Posts Tagged ‘teenager

10
Jan
16

Phantasm (1979): All that we see or seem…

phantasm-poster

a Primal Root written review

“First he took Mom and Dad, then he took Jody, now he’s after me.” – Mike, Phantasm

I never planned on writing a review for Phantasm. However, with today’s passing of the beloved horror icon, Angus Scrimm, who breathed life into one of my all time favorite cinematic boogeymen, I felt compelled to take a look back at not only of the most enduring and admired horror films, but one I hold very dear to my heart.

Let me start off by stating that there is no real way to create a summary of Phantasm that honestly does the film any justice. It’s the kind of film that takes place inside between the conscious world and that of the subconscious, the the realm of primal, deep, dark human emotions, and at that, from the perspective of a young boy in his early teens who has lost so much he’s having trouble coming to terms with it. Well, Hell, okay…at least let me TRY to tell you what the film’s about.

Young Michael (Michael Baldwin) is living with his older, adult brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) after the untimely death of their parents. Michael is already having trouble coping with the sudden lose of his parents, when he comes to the realization this Jody is considering leaving town and handing custody of Mike over to their Aunt and Uncle. The thought of not only losing his parents, but being a burden on his older brother, who is thinking of leaving him behind, is adding to Mike’s pain and turmoil. There’s a fantastic, heart breaking sequence where Jody rides his bike down the street as Mike chases after him on foot unbeknownst to his old brother. Mike can’t keep up and eventually, begrudgingly, gives up. It’s a pitch perfect moment that visualizes the dreaded feeling of abandonment and the inevitability of change.

To make matters worse, Mike witnesses some very strange goings-ons at the local Morningside Cemetery and Funeral Home. At the funeral of one of Jody and Mike’s friends, Tommy,  Mike witnesses a shadowy, sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm, Rest in Peace) lift up up Tommy’s corpse filled coffin all by his lonesome…and load it back into the hearse rather than lowering it into it’s grave.

phantasm

As young Mike investigates further he discovers there seems to be a sudden infestation of tiny, brown robbed creatures haunting the cemetery, a knife wielding blonde, big breasted seductress intent on poking every man she can lure into the cemetery to death and the mortuary is guarded by brain sucking, high velocity flying killer spheres. And who looks to be behind it all? The black suited Tall Man who has set his evil sights on Mike.

It takes quite a bit of convincing to get Jody to believe that what is happening over at Morningside is true. With the crazy stories Mike keeps spouting, who can blame the guy for chocking it up to a kid’s imagination? But when Mike comes home with a living, moving, nasty little momento from his last encounter with The Tall Man, Jody hops on board as does their ice cream selling buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister). The three lay siege to Morningside cemetery int he hopes of uncovering The Tall Man’s true purpose in their small town and send him back to whatever Hell this monstrous being came from. However, as is the case in Phantasm, nothing is exactly as it seems…And the final revelation of Phantasm is devastating, beautiful and deeply disturbing.

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Okay, I am going to discuss the film a bit and I recommend you see Phantasm first before reading further.

One of Phantasm‘s greatest strengths is it’s respect for a child’s perspective. To try and make sense of what is happening int he world around you. It plays almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that pulls no punches. There is something evil and sinister happening in their small town, and it is up to Mike to convince his older brother and for them to solve this horrible problem. There’s a great since of mystery and wonderment as well as mounting dread and tension, but it’s all handled with a real sentimentality and heart that is hard to find in most popular horror cinema of the 70’s era.

Now, before I start making this film sound like the ultimate bummer, Phtasm also has an excellent sense of adventure and fun on it’s surface. Jody, Mike and Reggie are a damn funny trio and their reactions to the ludicrous happenings around town and pricless. Darkly hysterical moments like Michael finding an enourmous flesh eating bug tangled in his hair, Jody asking Mike is the strange breathing sounds he heard was the “retard” up the street and, my personal favorite, when Mike is confronted inside the mortuary by The Tall Man who stands several passes down the hall from him, Mike, speechless utters in complete My-Goose-Is-Cooked fashion, “Oh, shit…” Phantasm is a damn good time about one darkly sobering mother fucking subject matter.

phant_2

Phantasm is a horror movie about the sad but honest fact that everyone we love will die. That those closest to us will have to eventually leave us one day and that no matter how hard we fight, or try to hold on, or battle against it, we will ALWAYS lose. I understand the notion that we carry these people with us forever in our hearts and memories, that they live on forever in the tales we tell of them and the ways that they’ve touched us. But we will never get to sit down and hold their hand, feel the comfort of their presence of enjoy a glass of whiskey with them ever again. They are gone. Gone. And so shall we be. And that’s something we all must face.

At the end of Phantasm Michael and Jody do battle with The Tall Man and end up trapping him in an abandoned mine shaft and dropping a dozen or so gigantic boulders on top of the sucker. Our last glimpse of Jody is from onto of a high hill from where he rolled the boulders on top of The Tall Man, sealing his fate. Mike sees his brother, bathed in light with his arms held high over his head in triumph. Mike and Jody have one. Then the film reverses on Mike and he awakes in his bedroom. He is comforted beside the living room fireplace by he and Jody’s good friend Reggie. Reggie explains that not only are Mike’s parents dead, but Jody is also dead, killed in a car accident.

phantasm-horror-review-sphere-13

This is a moment of true horror, a devastating moment that still breaks my heart just thinking about it. And this is where Phantasm succeeds so well, in making us care for the characters that are part of this tale. You can sense the brotherly love between Jody and Mike, their sense of camaraderie and their shared feelings of grief and confusion over the loss of their parents and the prospect of both their uncertain futures. To find out that Mike has lost the entirety of his immediate family, the people he has known and loved since birth, is a crushing blow.

Phantasm is a horror film that dwells in the dark, most assuredly, but it also has a great deal of heart and warmth to it, which as I stated above, is something of a hard commodity to come across in 1970’s era horror cinema. Just look at Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. It was a bloody horrifying decade for horror. Phantasm, too, explores the shadows of human nature. But, as odd as it might sound, Phantasm reminds us of what makes life worth living and that life is fleeting and serves as a reminder that we must cherish each moment of happiness we have. To show those we hold close that we love them, that we care and that we are here for them. Because one day, as we all know, they will be gone and we will never get that opportunity to hold them near and tell them we love them again.

phantasm7

Phantasm is a masterpiece, plain and simple. From it’s unique story penned and directed by a very young Don Coscarelli, it’s unforgettable, dreamlike score by Fred Myrow, and it’s natural, engaging performances by everyone involved,  Phantasm is a type of dark fairy tale about the inevitability of  change and loss which digs deep into our most horrifying childhood fears about death. It takes us right back to the time when we were children and had to make sense of this adult world, a real world we were just beginning to become acquainted with. Phantasm is an audacious film which dares to take a trip through the mental landscape of a deeply scarred, traumatized child. By film’s end, Mike and Reggie decide they must leave their small town and find a new start. Mike begins packing his bag so that they can hit the road and head into a new day, a new future where they can begin to come to terms with their pain. Mike closes his closet door revealing The Tall Man in his mirror. “BOOOOOOOOY!” The Tall Man growls…and Michael is caught. Pulled through the mirror and into darkness.

One day you and I will face Death. Inevitably, as The Tall Man says, “The Game is finished. Now, you die.” And when that day comes, that unavoidable day when we reach our ultimate fate, we can only hope that in death we will fine peace and comfort. Not a brutal Hell made up of our most nightmarish childhood fears.

Phantasm and it’s iconic boogeyman, The Tall Man, would live on with many colorful, imaginative, bonkers sequels that pick up and continue the story admirably well. But, if you were to ask me, the tale begins and ends with the original 1979 classic Phantasm. One of the most poetic and lovely horror stories ever told.

I award Phantasm FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

03
Mar
14

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) Teen Angst Armageddon

All-the-Boys-Love-Mandy-Lane-poster

a Primal Root review

I gotta say, I look back on my high school years somewhat fondly. Enough time has rolled by now that I can selectively choose the times and moments I care to look back upon with the bittersweet twinge of nostalgia tugging at my steadily aging, withering, heart strings and marvel at how fleeting those four years of my time here in this world were. Still, upon closer inspection, high school was a pretty tricky, nasty little piece of the human experience. Sure, I had it pretty well , but everyone had their hangups and hurts, no matter how confident they came across. It all seemed to mean so much and it felt like everything was at stake. It’s a time when the politics of social interaction are driven home and our lifelong insecurities are so often set in stone. It’s a time of growth, cruelty and burgeoning sexuality. Let’s face it, sometimes it was like a fresh slice of Hell.

This is just where “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” drops us in the middle of, Teen Angst Armageddon time as Amber Heard’s Mandy Lane walks through the halls of her high school and every male eyeball present happens to find it’s gaze dropping upon her blossoming bosom or her noticeably curvaceous posteriors. In the seething cauldron of pubescent hormonal Hell, known as high school, it is to be expected. But as the film plays out, these glances prove to be the tip of an iceberg leading to the flick’s M.O.

See, every inhabitant of this high school possessing a cock and set of balls are in a strange, deep seeded lust for Mandy Lane. According to rumor, she’s still a virgin, (which is some kind of mythic wonder for high school boys. He who deflowers has the power? I dunno, the logic of cherry popping being a big deal, some transcendent moment, has always baffled me) and has become a pro at haulting the advances of the nonstop barrage of  young bucks just aching to stick their drippy teenage jerky basters down her unclaimed love tunnel.  It’s actually quite disturbing watching guy after guy try coaxing and pressuring her into having sex with them. “You don’t know how hot you are.” and ” We’re all trying to get you.” are some of the incredibly tactful lines used by these walking hard-ons in the hopes of being “the first.” When their advances are not met with submission with a smile, many of these fellows respond with frustrated anger and lash out. Yeah, I wonder why this young woman’s not interested?

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

During an opening scene at a high school pool party we get to experience such a moment close up and personal as a bleach blonde jock puts the moves on Mandy Lane before being interrupted by Mandy’s best dude friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). Before you can say, “I am a Golden God” Emmet has this jockular dickhead convinced that the only was to win Mandy Lane’s heart is to jump off the roof of the house and into the pool. Jocko Homo declares his love for Mandy from the roof and jumps to his death as his skull smashes open on the edge of the pool. I think this was supposed to be horrifying, but it made me laugh out loud. Sorry, something about how the moment was executed had tickled my sick little funny bone.  This is possibly the movie’s inciting incident, as we fast forward to 9 months later and it appears Emmet and Mandy Lane are no longer on speaking terms.

Think 9 months has changed anything? Hell no, all the boys are still looking to lay a coat of Mandy’s virgin blood all over their pussy pokers. This lusting even inspires a rare slasher film soliloquy from one of the boys as he watches her jog around the  schools track…

“There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.”

In fact, this young stoner, by the name of Red (Aaron Himelstein), has invited Mandy and group of fellow classmates out to his Father’s ranch for a weekend of acting like idiots, doing drugs, and high pressuring every woman in sight into having sex with them. Believe it, or not, Mandy Lane agrees to go along with these horny teen dogs out for blood.

The first quarter of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” has an unrelentingly dark, mean spirited tone that bodes well for the rest of the picture as we witness the teens fervently cutting one another down as a means of making themselves feel superior. There’s a teenage power struggle going on as the girls claim one another are fat, that someone has far too much pubic hair and the the fragile male ego is bruised when one man is singled out as having the smallest dick at the table during a game of truth or dare.  As fascinating as all this is, after a short while it all just feels like a retread of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a slightly dull emo edge to it. Before long, the teens are butchered one by one in some grisly ways, but none too shocking, and the film falls into the typical slasher conventions where there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. And the film’s slasher, who is obvious from the get-go, is revealed at nearly the halfway point and makes a pretty lackluster boogeyman.

atblml

By the end, when the final twist is revealed and a confrontation in a mass grave filled the corpses of over a dozen diseased, rotting, heads of cattle I was totally dumbstruck and left wondering what the character motivations were to begin with. Just what in the Hell was happening during the flick’s runtime that I missed? By not establishing any of this characterization in the previous two acts, this revelation comes totally out of left field and never quite feels justified. But, perhaps if you look at the people who are now dead, the justification speaks for itself…in an angst high school teen sort of way.

Throughout the film, Mandy Lane keeps a pretty cool, detached demeanor without a whole lot of humanity. Mandy is curvy, gorgeous,  and innocent but never gets fully fleshed out as a character, but that might be entirely the point, as the male and female characters alike only see her as a sexual conquest, and not quite human at all. Through it all, everyone wants a piece of the elusive, untouched, mysterious Mandy Lane and by the film’s end, we don’t get to have her either.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” was  the directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, who would go on to direct the damn fine film “50/50” and that zombie romantic comedy I just cannot bring myself to watch, “Warm Bodies”,  this plus the film’s long delayed release has garnered “Mandy Lane”  a bit of a cult fascination. Watching “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” I can see it having a much bigger impact in 2006, not only in theaters, but with me personally. It feels a little off balanced and falls short in  it’s story telling. That being said, there are some fun performances, a handful of good deaths, ONE pair of breasts, and one excellent final fight in a mud hole filled with rotten cows.  It’s worth checking out, just don’t expect Mandy Lane to give it all up that easy. All well intention and good effort at creating a genre deconstructing slasher flick that concentrate a considerable amount of it’s time and effort focusing on teenage gender roles and individual insecurities. Again, much like high school itself, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is small potatoes.

I’m giving “Mandy Lane” TWO and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

19
Nov
13

The Pit aka: Teddy (1981) Boners, Food and Homicide; The Puberty Triple Threat

pit_poster_01

a Primal Root written review

It’s high time we talked about “The Pit” aka: “Teddy”, one of the creepiest goddamn coming of age movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.  The plot goes something like this; a young, mentally deranged teenage boy named Jamie (Sammy Snyders) with parents who apparently travel quite a bit and regularly leave poor Jamie in the care of attractive female twenty something year old psychology students.  And buy, does he burn through them.  See, Jamie is kind of a creeper. The extent to which this kid will go to express his love aka: raging hard-on for just about anything wearing a bra is pretty impressive. He even tries the old “I dropped my napkin” ruse at the dinner table when he’s being introduced to his summer caretaker, Sandy (Jeannie Elias). Of course, this scheme works a whole lot better when you don;t announce loudly “OH NO! I DROPPED MY NAPKIN!” and then lunge your whole body head-first under the table to gaze up a woman’s skirt and into the crotch fabric of their panties.

You'll wish he'd written "Redrum" when this is all over and done with.

You’ll wish he’d written “Redrum” when this is all over and done with.

But this is the least of Jamie’s issues. See, he also has a teddy bear he he talks to…and Teddy talks back, stoking young Jamie’s deviant behavior and offering up suggestions on how to be a more effective weirdo. Also, Jamie happens to know the location of an isolated pit deep in the woods populated by furry, malevolent, flesh eating creatures with glowing yellow eyes.  Teddy and the Tra-La-Logs (Why, oh, WHY is this not a band name?) are the two folks Jamie feels he can confide in. and it makes sense, seeing as everyone in the town seemingly loathes this kid. From the his teenage classmates who lovingly punch him in the face and pull humiliating pranks on him, to the Librarian lady who refuses his pervish advances, even the elderly woman in the retirement home down the street can’t stand Jamie and even predicts he’ll probably just grow up “to be one of those hippies!”

pit 01

No one understands me like the beasts on the edge of Hell.

So, yes, Jamie airs out all his issues with a the psychotic voice in his head he hears through the inanimate object named Teddy and a batch of vicious monsters living in a hole deep in the woods.  The Tra-La-Logs do not judge Jamie, they simply gnash their teeth, stare at him and drool as he explains the twisted thoughts of his diseased mind. Jamie grows to care a lot about these critters and Teddy hits upon the winning idea of starting to feed the little monsters! So, in between sessions of staring at Sandy’s bare breasts while she sleeps and faking kidnappings in order to snap some Polaroids of  Librarian next door’s  hush puppies, Jamie steals some of Sandy’s cash and buys a ton of hamburger meat and feeds it to the creatures in the woods.

That's a bad touch, Sandy.

That’s a bad touch, Sandy.

 

Of course, this can’t last, as Sandy catches on quickly to the fact her cash is vanishing quicker my singles at a strip club. Where can Jamie find a new, cheap source of meat for this ravaging, razor toothed, carnivorous creatures? Why, yes, tossing the screaming, soon to be devoured bodies of the people who have wronged you is completely valid option!  In a montage of great dark comedy, Jamie lures about a half dozen people to their untimely deaths including Sandy’s boyfriend who he tricks into the pit by throwing a football around with him and making the guy “go long”, which leads him right into the jaws of the enemy. Even better,  Jamie kidnaps the mean old lady from the retirement home, rolling her down the nature trail as she shrieks and waves her hands around in terror, and launches her into the pit where she is ripped to pieces.  I’m not kidding, I laughed so hard I farted.  this is prem-o stuff, Gang.

Suck it, Grandma!

Suck it, Grandma!

There’s even a slightly more profound moment where Jamie is about to roll a young girl into the pit who laughed at him while he was getting the snot beaten out of him.  “You sure are a pretty girl. But only on the outside. Inside you;re ugly and you will probably spend your whole life giggling at the pain of others.”  a pretty chilling statement about the nature of bullying and the violence it spawns. Treat people with kindness or you might find yourself the main course in gore drenched buffet of fury. Never mess with the kid who is rumored to be psychotic, he may just prove you right. It’s a moment I think all kids who were picked on can relate to. I think at some point we all wished we had a giant hole int he ground we could roll our tormentors into so we would never have to hear from them again.  I can see a little bit of wish fulfillment here.

D'Awwww...

D’Awwww…

After making the major miscalculation of actually showing Sandy the Tra-La-Longs down in their pit, she insists they bring out some scientists to check out the discovery when Jamie made her promise to keep them a secret, Jamie ends up accidentally pushing her into THE PIT where she is slowly ripped into meaty chunks and feasted upon by the ever hungry monsters. It might be the bloodies moment of the movie and works like gang busters and Sandy’s bright red entrails and slurped down and her bones and crunched to pieces by the terror of the Tra-La-Logs.  Jamie is traumatized by the death of someone he actually wants to put his penis in, and decides to throw a rope down the hole and let the creatures loose upon an unsuspecting public and, in the process, unleashes holy Hell upon the inhabitants of his little hamlet.

What follows is probably the most ineffective, yet still entertaining, sequence of “The Pit”. The movie takes the focus away from Jamie and, instead, focuses on the rampage of the Tra-La-Logs which are obviously nothing more than short people in furry suits running around the woods. Int he darkness of the pit the creatures came off as scary and mysterious, in the bright light of day they are laughable. Still, they manage to run about the rural area ripping young folks and big breasted teenage skinny dippers (one of which happens to be the director’s daughter) into finger food before a posse of angry, card carrying NRA locals track them back into their pit and blow into blood spattered shag carpeting.

Cut back to Jamie who is now headed to his grandparent’s farm to be taken care of for the rest of the summer, only this time he is not alone. His younger little lady cousin is there and they run off to go play together. It looks like Jamie has finally found a friend. Someone who is not sickened or terrified of his mere presence.  The sun is setting in the sky as the two children laugh and run off into the woods…only, they find something…another pit in the ground. Jamie knows all too well the horror that lies ahead. “They eat people…” he says. “I know.” She replies…

It's basically a prequel to "Ted"

It’s basically a prequel to “Ted”

“The Pit” is one very unique, sleazy, unusual and even disturbing little slice of forgotten horror gold.  It has the usual limitations you might expect from a low budget 80’s horror flick, but it still manages to pull off it’s concept for the majority of the running time. Sammy Snyders’ performance as the bizarre, creepy teenage killer is damned impressive. This is some very strange and often whacky material for a young actor to be performing, but the guy really gives his all and ends up giving a very believable and unsettling performance.  I’ve read interviews with the “The Pit” screenwriter Ian  Stuart and his disappointment in what was originally intended to be a much darker story with far fewer  flourishes of dark comedy. I understand what he’s saying, and I do wish that version could have been made, but the film we ended up with is still one pretty goddamn strange cinematic cocktail. From the bizarre sexual obsessions and oglings of Jamie, to the crew of bloodthirsty Hell beasts and the psychotic voices in Jamie’s head who transmit themselves through the boy’s Teddy bear, it’s one of those movies so peculiar it truly has to be seen to be believed.  I’d put it along side movies like “Tourist Trap” and “Pin”, movies that are damn strange and certainly effective, but lost and waiting to be rediscovered.

Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

04
Oct
13

Amityville II: The Possession (1982) or Touched By a Creeper

amityville_2_possession_poster_01

 

a Primal Root written review

“Dishonor thy Father. PIGS!” -Demon, “Amityville II: The Possession”

In the annals of horror there are few settings that originate terror more depraved or unsettling than that generated at home, within the family. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” “The Shining”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The People Under the Stairs” and countless others have proven to us that our home isn’t always the utopian safe havens they are meant to be.  Behind the closed doors of Home Sweet Home, behind the guise of perfect, happy families,  can often times be a hiding abuse, repression, shame and torment.  Behind these doors can hide the most vile and heinous horrors of all.

 

"For God's Sake, Move in!"

“For God’s Sake, Move in!”

“Amityville II: The Possession” does an excellent job of establishing an eerie atmosphere from the outset as our family, The Montelli’s, comprised of Mom, Pop, two teenagers (a boy and a girl) and two little kids (again, a boy and a girl), and their movers drive up to the house at 112 Ocean avenue one by one on to begin a new life at their incredibly affordable and haunted as fuck homestead. Instantly upon arrival folks can feel the eyes of the house upon them, get chills, upset stomachs, notice the windows have been nailed shut, the hidden basement room is filled with dookie, and…oh yeah,  a sink that sprays blood from the faucet for about fifteen seconds before gradually turning into tap water. Thankfully, Mom is in denial, not only over the apparent evil that dwells in the house from the the basement secret room where evil resides and piles of shit ferment, to the top floor where her first born son Sonny now resides, but she also likes to think her family isn’t on the verge of some horrible violent tragedy.  Let me tell you, from the get-go, it seems like the Amityville demons are the least of this families’ problems.

Now, I am an only child who was born into a house that championed passive aggressive behavior over the the punch you in the throat and topple you over the third floor bannister to the hard wood floor at ground level because you didn’t say “Yes, sir!” level of abuse that’s on display in “Amityville II: The Possession”, so this level of hardcore abusive insanity is pretty goddamn upsetting to a guy like me.  And it’s Fight Club just about every five minutes with this family, and the Amityville spirits do nothing to help the situation.

A mirror in the dining room tumbles over with a clatter and suddenly Dad (Burt Young) is screaming, oldest daughter Patricia (Diane Franklin) is screaming and grabbing at Dad to restrain him from punching oldest son Sonny (Jack Magner) in the face. Thankfully, Mom (Rutanya Alda) screams like a goddamn banshee and gets everyone settled down so they can go ahead with their first dinner in the new house without any black eyes or broken noses. Yeah, this is a family in crises. Don’t believe me? Later that night Sonny ends up pressing a double barrel shotgun up against his Dad’s wattle in order to stop him from beating on Mom and the two youngest children…I know a lot of critics think this stuff is over the top, but I have this suspicion, whether they want to believe it or not, that this kind of family dynamic does exist and it’s far more common than we like to think.

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli's!

A typical Saturday night with the Montelli’s!

But this regularly scheduled smack-down of brutality isn’t all the awkwardness present in the Montelli household. Some of the creepiest moments of the whole film involve Sonny and Patricia, the two oldest siblings, who spend a lot of time alone together in one another’s rooms and share a borderline incestuous relationship as they flirt with one another.  These two don’t act much like brother and sister when they’re around each other, and this adolescent urge Sonny has for his own sister seems to be the weakness that allows the spirits that reside in his home to possess him.

In a lengthy, uneasy sequence taking place while Sonny is left alone in the Amityville home (his family is off to church so Pops can apologize to the priest who came to bless the house before Dad started beating the snot out of the kids in front of him) the spirits, represented by a camera POV shot, float around Sonny and follow him back to his bedroom where they throw him onto the bed, open up his shirt and repeatedly thrust themselves into his stomach. Sense something sexual in this possession procedure?  In Trash Cinema, typically  women are gender of choice for possession, seeing as they have an open entry way for evil spirits. However, to posses a gent, I guess that’s a bit of a filthier undertaking.   Either way, it’s a violation, and it never looks like much fun. No one enjoys having their soul raped.

Pretty sure i give this same smile to every woman I hit on. Which would explain a lot...

Pretty sure i give this same smile to every woman I hit on. Which would explain a lot…

Immediately after the possession takes place, Sonny heads directly to his sisters room and gets his creep on. He tells her she might be the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, asks her to take her nightgown off and pose like a pinup model. Ooooooh, it’s grueling to watch and neve r fails to get me squirming on the couch. And that even before Sonny whips out a pair of Patricia’s panties and confesses to sniffing on ’em while he churns his baby butter. He then has his way with her, raping her, and the trauma of both his sister Patricia and the audience is done. It’s sleazy and upsetting and done very well. Nothing is explicitly shown, but holy shit, if I have a real hard time watching this sequence. I cannot help but imagine how strange and upsetting this scene must have been to shoot. Or what the cast party was like when the flick was wrapped… *shudders*

Quality Brother and Sister time. Amiyville style. As you know, Amity means incest, er, friendship...

Quality Brother and Sister time. Amiyville style. As you know, Amity means incest, er, friendship…

Patricia tries to confess to their priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson) about her brother’s sudden habit of incestual molestation her by doing one of those “What if there’s someone you love a whole lot, and you do it with them, but their penis is a lot like your brother’s” sort of confessions before Adamsky gets a bit too nosy and sends her running back to the Amityville rape house. At Sonny’s Birthday party he embraces his sister a bit too long and suddenly everything comes together for dear, old, Mom. the fact that Sonny grabs Patricia’s lovely ass cheeks probably didn’t help a whole lot, either.  Momma confronts Patricia in the Amityville Stairwell  by bellowing “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!? WHAT DID YOU DO TO SONNY?!?” because, obviously, it’s Patricia’s fault for Sonny having raped her. *rolls eyes* Mom’s kind of an idiot.

The worst cinematic priest ever mourns the blood ejaculated by the cyborg cock of Jesus.

The worst cinematic priest ever mourns the blood ejaculated by the cyborg cock of Jesus.

But, before any of this can be sorted out or dealt with Sonny and his demons get the final word in the movie’s most harrowing sequence. Patricia wakes up to the sound of thunder as it storms mightily outside her bedroom window. She overhears the sound of her parents arguing (surprise, surprise!) and listens in from the darkness of the hallway. As her eyes adjust to the darkness she soon  notices Sonny loading a rifle and looking like like a bowl of rotten oatmeal. Sonny enters their parent’s room and blows them both away. His three siblings are helpless as Sonny has bolted the doors leading outside shut, destroyed the phones and the power has gone out. The feeling of being trapped, hunted and the inevitableness of their doom hits the audience like a brick in the junk. There is no escape and there is no mercy shown. Sonny steadily, methodically, stalks down each of his siblings and kills them.  The sequence plays like a nightmare you’re unable to wake from. Watching Sonny go slowly from room to room and kill off his entire family is shocking and horrifying unlike anything else in this franchise of films. It is a moment of brutal violence and manages to generate genuine dread and fear.

"I don't know, I'm just... happy!"

“I AM the NRA.”

The rest of “Amityville II: The Possession” plays out with Father Adamsky feeling incredibly guilty over the massacre of the Montelli family, seeing as Patricia warned him of an oncoming tragedy and Adamsky decided to go camping with his boyfriend instead of intervening. He shows up at the crime scene, checks out all the still warm cadavers and then goes on a quest to exorcise the last member of the Montelli family standing, Sonny, who is sent to prison. Adamsky, with the help of an idiot police chief, breaks Sonny out of jail and takes him BACK TO THE AMITYVILLE HOUSE! Where, of course, the demon infested Sonny is now more powerful than ever, begins flying around his room like superman, and tearing his face apart in K-Y slathered, meaty chunks,  while Father Adamsky cries out “LET IT BE ME, LORD ALMIGHTY! LET IT TAKE ME!”  Amityville Demon says “Sure.” drops creeper extrodanaire, Sonny and tucks into Father Adamsky.

"HELLO CHRIST!"

“Christ, you’re HILARIOUS!!”

Our fake Happy Ending leaves us with Sonny being picked up by the cops and Father Adamsky still trapped inside the house murmuring Bible verses and sweating profusely in a darkened corner of Sonny’s old room. Sonny, who is STILL the person who killed off his family, let’s face it “I was possessed by a demon!” never stands up in a court of law, should brace himself to ride the lightening.  It’s a downbeat ending for a fucking horrifyingly downbeat haunted house story. Really, not since “Burnt Offerings” has a haunted house flick been so fucking bleak! But, then again, the real crime that took place all those many decades ago in 112 Ocean Avenue is no afternoon picnic to read about either.

“Amityville II: The Possession” strikes me as a meditation on abuse and denial. Dolores Montelli, the families matriarch, consistently ignores or dismisses the blazingly obvious issues in her family and her home whenever they arise. Rather than confront these issues head on, she instead takes a passive role and turns to God and The Church to solve her problems for her, Blood coming from the sink, table clothes mysteriously covering up crucifixes, and even blood spewing from Father Adamsky’s aspergillium (not as dirty as it sounds) in the parent’s bedroom during the house blessing ceremony cannot help but be interpreted as symbolizing the Family being damned due to their internal strife and neglecting to confront them. Hell, even the two youngest children can be seen “horse playing”  in several scenes by mimicking stabbing one another at the dinner table over a minor dispute as to where the fork should go in the place setting, and in one scene the youngest daughter puts a plastic bag over her little brother’s head and triumphantly cries out “YOU’RE DEAD!” before sparing him a death by suffocation by removing the bag and declaring “I love you.” Their parents have taught them well. Think about it, won’t you?

FUN!

FUN!

The Montelli family was doomed from the beginning. They refused to save themselves, law enforcement is apparently none existent, that is, until someone is needed to come pick up the corpses, and Father Adamsky turned a blind eye to the OBVIOUS horrific abuse taking place within the home until it was too late, insinuating  one’s faith in God is ineffectual in stopping abuse.  The abusive and repressed Montelli family never seek help, not matter how bad the situation gets. The pattern of abuse seems normal to them, like they are used to waving guns in one another’s faces and slapping each other to the ground on a nightly basis.  Only once, when Patricia goes to Father Adamsky, does anyone in the family ever venture out for help. But it is far too late. It seems as if there was a countdown from the beginning, and that the demons within the walls of their home merely sped up the process.

The Demons living within this family are far more horrifying than any conjured up from the depths of Hell. For me, this might be the most terrifying implication of all.

Four out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

30
Sep
13

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988) Should Have Stayed Dead

If only this movie were half as cool as it's poster.

If only this movie were half as cool as it’s poster.

a Primal Root written review

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Thom Mathews as Joey in “Return of the Living Dead Part 2”

1985’s “Return of the Living Dead”  was a cynical, bleak, hilarious gory, nihilistic balls to the wall reinvention of the living dead zombie tropes,  “Return of the Living Dead part 2” is not a step back in regards to quality and creativity, but a disastrous leap backwards over a cliff onto a landfill full of busted whiskey bottles and used up ideas .  “The Return of the Living Dead’s” horror began with a shambling, rotten, corpse pleading for “More Brains!”, which is exactly what the film delivered. An intelligent, fresh and uncompromising vision of what the living dead could be when you break free from all the steadfast rules and restraint set in place by George Romero in his  1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.”  Return of the Living Dead is fierce, brilliant and everything you could ever want from a horror film of it’s breed. It’s a one of a kind and to make a sequel would be pretty goddamn tough…especially with the ending it delivered.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned such a horrendously bad, wet fart of a sequel than “The Return of the Living Dead Part 2.” Rarely has a cinematic follow up missed the mark so widely, it’s pretty astounding. Long gone is the wit and dark sense of humor that poured forth from the original, in it’s place are lame jokes, Three Stooges Gags and cast members from the previous film, James Karen and Thom Mathews, returning  as grave robbers with nothing to do but recite their funniest lines from the original film and literally succumb to the same fate they did on the first go round. These jokes were great and worked the first time we heard them, but when you lift the best material from the first movie and reuse it line for line, it’s stale and depressing.

That's what the original "Return of the Living Dead" was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

That’s what the original “Return of the Living Dead” was missing! A plucky pre-teen protagonist!

Here’s the low down, there’s a little ginger kid named Jesse (Michael Kenworthy who also appeared in the excellent 1988 remake of “The Blob”) who lives in a developing suburb that looks eerily similar to Questa Verde from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” or that suburb where Elliot lived in Speilberg’s “E.T.” Anyhoo, the kid is chock full of quips and one liners which he unleashes on some neighborhood bullies who he ends up getting picked on by and, eventually, discovers one of those  “corpse in a can” barrels the military likes to lose all over this great nation of ours., which has come to rest in a sewage runoff near the local cemetery. Noticing a decomposing body through the barrels glass lid initially has the kids running for their lives, but as you and I both know from “Stand By Me” young boys cannot stay away from dead bodies and the lure of this corpse barrel proves to be the undoing of the two bullies picking on Jesse. Two head back later that day, bang on the barrel a little bit, and for their efforts are greeted with a nice juicy blast of 2-4-5 Trioxin, the reanimation juice introduced in the original, when the canister opens spraying the boys right in the kisser. hold on to your brains, ’cause we all know just where that leads, don’t we?

As night falls in our little hamlet, the Trioxin makes it’s way to the nearby cemetery and, as if Mother Nature is in on the joke, the sky opens up and a downpour begins soaking the soil and the corpses it contains, priming these cadavers for a night of brain skull cracking and brain slurping. Also in the cemetery are, as I mentioned before, a couple of grave robbers who happen to be the two very talented character actors, James Karen and Thom Mathews, who are for the most part just going through the motions and spouting their greatest hits for the run time and earning their paychecks for appearing in such lazy bullshit. Well, the dead come back to unlife right on cue, but this time they rise from their tombs to a goofy, Looney Tunes style score and are prone to slapstick and pratfalls as they try to pull themselves out of their graves. It’s all painfully unfunny, uninspired, and far from exciting.

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Stay in school if you want Brains! Wokka, Wokka, Wokka!

Soon the movie gets into the scream-a-thon where in place of the originals frantic, insane pace and sense of panic, director Ken Wiederhorn decides to just have the characters scream nonstop for about thirty minutes. Again, this is tedious and boring. As the core cast goes on screaming and wailing, on and on and on, as they run around the suburbs, peel out in a cherry red convertible and freak out as a disembodied hand wiggles around in the back seat is enough to make you start wondering just where in the Hell you put your handgun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy and the epitome of shitty film making.

As you can guess, Thom Mathews and James Karen both turn into zombies and Thom manages to seduce his girlfriend into letting him eat her brains in an awkward scene where she appears to get some kind of sexual gratification as her boyfriend’s teeth crunch open her skull…Just as this occurs and ROTLDp2 dangles the possibility of getting interesting in our face, it unceremoniously yanks it away from us and we find ourselves stuck with Jesse, his sister (whose bouncing breasts during her workout routine early on hypnotized me when I was in third grade) and the dashing cable repair man (played by Dana Ashbrook from TV’s Twin Peaks) as Jesse solves every problem and saves the day…that’s right, an 8 year old kid halts the zombie apocalypse.  In a matter of hours. By luring them into a power station and then simply electrocuting them all…Ooooh, I don’t know…

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

A visual representation of how I am affected by allergy season.

I cannot express enough just how unfunny and uninspired this shitty Speilberg wannabe hunk of shit is. Replacing bold social satire, dark humor and genre innovation with claptrap kid’s movie nonsense  is a disgrace to the former film. It’s pointless, dull and only succeeds in being exceedingly forgettable. This series is, as of 2013, five films long and every single sequel manages to completely miss the point of what made the original so special. I understand that ROTLDp2 has a kind of cult following, but for the life of me, I cannot find a single person who genuinely likes this movie. If you do, I would honestly love to hear what it’s appeal is because I just can’t figure it out.

The acting is serviceable (Everyone, scream a lot! Little kid, say something sarcastic and obvious that sounds like a screenwriter wrote it as opposed to a child speaking naturally!) , the punk soundtrack and excellent score has been replaced by bargain basement hair metal and a score that would not be out of place in a Woody Woodpecker short, the set pieces are fittingly cheesy and crafted to be as comical and none threatening as possible, and the film and the story itself are lacking any teeth whatsoever which is truly saddening when considering the source material.  At the end of the day, trying to follow up “The Return of the Living Dead” with a worthy sequel is a fool’s errand. Still, to see it spawn something so half hearted, unimaginative and shockingly boring really left this fan of Trash Cinema feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as "Return of the Living Dead Part 2" ended!  Woooooah...

Life Imitates Art: I made this exact same gesture to the television screen as soon as “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” ended! Woooooah…

If “The Return of the Living Dead” is lightening in a bottle,   “Return of the Living Dead Part 2” is more like poop in your pants.

I give this shit smear 1/2 out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.  Approach with caution.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Jul
13

The Burning (1981): Reaping the Summer’s Teeny-Bopper Harvest

burning

a Primal Root written review

Summer Camp is a staple of the American experience. Every kid has either attended summer camp or are at least aware of it’s traditions.  Kids corralled into mildewed cabins, dinners in the mess hall, swimming, canoeing, hiking sticky fingers, awkward hand jobs and of course, huddling around the camp fire to roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories. Among these tales there are few more prolific than that of Cropsy, the maniac that haunts just about every east coast summer camp from Key West, Florida to Bangor, Maine. Seems every camp is stalked by a groundskeeper who was kind of a grumpy bastard before some asshole camp counselors tried to pull a deeply mean spirited prank and ended burning the poor fellow alive and transforming him into something much worse. A blood thirsty, disfigured, vengeance seeking maniac now happy to hack to pieces any camper he happens to lay eyes on.  Sure, it was probably just a story to keep kids from sneaking out of the cabin at night to go one panty raids and smoke reefer, but the urban legend still had that kernel of believability that made you think twice before traipsing off into the woods with your buddies.

I know what you’re thinking, ” ‘The Burning’, huh,  sounds like a horror films based around the debilitating pain of a urinary tract infection.” An educated guess, to be sure, but  in fact it is a cash in on the timeless Cropsy camp fire tale brought  to life as a gore drenched, nudity filled, slasher film  that came out right on the heels of  ‘Friday the 13th’ which had been released the previous year, thus establishing the American Summer Camp as the premiere location for teenage debauchery met with eventual brutal dismemberment.

I'm fine.

I’m fine.

The inciting incident remains the same, jerk kids, bad prank,  immolated groundskeeper, but ‘The Burning’ takes the bold step of giving us the straight story. Just what happened next after Cropsey was incinerated and ran blazing like the Human Torch into Camp Blackfoot’s adjoining river? Well, instead of vanishing into the woods, screaming threats of how he will have his revenge, he is sent to a burn unit at the local hospital where the orderleys, nurses and doctors apparently dare one another to go look at the hideously burned Cropsey lying down helpless within his oxygen tent in the intensive care ward.  But one day, Cropsy has found he’s had enough of this stupid shit, (seriously, is this a hospital or a frat house?) and scares the ever loving shit out of a nurse by grabbing the the guy’s arm and squeezing the ever loving shit out of it. This proves three things: 1) Burn victim’s skin often resemble a well worn gob of Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum that’s been stuck to the sole of your sneaker for a day or two and 2) Cropsy is one strong and determined mother fucking mother fucker. and 3) The producers must have realized they made a movie with more crackers in it than Nabisco so they may as well film a scene featuring a black actor.

This is Cropsy for Lubriderm...

This is Cropsy for Lubriderm…

Five years later Cropsy’s is told the skin grafts just aren’t taking and that he needs to hit the streets and find some work ’cause there’s nothing else the hospital can do for him. First things first, Crops goes out, gets himself a prostitute who looks suspiciously like a haggard middle school English teacher, and promptly stabs her to death with a pair of scissors while pushing her out of her bedroom window. However, Cropsy doesn’t allow the woman’s savagely penetrated, still warm corpse go sailing out the window,  he actually pulls her back into her newly vacant apartment because, after all, Cropsy is a gentleman.

No one smolders like that Jason Alexander.! Watch out, ladies...

No one smolders like that Jason Alexander.! Watch out, ladies…

But before you can say ‘What the fuck did that murder have to do with anything?” we are whisked away to Camp Stonewater for a braless/pants optional all female softball game, and let me tell you, it is spectacular! We are treated to Sally (Carrick Glenn) running in slow motion, braless in a tight yellow shirt with pronounced erect nipples and then we join teenage dirt bag Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) and the shockingly studly goofball, Dave (played by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame, and his full head of hair!) as they stare at a scantly clad female butt covering one of the bases. What? This ass has a human face? *please, please, please, sense the sarcasm* Yes it does! It belongs to Karen (Carolyn Houlihan). the rail thin, dark haired camp counselor with a chin to rival Bruce Campbell’s. So, these four are established. The ladies have ample female anatomy intact and have all motor functions at their disposal and the fellas are sex crazed drool cups.  Feel dirty yet? Eh, you probably shouldn’t. These “kids” are all in their twenties.

The Burning and The Case Against Bras

The Burning and The Case Against Bras

And guess who is just chilling out in the forest surrounding the non existent softball field? WHY IT’S OUR CROPSY! Just hanging out with a giant pair of gardening sheers  and stalking blossoming young campers who happen to wonder off looking for foul balls.  Speaking of foul balls, we are soon introduced to the film’s central loser, Alfred (Brian Packer), a man who sweats constantly, runs like an orangutang and is introduced to us by way of peeping on the lovely young Sally as she takes a shower framed from a low medium angle to be sure and capture he boobs in the shot. Oh yes, this is trash cinema at it’s finest, folks!

Burning 22

Calvin Klein’s Objectification: For Women

Anyhoo, Albert complains about…well, pretty much everything and proves to be one of the most unlikable and annoying characters in slasher cinema history. Hell, or in ALL of cinema history, for that matter.  And this kid ends up being our final guy! We are asked to root for this mouth breathing, sweat caked, whiner after many of his infinitely more likable peers have been hacked, chopped, snipped and stabbed into B-movie oblivion! sometimes the movie life’s just not fair.

Also in the victim pool is the muscle heavy, light on brains Cro-Magnun, Glazier who talks like one of Tony’s boys from The Sopranos, and is constantly stalking Sally in the hopes of blowing his dick snot cannon into her love canyon. Watching them interact is painfully awkward and somewhat honest. We’ve all known guys like this, we’ve seen them try to operate on girls like Sally who are starved for attention but just not ready to be pawed and groped by a a sweaty, brain dead muscle headed guy in a sleeveless sweater and nothing to lose.

The name's Glazer, as in Glaze Her Doughnut! Get it? High five, bro!

The name’s Glazer, as in Glaze Her Doughnut! Get it? High five, bro!

Then there are our two stoic and heroic camp counselors, Todd (Brian Mathews) and Michelle (Leah Ayers) who lead a pack of older campers on a camping trip to Devil’s Island and to their deaths. Todd and Michelle and impossibly attractive people who look every bit like a live action version of Backwoods Survival Barbie and Ken as they run to and fro, getting covered in dirt and blood (some theirs, some others) and never looking any worse for wear. Even at the grimiest, I still wouldn’t mind seeing them naked. Seriously, these are some good looking people. Hell, Todd was on The Young and the Restless for, what two years? He’s basically a living, breathing, mannequin.

At the half way point of the film, ‘The Burning’ brings out it’s big guns in the sequence the film is best known for,. That’s right, we’re talking raft red stuff redecoration. As a small group of campers try to make their way back to the main camp from Devil’s Island on a make shift raft, they spot one of their lost chaos and paddle over to reclaim. However, once they get over to the vessel, Cropsy stands straight up in the canoe, shears held high over his head and proceeds to kill every single person on the raft, cutting off limbs, impaling folks, and splitting skulls open. It;s quick scene, but pretty damn memorable. If not just for the carnage, certainly for Cropsy’s display of supernatural balance. I defy anyone to stand straight up in a canoe with your hands above your head while clutching giant garden shears, kill a half dozen children, and NOT fall out of that damn canoe. It just strikes me as highly unlikely. Let’s just say, I can’t see Jason Voorhees pulling off the same feat.

Shears looking at you, kids!

Shears looking at you, kids!

At first glance ‘TheBurning’ looks to be a typical slasher movie carbon copy, but upon closer inspection and when given half a chance, ‘The Burning’ features several aspects that set it apart from it’s contemporary. For one, the cast of actors in this thing are actually pretty damn good at their jobs portraying young, goofy teenagers with good times and sex on their brains. Many of these actors went on to have pretty impressive careers in the entertainment industry, while others, vanished into B-movie oblivion. Not only is everyone pretty damn convincing in their roles,  many of the characters are actually *gasp* likeable! Many of these kids come off as cool, funny, reasonable folks. Sure, there are some jerks in the bunch, but that’s to be expected. There’s a pretty big batch of normal, everyday geeky kids that endear themselves to audience to the point you feel almost bad watching them get their faces scissored open and their fingers sheered off.

Fingering on Devil's Island can be MURDER!

Fingering on Devil’s Island can be MURDER!

Also, the portrayal of sex and romantic relationships are portrayed unlike your usual slasher film. you watch any Friday the 13th film and usual sex scene shows teenagers fucking and it’s the greatest thing ever. The guy and gal bump them uglies together and it’s ecstasy!  Wailing and riding and running their hands through their hair and cumming simultaneously and both get chopped into coleslaw by a masked maniac completely satisfied.  ‘The Burning’ takes this trope and gives it a fresh, nasty does of typical teenage sex session reality.  One couples skinny dip ends with the fella telling her to “get the fuck out of his face” when she refuses to let his tadpole ride her river rapids and yet another couple actually go sleeping bag poking and it’s among the most awkward sex scenes I’ve ever sat through. The fella is on top, groaning and lurching with frustration as the young woman stares upwards with pain and discomfort in her eyes before the guy cums super quickly and goes limp. The cherry on the top of this disappointment sundae? She asks, “Is that it?”  Yeah, not the most glorious sex scene ever films. However, we do get to witness our senior camp counselors, Todd and Michelle as they court one another, stroll through the woods, talk, embrace, and simply enjoy one another’s company which looks to be far more rewarding than either of the other full representations of sex featured in ‘The Burning’.  After years of having my mind shaped by the stereotypical glamorous cinematic sex scene, watching it portrayed this way was probably the most shocking and disturbing aspect of the entire damn movie.

"Let's go talk about our superior relationship."

“Let’s go talk about our superior relationship.”

But i do have one major gripe.  For me, the film is basically botched by a fucking horrendously hacked together ending that has to be scene to be believed. It looks like the filmmakers just didn’t have enough coverage for the ending so they tried in vain the cut something together that looked right. Unfortunately, it’s a fiasco. Probably the most painful moment is when Todd is supposed to stumble upon the corpse of one of his friends and fellow campers. The body is actually a still frame from earlier in the film and is cropped out and apparently floating in space when he finds her and gasps. She is supposed to be in a closet but you can actually make out tree branches and leaves around her from the still frame shot that they couldn’t crop out.  and this is just the tip of the hack job iceberg. It’s got to be seen to be believed. This ending makes the filmmakers look totally inept and it’s a little disheartening.  It’s kind of sad too, because otherwise it’s a pretty solid little summer slasher flick.

Let's play "Roast the Marshmallow", cracker!

Let’s play “Roast the Marshmallow”, cracker!

‘The Burning’ is a damn good entry in the summer camp slasher sweepstakes and one that deserves a bit more notoriety than it gets. coming out so soon after ‘Friday the 13th’ got the poor flick labeled as a cash-in on that film’s success even as the Weinstein Brothers insist that they wrote ‘The Burning’ a couple years before ‘Friday the 13th’ was released.  But now, what does it matter. ‘The Burning’ delivers the goods when it comes to the Blood, Breasts and Beasts and is a highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience if you’re into trashy slasher flicks. Despite it’s flaws, ‘The Burning’ is well worth checking out.

Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Jun
12

God Bless America (2011): Aiming for The Dream

a Primal Root written review

God Bless America (2011):  Aiming for The Dream

I haven’t had cable television in over a decade. I refuse to pay for something that every time I flip it on I feel as if my brain is steadily being churned into chunky apple sauce. This is not to say that I don’t know what’s on there. On occasion, I have sat and witnessed what most of our nation happily plops down and allows to be broadcast into our living rooms every evening.  You know, for the entire family to enjoy. Let’s just say, it’s mildly disturbing. What are the repercussions of such resignation on our society? A world where our entire culture and society is saturated with celebrity gossip, ugly, degrading reality television, and political pundits who would rather preach hate and intolerance than have an intelligent and respectful discussion?

Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest directorial effort, “God Bless America”, takes on this disheartening concept in the form of a deeply dark, satirical comedy. It’s got something for everyone who’s sick of  the “Oh, no, you didn’t!” generation that’s grown up planted on a couch, glued to the screen, all but lobotomized, and no longer concerned with discerning thought, open-mindedness, respect, common courtesy, or even kindness. It’s a generation of people who demand respect, but don’t give it in return, who demand to be heard but refuse to listen,  who know they come first and the rest of the world just doesn’t fucking matter.  Of course, this is a “fictional” world that our protagonist, Frank, inhabits, right? A middle aged, middle class, divorced parent who also happens to be a war veteran.  He must deal with his obnoxious neighbors who don’t seem to mind their 24/7/365 wailing infant, and talk loudly and incessantly (over their screaming offspring) about occurrences on their favorite TV shows and the latest gossip on Bradgelina.
Frank is aware of this drought in the human spirit. That we have sold it for a fast food and soulless culture that worships greed and selfishness over compassion and selflessness.  Frank sits in his living room flipping through the channels as photoshopped pictures of President Obama dressed up as Adolf Hitler are promoted as some kind of warped sense of reality, a random, class-act reality TV star pulls out her bloody tampon and angrily splats it across the face of her costar who, I can only assume, crossed her (the details of their quarrel are lost among beeped-out dialogue). It’s a sick, sad world Frank lives in.  And not even he ever-cool “Daria” kind. To make matters worse, Frank has just lost his job, been informed he has an inoperable, fatal brain tumor growing in his noggin, and his pre-teen daughter refuses to come visit him flipping her shit over receiving a Blackberry instead of an iPhone for her birthday.
Frank can’t take it anymore, but just as he wraps his lips around the barrel of a Glock the blue light of the television screen spills over him.  “My Super Sweet 16” is on and an entitled high schooler is cursing and berating her parents in a self-righteous rage after she is presented with a top o’ the line vehicle that is NOT the one she had envisioned.  Frank comes to the epiphany that the gun he’s holding is pointed in the wrong direction.  Our hero ends up on a road trip to off the outrageous brat he blames for his own daughter’s (and the general world’s) ridiculously selfish behavior.  However, he, also, winds up inspiring and being inspired by a teenage girl, Roxy, who’s just as disillusioned and angry at the egomaniacally brain-dead society they are forced to abide.  Or are they?  They lock, load, and go on a rampage laying waste to those assholes who talk and text during movies, jerks who take up two full parking spaces, and hate mongers who stand at the side of the road holding signs declaring “God Hates Fags”. Frank and Roxy gun them down and mow them over with glee.  I can’t help but chuckle at the carnage as these people are decimated and punished for being a part of a “civilization that is no longer interested in being civilized”.
As is the case with Bobcat’s previous work, God Bless America will have you laughing with dark revelry as those who make everyday life a constant struggle finally mess with with the wrong nice guy.  Also typical of Bobcat, despite the deeply-etched satirical pitch-black edge, the filmmaker manages to imbue this work with genuine, human emotion, poignancy, and thought-provoking pathos.  Joel Murray, the instantly recognizable character, is amazing as Frank.  He infuses the role with so much heart and believability that you cannot help but root for the guy, whether due to or despite his impressive body count.  Roxy,Tara Lynne Barr, as Frank’s young sidekick and voice of the younger generation  is a firecracker, a natural whose sassy, fun performance, keeps the film well-paced and peppy.
God Bless America is a sometimes graphic, often profane and funny for most of its running time. However, by film’s end it starts to register that this is the same violent and malicious motivation that drives those who blow up abortion clinics or lynch people because of the color of their skin. The killers we profess to despise believe they are murdering those “who deserve to die” too, right?  The first 45 minutes of God Bless America starts out blazingly funny as it lampoons pop culture and society at large, but as it winds to a close the viewer may begin to wonder, have both Frank and Roxy steadily descended into the mean-spirited people they were trying to destroy?  God Bless America is hilarious, tragic, sometimes uncomfortable,  frequently challenging, and totally uncompromising.  It’s the kind of film that doesn’t come around very often, anymore.  One that asks some nasty questions, takes an angry stance, and asks the audience to internalize these things. That they sincerely ask themselves just what the fuck they make of it all.
And keep your eyes peeled for TV’s Frank from MST3K in a brief cameo.  Guck-Ga-Yuuuuw!
Stay Trashy!
-Root



Dumpster Diving

Categories