Posts Tagged ‘surreal

10
Mar
14

Funland (1987) Dancing with the Angel of Death

funland

a Primal Root written review

As a lifelong Floridian, with The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios close by,  you grow up having a special kind of understanding of the amusement park business.  I’m sure to those who travel hundreds or thousands of miles and spend entire fortunes to come visit our state’s economic clit ticklers still feel the magic when walking down main street while wearing your short Dad shorts and fanny pack  in the skull liquifying summer heat or  watching film legend Brendan Frasier mug for the camera as they are thrown around on the indoor roller coaster based on the contemporary cinematic classic, “The Mummy Returns”, but for those of us in Florida who take a stroll through these parks on an almost annual basis, we can tell you there’s some shady shit going on just beneath the fairy tale surface…

This just might be why 1987’s bizarre, skit heavy, amusement park centered comedy/psychological drama “Funland” holds a special place in my rotten, filthy, heart.  “Funland” is one very strange, very off kilter film filled with a dozen or so ideas of which only about a half of them ever take root and really make an impression.

Funland is preparing for another season of family friendly fun and attractions, with hundreds of new recruits just chomping at the bit to press the “START” button on the park’s rides,  clean brat puke off the sidewalks or sell concessions at the ridiculously racist “Fresh Watermelon” stand! Most excited of all is Bruce Burger (David L. Lander, Squiggy from Lavern and Shirley), the clown mascot of “Funland” who was once the head accountant before suffering a complete mental breakdown that left him believing he is the actual incarnation of the parks clown mascot, Bruce Burger. See, the park’s owner, Angus (William Windom) believes in loyalty over profits, and keeps this mentally unstable man on board as Bruce Burger.  It’s a sweet, home spun gesture, but Angus soon meets his end the way most decent men do,  found dead face down in a body of water under mysterious circumstances.  his wife soon after sells the entire business to the mob who are only concerned about the bottom line an begin filling the park with less family friendly attractions like the Celebrity Death and Disease exhibit and dismantling the musical showcase in order to replace it with strippers.. In all honesty, I might actually go to an amusment park with these kind of attractions.

fun1

The mob also decides to fire Bruce Burger and brings in the “National” Bruce Burger whose played by a  classically trained actor who constantly complains about his job and reminisces about his thespian history ad nauseam.  Bruce takes refuge in the recently closed down wax museum and finds solace in long conversations with a hallucination of Humphrey Bogart  (Robert Sacchi, who pulls off an excellent impression of bogie) and a sausage puppet. Bruce continues living at the park and dressing the part, but his hallucinations and psychosis continue to grow worse, culminating in a strange moment in the Funland cafeteria when the gentleman behind the lunch counter begin rapping, The Angel of Death appears briefly, never to be seen again, and the entire crowd drops what they’re doing and start moving and a groovin’. Once this hallucinatory episode comes an end  the ghost of Angus shows up to grab a bite to eat with Bruce and to divulge the horrible truth, he was murdered. So, it is decided over a game of poker between Bruce and his three most prominent hallucinations  to take action. Bruce steals a mafioso’s gun, heads to the top of the theme parks clock tower and opens fire over the strenuous objections of the talking sausage puppet.

“Funland” is among the most bizarre Trash Cinema videos I’ve ever watched.  David L. Lander as Bruce Burger does a damn fine job portraying the gradual mental collapse of Bruce Burger, a man already teetering ont he edge of total insanity. to the film’s credit, Bruce’s steady decline is hardly ever played for laughs. If the awkward, out of place gags featured in “Funland” were edited out you’d have a far darker film on your hands. but, in a way, all the attempts at levity give the movie an even more disturbing quality. One stand out sequence features the aforementioned “Fresh Watermelon” stand where a white junior manager is giving instructions to the four black men who will be working the stand.  The junior manager asks “Is anyone good with knives” and all the black men back away in fear. Can someone tell me just what the Hell this means? What are these guys afraid of? Was there a scene missing where the junior manager stabs a man to death?

Fresh-Watermelon1

When it’s all said and done, “Funland” is far from a  perfect film, but it is the kind of film that you want to watch to the bitter end simply because it’s so unpredictable, so looney and has so many goddamn plot elements you’ll be dying to see how it all gels together. Seldom do you come across a film that manages to undercut it’s amateur execution and redeem it by way of own it’s twisted, surreal  logic.  It’s constantly quirky and strange making all the logical sense of a fever dream.  To my own amazement, this works in the films favor and makes for an enjoyable, head scratcher of a flick.  For fans of unique, one of a kind, absolutely bonkers trash cinema, “Funland” is one you should really check out.

I give “Funland” Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Jan
14

Chatterbox (1977) Little Bit of Lip Service

 

chatterbox

a Primal Root written review

Ah, vaginas.  The warm, wondrous realm from which so much feminine magic resides.  Men and women both lust for it, strive for it, Hell epic battles have even been fought over it. They can be lovely or horrendous, loving or cruel, healing or deadly. Vaginas can lead us deep inside a woman’s being, still, how much will you come away knowing?  When comparing the sexual organs of both genders, the vagina is  the cradle of seductive, tantalizing questions. The cock and it’s dangling balls are easy to read and interpret. There they are, out in the open for the whole world to see. When we’re ready to rock, that fellow stands at the ready. When we orgasm, we blast a ghostly jet of liquid baby. But the vagina…things are never quite so clear. Perhaps some wetness when a lady is sexually aroused, but orgasms are so often only known to the woman herself, and taken on their word by her partner. Well, what if that vagina started talking to you? You know, started cracking wise,  quipping away during your first date, and perhaps belting out the oldies as you sat down to brunch? What might her vagina say?

This is the premise of Tom DeSimone’s 1977 bizarre comedy musical “Chatterbox” a film which wastes no time setting up the premise. In fact, the very first line of dialog is the young, gorgeous, beautician Penelope’s vagina blurting out put downs to the gentleman she just had unfulfilling sex with.  Of course, the fragile male ego is quickly bruised as Penelope tries to stifle the rude, aggressive voice emanating from her most intimate of female body cavities. See, Penelope would never complain or put down her sexual partner for not helping her to reach climax, but her vagina seemingly has no filter and no concern for feeling’s being hurt. He suitor rushes out of Penelope’s apartment in a hurry and she is left with a vagina that can’t stop running it’s mouth. The following day at Penelope’s hairstylist job she inadvertently seduces a lesbian client due to her vagina’s flirtatious tongue and the two end up going at it and are only halted when her boss, Rip Taylor (of all people) walks in and fires her on the spot.

chatterbox look

Obviously, her new, chatty little vagina is quickly ruining her low key existence. When she goes to her therapist, Dr. Pearl, and shows him first hand the otherworldly abilities of her nether regions, rather than offer her aid, he sees a golden opportunity to cash in on Penelope’s peculiar talent and quickly put her one stage, nude for the whole world to see  and enjoy this new medical wonder he has discovered! For a price, of course.  Before you know it, Penelope’s singing vagina, now named Virginia, has become an overnight sensation! the world cannot stop clamoring for my lip service from her moist, pink,  lady bits! Her disapproving mother walks in on a nude modeling session, no doubt for the latest issue of Vogue, and raises holy Hell! That is, until she witnesses first hand the amount of money Penelope’s singing vagina brings in. My, how money changes things…

In fact, half way though the movie Penelope’s vagina, Virginia, seems to become a separate entity all together, no longer a part of Penelope herself. Through it all, Penelope looks uncomfortable, harried and totally unhappy with the superstar lifestyle her vagina has afforded her. Hell, from the beginning she simply wanted her pussy to shut the fuck up, not become a world wide phenomenon! The poor woman is even forced onto a dating show where it seems she might find some solace in a studly young buck she goes home with, but to no avail, this guy just wants to fuck her while wearing a suit of medieval armor and then kicks her to the curb.

Penelope’s situation comes to a head when she is on the set of her first starring role in a major motion picture based on her singing baby factory after Dr. Pearl snatches her a five picture deal with a film studio.  As men dressed as roosters and peacocks dance ballet and sing along with Penelope’s vagina as it wails out her big hit “Wang Dang Doodle” , Penelope finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs out of the studio, across the lot and off to an uncertain future, much to the chagrin off all those profiting from her unique talents.

chatterbox title

Chatterbox is pretty goddamn funny and has charm to spare. This charm is heavily supplies by Candice Rialson  in the role of Penelope,  our doe eyed, innocent protagonist who is taken for all she’s worth once her talking, singing, spotlight stealing vagina is accepted into pop culture as the next big thing. Candice is a scene stealer, not only is her delivery spot on, her reaction to everything happening to her comes off as adorably honest, if not completely air-headed.  She a young woman with a big heart that is totally over shadowed by the presence of her talkative genitals. Despite her trash talking cooter, it’s Candice as Penelope whom you can;t keep your eyes off of.  She also has copious nude sequences and of the most beautiful pair of breasts I’ve ever witnessed in cinema.  Now that’s worth the price of admission alone, but thankfully, they also belong to a damn fine comedic actress in an above average gonzo comedy.

Now, the intent and underlying message of Chatterbox is something I couldn’t quite pinpoint.  Is this a women’s lib or feminist flick? Or is it  misogynistic? Sure, Penelope’s vagina is gifted, but it brings unwanted attention, in fact, it looks like Penelope is being tormented most of the time and would rather be anywhere than standing on stage with her legs spread for the whole world to see and hear.  People lose sight of Penelope herself and end up only caring about Virginia, as that’s really what’s bringing them success  and notoriety.  Now, Penelope’s vagina blurts out what we can only assume are her most secret thoughts and desires, the ones she would never say otherwise. Often, these outbursts are to the detriment of her personal life when Virginia complains about a lover’s performance or hits on the sexy lesbian woman whose hair Penelope is trimming. But is this some empowerment or invasion of privacy? Did Penelope want this or just her vagina? It’s a strange film in the respect that it bring up some interesting questions and offers no readily available easy answers. Shit, I;m probably thinking too much into a movie about a singing vagina made by  a man who directed nothing but gay porn up until this point. Then again, Tom DeSimone did go on to make two of my favorite Trash Cinema flicks 1981’s “Hell Night” and 1986’s “Reform School Girls”, both of which are far above average in the respective genres. I like the think the gentleman knows a something about what he’s doing.

One thing is certain, DeSimone crafted one far out, whacky and hilarious Trash Cinema comedy with his “Chatterbox.”   the film manages to balance it’s comedic sensibilities  with it’s risque, often sexy subject matter fantastically well. On what appears do be a modest budget, “Chatterbox” delivers the goods, and then some, with a clever concept, story, a wonderful leading leading lady, unabashed creativity and never losing sight of it’s humanity. Seriously, for a talking vagina flick, could you ever hope for more?

this one comes highly recommended. I give it Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

15
Sep
13

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-The-Next-Generation-1994

a Primal Root written review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family dynamic has certainly changed over the years and decades since they first made their teenager  barbecuing debut back in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cinematic milestone.  They were originally a disorganized banned of blood thirsty, cannibalistic psychopaths trying to stay alive after being put out of jobs over at the slaughterhouse. In Hooper’s 1986 sequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2” the clan had adjusted to Reagan era politics, yuppie America and capitalism and even managed to run their own award winning barbecue catering company. By 19990’s “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part III” they had gone back to the part of Texas that looks like Los Angeles where the family looks to be expanding a bit and then, by the mid 90’s, Kim Henkel, the was part of the creative force behind the original, steps forward with possibly the strangest and most loathed entry in the entire franchise.

The movie centers on a young, bespectacled girl named Jenny (Bridget Jones herself, Renee Zellweger) who meet as she is getting ready for prom night before being unceremoniously assaulted and nearly raped by her Stepfather. This is in the first five minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and we never see Jenny’s Stepfather or oblivious Mother again.  It’s an unnerving note to begin such a story on and has you feeling apprehensive from the get-go. You get that feeling this is to set up that moment where you have that revelation while Leatherface is biting some nubile teenage girl’s well manicured fingers from her hands and another family member smears shit all over his upper torso and you think to yourself, “Ya know, this family isn’t all that different from any other!” Makes you think, don’t it?

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Renee Zellweger harnessing her inner Lisa Loeb.

Well, before anyone gets the chance to twerk to “You Look Wonderful Tonight”, Jenny and three of her fellow prom goers end up lost down a backwoods dirt road after a hit and run fender bender. “People don;t know how to build roads!” one idiotic piece of chainsaw fodder declares as they motor towards their meat hook hanging destinies. Then…THEY GET IN ANOTHER WRECK! One that puts their car out of commission and leaves the driver of the other vehicle unconscious laying in the dirt. Jenny and two of her fellow airheaded teens head off into the night to find help while Jenny’s date stays behind to make sure the young man steadily bleeding to death in the mud isn’t ripped apart by voracious raccoons or something.

After a mile of walking and none stop whining, Jenny and her buddies come across the mobile home offices of Darla, who runs a construction business. She seems friendly enough and enjoys flashing her ample bosoms at anyone who throws a rock through her window (…the Hell?) and phones someone to go check on the wreck out in the middle of nowhere and give these kids a “lift.” This mysterious someone is Vilmer Slaughter, a tow truck driving, greased up lunatic with a remote controlled mechanical leg and penchant for screaming like a frat boy at the homecoming game. Vilmer is brought to life by a scene stealing and completely convincing Matthew McConaughey, and watching him play beside Zellweger it’s clear to see where the real talent in Texas resides.

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

Old Fashioned Texas Nostril Flare Fighting!

BUT I DIGRESS! Vilmer shows up to the scene of the crash, kills the coma boy on the ground and proceeds to chase down Jenny’s lover boy and repeatedly run over him, grinding his quivering teenage corpse into bloody, raw, hamburger meat beneath his Goodyears while listening to 90’s “Alternative” rock on the tape deck and howling like a hyena on PCP.  Sorry, but this I fell in love with Vilmer immediately. We need to get this guy and Chop-Top from The Texas Chainsaw MAssacre part 2 together and make a sitcom.

Well, Jenny ends up walking back to the scene of the accident to meet her beau and finds a whole lot of nothing, at which point, she decides to sit in the dirt until her two other pals, who have gone off in a different direction, end up dead and her character becomes relevant again.  While she sits the next fifteen to twenty minutes of the film out, her two friends manage to make their way to the home of these lunatics and run into a camouflage wearing, mullet headed Leatherface who screams like a woman whose teacup chihuahua just got run over by a lawnmower for the majority of his screen time. It gives the impression that Leatherface is just as terrified of these kids as they are of him and, in fact, I have a feeling that might just be the case. Either that or these are psychotic screams of redneck frustration. I suppose you can draw your own conclusions.  All I know is that later, once  all the protagonist men have had their skulls bashed in and Jenny’s been thoroughly chased about the Chainsaw clan’s property and is finally tossed into the dining room in a brand new, and very sparkly, evening dress, Leatherface dresses up in drag and, dare I say it, looks rather lovely.  In brain damaged, blood thirsty redneck wearing a hideous female suit of skin kind of way…

"I'd fuck me."

“I’d fuck me.”

The evening devolves into a dinner scene of near epic surrealism as Vilmer continues to go nuts over his take out pizza, dry humping his sister, Darla, and pouring lighter fluid on his captives and then setting them on fire only to stomp their heads into pickled relish all over the dining room floor. And that’s the moderately normal stuff happening in this house!  The family is visited by some mysterious shadow organization manager who apparently has the Chainsaw clan on their payroll as merchants of fear. The clan is paid to pick up and terrorize unsuspecting young people and, from what I can gather, allow the leaders of this shadow group lick ever bead of sweat and smudge of filth off the captives face while showcasing their own strange abdominal mutilations. When did was this deal struck between the carnage minded Chainsaw clan and some strange Illuminati style group that secretly controls the destiny of society? I have no clue. but it is a strange and intriguing idea to stick within a damn Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Just don;t expect an explanation, ’cause there isn’t one coming.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation reaches it’s absurd climax as Jenny escapes with Vilmer and Leatherface in a lovely black satin robe, in hot pursuit. Jenny manages to ruin an elderly couples vacation by putting them in the middle of the action and the chase is cut short by a crop dusting airplane. Yeah, if you want to see the visual representation of the term “cluster fuck” this would suffice.

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, -The Primal Root

Dear Ms. Zellweger, could you please wear this dress to The Oscars one year? Love, – Root

All in all, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was a bold attempt to do something a little different with a very stale franchise.  In their attempt to infuse the proceedings with a healthy dose of mid 1990’s alternative rock, MTV culture (every chase seen is punctuated by some shitty alt rock/grunge track) and strange conspiracy theories (The Chainsaw clan working for the government?) it feels as if this entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise kind of get lost under the weight of it’s own absurdity. There’s no consistent tone, only one strange,m off the wall set piece after another. And, although, McConaughey does his damnedest to make this thing lively as Hell, and he does pretty much run the show in this entry even if Zellweger never rises up the remarkable level of both Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams in the first two entries of the series, the movie itself never really takes off.  It has all the elements it needs to be a great Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick, but at some point it starts puttering and finally just stalls out and drifts into the ditch.

I give this flick TWO Dumpster Nuggets out of FIVE!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

brain-damage-poster-4

a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

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Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Aug
12

Wicked Stepmother: Low Rent Surrealism

a Primal Root written review

I’ve never seen a movie like it. That’s probably the most accurate critique I can give Larry Cohen’s jaw-droppingly bizarre and nonsensical 1989 supernatural comedy opus, ‘Wicked Stepmother’.  A forgotten oddity of the VHS era,  probably best known for containing Hollywood empress Bette Davis in her final screen performance, ‘Wicked Stepmother’ has got to be some kind of hallucinatory cinematic comedy milestone. Who knows if Cohen & co intended this movie to be such a rapid-fire array of awkward moments, dumbfounding performances and cheesy effects. All I know is that it all comes together as an if not totally enjoyable film, certainly an outlandishly botched witch’s brew movie delight. One thing that may be said with total confidence for ‘Wicked Stepmother’, you will never, EVER see another like it.

This fiasco begins with a police investigation led by TV’s Tom Bosley who you may remember from ‘Happy Days’ (RIP) or if your grandparents were fans of the ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’.  His mission? To locate an evil witch with a penchant for marrying her way into families and using her powers to make them unimaginably wealthy before robbing them blind, shrinking them to the size of plastic army men, and stashing them in shoe boxes under the bed.  It sure seems like a waste of time for a witch of such immense power. There’s just gotta be a more effective way to maintain a steady cash flow.

The witch in question is Miranda Pierpoint, played by the legendary Bette Davis (RIP) putting forth a stiff monotone and (we can only assume) unintentionally  disturbing performance. Miranda has just gotten hitched to an elderly widower, Sam  (played by the late, great character actor Lionel Stander with that unmistakably gravely voice). In one of my favorite sight gags of the movie, we see images of Sam’s first wife on his night stand.  Low and behold, it is Joan Crawford,  Bette Davis’ long time rival.

The new marriage comes as a shock to his adult daughter, hyper-allergenic and moderate psychopath, Jenny (Colleen Camp, who should win some kind of lifetime achievement award for this one, single cringe-inducingly campy performance).  Her husband Steve (David ‘I’ve gotta’ Rasche, desperately try to keep up with Colleen’s camp) though surprised by the sudden change in homestead seems to be taking things well, and attempts to mediate between his wife’s control freakery and his new chimney stack of a mother-in-law.  Their son Mike (Shawn Donahue, who would play his final role the next year in 1990’s immortal classic, ‘The Willies’) is appropriately willful and mainly just refuses to refer to the new addition ‘grandma’.

To Jenny’s fury, Miranda smokes more than the entire cast of Mad Men, combined, in the families’ WASPy digs. She also cooks, eats, and tempts the family with nothing but grilled meats despite Jenny’s insistence in that everyone bow to the nutritional excellence of her broccoli souffle. Although Steve is clearly inclined to give into Miranda’s politically-incorrect ways, Jenny throws her hubby one of her well-practiced psycho glares and puts the guy back in his place. He hunches over the dining room table to choke down his helping of lettuce and oatmeal while thinking about his genitals and how nice a home Jenny’s made for them in her handbag. Miranda also has a cat which unlocks an avalanche of comedic potential as Jenny is…get this…ALLERGIC to cats!  So she spends much of the movie sneezing at inopportune moments and standing around sniffling and delivering her lines with her stuffed up, mongoloid voice. Really. It is a laugh riot. Yeah.

However, my favorite scene in this mayhem shows up early as young Michael is at a beach, unchaperoned, watching some coeds in bikinis bounce & bop around via a game of volleyball.  Earlier, Michael has told Melinda he’d never call her “Grandma”, that she can, basically, burn in hell, then proved himself the deeply cool thug he is by popping the collar on his jean jacket and walking away. Apparently he was strutting his way to the beach where his requests to join in the volleyball game were denied.  However, as luck would have it, the lovely young witch Priscilla (played byTia Carrera’s sister, Barbara! SHWING!) shows up, complete with beflowered sun hat and black veil and winks at Michael, which apparently bestowed upon him with the power to do front flips over the volleyball net. For what purpose? Who knows. It impresses no one in the game and even seems to piss off the more hyper-hormonal boys of the pack. And yet, poor little 12 year old Michael has caught the eye & libido of a twenty something beach bunny. Unfortunately, as often happens at movie beaches,  two buff, blonde dickweeds start kicking sand in Michael’s face while he’s chatting up his new dish.  Again, the young lad is in luck as Priscilla gives him yet another power of Filipino Flip fighting through which Michael hops around cracking bimbo dude skulls.  All of this results in a scene of total prepubescent wish fulfillment, the busty beach bunny takes off her modest shirt to reveal her ample cleavage and offers herself up to the young man with the unmistakable innuendo, “Come here, I’m gonna show you something…” A goofy grin spreads across Michael’s mug as she leads him off to rock the freckles off his face.

The kind of Wicked Stepmother all young boys dream of.

It was around this moment I began to wonder just who was the projected market for this film? It’s a wicked stepmother, fairy tale kiddie charm, sure, but the focus is primarily on adult relationships. In fact, Michael is led off to be statutorily raped, and that’s pretty the last we see of the kid with the exception of him showing up for group shots  lasting mere seconds in the final scene. This thing’s obviously not quite for youngins… but the humor is on a pretty even keel for adolescents despite it meandering between adult issues (i.e. marriage difficulties & geriatric homicide) and it’s unchecked childish hokeyness.  99.9 % of the films run time is spent dealing with figuring out how to murder an elderly woman and a married man fantasizing about/having adulterous sex with Tia Carrere’s sister while a writhing cat tail wags around out of her pooper, growing vines in the yard against an painfully-obvious blue screen under the guise of “decorating for the holidays”, answering trivia questions on game shows, and figuring out a way to write Bette Davis out of the movie since she walked off set about two days into production.  The leave was publicly attributed to her disgust with the script, though it was later stated that the true cause was her deteriorating health.

How do they write her out, you ask? Remember Priscilla? Well, she and Miranda apparently share the body of a black cat. But, see, both spirits can’t cohabit in one body at the same time. “There’s no room for two people in one cat!” a witch academy instructor exclaims revealing this terrible piece of plotting. So,  after Miranda’s 11 minutes or so of screen time are up, she vanishes to be replaced by Priscilla.  Don’t fret, gang, the cat Miranda inhabits also smokes as much as she did, so it’s like she never left! In fact, one of the most bizarre moments of the entire film are cutaways to a black cat hand puppet paws holding cigarettes up to it’s little feline mouth and puffing away, it’s unnaturally large, bugged out yellow eyes and dilated pupils nervously darting around in their sockets.

Eventually the detective character shows back up at a clandestine witch class where Jenny also happens to be attending so she can look for answers as to how to get rid of Miranda/Priscilla for good. Priscilla learns a couple words in Latin and is ready to take on Priscilla in head to head in the ultimate blue screen combat! It’s a breathtaking sequence that pulls no punches in the bargain basement action and effects arena.   Will Jenny be able to banish the money hungry witches from her home? Or will her family end up pint-sized, broke, and shoe-boxed? To be honest, I was too busy laughing my ass off to care.

The bottom line is that ‘Wicked Stepmother’ is one of those films that must be seen to be truly understood. It’s terrible. I mean, this thing is bad. This sucker is Samurai Cop, Troll 2 level bad. But it is still ridiculously entertaining. The intended jokes all fall flat on their faces, but it is totally made up for with unintentional hilarity. It’s like some kind of surrealist fever dream that just keeps getting more absurd and illogical as it progresses. None of it makes a lick of sense and there are an abundance of moments that will leave you wondering if you just actually witnessed what you did.  Better Davis’ performance alone make up for the absurdity of the opening portion of the film.  She is never without a cigarette in her hand and recites her dialog in the emotionless drawl of a late 60’s TV robot.  Once Bette departs the film, the hammy acting, and cheese ball effects really become the stars of the show and lift this sucker up onto another plateau of Trash Cinema altogether.

I may have said too much already. I don’t want to spoil this sucker for you. But when I look back lovingly upon ‘Wicked Stepmother’,  no words can really do this acid trip of a film justice.  I’m not sure if exactly if it’s my strong palette for trash that allowed me to enjoy this thing or if it can be experienced by others and be loved just as thoroughly. I was not expecting myself to end up with the affection I now have for this piece of wack-o film making. Please, if you haven’t seen it, do so. And if you have, please, share your thoughts with us here at The Trash Cinema Collective.  Again, in the annals of cinema, there is nothing like ‘Wicked Stepmother’.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Dec
10

Rotten Reviews Ep. 17: Christmas Evil

Happy Holidays, Gang!

The Primal Root, here, and delivering a very special Christmas package to my fellow collectors! That’s right, I’ve gotten your e-mail’s and facebook messages and I am reviewing one of your most highly requested movies, Christmas Evil! You’ve all been Trashy little boys and girls all year so you’ve earned this one!

Get ready for Santa Cunnilingus, Oedipal Complexes, Shitty Toys, Holiday Trickery, Church Step Brutality, Caroling, Smothering, Throat Slashing, Doll Snapping, Child Slapping, Child Peeping, Kid Slapping, Guilt Tripping, Silk Santa Jammies, Plenty of Slang for Oral Sex, and even a couple Dance Sequences!

This is Christmas Evil. One of the trashiest, strangest, most off kilter and scatter minded horror films I have ever witnessed. Enjoy with the ones you love!

Stay Trashy,

– Root

04
Aug
10

Friday the 13th part VIII: Jason Takes a Boat Ride

a Primal Root review

Space is a giant vacuum of suck for any slasher franchise to deal with. It’s the fish out of water scenario that doesn’t work for characters so deeply rooted in their mythology.  Jason Voorhees never stood a chance in space because no one takes the guy seriously. Now Manhattan circa 1989? How in the world could this forest dwelling zombified mentally ill-equiped boogieman make it on his own in the Big Apple? Believe it or not, surprisingly well…that is, when he FINALLY arrives.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was the final Friday the 13th film produced by Paramount Pictures. The series had an excellent 8 entry run that proved remarkably profitable for the company who kind of viewed the franchise as an (albeit profitable) black sheep. By the end of the 80’s creative teams kept trying to come up with new gimmicks that would make Jason and his exploits interesting again. Part VI: Jason Lives added a bit of a humor element, PArt VII: The New Blood added and telekinetic teenage spaz girl to battle Jason…what else could they try? Why not a trip to Manhattan?

Honestly, the idea is a winning one. How awesome would it be if the film really was just Jason stomping around Manhattan’s seedy, dark alleyways splattering thugs and punks all over the pavement. Shoving hot dog vedors into their carts and rolling them down the stairs. Crashing the stock exchange and hacking away at day traders. Throwing some schmuck off the top of the empire state building…really, the possibilities are endless.

Even Jason thinks gentrification sucks.

Sadly, the major detractor of the film was the fact they don’t get to the Taking of Manhattan till the last 20-30 minutes of the film. And then when J-Cool gets there he doesn’t so much take the place as just borrow it for a little bit and then hand it back only slightly soiled.

Instead, for most of the film’s running time, we are treated to Jason taking an aquatic journey (after commandeering a teenage couple’s boat) on an old, dilapidated cruise ship named Lazarus which is filled with high school teeny boppers and school faculty members on a graduation trip to New York.  No, it’s not what we were promised by the title but I still get a lot of kicks out of Jason Takes a Boat Ride.

Unlike the previous two entries I’ve reviewed for the 13 Days of Friday the 13th, Part VIII falls squarely in the ‘So Bad, it’s Good’ category, as does just about every entry in the series. The flick itself doesn’t make a lick of sense. For one, when did Jason learn how to man a boat? After killing off two kids on one of their Daddy’s boat he takes it for a spin. But not just in circles and then scuttling it onto dry land, but he actually maneuvers it all the way down some river connected to the lake which then feeds into the Atlantic Ocean.

Excuse me?

Not only this, but Jason climbs off this boat and onto the decrepit cruise ship Lazarus to join a group of recent high school graduates and faculty members on a trip to Manhattan. What is Jason’s motivation to commandeer a boat and take a trip to that Atlantic? What prompted this? Did he need a change of scenery? A vacation?

It’s a film that doesn’t make a lick of sense. Jason can teleport in this movie. You read that right, the guy can be one place and the, without moving, pop up somewhere else. This is not some kind of editing mistake, this was done on purpose. I guess they were trying to establish that Jason was kind fo like a ghost or something. A bit misguided, but it is something different. Even if it is kind of…wacky.

"Let me just check your Lymph Nodes here..."

Then there’s the matter of our final girl’s  little Jason hallucinations. Where do these come from?Does Rennie has a history of tripping out? If so, it’s never established in any way, shape, or form so it kind of comes out of nowhere. Could it tie into the Jason as a ghost concept? Is the ship now haunted because Jason is on board?

And why in the hell does Jason activate the fire alarm after killing the A.V. geek? Did Jason decide to play fair this time around or something? Did he set A.V. Nerd on fire, see that it was growing out of control and then fear for the rest of the teenagers’ safety? Come on, movie! What are you doing?

Better give those kids a heads up. It's the right thing to do.

Better give those kids a heads up. It's the right thing to do.

In these moments, I wish the filmmakers could have spent a bit more time trying to clarify just what the crap was going on. These scenes are quirky and kind of humorous because of how outlandish they are and I’ve grown to find them rather endearing. I can’t help but smile when Jason knocks Julius’ head off, then goes through the trouble of collecting it and placing it inside a police cruiser as if it were a decoration.

Once Jason and the survivors of the Lazarus disaster make it to Manhattan it’s kind of touch and go. One can’t help but feel a bit of a rush watching Jason react to seeing Times Square for the first time or knocking a young man’s head off from the top of a tenement building and into a dumpster down below. There are some fun moments to be had here it’s just a shame we don’t get to spend more time with Jason in Manhattan tearing apart some local color.

And that ending where the sewers of New York flood out with a raging rapids of toxic waste every single night at the stroke of midnight and Jason gets completely soaked and…transforms into a pudgy little white kid in a pair of swimming trunks? Not even a rotten, nasty, dead kid…a regular looking little boy who looks like he’s taking a nap. Is this purely symbolic or are we supposed to buy this melting into a child scenario they just shat onto the screen?

There are some fun performances here. The stand-outs are V.C. Dupree as boxer Julius who turns in a funny, over the top, badass performance. Veteran Actor Peter Mark Richman as Principal McCullom is one of the greatest assholes to ever grace the series–he gives Dr. Cuise from Part VII a run for his money. Kane Hodder returns for his second portrayal of our favorite undead mama’s boy, and brings out all the rage and single mindedness of the character. Whether you love or hate what Kane does with the character you cannot deny he gives all his when behind that mask. And, of course, there is the young Ms. Kelly Hu as the brainy, geeky, asian girl. Yeah, she went on to bigger and better things. Well, certainly bigger, I guess. (Scorpion King, X-Men 2)

Hellooooooooooo, Kelly Hu!

It’s no wonder this entry is possibly the most universally hated by Friday the 13th’s most die hard fans. It doesn’t really deliver on the promise of the title, it’s pretty much bloodless, there’s only one bare female breast and it’s side boob, the plot holes are big enough for Killdozer to drive through, and the lead character’s performances are as stiff as my dick.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is no masterpiece, that’s for goddamn sure, but it is still a stupid good time if you watch it in the right frame of mind. If you read the title to this one and then take the premise seriously you will no doubt be disappointed. The best way to approach Part VIII is with a good group fo friends, a case of brews and a good sense of humor. It’s one of the worst films in the series for sure, but it is still a whole lot of fun.

Trash Cinema Gold!




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