Posts Tagged ‘tales

10
Dec
12

V/H/S: Found Footage Feast of Fear

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a Primal Root review

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

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

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

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

Let us get to our TALES OF TERROR!

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

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First up:

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

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‘Second Honeymoon’

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

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

VHS - Emily Ghost

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

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

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

*END SPOILERS!*

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Sep
12

Dementia Grimm: September 2012’s Devil Girl of the Month!

Hello there, Gang! The Primal root here and I am pleased and honored to present to you September 2012’s Devil Girl of the Month,  a very dear friend of ours at the TCC, Dementia Grimm! This is her second time gracing us with her ever so lovely and deeply disturbing presence here at The Trash Cinema Collective. This time around she’s come to us with her own twisted, blood lusting take on Strawberry Shortcake. Strawberry DEATH Cake perhaps? Crypt Keeper, eat your heart out. Check out Dementia’s lip smackingly, disturbing Devil Girl spread and be sure to let her know what you think!  -Root

Primal Root: First of all, your spread is ridiculously cool. I really dig the costume and make-up, where did the concept for this spread come from? I can’t tell if you genuinely love or hate strawberry’s. 

Dementia Grimm: To be honest, strawberry *is*, and has always been my favorite fruit, but that’s not where this all started. A few years back, Penny Arcade ran a parody piece called “American McGee’s Strawberry Shortcake”, playing on the “Alice” variant. I thought the piece was twistedly adorable. Turns out American Greetings wasn’t so happy, and they gave Penny Arcade a cease & desist order, and it turned it into this huge ridiculous internet thing. I figured, just on principle (and it *was* a cool idea), I wanted to do the costume. I’d done it for about three years at Dragoncon, and it was then retired.
Lately, she’d been on my mind, and I started trying to figure how I could revive her but in a horror-style fashion. I don’t recall the video I was watching, but I was browsing Youtube, and suddenly remembered the Strawberry Shortcake doll I had as a kid, and how it always kinda creeped me out, even though I loved the smell of it. The idea snowballed from there.

PR: Dementia, we’ve heard through the grapevine that you will be participating in the Girls of the Con 2013 Calendar. Can you tell us what you have in store? Which month are you hoping for? 

DG: Thank you! I am really incredibly excited and honored to be working with GOTC (http://www.girlsofthecon.com/_, really such an awesome group that really embodies the spectrum of beautiful women who attend conventions. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it is absolutely true. I believe they have me as Miss April, as my costume is that of a huge pink rabbit with a chainsaw. The story behind the costume is that it’s a variant of Dogwitch (http://www.dogwitch.com/), a demented comic from the incredible mind of Dan Schaffer. In the Direct to Video TPB, Violet (Dogwitch) conjures up a dead guy, for her to have a date with. Her idea of a date is to dress up in a giant bunny suit and play “Skin the Rabbit”. Heck of an Easter story, doncha think? So, I think that’s why I’m Miss April.

Oh yeah, and there will be copies and I’ll be at their table at Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend October 26-28. Maybe even in the giant bunny suit.

PR: It’s almost here, the most wonderful time of the year, Fall! Halloween season! Do you have any traditions? 

DG: Traditions? Oh yes, many, Many many many. It’s not fall to me until I have my first Starbucks’ caramel apple spice, or have my first Publix cinnamon broom up in the house. I also have my awesomely epic playlist in rotation on Spotify. I also, when I feel that familiar breeze in the air, make a bit of a ceremony of solitary communing with Mother Nature and honoring the season. At the beginning of October, since 2004, I have a yearly ritual going of picking a new horror movie every night, that I have not seen before, and watching & reviewing it. A “30 Days of Horror”, if you will. Some of my favorite horror films have been because of this challenge. Netflix is an invaluable tool in this. I’ve done it on Livejournal, I’ve done it for websites, last year I did it on Google Plus, and this year I may do it on Youtube. I’m actually starting to search for great options for my selections now.

PR: Any events this Fall you’re looking forward to? 

DG: ALL THE EVENTS! Seriously, there are a number I’d like to do. I think I’m able to make Halloween Horror Nights at Universal at the end of this month. I would LOVE to do Disney’s Halloween event. I’m also pondering a ghostly-related event to squeeze in there as well. I’m not sure what, just yet, but I’m big into the supernatural and I haven’t done one in a while. I was also invited to Zombicon in Fort Myers, but am not sure if I’ll be attending.  I’m also still not sure about Halloween. I’m super excited about Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend, where I’ll be wearing Strawberry in all her red glory, and after that I may just stick to scaring my Wonder-bread suburban neighbors as I usually do Halloween night. Maybe a party or two. I’m open to suggestions!

PR: I want you to sit back and relax for a second. Take a look deep within yourself and share with us what movie you truly enjoy that most people consider Trash. If this is too personal, we will strive to be understanding. 

DG: That’s a really good question. I’d like to go with the answers of “The Blair Witch Project”, since I grew up in a small town surrounded by woods chock full of similar urban legends, or “Paranormal Activity” since I’ve experienced similar things, but those answers seems so cliche. It would be so much easier to ask what horror movies I hate that everyone else likes, but that would take up a whole blog to do so. WHYTHATHORRORMOVIEYOULIKESUCKS.COM. OH! I know one! A little gem from1989 called “Dance of the Damned”. I adore vampire movies, and this one isn’t your typical vampire-action bloodfest. It’s, in my opinion, a beautiful piece that was one of the first of its kind to showcase vampires in a different light. I’m sure I have a few others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

PR: Dementia, again, we are honored to have you as our Devil Girl of the Month for September. Do you have any words of wisdom to the folks checking your spread out at home? Any closing remarks?

DG: Thank you! It’s an honor to be chosen (insert bad joke about being the chosen one here). Words of wisdom? Hope all your readers are ready for a BERRY strawberries-and-scream autumn season! (yeah, I know, that was lame LOL)

I think the Crypt Keeper would be proud! Gang, enjoy the latest spread from Dementia Grim! Stay Trashy!

-Root

Photography by Harriet Branch

04
Sep
10

Taking a trip with HBO’s The Hitchhiker

a Jess Part 2 Review
Ah, the heydays of HBO: the epitome of trash in a time when American popular culture was brimming with it. I remember HBO being perms, tight pants and boobs under the glossy neon lights of ‘80s nightlife. Despite it being off limits for a kid like me back in the 80s, rediscovering it now and seeing how terribly it has aged is probably much more fun. The Hitchhiker was a thriller/chiller series of morality tales and karmic vengeance, not unlike Tales from the Crypt or The Outer Limits, but the Hitchhiker preceded these two far more successful programs by a few years. Debuting 1984, the show featured multiple directors, and a different star actor or actress featured in the lead role; all set to a hip, synth-pop soundtrack. The narrator of each episode was an unnamed hitchhiker with a thick, luxurious mullet and pants so tight it’s no wonder he always walked in slow motion. The hitchhiker introduced and closed each story with some generic warning about the dangers of the flesh, etcetera, just with no groan inducing puns like the crypt keeper.

The DVD contains two discs with five select episodes on each. The episodes are not in sequential order, and are by different directors. The episodes are so different in feel from one to the other, the incongruity is noticeable. One thing they all have in common is plenty of sleaze. Naughty characters get their due with plenty of blood, nudity and death to go around. The real reason to pick up this DVD is that each episode stars one or more fan favorites and surprisingly big name talents who may or may not have been slumming it, or just found cutting their teeth on trash cinema. Most enjoyable are Margot Kidder, Willem Dafoe and Gary Busey among many others.

The episodes are all irresistible – Margot Kidder as a greedy nurse at an invalid home, Willem Dafoe as an author who fakes his own death, Brad Dourif as a hermit rock ex-superstar, and Joey Pantoliano as a sexually deviant cult leader. But if I have to choose a couple to highlight for you…

My personal favorite of the episodes is one entitled WGOD. It features Gary Busey as a radio televangelist with dark secret. Busey creates his character so classically; complete with trademark hand gestures and a southern-drawling machismo. His character, Reverend Power is the voice of WGOD and the “Tower of Power,” a Christian radio program. He offers righteous advice to callers dealing with such salacious problems as infidelity and carnal urges. Powers cares for an invalid mother who pines for her deceased younger son, who was much more popular, talented and well liked. Living in there the shadow of his brother makes Powers start to lose his grip…. Or is he truly being guilt-tripped from beyond? Here’s where the writing gets a little incongruous. Powers receives a call from a creepy, strangely effeminate, angry voice that states things like “I’m older than God!” and “All songs are about me,” along with scripture about resurrection while lighting up the dial pad in the shape of a cross. I was excited by what might turn out to be an epic battle between good and evil – an opportunistic televangelist and an angry, thieves-in-the-temple kind of Jesus. Who it really was on the phone was a bit less exciting, sadly. What makes this episode unique is that Busey’s character is not fully painted as a bad guy. He is actually authentically devout from what we see. Yes, he eventually has to face his inner demons but the reveal at the end conjures more pity than terror.

“I want you to take it back to Washington, New York or Buddha-land, just stay off God’s case!” – Gary Busey’s character to an Asian reporter.

The most disturbing of all in this set is the abstract and oddly artistic “Homebodies” featuring Helen Hunt as a beautiful, rich young debutante whose inner pain and loneliness are numbed by her late-night heroin use. A washed up, coked up, D-list celebrity hosts a reality show about “the nightlife” and searches for the most extreme, taboo breaking behaviors in the way people party. He isn’t having any luck as the people at the club identify him immediately as a phoney. Things turn around in the men’s restroom when a primping, snorting, giggling male friend of Helen Hunt’s character finds him and invites him to document “the princess” and her evening. From there he is led by Hunt and her posse of thrill-seekers to a back alley where a man lay dying. One of Helen’s posse of worshippers shot him so that Helen could expand her collection of quotes before death. The episode spirals downhill into a frantic evening of obtaining drugs and doing them; watching The Princess degrade to a tearful heroin junkie amongst her pink, plush teenager’s bedroom. Getting more and more inebriated, it isn’t long before the fearless reporter is left too stoned to defend himself against becoming a contributor to Helen’s sick collection. This episode is disturbing, and it took me a few more attempts to have felt like “I get it.” It’s actually pretty powerful.
If you enjoy seeing hidden gems of the work of your favorite actors and actresses that star in these episodes, you definitely should buy this DVD. Volume 2 and 3 also are available, as well as the complete seasons on both VHS and DVD, though rare. If you are lucky like I was, you may be able to find them for $3.50 in the DVD bin at TJ Maxx, but if not, keep looking. And for god’s sake, if you see a hitchhiker with nut cameltoe, do pick him up – he won’t get much farther without a truckload of baby powder down there.

*Author’s note: Hulu.com features a number of episodes of The Hitchhiker available for free, albeit with commercials.




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