Posts Tagged ‘supernatural

26
Oct
16

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Samhain’s Darkest Horse

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created by Matt Ryan Tobin

 

“I do love a good joke and this is the best ever, a joke on the children.” – Conal Cochran, Halloween III: Season of the Witch

a Primal Root written review

If you know me int he slightest, it’s not a secret by any means, I am enormous fan and champion of the misfit third entry in the long running Halloween horror franchise began by John Carpenter and Debra Hill way back in 1978 with the original Halloween. The exploits of escaped mental patient Michael Myers aka: The Shape (Nick Castle), his considerably psychotic child therapist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and the blossoming young virgin babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) came to a close with a fiery explosion at the end of Halloween II. Michael was engulfed in flames that were sure to turn anyone made of flesh and blood to nothing more than a hand full of ash, and CERTAINLY must have killed that goofy nutbag Dr. Loomis who flicked the Bic that blew the explosive gas ward of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital sky high…leaving Laurie Strode alone in an ambulance pondering the terribly contrived and problematic twist that Michael Myers was actually her brother all along, which totally negates the random nature of the horror in the original Halloween and reminds you that if you make sure you know your biological family tree and keep dibs on all the blood thirsty, unkillable maniacs, you can avoid this sort of predicament and spare your friends every Halloween night.

Halloween II would have been a pretty fine conclusion to the story of Haddonfield and it’s brotherly Boogerman, if the original film hadn’t had a far more suitable and deeply unnerving conclusion already, so where was the Halloween franchise to go from it’s 1981 sequel? Would John Carpenter and Debra Hill venture to make another lazy, dull, predictable story about the now totally cremated and burned to smithereens masked madman Michael Myers? Well, if you are familiar with these two remarkably creative, innovative and fearless individuals, you know that this is exactly the road they’re not going to travel. In fact, their decision would go on to become the stuff of legend. The third installment in the Halloween franchise would be a massive departure from the story of Michael Myers and would, instead, tell a brand new, original story based around the holiday of the title, Halloween. It part of an incredibly commercial and brilliant concept of Carpenter and Hill that would make the Halloween franchise a yearly canvas for an infinite number of creative minds and filmmakers to create their own, unique, one off Halloween stories that could birth any number of spinoffs, sequels, remakes, reboots and reimaginings down the road! One paper it sounds like a wonderfully viable and lucrative concept, one that would keep the franchise running strong for decades to come! Debra Hill came up with the basic concept of the story, “witchcraft meets the computer age.” The team contacted Nigel Kneal (writer of the The Quatermass series) who wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what would become Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. 

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Our film begins with the creation of a digital jack-o-lantern set the dark, ominous tones of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s fantastic score. Long gone is the iconic Halloween theme that immediately puts audiences on edge. Here, the score is menacing, low, and mysterious. The audience accustomed to the simple stalk and slash formula of the previous entries are clued in right off the bat that there is something different at work here. The jack-o-lantern is no longer something physical we’ve all held, touched and carved before. No, this is something alien and untouchable. As the credits conclude, the computer generated grinning jack-o-lantern begins to flash over white as an audible buzzing is heard. It’s strange, off putting and the significance of this is a totally mystery to us… for now.

The story centers on Dr. Challis (legendary cult icon, Tom Atkins), a flawed, damaged gentleman who is not by any stretch of the imagination your typical hero. This guy is divorced with two kids, a womanizer and, from what it would seem, a functional alcoholic.  At every turn the man is sexually harassing his staff (or, I guess it would just be called flirting in the early 1980’s) of knocking back beer or bourbon. Even when visiting his ex-wife she mentions, as his pager goes off to call him to the hospital, “drinking and doctoring: GREAT combination.” She hasn’t witnessed this man drinking, he just showed up smelling like booze. Yeah, this guy is our hero, ladies and gents!

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Womanizer. Drunkard. Hero.

Challis arrives at the hospital to care for a man in hysterics who is clutching a popular Silver Shamrock Halloween mask and babbling what seems to be nonsense about “They’re going to kill us! All of us!” Challis sedates the man, puts him in a room, slaps the nurses ass and goes to sleep it off in the doctor’s lounge leaving the poor old guy all alone so minutes later a silent man in a three piece suit can just wonder into his room and dismantle his skull bare handed. When Challis is woken up by the nurses cries over the patients sudden case of collapsed skull, he gives chase, but it’s too late. The silent killer has doused himself in gasoline and blown himself up in his car. Challis looks on with a face that clearly expresses and slightly hungover “What the fuck?” The audience feels his pain.

The murdered man’s daughter, Ellie (the gorgeous Stacey Nelkin) shows up to claim the body and the local authorities try to comfort her by claiming it was just a random psychopath who walked in off the streets and single handidly crunched her father’s head into bloody, flappy chunks. The next day she track Dr. Challis down early in the morning at a local bar and enlists his help to figure out just who wanted her Father dead and why. Dr. Challis, who can never say no to a free booty call, grabs a sixer of Miller High Life, calls his ex-wife to back out of his obligations and heads off the Santa Mira, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, the town her Father was last seen headed before he became a babbling lunatic with a warrant out for his noggin.

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What Dr. Challis and Ellie uncover between swigs of bourbon and all night fuck sessions, is a vast, deadly, evil conspiracy, one that has been conjured up over hundreds of years and will bring the world to it’s knees as horrifically grotesque sacrifice is made. As the mastermind behind this horrifying plan suggests, “The World is going to change tonight.” And if this evil madman’s scheme does pull through, the world will be transformed forever…

***SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!****

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Okay, so it turns out the guy who runs Silver Shamrock novelties, Conal Cochran (played with enthusiasm and cheerful menace by the late, great, Dan O’Herlihy) is a druid and a warlock with a massive army of murderous robot people. He also has stolen a block from stonehenge and is chipping off pieces of the missing block to add just a fragment of the stone into the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks along with a small computer chip. What is the importance of all this? Why is Mr. Cochran willing to murder people in order to ensure these masks are made and are the hottest Halloween masks on the market?  What is the deal with the big giveaway happening Halloween night where all the children must watch their TV’s while wearing their Silver Shamrock masks in order to win? Because it’s all part of a grand scale child sacrifice. That’s right, when the big giveaway happens, those wearing the Silver shamrock Halloween masks will be subjected to a blinking jack-o-lantern. This image in conjunction with the piece from stonehenge will end up melting the head of the child wearing  mask and produce copious amounts of roaches, spiders, and venomous snakes.

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Yes, this plan is totally fucking bonkers. Evil always works best when it’s bonkers, if you ask me. It;s so bizarre, so downright disturbing and nightmarish, it totally devastated me when I was a kid watching Halloween III: Season of the Witch for the first time. In the typical language of cinema, the kid never dies. Then you see Halloween III: Season of the Witch, you do not only get to witness a little kid get his head melted, but you watch as he, still living, chokes up rattle snakes, roaches and and tarantulas before his horrified parents eyes. I honestly watched the scene much like Dr. Challis does as he watches through a monitor in Cochran’s secret warehouse. You cannot believe what you’re seeing. It;s so dark and weird and macabre and unflinchingly grim…it then dawns on you that in matter of hours this is going to happen everywhere. In every living room all over the world. I know a lot of people bring up that THE BIG GIVEAWAY is at 9pm and that the movie didn’t account for time zones. Ugghh, I am sure the time zones are adjusted and that the filmmakers just didn’t want to make it monotonous by listing ALL THE DIFFERENT TIME ZONES all of the world.  Anyhoo, it’s a nightmare to imagine as kids die a prolonged, agonizing, supernatural death and their poor parents then get attacked by the living, nasty contents of their now melted spawns cranium. I can’t help but imagine what this little practical joke will do to the economic thrust of the holiday season. Shit. Little Buddy’s head is gone, I guess we can return that Atari to Toys R’ Us…

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Also, I must address the Ellie controversy. A lot of people wonder if she was  robot all along or not. My theory is that Ellie was a real, flesh and blood human being through the whole movie until she is captured by Cochran and used to lure Dr. Challis to the Silver Shamrock Factory. Cochran had a crude robot duplicate of her made, Dr. Challis rescues that robot,and Ellie is left to burn alive in the Silver Shamrock explosion. Yeah, my theory is dark, bleak and assumes the female lead suffers a brutal death by burning all alone in the bowels of mad toy maker’s factory, but to me that is the appeal of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Our hero is inept, saves no one, including his own children and the world witnesses the absolute terror that Conal Cochran has unleashed upon the world. The film ends with Tom Atkins, Dr. Challis, screaming into the phone as the Silver shamrock jack-o-lantern flashes on the screen, “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIIITTTT!” And the credits roll. He doesn’t win. We are left to imagine the outcome of this gruesome terrorist attack. To this day, the ending of Halloween III: Season of the Witch sends chills down my spine. If you think about it, that ending could symbolize the corporate take over of America. Our youth poisoned by what they are fed day in and day out through all forms of media until their heads rot and the same nasty, mean, venomous shit comes pouring from their mouths. Fuck…could Atkins have been trying to warn us all long? Did the evil that occurred at the end of Halloween III: Season of the Witch already occur? I take a glimpse from time to time and see what comes spewing into my living room through cable television and it’s not hard to imagine that the kind of televised consumer apocalypse may have already happened.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a the underdog of the entire franchise. History speaks for itself. The movie bombed horribly due to the fact it was critically panned and the fans wanted more of the same, which they got a few years later in the hideously underwhelming Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which I do enjoy, it’s just a really, really, cheap, poorly shot, and not very entertaining or inspired movie.

To be be perfectly honest, I couldn’t stand Halloween III: Season of the Witch when I first saw it as a child. It was too dark, too mean and there was no Michael Myers!I was right there with the folks who were disappointed in the lack of familiar elements.  However, time has been very kind to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it has grown into a sort of cult favorite among horror movie aficionados. After watching the same Michael Myers bullshit over and over and over I began to go back to Halloween III: Season of the Witch just to remind myself why I didn’t like it. Just like many of my horror brethren, I think many of us found what we initially presumed to be the film’s weaknesses to actually be this movie’s greatest strengths. Folks like myself who revel in the third installments stand alone story, bizarre gore effects, disturbing mystery, incredible fresh and creepy score, nightmarish concepts and and damn fine performances. It’s the last of the high quality, well shot and intriguing Halloween films and possibly my favorite of the entire series, including John Carpenter’s original, which I have tremendous respect for…but Halloween III: Season of the Witch is such a one of kind masterpiece of the macabre, I look forward to watching it every single Halloween season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Myers and the original Halloween just fine, but like I said earlier, I always like my evil to be a bit more fucking bonkers side of things.

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created by Cavity Colors

Every October I watch as people create more and more original art based on Halloween III: Season of the Witch as it’s cult status and admiration grows. I’m not going to lie, it brings a salty tear to this Trash Cinema fans eye every year as I watch what was once the laughing stock and whipping boy of the Halloween franchise become more and more the stand out and most beguiling dark corner of the whole series.

I award Halloween III: Season of the Witch 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

 

 

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

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“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

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However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

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It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

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Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-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

03
May
15

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1977)

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A John (Whiskey Sour) Carpenter written review

Hey Gang! Normally here at the Collective, we tend to stay more in the trashy, horror(y?), sexy, lovingly yet poorly made schlock world of celluloid. On occasion though, straying from the beaten path is necessary. Even more, sometimes it reeeeeeeeeeally pays off. Enter Master of the Flying Guillotine!

This film truly deserves a wider audience than it has. Considered by critics and aficionados as a paragon of the wu-xia (woo-shaw) genre, which you probably know as kung-fu movies, this film is a gods-damned blast. Light on plot, but heavy on incredible action sequences, imaginative fight choreography, bizarre kung-fu powers, and enough birds flying through fights to make John Wu blow a load, this is a film worth your time. Let’s dive in.

The film opens with a very old, blind kung-fu master practicing at his mountain home, with a narrator explaining that said master works for the ruling government as an assassin. A bird flies to him with a message taped to it, informing him (and you, the viewer) that his two disciples have been killed by another legendary kung-fu master known as the One-Armed Boxer. The master vows to avenge their deaths, and whips out his flying guillotine, which is something you do NOT want to put your dick in. Essentially a hat with the edge lined with blades on the outside and inside attached to a chain, he shows us exactly why you, again, do NOT want to put your dick in it. He practices on some dummies by swinging the guillotine around, throwing it over their heads, and instantly and completely decapitating them. Feeling ready, he throws a tiny bomb at his house, burns the place up, and goes on his journey, vowing to kill the One-Armed Boxer. Unfortunately for him, it seems that ancient China has enough one-armed men to keep Tommy Lee Jones busy for decades.

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Cut to a kung-fu school, we learn that the One-Armed Boxer runs his own kung-fu school, and is actually a pretty nice guy. He’s not overly fond of the ruling government, which seems rather oppressive. He gets wind of a kung-fu tournament held by another kung-fu school. He has correctly assumed that Mr. Guillotine is out to pull his head off, and wants to stay low. However, his students convince him to allow them to, if not participate in the tournament, watch it to learn something. They go, and we are witness to some of the most fun sequences of fighting I’ve ever witnessed.

We get match after match of gruesome, silly kung-fu fighting, where everyone has a great name and skill to match. We also get introduced to some memorable side characters, including a Mongol fighter, an Indian yoga master who is basically Dhalsim from Street Fighter, and a Japanese fighter who I assume is some kind of policeman type figure. A Thai kickboxer is introduced earlier in the film as well, who also participates. We get to see some fantastic fighting, wonderful cinematography, and some laughably silly powers. In the middle of our fun unfortunately, Mr. Guillotine shows up and starts fucking shit up and ripping heads off people. It’s at this point that the film spirals into true awesomeness. The Thai boxer, Indian yogi, and Japanese guy team up with Mr. Guillotine, because reasons, and One-Armed Boxer has to use his wits and skills to take them out one by one.

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I’m sure you can figure out how the film goes from this point. It’s rather predictable in all honesty, but it doesn’t matter one bit. The final four fight sequences are incredible, extremely well shot, and very imaginative. The final fight with Mr. Boxer and Mr. Guillotine is a combination of John Wu just jerking off birds into the shot everywhere, but with an actual reason for it, Home Alone-style booby traps, and flat out bad ass fighting. It’s also fascinating to see the treatment of other ethnic groups in the film. Finally, it’s a FANTASTIC introduction to the legendary Jimmy Wang Yu’s work. If you don’t know the name, learn it. He is one of the most important figures in Chinese film history, and therefore film history, and highly influential in the martial arts film genre. Without him, we might not have films like (whether you like ‘em or hate ‘em) Flying Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and other films heavy on acrobatic fighting with bizarre powers. He also in part set the stage for the rising star of Bruce Lee. He has a HUGE body of work that is worth watching. In short, watch the fuckin’ movie. You can find it on Youtube, or get it from Netflix DVD, or probably Torrent it or something. I advise getting a version with subtitles, as apparently the dubbed versions aren’t that great. I give the film 4 out of 5 head-ripping offing, flying kicks to the facing, all out fun as hell dumpster nuggets. Definitely worth your time!

01
Oct
14

Ravenous (1999)

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a Rebecca Keel review

I had the pleasure of seeing ‘Ravenous’ for the first time recently.  This 1999 slow-burn horror film starring Guy Pearce,  Robert Carlyle,  and David Arquette surprised me in a lot of ways.  I didn’t know much about the film when I sat down to watch it;  I’d seen it recommended here and there on the Internet,  and I had a vague idea that it was about cannibalism,  but beyond that,  the whole thing was an impressive surprise.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s never gotten the attention it deserves,  and while I definitely agree with that,  it seems like its own quirkiness has been instrumental in keeping it a well-kept secret from the mainstream horror scene.

Cinematically,  ‘Ravenous’ represents the collision of several elements which don’t typically walk around holding hands.  Its pacing,  character development style,  and quite a lot of its cinematographic choices feel more like a classic Western than a modern horror film,  and apparently I was far from the first to make this connection (Jacob Knight over at nerdbastards.com highlights the role of elements from the Western genre as being fundamental to the film:  http://nerdbastards.com/2014/06/03/retro-review-ravenous-is-an-even-better-western-than-it-is-a-horror-film/ ).  It’s also filmed in a retrospective style that often makes it easy to forget that it came out the same year as ‘The Matrix’.  This combination of Western genre film construction and old-fashioned filming style successfully tricked my brain into repeatedly thinking I was watching a film much older than this one actually is.  Meanwhile,  the gore and makeup effects have an offhand realism that reminds me of sweeping,  dramatic war films. The kind of horror story it presents is in tune with the film’s style:  it’s constructed with fairly limited plot twists and instead of relying on cheap startle techniques,  it tells a thoughtful tale which stayed with me long after I watched it,  enticing my mind to play with the sharp edges of its implications.

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The film’s setting was quite unusual as well.  The Mexican-American War,  which went down during the mid-1800s before the outbreak of the American Civil War,  is far from a typical time period setting for any genre of film,  and it seems even more bizarre as the backdrop for a horror flick.  Yet the film’s writer,  Ted Griffin,  and its director,  Antonia Bird,  made good use of the features of the setting to generate genuine feelings of isolation and desperation which sometimes feel forced in horror films set in the Information Age.  Utilizing Native American culture and legends gave the story an air of authenticity that was hard to dispel and made for convincing storytelling of a caliber I typically only associate with a few horror novelists (such as Dan Simmons,  whose historical-fiction horror is some of the best in the field).

Yet it’s easy to see how fans of mainstream horror could lose interest in an artistic film like ‘Ravenous’.  The film’s  score is at times grating,  though the effect seems intentional and helps drive home the events playing out on-screen,  while at other times idyllic background music which seems like it would be more at home in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has a jarring effect when taken alongside the foreshadowed events and the horrors that have already taken place.  Such decisions can alienate viewers who prefer and expect a more conventional film score,  though this technique is increasing in popularity (or at least acceptance) among mainstream viewers.  The pacing of the plot’s revelations requires patience fans of films like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Grudge’ aren’t always willing to grant a film,  and the lack of monster makeup might make it hard for some to swallow a film that is,  frankly,  set up to be a type monster movie.  But for fans of old-fashioned horror,  ‘Ravenous’ has a lot to offer.  Many elements of the film would feel at home in a story by Lovecraft,  Matheson,  or Poe.  And the film’s unabashed frankness and realism in the face of the supernatural leaves me hovering in that delicate space between belief and disbelief which is the hardest form of terror to shake off.

28
Aug
14

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

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a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

killer party head

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Nov
13

V/H/S 2: Cassette Carnage

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a Primal Root review

Anthology movies, like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and VHS, are so often a mixed bag of the mediocre, boring and sometimes genuinely outstanding,  which is why I am happy to report the majority of VHS 2 is a pretty horrific and entertaining ride. That is, if you can make it past the the wrap around segments which are just as dull as they were in the original VHS, and the very first story entitled “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” which is a cure for insomnia, you will be okay because it all picks up from there.

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See, in “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” we are shown the story of a young man who loses and eye and gets it replaced with a…bionic one that not only allows him to see, but records everything to a VHS recorder I’m assuming the doctors implanted up his ass. Now, why a hi-tech procedure like this would end up having the recordings of it’s clinical trial dubbed to something as defunct and rarely used as VHS is beyond me, but at least the 15:9 aspect ratio kind of makes sense, I guess. Anyhoo, the new allows this guy to see dead people meandering around his posh house out in the suburbs. He is befucked by a young woman who explains what going on and exposes her lovely tits in the process. Things go from bad, the worse, to I;m going to gouge my bionic eye out with a three pronged kitchen utensil because I’ve seen a couple ghosts over the span of 12 hours.   It’s dull/ Even by my standards, I just could not muster up the effort necissary to be interested, that is, until that fleeting moment when the read head takes her top off. Otherwise, this entry is on par with the wrap around, it fails to engage and feels like it’s there to fill up time. Eye implants have been done (Tobe Hooper’s segment in Body Bags, that terrible movie with Jessica Alba that featured a truly inspired title, etc.) and this one was not an impressive entry into that sub-genre.

DO NOT DESPAIR! I nearly did, too. Trust me, things get better.

VHS 2 MOVIE

Goddamn zombies. Those fucking things are everywhere. Prime time television to baby bibs and lunch boxes, those undead fucks are as inescapable as Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. Enter “A Ride Through the PArk” the story of a young gentleman who goes on, you guessed it, a ride through the park. Things take an interesting turn when a bloody and bitten young woman collapses onto his bike trail screaming for help. Our fellow goes into help her and gets his neck chomped for his trouble. Soon he dies and transforms into a shambling, bloody, undead zombi himself and is able to record his sticky, gruesome, blood soaked escapades via the camera attached to his helmet. What makes this entry somewhat interesting is the use of POV, it’s expected, but this is the first time I have seen it happen from a flesh eating corpses perspective and it actually proves to be an interesting and darkly comical experience.  Our protagonist undead biker guy ends up devouring a couple who stop to help him out, transforming them into zombies in the process. Things hit a high note as soon as the zombies meander upon a little girls birthday party in the park. It’s one of the funniest and wildest moments in a franchise that has seemed overwhelmingly beholden to the morose and ugly. Sure, this is tragic, but my God, it’s fun watching parents scatter and children scream as they flee into the woods and mini-vans.  The zombies are doing their jobs and doing them well as the living  constantly fuck up, you know,m throwing baseball bats at creatures intent on stripping the flesh from your bones rather than hanging on to it, you know the type. Well, some of our undead biker’s humanity still remains and it leads to a sad and, again, guiltily comical finale. This entry has energy, creativity and is a hoot AND a holler. When I found out Eduardo Sanchez directed this puppy, it made me all the happier. The man was half the creative mind that brought us 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” which helped blaze a trail for all the found footage horror film that followed. He’s also had a hand in numerous damn fine horror and sci-fi films over the past decade or so under the radar. It only makes sense that he would join The Collective who brought us he VHS franchise. Well done, sir!

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“Safe Haven” may just be my favorite short film in this batch. It tells the story of a a news crew doing an investigative piece about an Indonesian cult. The leader of this cult is small, wide eyes fellow who, it is implied, sleeps with all the little girls in his cult so that they may be “purified.” At the cult’s headquarters, which are located far off in the sticks, the news crew is thrust headlong into a very important ceremony for this cult. The tension swells as we the viewers know this is not going to end well for anyone. This segment keeps you on your toes to the very end, turns every convention on it’s head, and manages to actually be shocking and horrific in it’s Jim Jones styled story. It’s no surprise, seeing as it was directed by Gareth Evans, the gentleman who delivered one of the best, bobe crushing, martial arts films in sometime “The Raid: Redemption” in 2011. The man understand staging, suspense building and character payoff. “Safe Haven” is one very strong, stiff drink and  I don’t want to spoil a damn thing, you really need to see this short.

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And the final segment “Slumber Party Abduction” is another entry that manages to knock it right out of the park. This entry involves a step brother and sister spending a weekend together as their parents head out of town for a vacation. The older sister invites her arrogant boyfriend over and the younger brother invited his buds and all manner of hijinks ensue.  There are water balloons, interrupted sex acts and masturbation caught on doggie cam. It’s a ll pretty sophomoric and stupid as this kind of shit always is, but THANKFULLY there’s some insidious shit going down that the hardly register to the kids until it’s literally right outside their door. What we end up with a siege film caught on tape and once the chaos begins, the action and horror never lets up until the final, frenetic moment.  you know how the second tale was told from the zombie perspective? This tale is told almost entirely from “Doggie Cam” since the dog has had a waterproof camera attached to his head. The poor little dog, Tank, captures every last terrifying moment on tape and ends this episode on a brilliant, downbeat and heartbreaking note.  Jason Eisner takes advantage of his set up by presenting terror through the eyes of several helpless children and their pint sized pooch. The kids are very natural and easy to believe, and once the shit hits the fan, each loss is felt. Damn fine piece of horror film making.

And then the movie ends with the shitty, uninspired conclusioon to the wrap around story which involves murder, crab walking, a bloody, wagging tongue and a well times thumbs up.  Come on guys, give me a fucking break.

At the end of the day. VHS2 is an upgrade over the original anthology which almost felt like an excuse to expose an ample amount of female flesh rather than present any truly affecting horror stories. Three out of four stories are solid gold which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I was braced for  disappointment and found myself surprised and fairly impressed.  It cool to have a new anthology franchise out there, especially one to feature found footage, it seems like the possibilities are limitless and could produce more great horror stories and bring unappreciated filmmakers some well earned limelight.

3 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Worth checking out!

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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