment goes for the character of Marty. Linda Blair creates a unique and admirable blue collar badass out of Marty. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, comes from a working class family where she grew up fixing cars along with her mechanic Father (PLOT POINT!) and provides an interesting contrast to the other, more privileged, pledges.  There’s even a great extended conversation early in the film about class structure and capitalism between Marty and Jeff. It’s a fantastic moment where two characters are feeling one another out as they get to know one another along with the audience. We’re not talking anything deeply philosophical here, but it far exceeds what the format typically calls for, and that’s worth praising. These characters are real to life, identifiable and ultimately likable. We fear for them and it really does suck when these characters are killed and are no longer in the movie. You actually mourn the loss. See, this effort makes Hell Night far scarier than it’s next of kin.

Hell Night ghost projection

There are no red herrings in Hell Night, only a menacing, blood thirsty antagonist that remains hidden in the shadows for about 95% of the film’s running time. AGAIN, this works in Hell Night‘s favor, as it adds a legitimate feeling of unease and fear as we imagine just what or whom is lurking in the darkness, in those catacombs, racing towards us down the candle lit hallways of Garth Manor.  However, the number of killers at work here is left in question, which also adds to the uneasy tension Hell Night generates. But, when you stop and think about the premise of Hell Night, it does kind of dawn on you that these college kids ARE trespassing on Private Property…I guess The Garth clan has every right to butcher these assholes invading their home. Who are the real bad guys here? 😉 This flick even manages to create some genuine suspense as one young pledge, in a panic, decides to scale the high fence surrounding Garth Manor and must hoist his weight over numerous spikes poised to pierce his tender young flesh. When looking for help, all the young people can find is useless authority and they must rely on themselves, their cunning and resourcefulness to survive Hell Night.

Alright, so when all is said and done, is Hell Night original? Hardly. What it actually is, is a well crafted and performed Spook Show Haunted House. It’s genuinely thrilling, fun, and even pretty goddamn nightmarish at times. Hell Night is a sadly overlooked piece of slasher film history, one I continually wait to see it becoming rediscovered and reaching the cult status it so richly deserves. Boasting some fine performances, nasty, mean, mother fucking monsters, some outstanding cleavage from a still baby faced Linda Blair, a genuinely creepy score and the patience to really create some worthwhile characters, Hell Night is, in this filthy fright flick fan’s opinion, is one of the better slasher efforts to come out of the 1980’s.

WORD OF WARNING: There is NO nudity in Hell Night.

I’m awarding Hell Night FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

28
Aug
14

Killer Party (1986) or I myself prefer a big, fat, cucumber

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a Primal Root written review

Among the most everlasting and endlessly interesting paradoxes of the horror slasher genre are those rare films that charm your cinematic pants off with their absurdity, their unabashed disregard for the established genre rules and conventions and being totally different from anything else you’ve ever thrown down to watch on a Trash Movie Saturday with The Gang. I’ve always found such films to be thoroughly engrossing simply because I don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect, we’re in the hands of an original thinker, one who says “fuck you,” to the old horror genre guards, “we’re going to tell this story my way!” It’s a bold, strange tactic for approaching a horror sub genre and often delivers something unlike we’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, this approach often plays poorly with the genre die hards, and are typically rejected for being “too weird” and are relegated to the ever growing pile of forgotten and neglected horror oddities.

Enter Canadian made slasher horror lost nugget of pure gold, “Killer Party,” Directed by “Funeral Home” helmer,  William Fruet, and written by Barney Cohen, the visionary who wrote 1984’s perennial fan favorite, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”, “Killer Party” is one of the most off beat offerings of the entire slasher era. To describe it would be a disservice, as the film actually contains some fun moments where the rug ends up being pulled out from underneath the audience, leaving us in a form of exhilarated bafflement as to what the Hell movie we’re actually watching…or resentment and annoyance, if you’re looking for another Friday the 13th clone.  Obviously, these two creative minds knew the well treaded rules of the genre and it’s apparent they had a blast fucking with everything audiences had come to expect from their dead teenager opus.

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The main story of “Killer Party” centers on three high school best friends who are starting out on their freshman year of college and are pledging to the same sorority together.  Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes, playing the excited optimist), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch, playing the adorable nerd with a penchant for awesome pranks and excellent special effects), and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson, playing the quiet, shy, somewhat repressed young lady). As luck would have it, their hazing ritual will be taking place in an abandoned Frat house that’s been left to rot since a freshman was decapitated by guillotine when an initiation ritual went murderously haywire. Of course, someone on campus has their nuts twisted in a knot over this, as evidenced by the house mother getting her brains bashed in with an oar and smeared all over the steps of this old, sagging, frat house.

The hazing itself, with a ritual highlight being the girls having raw eggs dumped into their mouths and then spitting the aborted baby chicken goo they catch into sundae glasses, but the fun and games come to an end when shit starts getting all poltergeist. Noises are heard, glasses fling themselves off tables and shatter across the floor, and someone puts a light on a dimmer and turns on a fog machine from the other side of the door down to the basement. Vivia goes to investigate on her own as the other Sorority Girls hold each other and cry. Once the ladies gather up enough courage to check on Vivia, they witness her fastened to a guillotine, where her head is unceremoniously, but efficiently, lopped off and sent rolling down the stairs.

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Turns out this was all a hand crafter prank by the creative, resourceful and immanently lovable Vivia, who not only managed to scare the living shit out of every woman in the house, but also secure herself and her two best friends, spots at the sorority house of their dreams, which seems to be filled with judgmental uber bitches and I can;t for the life of me figure out WHY they want to be a part of this sisterhood so badly. Never the less, the following evening the Sorority sisters will be throwing a celebratory April Fool’s Day party at the abandoned frat house and will be inviting the boys from their fraternity that likes to prank them by unleashing jars full of angry bees upon them while they’re nekkid in the sorority hot tub.  Now that’s fun!

Several university staff members investigate the frat house on their own and go missing on account of their brutal murders, but thankfully for us, no one notices these folks have vanished into oblivion without a trace and the party can commence. The only person who senses that there might be some spooky shit going on in the crusty, dank, frat house is the lovely,  quiet, Jennifer, who gets the oogie-boogies every time she steps foot into that roach motel. Once the festoonery is displayed, the kegs are tapped, and the costumed revelers arrive, things start getting just a little bizarre. Supernatural shenanigans start going down, subtle at first, but then more apparent, pranks are had, but what are pranks and what are vengeance fueled demonic paranormal phenomena?  As an audience, you’re never quite totally sure what the fuck is going on, even when somebody starts trudging around the house in a turn of the century scuba harness and begins spearing folks with a trident. Is this for real, or some sick and twisted joke? By the end of “Killer Party,” all is made clear, and it might be a bit more disturbing than you expect.

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Coming out in the same year as “JASON LIVES!: Friday the 13th Part VI,” Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2”, and the year after  Dan O’ Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead,”  it was apparent that the genre had begun having fun with itself, it’s fans and the conventions of the genre they had created in the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the mid 80’s, there had been so many fucking slasher films that the formula was  practically etched in stone. It seems many filmmakers decided one of the best ways to go about eschewing these predictable traditions was to turn those rules on their heads and have fun with what folks were expecting. In a way, those films became final salutes, the last gasping breathes of a cinematic genre that had all but run it’s course and are now hailed as some of the most beloved cult favorites from that time period.  “Killer Party” is another entry in this select group of offerings from the mid 80’s.

What sets “Killer Party” apart from these other offerings is that our lead protagonists, Vivia, Jennifer and Phoebe are incredibly likable characters. They’re not your run of the mill sex pot, teen dream, centerfold, slasher standbys, in fact, the three girls straight up dorks. All three look and are played as your “girl next door” type, they don’t dress for sex appeal, they dress for warmth and comfort (this thing was filmed in Canada, after all). Not only that, but they are intelligent, headstrong and ridiculously funny, never taking themselves too seriously. If I am being honest, I’d rather hang out with these three ladies than anyone in any other slasher franchise. Seriously, they’re that appealing.  And I gotta give credit to Joanna Johnson’s performance, especially in the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the film. That woman goes for broke and it’s pretty goddamn outstanding. My jaw drops to my popcorn littered floor every time I watch her transformation at the end of this thing.

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“Killer Party” doesn’t redefine the genre, or anything and it’s lacking in the gore department and the TnA quotient is pretty low.  Hell, it’s not even all that great of a movie, but what it IS, is a very fun and unpredictable piece of Trash Cinema. Filled with bizarre funeral home mishaps, nekkid young women being chased by furious swarms of killer bees, and impromptu rock and roll zombie dance parties taking place at one of the coolest god damn drive-in’s I’ve ever seen, “Killer Party” is a rare, wonderful oddity. The kind you used to see on the video rental store shelf and take a gamble on. Killer Party never ever makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which may rub many hardcore slasher film fans the wrong way. But for the rest of us willing, able and hungry for something refreshingly bizarre and unique, this is a party worth crashing, Gang.

I’m giving this sucker THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

31
Dec
11

Rotten Reviews Ep 23: Black christmas (The Remake)

Hey Gang, The Primal Root, here, wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday season! That is, if you can make it through the evil that is Glen Morgan’s Black Christmas remake… Hang tight with your buddy, Root, as he tries the wade through the numerous subplots, the dozen characters and the non stop flashbacks that explain away our main antagonist(s).

Watch as The Root tries to transform this hunk of coal into a diamond in this, our final Rotten Review of Year Three, here at The Trash Cinema Collective!

Happy Holidays and a Trashy New Year!

Your Pal,
-The Primal Root

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