Posts Tagged ‘suicide

21
Nov
17

Blood Rage (1987): This Thanksgiving, put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional!

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a Primal Root written review

“That’s not cranberry sauce…” – Terry, Blood Rage (1987)

Well, the festive holiday season is well underway! First there was Halloween with it’s copious Trash Cinema offerings, soon there will be Christmas with all it’s Yule Tide Trash…BUT FIRST…we must observe our nation’s tradition of celebrating the genocide of the Native American’s be gathering with our closest ken and devouring a roasted dead bird with bread rammed up it’s gaping asshole! Ah yes, THANKSGIVING! We sure love our traditions here in the Land of the Free, but older than even the tradition of Thanksgiving, is the tradition of family tensions, resentments, anger and good, old fashioned violence. Now, Thanksgiving horror films are few and far between. Sure, we all are thankful for Eli Roth’s blood drenched gratuitous mock slasher movie trailer for THANKSGIVING featured in the 2007 Grindhouse Double Feature, and fewer still recall Home Sweet Home from 1981, starring Body By Jake himself, Jake Steinfeld as a sweaty, body building maniac with eyes bulging out even further than his elephant balls sized biceps…which could possibly take place on Thanksgiving, but no one ever mentions the holiday they are celebrating by name. Thankfully, Arrow Films restored a long lost gem of a Thanksgiving slasher film from 1987 entitled Blood Rage aka: Nightmare at Shadow Woods.

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Blood Rage begins with a Mom hot to trot on a date at the Drive-In theater. Her twin boys are in back fast asleep, oddly enough in one shat a child has a double barrel shot gun nestled between his legs pointed at the business end of his junk (WTF?), I;m not sure what this signifies, but it is gone in the very next shot. Mom is fixing to slob knob when the two boys wake up and sneak out of the back of Mom’s station wagon. One young boy, Terry,  finds a hatchet and begins peeping on a young couple doing to forbidden polka in the front seat of their car. The man doing the fucking looks up, sees this creepy blonde kid and promptly freaks the fuck out at him but not NEARLY as hard as Terry freaks out back him. You better believe Terry buries that hatchet into the young man’s skull repeatedly, spraying blood all over the dash, steering column, popcorn bucket and his nekkid and nubile young fuck companion who runs away screaming, bloody and nekkid into the night never to be heard from again. The commotion gets the entire drive-in’s attention and as everyone rushes over to catch a peek of crater face and his dead dong, Terry pulls a past one on his twin brother Todd, smearing blood on his face and handing him the hatchet, effectively framing him.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the ruse works! Everyone buys the story hook, line and sinker and stick Todd in a mental asylum for ten years! Todd constantly proclaims his innocence, but no one listens. They just keep medicating the poor dope and just hope he never kills again. MEANWHILE, over at Shadow Woods Apartment Complex, the now young adult Terry is alive and thriving and living the active lifestyle with his posse of friends and living at his Mom’s place.  During Thanksgiving dinner Mom makes the big announcement that she’s going to marry the landlord of the apartment complex. This apparently triggers Terry who becomes very cold and menacing over the course of the meal. To make matters worse, Todd has escaped from the mental asylum where they hid him away and is heading home.

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Before the leftovers have even begun to cool Terry has started rampaging through the Shadow Woods apartment complex all while laying the ground work to frame his brother Todd yet again. There are some fantastic over the top kills in this flick, but my absolute favorite has to be Terry cutting Todd’s therapist in half with a machete. We do not actually see the cut happen, only a POV shot from Terry’s perspective as he rushes the doctor. We cut to another scene, then back to the doctor who is coughing up bright red cherry Kool-Aid and laying there on the muddy ground in two bloody, drippy, meaty chunks. It’s really a well done little effect and will put a smile on any gorehound’s face.

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The bodies begin to pile up as Terry trots around the complex with ever increasing sick, malicious glee,  killing just about anyone who opens their door all while poor Tood tries to piece his doctor back together, tells little girls to not answer the door for anyone, and actually takes care of his staggeringly drunk mother who passed out int he hallway of her apartment after downing a bottle or two of red after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a pretty brutal affair as people fucking on the diving board are hacked into pieces, gold diggers find their date’s heads hanging from the stairwell and countless Thanksgiving turkey serving utensils are used to break countless kosher laws! It all ends with a desperate chase around the complex between Terry’s on again,off again flame Karen who is running for her life from Terry who is now intent on killing her and chuckling through every last second of it and Todd, who is trying desperately to stop Terry’s reign of horror! Not only that, but Mom, totally shit faces and a little psychotic herself, as grabbed a gun and is looking to put down the bad twin once and for all!

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Blood Rage walks a really fine line between a kind of sleazy tongue in cheek hilarity and truly heartbreaking and disturbing family drama. To watch the film directed by John Grissmer and written by Bruce Rubin, it certainly has a very quirky and alternating vibe to it. One moment you’re laughing at the situation and the pretty impressive practical gore effects, and the next scene you are asked to take the bizarre family situation seriously and feel the deep tragedy of the events that are unfolding for these three mentally unstable people. Not only that, but the leads honestly throw themselves into their roles, often they go a little over the top, but it’s never unbelievable. Many kudos to Mark Soper who plays both Todd and Terry and manages to make these two characters so distinctly different in both character and physicality, I had to look it up to see if these were actually twins or just one guy. I mean, it becomes apparent by the conclusion when they need to be in the same shot together and there’s obviously a guy in a shitty fright wig with his back turned to the camera posing as either Todd or Terry. Still, Mark’s maniacal portrayal of Terry and sympathetic turn as Todd is pretty impressive and makes up for many of those goofy bad wigged short comings. Also, a standout, is Louise Lasser as Todd and Terry’s Mother, Maddy. We get the impression that Maddy might just be insane herself early on in the film, but I initially choked it up to high anxiety. As the movie progresses and her odd behavior escalates and Maddy’s dependency issues become clear, you begin to realize where Todd and Terry may have inherited their instability. There are scenes where Maddy is simply trying to get in touch with her fiancee which are just brutal and anxiety provoking as she continues to lose her mind trying to figure out the right number to contact her dead-at-the-twenty-minute-mark fiancee. But, if you want to talk about a bone crusher of a performance, the finale revelation which comes at the end, will either have you laughing or gasping at the absurd tragedy of it all, but one cannot say that these performers id not give it their all trying to make the material really sing.

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Blood Rage is a true rarity, the seldom to be found Thanksgiving holiday slasher that is not only trashy entertainment, but a flick strives to rise above it’s own admittedly cornball material. To watch a piece of Trash Cinema fully embrace it’s filthy B-Movie Drive-In aesthetic, delivering the goods and then still giving it the old college try to bring an even deeper, more horrifying psychological aspect to the proceedings is a facet I greatly admire in Blood Rage.

So, undo your belt, fix yourself a second plate and gather those you love around the old boob tube for one of the finest Trash Cinema Thanksgiving Slasher Films ever made, Blood Rage. You can thank me later. ❤ Did I mention you can rent Blood Rage on DVD & Blu-Ray at Tallahassee Florida’s own Cap City Video Lounge?

I reward Blood Rage FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

30
Jul
17

(NSFW) Malabimba: The Malicious Whore (1979) The Spirit Wants Inside You…DEEP Inside You.

 

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“You have to look. You have to.” – Malabimba, Malabimba, The Malicious Whore (1979)

a Primal Root written review

You know, some movies you have to wait for them to really warm up and get moving. You’re introduced to characters, you learn who they are, their motives and the roles they play in the narrative, then around the twenty minute mark we get to the inciting incident that sets the thrust of the plot in motion and we continue going through the motions from there. You know what I;m saying? Snooze-A-Rama. Malabimba, the 1979 Italian genre blender flick of supernatural horror and pornography does not suffer from any such issue. No, it hits the ground running and does not let up till the final goddamn frame. Whoever coined the term, “All killer, no filler” might have been talking about Malabimba: The Malicious Whore, because holy fuck is thing a full throttle psycho sexual taboo bending fuck fest like few I’ve ever had the pleasure to endure zipper burn watching, hot diggity dog!

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Young, shy, nubile teenager Malabimba’s (Katell Laennec) mother, and matriarch of a once influential and prosperous (they live in a goddamn CASTLE!) Caroli family, has just recently passed away due to a slight case of MURDER under mysterious circumstances.  The film opens on a seance where the family is attempting to contact her spirit for reasons that are not made clear.   Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the viewing audience, their medium starts flipping the fuck out before becoming possessed by the perverted, malicious, absolutely vicious spirit of the decadent late cousin Lucrezia who immediately begins berating, insulting and sexually assaulting the family. Pop’s  (Andrea played by Enzo Fisichella) has his pants yanked open and his party favor yanked upon before Bimba’s Aunt/Andrea’s voluptuous sister-in-law, Nais (Patrizia Webley) gets her dress torn off exposing her for the entire family to admire then begins making the medium writhe all over the floor in orgasmic screams of horrified ecstacy. As the family carries on with the half nekkid ghostly shenanigans downstairs,  the spirit soon flees to other area of the house, first dropping in on the House Nun/Nurse Sofia (Mariangela Giordano, Peter Bark’s mother in Burial Ground), and gets her masturbating a bit before being forced out of Sofia via Sofia’s strong faith in the big boss man in the sky. NOT TO WORRY!  Quickly after this rejection, the ghost of Lucrezia lays her eyes upon Malabima…who makes the perfect vessel for her rude, perverse, sexually charge atrocities to be acted out upon her family…

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It’s the perfect goddamn set up and Malabimba has it ALL. Incest, profanity, teen sexuality, Nunspolitation, hypocrisy, softcore pornography laced with heavy duty penetration inserts, demonic spirit possession, cock grabbing,  pussy munching, unholy seduction, good vs. evil conflict, murder by oral sex, just to name a few. This is what Malabimba has to offer in a none stop sleazefest that must be seen and experienced to believe. It’s the kind of film that will leave your mind blown out of the back of your head and splattered against the back of your LA-Z-BOY. This is not a sweet, kind, romp in the sheets, no, there is no safety net in any of the unholy love pumping on display in Malabimba, this is a film which boldly charts a moral destroying course to create a filthy, disturbing, highly atmospheric, creepy and erotically charged nightmare unlike any you’ll ever see again.

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Directed by the highly underrated and often overlooked purveyor of many fine Italian Trash Cinema classics as 1981’s Burial Ground, 1976’s Strip Nude For Your Killer and 1972’s What the Peeper Saw, filmmaker Andrea Bianchi has crafted a powerfully nasty, sacrilegious, taboo busting masterpiece in a career built upon such giddy sleaze and exploitation.  Seriously, less than ten minutes in Malabimba’s run time and you already have a 90 minute film worth of drippy, sexual naughtiness. And I am not overstating the facts, it IS this loaded with skin and horror. It feels as if the film is always trying to top itself scene for scene by upping the horror and sex ante, and for this lover of fine filth, it is something I truly admire. This film is all you could ever want and I loved every second of it.

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Honestly, the horror elements are somewhat fleeting as they are generally used as a means to an end leading to sexual encounters which range from disturbing and awkward to down right erotic, sensual and titillating . What really impresses is the fact that the story, as it is, and the characters are not just defined by their salacious nocturnal activities I found myself wondering through the entire film just what will become of the young Malabima and the target of her evil seductive prowess, Sister Sofia, will she stay on the righteous path or end up pulled down to the bowels of Hell by giving in to the cruel sex kitten? Malabimba: The Malicious Whore is sexploitation cinema at it’s down and dirty trashiest, which is it’s grandest form, if you ask me. If you think you might like your sexploitation tasteless and over the edge, and you are not offended by the sight of penises entering vaginas and/or mouths, I highly recommend Malibaba: The Malicious Whore. But you don’t have to take my word for it!

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I PROUDLY award this Grade A slice of filth FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets!

Do not miss this suckers! By the way, this puppy is available to rent on DVD at Cap City Video Lounge in Tallahassee, Florida. 😉

Stay Trashy!

-Root

20
May
17

Death Spa aka: Witch Bitch (1989) Let Me See Your Body Drop

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a Primal Root written review

“Alright, I’ll show you fried chicken, bitch!” – Michael, Death Spa

 

If you’re anything like me, and I know I am, the gym is a pretty uncomfortable place to spend time in. I’m not going to lie, I;m out of shape. I have the keg as opposed to the six pack, my complexion is of the fish belly white variety and I get winded walking up the stairs to the office building I currently work. The stink of sweaty bodies, the harsh judgment in the huddled masses eyes as my flab goes to bouncing on any given piece of exercise equipment designed to improve my cardiovascular function as I gasp for air and my face turns the shade of the ripest tomato in town. Honestly, this is possibly one of the finest setting for a horror films I could imagine. Plenty of scantly clad hard bodies and a few out of shape oddballs thrown into the awkward situation of having to deal with one another as they each spend exorbitant amounts of money to utilize dangerous equipment to try and make their bodies match the standards set by society so that they might be attractive by photoshopped celeb standards and, hence, more desirable and a far shallower level than someone who is sweet, kind intelligent and not so hung up on their own body image. Oh yes, there is plenty of creeping fear to be found in this scenario, no doubt.

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Enter DEATH SPA! A 1989 bargain basement horror film with all the earmarks of a film made right on the cusp of the 80’s and 90’s. The fashion trends of the 80’s are still there, but beginning to get much more neon, the focus on body beauty is strong and the health food, new age craze is about to explode like a bukakke tape all over the face of the consumer market.  Death Spa takes place within the space age (for the late 1980’s) confines of Star Bodies gym, a place that’s every bit as popular as Uncle’s Day at a whore house, but also exceedingly prone to hazardous, deadly, truly horrifying accidents. We are introduced to this establishment as a young, blonde. gorgeous, perfectly fit frolicking dancer decided to call it a night, disrobes, and hits the sauna. After some much appreciated full frontal nudity and gratuitous sweaty body self fondling, the steam becomes some form of poisonous gas and our nubile young fitness expert begins to suffocate of toxic chemical fumes. As she thrashes, and bounces her perky young body in panic around the sauna room, she manages to keep it together long enough to throw an epic kung-fu chop to the sauna’s small peeping tom window at the entrance door.

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We then cut to a woman on fire in a wheelchair , seriously, that is what we cut to after watching a nekkid young woman collapse to the floor with her boobs bouncing in slow motion. Turns out this is a retrospective nightmare of our main character and Star Bodies owner, Michael (William Bumiller), whose wife was crippled in child birth, lost the baby, went insane with jealousy and immolated herself to teach her husband a lesson…huh? Anyway, he is plagued every night by these horrible nightmares of her burning herself into “unrecognizable ashes.” However, when he wakes from this particular nightmare, he finds himself right in the middle of a living one, as it turns out the lovely nekkid blonde dancing babe who just survived a near fatal gassing was, in fact, his new fuck buddy, Laura (Brenda Bakke from Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight and Hot Shots part Deux). She’s not doing so hot and her eyes have been severely damaged resulting in temporary blindness and the necessity to keep them covered in gauze for the remainder of the film, which is a real shame, because Brenda Bakke has some DAMN lovely eyes. Man, what a waste… at least they didn’t skimp on her bodacious body exposure.

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Well, as you might have guessed, this leads the local authorities to the front door of Michael’s establishment and our suspects begin to organize in a single file line.  Leading the investigation are Sgt. Stone (Rosalind Cash from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and The Omega Man), a no nonsense, dreadlock sporting badass and Lt. Fletcher (Francis X McCarthy of Altered States and Interstellar fame) as a man who never stops eating, make bizarrely insensitive, unfunny quips and looks like his heart is fixing to explode any second. These two add a constant police procedural subplot that is one of the few subplots not dropped or forgotten along Death spa’s running time. On their initial investigation the find out that the entire gym is run by a highly sophisticated super computer designed and controlled by David, Michael’s ex-brother in law and his dead wife’s twin brother ( David is played by the late Merrit Butrick who tragically died of health complications due to AIDS and is the one shining performance in the whole film. He’s probably best remembered for his role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.) David has a deep loathing for Michael, but they still have to work together, which makes every moment between them exceedingly awkward and, dare I say, fun?

We are also introduced to our gym rats, several folks in skin tight leotards showing of their tits, asses, and packages while they sweat out their butt cracks. One of these gym rats is Marvin, played by the legendary Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead (1978) and From Beyond. He is basically Michael’s right hand man and security for Star Bodies. First time I watched this flick I assumed he was the killer, but he is so under utilized and hardly seen in the film for most of the story, that hope pretty much faded away. Really. the poor guy’s screen time is maybe 5 minutes. Really, who besides Rob Zombie would cast this guy an make him a mere cameo? Anyhoo, before the cops leave there is another accident in the gym, this time a diving board collapses into the pool plummeting the diver into the water below…and uh, yeah, that’s it. Pretty insidious, huh? The diver is unscathed and everyone walks away fine and the diver, a bit moister, which she was planning on getting anyway.

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Michael picks up the now blind Laura from the hospital and after a surreal candle lit dinner and sexy food feeding segment, asks her to move into his enormous condo which has very few railings for a late 80’s house with several high areas where one who, say, cannot see could simply walk off of them and end up obliterating their spine…Of course she says yes.

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But back at Star Bodies, we are treated to an extended shower scene were a half dozen nekkid ladies treat us to the lathered up fully nude forms before the shower tiles begin flying off the walls and cutting their pretty faces! Not only that, but someone cranks up a fog machine full blast, obscuring our view of their goods, as they begin screaming as if it;s the second coming of Christ, and do that weird slow run out of the shower, like they don;t really want to go, but their noses are getting hacked off, so they might as well.  The cops and Michael start pointing fingers and Dave and the super computer, but Dave throws out the apt point that the computer doesn’t control the fucking shower tiles, and the argument falls flat as Michael, who has a handicapped girlfriends waiting for him as home, invites two of the traumatized yet horny hot shower massacre victims to come fuck him later to make up for the incident. Michael, what a guy!

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And just as this occurs, another gym rat gets his rib cage ripped open by a weightlifting machine that malfunctions and a girl in the locker room gets impaled by a pipe and stashed in a locker…and in the course of the film is never ever found. Even the cops mention later that this young woman has been missing for two days. In fact, the last time we ever see her is when the blind Laura is gathering her items from the locker the young ladies’ corpse  is stashed in, but Laura, you know, doesn’t see her. It’s honestly one of the better scenes in the movie and lasts all of 5 seconds as Laura reaches around the body getting her birth control and buttplugs out the locker as we wait for her to grab a hand full of cold bloody cadaver flesh, but it never occurs. Bummer.

Michael is convinced there is something supernatural afoot and hires a paranormal investigator who ends up trying to shoot the ghost only to have his hand exploded and get tossed around the room till dead. This all culminates with a Mardi Gras party at Star Bodies as women are being melted with acid in the basement, yet omitting no odor, and pools or recently crushed to death clients are still being mopped up at the food station. You really get a sense of a broken community of fitness enthusiasts as they all gather, get drunk and party down while fucking like jack rabbits in the sauna room. Hey, like they say, grieve in the way that makes you feel good.

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Before long, the killer is revealed, the horrifying and laughable incidents reach their fever pitch as people get their hands stuck in blends, people suddenly have wooden chunks hanging out of their heads with no explanation as to how they got there as a topless woman screams at the implication of this, and this might be the one film I’ve seen where flying zombie fish attack someone sending geysers of crimson spraying across the walk in freezer. It’s truly spectacular.

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Michael decides the only way to kill the vengeful, possessing spirit of his undead wife is to…electrify himself after telling her he will show her fried chicken? He starts shaking and spiting and the ghost which is highly flammable (who knew?) begins burning as she unloads her murderous ghostly powers to lock everyone in the party and send them to Hell one by one.  Michael, may I remind you, is a mortal man and walks away from his deadly electrocution TOTALLY unharmed while the ghost of his dead wife burns…back to death? In the computer room up stairs. Our “heroes” make their way out of the gym while all the other extras trample one another and burn to death. The movie ends, hysterically, with the burned into a bloody, gooey skeleton of Catherine, Michael’s jealous, vengeful ghost ex-wife (Shari Shattuck of The Naked Cage fame) as it vows even further revenge on Michael, his current fuck buddy AND his mother fucking gym! All before gagging on her own drippy insides and her eyes explodes like a giant zit. FREEZE FRAME! ROLL THOSE CREDITS!

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Gang, I am here to tell you my descriptions of the content of Death Spa do not get anywhere close to doing this hunk of Grade A Trash the justice it deserves.  With it’s over the top, outrageous gore effects, lack of respect of it’s characters, actors and audience’s intelligence, Death spa makes with the goods, spewing fourth some gratuitous, mean spirited gore, some extended gratuitous nudity, and there is plenty to go round! It;s basically the all you can eat buffet of trash cinema exploitation all wrapped up in one poorly written, awkwardly executed and endlessly entertaining supernatural splatterfest.

Plenty of Blood, Breast and Beasts! Death Spa is a nasty little piece of dreck sure to liven up any Trash Cinema Night you and yours plan to have. The Primal Root says check it out!

I award Death Spa FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets! Only for true Trash Cinema Aficionados.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

10
Feb
16

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

11
Oct
15

Hell Night (1981) Party on, Garth!

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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.

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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

04
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989) Love and Agony or What Scares You?

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

a Primal Root review

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” – Jud Crandall, Pet Sematary 

Recently a friend of mine proposed this question, “What horror film really scares you?” Of course, several gents responded with the standby response, “Horror movies don’t actually scare me,” but I took a moment to ponder this. The first film to come to mind was Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s not the jump scares, or the grisly visages of death returning from the grave to haunt, taunt, and ghoulishly murder the living. Sure, that stuff is down right sickening and terrifying on a visceral level, but for me, the true horror is the idea of losing the ones we love. The moment that still breaks my heart and  has left the deepest scar is the presentation of the sequence where the cute as a button toddler, Gage (Miko Hughes) is run over by a speeding semi outside the family home in full view of his mortified parents and little sister. We hear the agonized screams of Gage’s Father, Louis (Dale Midkiff), as we images of Gage’s all too short life flash before our eyes. In all the horror films I have ever seen, this scares the ever loving shit out of me. This is pain, this is suffering, this is pure horror. It is not played for laughs, it does not rely on special effects, it relies on our empathy and the knowledge that we as viewers understand this grief and dread it everyday. It’s unthinkable, but we always know deep down, that the ones we love can be unceremoniously ripped out of our lives without a moment’s notice. This is primal terror. This is life. Life is horror.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but I used to not like Pet Sematary at all. Honestly, it just never appealed to me as a teenager. But one day I decided to give the film another shot and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I was older now and suddenly Pet Sematary made absolute sense to me and chilled me to the core. Horror can be an exceedingly powerful genre, and at it’s very best, it crushes audience expectations and explores societal taboos. What Pet Sematary explores is the inevitability of death. The journey ends for all of us, sooner or later and we’ve created elaborate myths we call religion around death in order to make some sense out of it. That life goes on somewhere beyond our short time here on Earth that there is an eternity in Heaven or Hell, or that we are reincarnated, or turned into Star Childs, etc.  We will get the answers one day, and I sincerely doubt it is anything any of us will ever expect. I can’t wait to laugh my ass of when it all fades to black and there;s simply nothing just like there was before I was born. But, I won’t be able to. Because I am gone.

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Pet Sematary plays out like a Greek tragedy. The Creed family moves into their gorgeous new home out in the country or rural Maine. it’s miles from town, but is located near a very busy road where huge semi’s cannonball down it day and night. Also on their property down a wooded path is a Pet Sematary, they are show this by a long time resident and neighbor, Jud Crandall (played by the legendary Fred Gwynne). On Louis’s first day at work as the resident doctor on the local college campus, he treats a jogger, Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who was mowed down by a car and dies on Louise’s operating table. That night, Pascow returns to Louis as a spirit and warns him to not visit that Indian burial ground that lays beyond the Pet Semetary. He warns, “The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”

When Louis and Rachel’s daughter Ellie’s cat, Chuch, is run over on the highway, Jud leads Louis out beyond the Pet Sematary to bury Church on the Indian land. The next day Church returns, but is now malicious and smells of death. It is not the cool cat the family knew before getting creamed out that means stretch of road.  Louis is given precious little time to ponder what has just happened when a far greater tragedy occurs. While flying a kite on a beautiful sunny day, their youngest child, Gage, wonders onto the highway and is crushed under the tires of a speeding truck.

Stricken with sorrow and regret that he could not save his son in time and Gage is gone forever, Louis considers unearthing his dead son’s body and entering it in the “sour” ground of the Indian burial mound. Over the objections of both Jud and Pascow’s spirit, Louis bury’s little Gage in the soul of the Indian burial ground and it isn’t long before Louis and Jud must face the reckoning of their decisions.

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In the horror genre death is a given. Characters are killed off all the time to the point we actually look forward to seeing how folks are going to meet their maker. Franchises like Friday the 13th, The Omen, Saw and the like revel in the graphic depictions of the splattery deaths of people we don’t know or really care about.  It has become the punchline to a joke for the majority of slasher horror cinema and it’s played for thrills, humor and entertainment. This is perfectly fine, horror can be a damn good time and a way for us to let loose, experience something visceral and know that no one actually got hurt or died. It was all for the nasty fun ride and then we get to go home safe in knowing this shit will probably never, ever, happen to us. Rarely do horror films so well conceived staged and vetted that they ask us to confront death head on. Pet Sematary is takes a meaningful, deep dark look into the nature of death, and in the very place we fear it the most, our immediate family and ask us what we will do on that day we lose someone we cherish.

So, yes, I would say Pet Sematary is the one horror film that truly, honestly fills my heart with dread and scares me like none other. Just like it’s source material, it is a story built upon the hardest, most horrible of human experiences and languishes in them. Grief, anguish, desperation, they’re all accounted for. The supernatural elements are intriguing and there, but at the end of the day, it’s the honesty in the human element of Pet Sematary that gives the film it’s power to disturb and to horrify. It is a film that has always stuck with me. It reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. Every smile, every laugh each and every spine cracking bear hug, because we all know that one day, we will never touch these people, hear their voice, know their warmth, these souls  so close to us, so dear to our hearts, ever again.  It’s the inevitable tragedy of life. We must learn to except loss. We must grieve and move on. Like the wise, warm and lovable character Jud Crandall says, “May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”

I award Pet Sematary FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

21
Jun
15

JAWS 2 (1978) The Sacred Art of Self Immolation in Times of Crisis

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a Primal Root Review

“Get out the blankets, I’m getting black and blue marks all over my butt, and my moms starting to get uptight about them!” Tina, JAWS 2

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front,  Spielberg’s 1975 summer killer fish movie, JAWS, is a masterpiece. It truly is a fantastic piece of entertainment. Thrilling, fun, horrifying, populated with human characters we grow to care about and monster based in our own reality. Every time you hop in the ocean to frolic in the surf with some naked beach bunny looking to snorkel your wang-doodle, there’s a possibility that a 10 ton aquatic death train of razor sharp teeth and an appetite of destruction is bearing down on you with every intent to turn you into pulled pork and leaving nothing behind but a few buckets of human V-8 juice. Being a Florida native I was practically raised at the beach. Once I saw JAWS, I never looked at those waters the same way again. What’s so incredible, is that this 40 year old master class in how to make a fantastic horror film still holds up phenomenally well to repeat viewings. It’s been parodied endlessly, knocked-off and imitated, but no killer great white shark film will ever top it.

Then there’s JAWS 2. Taking place a few years after the events of the first film we find our star and sherif of little Amity Island, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) patrolling the beaches again. Taking care of children karatying the picket fences and what not. Until, one day, a pair of scuba divers go missing, Brody knows in his guts that it’s a great white who has made it’s way to the warm, calm, inviting waters of Amity Island which has suddenly become a favorite feeding ground for these black eyes, large mouthed death dealers.  As the narrator in the trailer for JAWS 2 explains “In all the vast and unknown depths of the ocean how could there have been only…ONE?” Sure, I can believe in there being more, but holy shit! To come back to the same little piece of turff that Bruce once went on a rampage through? I dunno, I’ll let it slide. After all, stranger things have happened, I guess.

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Brody’s concerns go unheeded by his wife and the Amity Island board of rich assholes, but soon a water skier gets munched into oblivion and her friend who was captain of the vessel towing her when she got gobbled gets so goddamned terrified that, in a moment of sheer bonkers, off the wall violent brilliance, she pours a can of gasoline all over herself and then blows herself up with a flair gun as our shark is gnawing her boat into splintery chunks. It’s absolute lunacy for about 45 seconds of screen time and, in this viewers opinion, marks the absolute high point of JAWS 2. It’s sad, pathetic and hysterical beyond measure. I’m not sure what her plan was, but it really went the Wile Coyote route. But it does end up giving shark 2 a really mean looking burn scar to make it look super touch and cool. It doesn’t really work in achieving this, but Freddy Krueger would take this exact same concept and run with it a few years later to much greater affect and acclaim.

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Now, before you start thinking this is a film concerning adults, I need to clue you in to the fact that the bulk of the movie centers on a group of interchangeable, unlikeable teenagers who enjoy sailing together all day every day. JAWS 2 was looking to tap into the dead teenager slasher market but never really has the stinky shark gonads to follow through. The two Brody boys are among the group of doofy after school special teeny boppers and end up being the focal point of our news blood lusting great white. In the final action set piece that goes on and on and on for what feels like an eternity, our human scarfing shark manages to kill only two of about a bakers dozen worth of teenagers. And the only likable teen happens to be among those eaten. It’s a group of teenagers stranded in the middle of the unforgiving ocean on tiny catamaran sail boats with tarp bottoms. Bruce was able to crush The Orca in JAWS, what the fuck is this sharks issue? There are all these screaming, flailing, dumbass teenagers ripe for the picking and our shark can’t handle it? He manages to eat a helicopter (Oh yes, it does occur, true believers) but can’t rip apart a few flimsy pieces of plastic and tarp bundled together by cheap rope. Man, fuck this shark.

But, I digress, there is a rather nifty kill when a one young man falls over the side of his little dingy and gets pulled through the waves in the clutches of the shark. Also, there a pretty inventive nasty moment when a scuba diver, surprised and terrified by the sudden appearance of the shark, shoots up to the surface and suffers a horrendous case of the bends for his scramble for survival. Its vicious and damn good stuff A little bit more of these kind of scenarios would have gone a long way as opposed to extended scenes of teenage prayer groups on stranded sail boats. Where’s Hooper and Quint when you need them? Oh, that’s right, Hooper won and Oscar and Quint got eaten. We’re shit out of luck, Gang.  Also, there’s a nice tip of the hat to the far superior ORCA: The Killer Whale aka: Death Wish for Fish in the form of a dead killer whale which is discovered by two horny teens frolicking amongst the dunes. How these kids did not smell this baking in the summer sun dead whale carcass a mile away, I will never know.

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Roy Scheider does his best to bring back the charm of the original film and plays Brody honestly, staying true to the character. Portraying the man as someone struggling with PTSD after the deeply traumatic events of the very first film. I’m not going to lie to you, I would have probably been more impressed in there were no shark in JAWS 2 and Brody were just delusional and terrified that something was happening again out in those waters. But, people want to see fins gliding through the water and people running out of the ocean, so that’s not going to sell any tickets.

Of course, by the end of the film Brody is vindicated by a killer shark actually eating people, dons his super tiny Dad shorts, heads out to find his kids, save their friends and ends up the chef of the Friday evening fish fry as he shoves the towns submerged power cable (Huh?) into the sharks gaping maw. There’s no “Smile you son of a bitch!” awesomeness, but Brody mutters something like “Dinner is served!”, “Come and get it!” or “This is going to be a real SHOCKER, wokka, wokka, wokka!”, but the electrified shark death is kind of fun in the same way watching sparklers are. It;s like sparkler, but coming out of a cheap rubber sharks eyes while black smoke billows out of it’s pie hole. Fun, but not as fun as it was when Brody shot that fucker and blew meaty red chunks through the sunny blue Amity Island sky to the delight of the theater patrons and seagulls alike!

Often times the best way to avoid a shark attack is to simply blow yourself up.

Often times the best way to avoid a shark attack is to simply blow yourself up.

JAWS 2 is pretty bland shit. There are some moments of pure fun, but there are 10 times as many halting trips through dullsville. It’s cool seeing the residents of Amity Island again and seeing a bit more of the town itself, but it’s never as fun or electrifying as that fist trip to Amity. It’s certainly the sequel closest in tone to the original JAWS, but it’s also the least retarded of the lot, which makes it kind of a ho-hum entry. It’s sequel business as usual but it’s never downright goofy and awful enough to be enjoyed for it’s badneess like Jaws 3-D or Jaws: The Revenge. It had potential and a cool enough set up, if they had been more daring and bold with what they had. Perhaps making the film darker and meaner than it’s predecessor, which had no balls to not only kill of pretty teenage girls and innocent children, but the holy grail of audience appaling deaths…a dog.

Hey, at least we learned what to do if a shark starts eating your boat. Just explode yourself! If sure as shit can’t touch you now that you’re a crispy critter. Might as well have explained that in the vast and unknown depths of sucker cinema goers wallets how could we not turn this remarkable film into and tepid franchise with a handful of horrible sequels?

I award JAWS 2 TWO out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

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