Posts Tagged ‘story

31
Oct
13

Root’s Top 5 Tales from the Crypt

Tales

The Primal Root’s Dirty Thoughts

Greetings, Creeps! It’s your ol’ pal The Primal Root here, getting into the groove of another Halloween season. Recently Ms. Bootsie Kidd and I sat down to enjoy a marathon of the entire series run of HBO’s original series “Tales from the Crypt” based on the old and incredibly popular 1940-1950’s horror comic book series of the same name. The comics featured gruesome morality plays where evil doers always ended up of the gory end of karma’s comeuppance. The comic book series, including such title as “Tales from the Crypt” “The Vault of Horror,” “The Haunt of Fear,” “Two Fisted Tales” and “Sock SuspenStories” were censored into oblivion by the Comic book Code, which blamed the aforementioned comics as the prime contributors to our nation’s juvenile delinquency problem,  were all resurrected in the late 1980’s as an HBO series entitled “Tales from the Crypt”, which  adapted stories from every horror/action/thriller comic at some point or another. The impact of these comic books left a huge impression on the the talents who came together to breath new life and pay tribute to these once thriving graphic novels.  Filmmakers such as Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, Tom Holland, Mary Lambert, and countless others all were dying to take a stab at their favorite stories and turn them in twenty five minute long short films.  The show didn’t always knock it out of the park, but when it did, it was glorious. and, Hell, even their weakest episodes proved to be interesting, at the very list.

What I did find myself doing, however, was constantly saying “Oh, this is a great!” or “This is one of my favorites!” just about every other episode. That’s when I decided I really needed to sit down, do some soul searching and make a list of my Top Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt. It was a tough process whittling it down to only five, but I must admit, I was chomping at the bit to see which ones would make the CUT!  So, without any further a due, let’s see which Terror Tales made the final CUT!  AAARRRGGHHHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha…

5) “People Who Live in Brass Hearses” dir. Russell Mulcahy (Season 5, Episode 5)

Who knew the ice cream truck industry was this depraved? Bill Paxtion plays a scumbag ex-con Billy DeLuca, who enlists the help of his emotionally stunted younger brother Virgil (Brad Douriff) to pull of a heist that will even the score with ice cream truck driver and excellent puppeteer,  Mr. Byrd (Michael Lerner) and Billy’s old boss  Mrs. Grafungar (Lainie Kazan) after they sent Billy to prison for stealing from the till.  When everything goes wrong  and their heist ends up in a blood bath leaving the brother’s with nothing, they must turn to desperate measures in order to get the money Billy feels he so richly deserves.  But, as per usual with the Tales from the Crypt formula, nothing is as it seems, and this sick puppy has a twist ending that comes somewhere out of left field and pegs you right in the gob.  This is among the strangest episodes of Tales from the Crypt in my book and the fact that it features such an excellent all-star cast makes it every bit stranger. Once our players are established the tale hits an insane pace that feels almost like an action story, but then the meat hooks start being gouged into people’s skulls and folks begin having their skulls chunked all over the dining room from well placed shotgun blasts. Trust me, even with all these gory goodies, the episode still manages to whack you over the head with it’s sleazy, disgusting and inspired conclusion. You’ll laugh in disbelief as soon as you pick your jaw up off the floor.

4) “Four-Sided Triangle” dir. Tom Holland (Season 2, Episode 9)

I’ve always been an admirer of down home horrors and “Four-Sided Triangle” is one fine example of horrific wages of dysfunctional rednecks. This episode is a small, intimate one featuring three players on a isolated farm. Old married couple, the limping, strict, and stern Luisa (Susan Blommaert), her lecherous, scheming and alarmingly horny husband George (Chelcie Ross),  and their young, voluptuous, sexy as Hell captive farm worker, Mary Jo, (Patricia Arquette). As you might expect, the story revolves around George trying to get his monkey tail down Mary Jo’s sweaty bloomers. In fact, the very first scene features George’s wide eyes peering into the chicken coup as Mary Jo bends over and writhes around as she sexily, yet innocently, collects eggs for her white trash captors all while displaying her ample bra-less bosom in a tiny tank top and her robust booty in a pair of well worn, skin tight pair of LEVI’S.  After a failed rape attempt in which Mary Jo gets the living snot beat out of her by George, she stumbles into the corn field where she hallucinates that a scarecrow reaches down to help her. Her brain must be batter, because she becomes obsessed with the scarecrow and declares loudly and frequently how much she loves him while singing songs about how she doesn’t care about chicken pot pie.  Anyhoo, Luisa is on to George’s lustful yearnings for Mary Jo, even going as far as to threaten him with performing the same procedure on him that they do when they want to change a bull into a steer.  As we all know, these threats typically fall on deaf ears when it comes to horny rednecks and “Four-Sided Triangle” culminates in a  conclusion that is both bloody and inescapable.  We can see where the story is headed but the tale is so well directed, staged and acted, you feel every bit of suspense and horror and the doomed “Four-Sided Triangle of the title meet their doom. This was among the first Tales from the Crypt episodes I ever saw and it made a lasting impression on me. And introduced me to Patricia Arquette, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

3) “What’s Cookin’ ” dir. Gilbert Adler (Season 4, Episode 6)  

One of the smartest, sickest, most wonderfully depraved episodes of Tales from the Crypt, “What’s Cookin” features a great comic turn from Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, as a struggling restaurant owner named Fred. See, his restaurant specializes in one thing and one thing only… Squid. Yes, squid. As you might expect, the restaurant he runs along with his wife Erma (Bess Armstrong, from My So-Called Life) is way overdue on their rent and hasn’t seen a customer in weeks, well, with the exception of officer Phil (Art LaFleur) who drops by for coffee from time to time. Their busboy, shady drifter, Gaston (Judd Nelson) keeps prodding Fred to try out his family’s classic barbecue recipe, but Fred won;t stand for it. The man’s got a dream and refuses to give up on it. That dream nearly ends when Chumley (played in a bit of truly inspired casting by Meatloaf), the landlord, shows up and evicts Ed for being over two months late on rent. The following morning, as Fred and Erma begin to shut down, Officer Phil comes in for coffee and eggs. To Erma’s astonishment, there are a half dozen fresh steaks in the fridge than Gaston brought in from his own, private supplier. Erma cooks this up for Phil, and just as he takes his first bit Gaston reveals to Fred just who is supplying the steaks. Yep, there in the meat freezer, to Fred’s dismay, hangs the corpse of Chumley. Soon, Fred and Erma’s Steakhouse is an overnight sensation with everyone in the city stopping by for a bite of their delicious, hand cut steaks. Only problem is, the police investigation into Chumley’s death is paving a pth right to Fred and Erma’s restaurant and as Fred’s feet get colder and colder Gaston begins plotting a double cross. “What’s Cookin'” is one very macabre and gruesome episode with a wicked streak of dark comedy. The performances are great and the final twist in the end, in typical Tales from the Crypt fashion, will leave you just as satisfied as one of Fred and Erma’s steaks. Is it wrong that this episode always makes me hungry?

 

2) Showdown dir. Richard Donner (Season 4 Episode 8)

Originally created as part of a three piece pilot for a rejected pitch to FOX for a “Two-Fisted Tales” spin off series, “Showdown” spins the tale of Billy Quintaine (Neil Giuntoli), a hardened, remorseless, legendary gunslinger who is cornered in a small desert town by an equally notable Texas Ranger Tom McMurdo (David Morse). After a facing off in a shoot out in which Billy murders Tom, he enters a nearby saloon for a drink, and after ingesting some snake oil from a traveling salesman, realizes he might not be as victories as it might seem. Showdown is one of the most poetic and beautiful episodes of Tales from the Crypt and manages to pack in a plethora of themes including the inevitable outcome and price of violence, the inevitability of death and our current irreverence for our own bloody past and re-marketing it as family friendly, tourist bullshit. Character actor Neil Giuntoli gives a hauntingly human performance as gunslinger Billy Quintaine, as he becomes slowly and painfully aware of his own fate we watch this cynical, callous, man breakdown before our very eyes reminding us that the most despicable  character is, at the end of the day, also a human being. “Showdown” is frightening in it’s implications on a far deeper level than it’s Tales from the Crypt brethren and deals with life and death on a far more thought provoking and meaningful level than the typical epsiode. All that said, “Showdown” ends on a moving, up lifting note leaving us with the hope that when we shed this mortal coil, when all these pretenses are dropped, perhaps we can all finally ride off into the sunset as brothers.

1) “Death of Some Salesman” dir. Gilbert Asler (Season 5, Episode 1)

Good God, this episode is revolting. It’s a buffet of loathsomeness where, as a viewer, you ill wonder if you should laugh, cringe, or go for the barf bag. “Death of Some Salesman” is the story of Judd Campbell (Ed Begley Jr.), a charismatic, sleazeball con-man posing as a cemetery plot salesman. The man is a gifted liar, using his skills to con old widows out of their inheritance and even to convince  nubile young waitresses to “drop their panties” by pitching love and escape. The man is a scum bag that you know will be paying for his trespass and the man get’s his rotten just desserts in the form of The Brackett family. By blind luck, Judd ends up knocking on the door of Ma and Pa Brackett (Both played by Tim Curry). Judd’s invited in and the sale seems to be going incredibly well as Pa and Ma Brackett head down to the basement to get Judd the money for two none existant cemetery plots. That is, until Judd discovers the decaying corpses of several dozen salesmen who previous had the misfortune of knocking on the Brackett’s door. Judd is captured with Pa Brackett intent on killing him, but Judd sees a way out if he can only convince Winona Brackett (also played by Tim Curry), Ma and Pa Brackett’s comically hideous daughter that he loves her. This is the pitch of Judd’s life as he must chock down the bile and try to convince the skeptical Winona that he does, in fact, love her. the lengths of which Judd must prove is unwavering devotion is extrodinarily and will have you groaning and laughing on your couch. Tim curry gives the performance for the ages as The Brackett family, managing to blend mirth and menace in equal amounts. And the always game Ed Begley Junior should have received the medal of valor for this things.  “Death of Some Salesman” encompasses everything I love about the old E.C. Comics horror anthologies.  Sick humor, nasty violence, a damn fine twist ending, and a fantastic morality tale. Curry and Begley Jr. who are performing what is basically a two man show, give such phenomenal performances it practically MAKES the episode.  It’s a stomach churning, hysterical tale which taught me at a young age that deceivers and liars will invariably find themselves in a world of hurt.

Well, kiddies, there you have it! My Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt! A mixed bag, but a damn good time, if I do say so myself.   Feel free to let us, here at The Trash Cinema Collective, know what your favorite episodes are! Have a Trashy Halloween!

-Root

25
Aug
13

Maximum Overdrive (1986) or How to Embrace a “Moron Movie”

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a Primal Root written review

Ever had a really stupid idea for a story? I mean, a cool idea, but one that makes no logical sense at all? I mean, that’s kind of why story telling is so much fun. you can make up whatever you want to justify just what Hell is occurring on the page, on the screen or in your spoken word.  I know, the law of the land says everything’s gotta make sense, that things have to be believable, but sometimes that stupid, amateur, childish, imaginative idea is just too good to restrain. Enter Stephen King’s one and only directorial effort, his self proclaimed “moron movie”, 1986’s critically bashed “Maximum Overdrive.”

“Maximum Overdrive” tells the story of worldwide horror primarily through the microcosm of one filthy, small, interstate truck stop. What’s the global crisis at hand? I’m thrilled you asked! See, the entire world is caught in the tail of some kind of comet that apparently has the power to bring every single machine to vicious, murderous life! Well, with the exception of any piece of equipment required for the main character’s survival…But still, most;y every single damned machine on God’s green Earth is suddenly out for blood! Everything from steam roller crushing Little Leaguers to electric carving knives ripping up hapless waitresses arms! It’s survival of the fittest as the patrons and staff of The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop are besieged by an onslaught of malicious semi-trucks. What do these trucks want? Why are they here? Home many people are going to end up being crunched into human hamburger? All these questions are asked as the blood and bodies fly to a fucking badass AC/DC soundtrack.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

Stephen King helmed his directorial debut in 1986, right the the peak of his 1980’s popularity, and the critics were chomping at the bit to rip the much beloved horror writer a new asshole. “Maximum Overdrive” provided the perfect opportunity. It’s ridiculous, over the top, gratuitous and deeply, unapologetically dumb. It’s a movie where lawnmowers come to life and chase little kids and soda machines pummel people into bloody pulps, we’re not talking about sophisticated cinema here. One thing I think the critics failed to understand is just how much fun 97 minutes of unabashed mayhem, dopey characters and brain dead dialog can be.

Got coke?

Got coke?

Starring at the time up-and-comer Emilio Estevez, as Bill, a recent parolee employed at The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop and trying to make good all while putting up with his asshole boss/slave driver, Bubba (Pat Hingle) and making love like a hero.  Bill’s situation is pretty shitty…and then machines all of a sudden inherit the Earth, giving the young man the chance to take charge and show just what he’s capable of. Not only that, but he ends up getting stuck in The Dixie-Boy with the lovely Brett (Laura Harrington), an enigmatic tough girl hitch hiker who ends up bedding the sun kissed, perpetually sweaty and over worked Bill and espousing some of the most laughably awkward pillow talk ever heard in cinema all while skull crushing semi-trucks encircle their truck stop hide out and the threat of eminent flattening hangs over everyone’s head.

It’s the ultimate blue collar, underdog, greasy low life action/horror movie as e are asked to root for a batch of characters who would typically be banished to the sidelines in bigger budget apocalypse films. These are not scientists or well worn marines, these are just a bunch of dumb, greasy, rednecks trying to get out of a perilously tough situation and survive.  This, of course, is not your typical end of the world movie scenario. But you know what, it’s about time we got to see a story like this told through the eyes of the average grease monkey. It’s I really love about this flick,

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

In the end, “Maximum Overdrive” is a fuck-all, go for broke, mean as Hell, shit kicker of a film.  Like the goblin faces semi-truck villainous star of the film, it’s completely mindless but dead set on rocking your world.  Stephen King has apologized repeatedly for this tremendous piece of Trash Cinema, and even admitted to the whole film being made in a cocaine fueled haze, but if you ask me it’s really a shame the guy hasn’t gotten back behind the camera. I sure would be curious to see what King would follow this flick up with…  “Maximum Overdrive” is a damn fine and fun piece of B-Movie entertainment. If you don’t take yourself or the premise too seriously, I defy you not to enjoy yourself laughing with or at the movie as it unfolds it’s one of a kind sci-fi/horror/ action yarn about a goofy batch of truckers and yokels duking it  out and fighting for their lives against a world gone mad as machines try to rip their insides out.

“Maximum Overdrive” might not be a classic by the standards of most, but here at The Trash Cinema Collective, it sure as Hell is. Be sure to check this one out, preferably with a cooler full of beer and a handful of pals to share the magic with.

3 1/2 Dumpster nuggets out of 5!

Maximum Overdrive Heavy

See you at The Dixie-Boy SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th for Trash Cinema Nights at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack as we will be screening both “Maximum Overdrive” and “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” back to back starting at 8pm!  Hope to see you there, Gang!  Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster shack is located at 325 N Bronough St  Tallahassee, FL 32301

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

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

VHS-Movie-Poster-2012

a Primal Root review

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

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

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

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

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

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

vhs - amateur night

First up:

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

v-h-s1

‘Second Honeymoon’

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

vhs-movie-glenn-mcquaid-tuesday-the-17th

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

VHS - Emily Ghost

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

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

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

*END SPOILERS!*

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

12
Nov
12

Scarlett Vixen: Devil Girl of the Month November 2012 (NSFW)

Hey Gang, it’s The Primal Root here and I am very proud to announce our Devil Girl for the Month of November, Scarlett Vixen! One of The Trash Cinema Collective’s very first supporters, Scarlett is making her Devil Girl debut here. However, having personally witnessed  her creativity, enthusiasm and being right at home in front of the camera, I have a feeling this will not be the last we hear from this particular Devil Girl. Please, check out our good friend, Ms. Vixen’s photo spread and be sure to give her a warm welcome to The Devil Girls.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

a quick word with Scarlett Vixen, our Devil girl of the Month

Primal Root: Scarlet, what was your inspiration for your Devil Girl spread?

Scarlett:  Carrie has always been one of my favorite horror films and I have always wanted to do a sexy photo shoot with blood.

Primal Root: Do you have any other favorite Trashy movies? What are you into? Tell us a little about yourself.

Scarlett:  ‘Switchblade Sisters’ and the ‘Highlander’. I’m addicted to tattoos and piercings, zombies, Batman, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Nightmare Before Christmas. Im a single mother of 2 adorable munchkins ages 18 months old and 4 years old.

Photography by Rewski Photography

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rewski-Photography/267873509900313

15
Oct
12

Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight

a Primal Root written review

Growing up in a household that could afford premium cable, as a youngster, there was no greater pleasure than staying up late, hunkering down on the sofa in the darkened living room, and catching the sick, twisted morality tale that was HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt.’  Being a child whose love for the macabre and horrific was rotted deep within me and growing more apparent on a daily basis, this was MY must see TV.  In my younger years, Nickelodeon’s ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ along with old, dusty, issues of E.C. comicss ‘The Vault of Horror’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt’ had wet my pallet. The promise of a fun, vivid, gory, lesson in how being an asshole will surely end in a fate often worse than death wrapped up in one nifty thirty minute package made ‘Tales from the Crypt’ an irresistible temptation. Add the ever present possibility of  bare female breasts, and my adolescent self couldn’t refuse.

 

Hell, my adult self still can’t refuse.

 

Then, in 1995, I was traipsing through Tallahassee Florida’s long dead Oak Lake Six movie theater on my way to see  ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ when I spotted poster that dropped my jaw to the floor and filled my heart with sticky, black, diabolical joy. Oh yes, ‘Tales from the Crypt’ was releasing a movie called “Demon Knight.’ Needless to say, this was the greatest news my 13 year old self had ever heard. The poster featured a shot of the Crypt Keeper smiling ghoulishly and peering over blue lensed, John Lennon style sun glasses, holding open his epic, and seemingly endless, book tales as slimy, razor toothed demons spewed forth all being led by an slightly aggravated looking bald fellow in a trench coat with his arm outstretched pointing right at my scrawny, freshly teenaged face. I knew, in my misguided, freshly teenaged heart, this was going to be the greatest movie ever made.

 

Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to talk my Mom into letting me see it until it was released on VHS. I rented Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, slipped the tape into my VCR, and braced myself for the glory. Dear reader, Demon Knight catered to everything my adolescent heart could possibly desire. Here’s how it goes down…

 

The action takes place in a dilapidated boarding house that was previously a church where the home’s misfit group of residents (prostitute, laid off postal worker, drunken bum Dick Miller, etc.) find themselves in the middle of an ancient battle between good and evil. See, there’s a drifter named Stryker played by infinitely likeable character actor, William Sadler, playing it straight, earnest, and desperate. Stryker, The Demon Knight, finds his way to this boarding house, thanks to a largely unexplained supernatural star circle compass tattoo in the palm of his hand, seeking shelter. Styker is being stalked down by a slick, seductive, hilarious form of evil incarnate known only as The Collector. The Collector is played by Billy Zane, who is obviously having a field day with such a fun part. In retrospect this might be the high water mark of his career. Which is rather sad.

 

 

Anyhoo, The Collector is trying to get his hands on ‘The Key’ which Stryker is protecting. This key holds the blood of Christ as well as the blood of previous Demon Knights. The fate of all humanity hangs in the balance on this night, in this boarding home, because this key is the last of seven The Collector needs in order to unleash Hell on earth. It soon becomes a show down in the old Night of the Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13 style, as The Collector brings forth an army of vicious, mucousy, pierced up demons that look like char grilled Muppets looking to rip the into meaty chunks anyone who stands between them and The Key. The Collector, on the other hand, finds his own way in through the use of seduction and the promise of granting his victim’s fantasies which leads to some of ‘Demon Knights” more interesting sequences. Needless to say, many will die, few will live, some will get fire pissed on them by Billy Zane, and one character will fulfill their destiny. Oh yeah, it’s one of those type of parties.

 

 

That’s the basic run down of what’s going on in this movie. The mythology surrounding The Key, the Demon Knights and their Highlander-esque back story is something I could honestly devote a whole article to. Plus there’s the obligatory Crypt Keeper bookends to the film that don’t really add much, but it’s cool that the our old pal, The Crypt Keeper, is holding down the fort and spewing the same old eye rolling puns and one liners.

 

 

‘Demon Knight delivered, and for about six months, it was among my absolute favorites and solidified my deep, abiding, love for Trash Cinema. It had graphic violence delivered both horrifically and humorously. Gratuitous and plentiful bare female breasts. A ridiculously fun villain in the form of The Collector, and likeable and enigmatic hero in Stryker, plus a great cast of veteran character actors like Dick Miller, CCH Pounder, and Charles Fleischer as well as a few folks yet to hit their peak like Jada Pinkett , Thomas Haden Church and um, Traci Bingham? Plus, a bizarre cameo by John Laroquette who still seems like a strange choice to me…The morality play aspect of the television series falls by the wayside a bit, but the sick, twisted black comedy is intact and even a bit amplified.

 

Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight isn’t a great film, not by a long shot, but it sure is a Hell of a lot of fun. And at the end of the day isn’t that precisely what you want from this kind of flick? It’s dumb, rude, dirty, sick, over the top and exploitative. It’s a guilty pleasure of the highest order. It’s a dark minded, neon eyed, spook house, horror show of a movie that is only interested in kicking ass, tossing the gruel at it’s audience and letting the chips fall where they may. It’s the kind of horror film where you walk out with a smile knowing that you’ve had a blast.

 

My 13-14 year old self was an instant fan. The poster adorned my wall throughout my middle school years and I sang the praises of ‘Demon Knight’ to all my horrified friends. I watched it nearly every weekend for a span of about six months before moving on to other bizarre, awesome, trashy films. However, the young, teenager inside me still holds this film very close to his strange, trash loving little heart.
Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

17
Oct
11

‘Savage Lust’ or Why you shouldn’t have Sex with Women you meet in Haunted Houses

a Primal Root written review

 savage |ˈsavij|
adjective
(of an animal or force of nature) fierce, violent, and uncontrolled : tales of a savage beast | a week of savage storms.
• cruel and vicious; aggressively hostile : they launched a savage attack on the budget.
• (chiefly in historical or literary contexts) primitive; uncivilized.
• (of a place) wild-looking and inhospitable; uncultivated.
• (of something bad or negative) very great; severe : this would deal a savage blow to the government’s fight.

lust |ləst|
noun
very strong sexual desire : he knew that his lust for her had returned.
• [in sing. ] a passionate desire for something : a lust for power.
• (usu. lusts) chiefly Theology a sensual appetite regarded as sinful : lusts of the flesh.
verb [ intrans. ]
have a very strong sexual desire for someone : he really lusted after me in those days.
• feel a strong desire for something : pregnant women lusting for pickles and ice cream.

 

Okay, so, according to the above definitions if you’ve rented and popped ‘Savage Lust’ (AKA: Deadly Manor) into your VCR and pressed play you assume you;re in for a horrific, brutal sex picture with plenty of nudity and gore to burn your dirty retinas on. And you would be partially correct in that assumption. I rented the crusty old VHS copy of  ‘Savage Lust’ from my local haunt, Video 21, and brought it on home where I gave it a spin.

Right away I was shocked to see this thing came out in the year 1990 since it looked to have the fashion sense and production value of a film shot roughly a decade earlier. Not only that, but this sucker was directed by José Ramón Larraz who helmed some pretty decent horror movies in Europe including an all time favorite of mine, the flesh filled, lesbian blood sucker epic, ‘Vampyres’ in 1975 (under the name Joseph Larraz). Which makes this one even stranger, seeing as it looks really, really, shitty. Which I ‘m not sure is due to a ridiculously low budget, filmmaker apathy towards the material or maybe both…

Anyway, the film starts off just like any old slasher flick with a group of friends heading to a secluded cabin by the lake. No, not Crystal Lake, but Lake…uh, Okapanukey? Along the way they pick up a potentially dangerous hitchhiker, get a flat tire, and encounter a goofy police officer all in the span of ten minutes. And, no, the cliches do not end there. As the sun begins to set our gang pulls over and heads into the woods where they come across an old, presumably abandoned mansion. A secluded, abandoned mansion with a wrecked car as a predominantly displayed lawn ornament, several coffins in the basement, preserved scalps in a closet, a bedroom plastered with black and white photos of a creepy nekkid lady, and the typical coffee table photo album of neatly lined up nekkid dead people.

Oddly enough, this hardly raises a red flag for any of our thirty-something year old teenage protagonists and they decide to SPEND THE NIGHT THERE. What could possibly go right?

How quaint...

But just as you begin to feel comfortable as a jaded, scene it all, horror fan the movie starts throwing curve balls. People start getting killed off in a completely random order unlike any slasher film I’ve ever watched. People you expect to be heroes are killed mid way through, folks you assume will be red herrings till the end die at the most unexpected times and this gives the film a cool effect  because you’re never, ever, really sure who is going to die and when. The beat of the typical slasher film is way off and this creates a feeling of unease and even dread in the viewer. This could be intentional or just really poorly done pacing, but in the end it works in the film’s favor.

Also, when the killer is revealed it is pretty bizarre. Is it a ghost? A creature of some sort? A deformed psychopath? Who knows? The movie keeps you wondering just what the fuck is going on up until the final reveal and explanation which I found to be somewhat unique in the realm of the slasher film. It’s an M.O.  that’s become a little customary but the dealer of death this time around doesn’t feel old and worn to death.

But what is burned into my brain is this really sleazy sex scene between one of our main fellas, whose girlfriend goes missing early on in the film and he hardly cares, and a mysterious Afroed red headed big hootered woman. It’s this strange sequence which comes out of left field and seems almost hallucinatory gratuitous, totally nekkid, bump and grind sequence is inter cut with visuals of deformed faces, busted eye balls and pulpy, freshly yanked off scalps. Now, the woman doing the bonking is not an attractive lady by any means, but she is smiling ear to ear and looks to be having a blast as she simulates getting it on with her mildly latino, chiseled beef cake fuck buddy.  It’s the stand out scene of the whole movie for me and the one I will remember whenever I think about ‘Savage Lust’. And I will think of it.

"Come on, honey, this is fine art! It will look great in the living room!"

 

The mansion itself is also one dang creepy place. It’s dank, dusty, cob webbed and that master bedroom filled with nekkid pictures is just plan disturbing. You cannot help but wonder just what kind of pervy freak lives in this place. you also cannot help but wonder WHY IN THE NAME OF SAM HELL ARE THESE KNUCKLE NOBS STAYING HERE? Man, I would take my chances against the elements in the woods rather than stay in a house with a collection still drippy scalps and a moist, stinky, made bed ready to be slept in by the person who obviously still inhabits the place!I’d much rather risk dying of exposure than worry about those home owners showing up.

‘Savage Lust’ is far from a good movie. No, it’s complete trash. It looks like the film was dipped in beef gravy before being transfered to VHS, the acting is middle school drama department level and the effects are ridiculous. But the film still manages to be a bit creepy and even pulls off something few slasher films ever did after 1984, surprise the viewer!

Maybe I am being overly kind to ‘Savage Lust’ by saying it pulls off a few unexpected treats here and there but I found myself enjoying this little dumpster nugget. It’s so awkward and dodgy that it ended up endearing itself to this sick, disturbed, trash cinema collector’s heart.

I would only recommend ‘Savage Lust’ to those of you who are truly devoted to the art of sleaze and horror hand dipped in thick, nacho, cheese. It’s not a good movie. No, sir. But it’s a lost gem and a perfect example of why we love Trash Cinema.

Now if only I could work the term “Savage Lust” into some pillow talk…

Stay Trashy,

-Root

“She has a lust for life…pray it’s not yours!” Sorry, couldn’t track down a trailer.

 




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