Posts Tagged ‘thoughtful

03
Mar
18

(NSFW) Tanya’s Island (1980) : Monkey Trouble In Paradise

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A Bootsie Kidd Review

Tanya’s Island is a love story like so many others, fraught with jungle wilds and imaginary gorilla lovers. Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy spurns girl. Girl turns to primal nature in pursuit of independence, passion, and fulfillment. Boy changes mind, decides he wants girl and that girl needs him. Girl decides she’ll stick with primal nature in pursuit of independence, passion, and fulfillment.

We open with Tanya going for a run. She is the very picture of strength, independence, capability, hard work, and happens to gorgeous as fuck. This is THE Vanity we’re talking about here, so you know she’s a creature like no other. Tanya is an actress starring in a new King Kong film when her director, Kelly (Mariette Lèvesque), approaches her to state how tired she looks, that her career is more important than her personal life, and to get her shit together, but Kelly’s all smiles and warmth so we’re meant to take it as well-meaning pressure and polite disinterest in Tanya’s personal needs. Distressed, Tanya turns to her artist lover, Lobo (Richard Sargent), who greets Tanya with a pretty brutal goodbye saying he won’t let her “own him”. Tanya seems so wholly unaware of how spectacular she is, in and of herself, seeking love, acceptance, and support from people who have no clue of how nor inclination to give it to her. If it was beauty that killed the beast, Tanya plays roles as both.

Suddenly, a sensationally bizarre b&w scene pops up momentarily within a shower depicting Tanya and Lobo covered in blood while Tanya screams and clammers to escape. The scene ends as suddenly as it arrived, and the next moment we’re in a lavish, morbidly decorated home where Tanya seems to be packing for an escape from this shit when another presents itself. She hears heavy panting coming from up the stairs. As she travels a hall lined with footlights, we hear waves crashing, and upon handling an illuminated seashell, the music crescendos, Tanya opens a door flooded with light and fog juice, and we’re whisked away to sepia-toned, butt-neked Tanya fondling and fake-jogging for the duration of the opening credits.

Tanya Isle open

Tanya has imagined herself to an island that seems to be her own paradise. And hey! Lobo’s there, but he seems enthralled with her and they live, and fuck, and love their days away. She even has her own beach pony to ride around on just in case it wasn’t obvious enough how sexy she and this island are. Only Lobo still isn’t happy. He gets bored and wants to keep exploring the island. Okay, fair enough. It’s a show strength and character when a movie is realistic enough to concede that even paradise has potential for monotony. Lobo’s an artist in want of new inspiration, a yearner, and this is Tanya’s Paradise not Lobo’s, after all, so let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt, for now.

Once they move their tent and relentless chimes to another part of an island, Tanya begins to suspect there’s something on the island with them, tells Lobo of this fear, and Lobo mocks, tricks, and scares the shit out of her. Goddamnit, Lobo! Tanya has had it, y’all, trekking back into the jungle finding herself alone in the wilds of her own imagination. The landscapes are breathtaking, and the further she ventures the more brave and secure she becomes, adorning herself with a crown of flowers as if finally fucking realizes she is the queen of all she surveys. It is an especially gratifying, albeit, simple sequence. As Tanya wanders even deeper in the caverns of her paradise, she comes upon the creature lurking in trees. A gorilla with sterling blue eyes that she befriends and names Blue (Don McLeod).

Tanya's Isle

Despite Tanya reuniting with fuck boy Lobo, he gets butt-hurt over not having Tanya’s undivided attention and the now-apparent fact she doesn’t need his sour-grapes ass for fulfillment, and he attempts to rape her while mocking her desires and affection for Blue. However, Blue is there to thwart that stank dick allowing for Tayna’s escape. But, of course, this Gauguin wannabe motherfucker HAS to win. Despite Tanya’s constant compassion and tenderness, he literally cages her primitive nature, entrapping Blue, demanding that “my rules” are to be obeyed. Lobo barks orders while Tanya tries to salvage what remaining happiness she can in her own fantasy. Her rage intensifies with Lobo’s upgrading abuse until she frees Blue inciting Lobo to construct ANOTHER literal fucking prison around he and Tanya, claiming it as protection. Now it is up to Blue, Tanya’s manifestation of her own wild spirit and independent nature to free her from the colossal douchewad’s clutches.

Watching Lobo’s transformation from everyday self-involved smugness into the filthy, primitive, insecure, patriarchal, rapist piece of shit that was lurking just beneath his surface with Blue taunting Lobo from outside the cage makes for an intense ride. In a frantic sequence of what-the-shit, Blue breaks Tanya free, Lobo is left crying out in fear of loneliness, Tanya fleas deciding she doesn’t need Blue or Lobo resulting in her primal savior Blue eventually catching and beating her to death rather than letting her live independent of them.

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And wouldn’t you know, it was all just a dream! Ugh. She wakes up to the starkly empty room realizing wounds from her nightmarish encounter. She has a blank canvas to work with from here, but scars remain and need time and care to heal. Our minds construct prisons within prisons as well as the villains and heroes to navigate them, and circumstances idealized in the mind that may have been some pretty unhealthy shit can be overcome for living to fight and love another day.

All in all, Tanya’s Island has a lot more substance than expected given other’s reports! Moral of the story for us and Tanya, listen but, in the end, rely on your own judgement and experience. Sure there’s sultry sexin’ and plenty of bare-backin the beach pony, but all of it fits within the context of Tanya’s frame of paradise. It’s thoughtful AND evocative which is especially remarkable given that these two things are never mutually exclusive though typically treated as such in cinematic critique.  Director Alfred Sole and the solid performances from Vanity, Sargant, and McLeod creatively reimagined important subjects, and it is one that I hope eventually receives the nods it deserves. Check it out for yourself at Cap City Video Lounge or your local movie rental store!

 

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

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a Primal Root written review

“Do you believe God’s whole world runs by the laws of the few sciences we have been able to discover? Oh, no, Christine, there is more. But people are satisfied. They know so much, they think they know all. And that makes it easy for Nosferatu. That makes it easy for all the devils.” -Cuda, Martin

 

George Romero’s name immediately conjures up images of his iconic shambling, flesh eating “shoot ’em in the head” zombies, and it’s no wonder. Hell, the man’s spent the better part of a career spanning over forty years devoted to these walking dead flesh eaters who changed the landscape of horror cinema forever with movies like Night of the Living Dead (!968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2004) among many other “Of the Dead” films and follow ups spawning countless unofficial ineffective sequels and lukewarm, forgettable remakes and also saturated the market for the past decade influencing everything in pop culture to the point I wish someone would just put a bullet in my head and end the unimaginative, cash-in, living dead hysteria that won’t seem to ever fucking wind down and die.

But to concentrate on the man’s most popular and commercially successful ventures is to ignore the bold and creative films he is lesser known for. Films like The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow,The Dark Half, etc. The man has made some phenomenal films outside the living dead canon he’s most known for, and I’d like to focus on what I consider to be among his most intriguing and underrated works, the independent vampire flick, Martin. 

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Martin tells the tale of a shy, quiet, troubled teenage boy who believes himself to be a vampire, in fact, he comes from a lineage of his family that other relatives believe is cursed with hereditary vampirisim.  We’re introduced to Martin (John Amplas) as he stalks a fellow female passenger on an overnight train to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As he stalks this average young woman back to her overnight cabin aboard the train, we watch as Martin imagines her waiting for him behind the locked door in a revealing neglige, seduced by his vampire charms, lusting for him and embraces Martin with open arms, allowing him to feast on her warm red blood.  What Martin imagines is presented in grainy black and white, like the classic Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, like Dracula or Frankenstein, before cutting back to the bright, technicolor of reality where Martin attacks the young woman in her cramped cabin. The reality is far from Martin’s dream scenario. He walks in to the sound of her flushing the toilet before she steps out with her hair up in a towel, wearing a well loved bathrobe, her face caked in beauty cream as she blows a huge snot rocket into a wad of toilet paper. When Martin attacks her, intent on doping her up with a well placed prick of his syringe, she fights back with everything she has, hurling obscenities like “FREAK! RAPIST! ASSHOLE!”  athim while struggling against his clutches. Honestly, Martin is a shrimpy looking dude, and I have a feeling she would probably kick his ass normally, but the drugs take hold and she passes out, thus, allowing Martin to slice her arm open with a straight razor and dine on her blood. That’s right, Martin has no fangs.

When the train reaches it’s destination Martin meets his new caretaker, his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Cuda is a devoutly religious and highly superstitious  man,  and believes completely in the old family legend that some members are cursed with vampirisim. Cuda takes the boy in with the hopes of saving Martin’s eternal soul before destroying the creature of the night for all time. As you might guess, Cuda has nothing but contempt for young Martin, addressing him as Nosferatu and even threatening to put a stake through Martin’s heart, killing Martin without salvation, if Martin harms anyone in his city. But it’s not long before Martin ignores these warnings, and sneaks off into the night to hunt and feed.

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From the very first frame, Romero, with the help of a haunting, beautiful score from Don Rubinstein and utilizing the fading landscape of Braddock Pennsylvania, imbues his film with a sad, bleak, disturbing atmosphere, one where the American Dream has run dry and the world is left to rot and decay. The mills have alls hut down, the local economy has crumbled, and everyone left is struggling just to survive. The tone is one of desperation as a population holds on to the dying old ways of their lives and existing in denial.

As Martin stalks and ambushes his victims, it becomes apparent that sex is not his concern at all. In fact, when he is propositioned by a female shopper he befriends at Cuda’s grocery store, he has no idea how to respond. Turns out, Martin’s still a virgin after all these years and has no idea what to make of this. The lure of sex seems to hang all about Martin, and his response to it comes off as confused, sad and out of place. When he finally does give in to the seduction, he comes away unfulfilled. This is not your typical lustful vampire.

What Romero has sought out to do with Martin is, much like he did for zombies in his 1968 horror milestone Night of the Living Dead , is to deconstruct the vampire legend and all of the conventions we as an audience hold to be law. Martin is Romero’s treatise that examines the myth of the vampire, (featured in black and white, either as fantasy or long ago memories of how being a vampire once was, this point is left ambiguous) and reality (shot in bright, bold, 1970’s color) de-romanticizing the vampire legend. Also being tackled here is religion and superstitious belief.

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Martin cannot stomach the reality he exists in, and instead, creates intricate fantasies (presented in grainy black and white) where he visualizes himself sneaking into a grand castle rather than some  sleazy 70’s bachelor pad, or striding into the arms of an eager lover rather than holding down a shrieking victim who just took a huge dump in the adjoining bathroom. He imagines himself into the romantic Hollywood reality of the movie vampire, the one that is so alluring. which might be why he’s so quick to state “There’s no magic. There’s no real magic ever.” several times in the film. Crucifixes, garlic, holy water, sunlight, the classic rules do not apply in reality. Martin has no fangs, he uses a straight razor. He has no powers of seduction, he must use dope to keep his victims from breaking him in half. This is not a world of magic and super human power, this is stone cold, un-romantic reality.

Still, Martin believes he is actually a vampire and must feed on the blood of the living in order to survive, just as Christians believe utterly and completely in the resurrection, Heaven, Hell, and the power of the holy spirit. Martin still places an importance in the canned icons of his belief system, “The Hollywood Vampire” but is intelligent enough to know he is only humoring himself with these fantasies and delusions. After one startling moment in the film where Martin scares the living shit out of Cuda by stepping out the darkness  wearing a cape, bares fangs and has a pallid complexion only to finally laugh at the old man and reassure him, “It’s only a costume.” Martin has been told all his life what he is and has come to believe what’s been drilled into his head from birth.  Martin longs to be one thing, but he knows he is something else and this knowledge is the essence of the film.

Martin also takes dead aim at organized religion, portraying it in vapid, empty terms. Romero himself plays a hip priest who insults the shitty wine his church serves at communion, doesn’t believe in angels or demons and loves the movie The Exorcist. And when Cuda calls upon an old school priest to ambush Martin and perform an exorcism of their own, it comes off as an old useless ritual and Martin simply walks away as the priest blubbers on reading from the holy text. But more disheartening than any of this is Cuda himself, a man so blinded by his own faith that he believes it is his divine right to wield life or death over his own flesh and blood. Cuda believes the vampiric curse and that it is his duty to destroy the evil, to murder his own relative in the name of God. This is the same mentality in religious hysteria that leads followers to murder doctors who perform abortion and claim to be pro-life but support capital punishment, to commit atrocious acts of violence in the name of your own personal lord and savior. It’s sick, it’s twisted and it’s wrong.

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

In the end, Martin is a film about the lies we tell ourself and the delusions we live every day. Those that we have been taught by those closest to us and those we tell ourselves simply to get by. Martin wants so badly to be a vampire he is willing to kill others. Martin admires the lore and power of vampires. How they are loved, feared and lusted after, all things that the shy, timid misfit feels he can never obtain.

Martin is a singular, gorgeous, and poetic take on the vampire horror film and it’s Hollywood lore. To date, I have never seen a more thoroughly unique and sweetly sad vampire tale.  This is the rarest of horror movies, one not about a horrible other, or even about the creature next door. No, this is subtle, ambiguous look at what makes monsters of us all. A look into the heart of the horror in our everyday human existence and the evils we are capable of inflicting on one another. Not only through physical acts, but through the power of ideas, belief and control.

I give Martin FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. If you ask me, this is Romero’s absolute masterpiece.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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