Posts Tagged ‘tobe hooper

23
Mar
20

(NSFW) Night Killer (1990): Tasty Fright Chicken

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“FRIED CHICKEN AND FRENCH FRIES!” – Peter Hotten as Axel, Night Killer (1990)

a Primal Root written review

1990 was filmmaker Claudio Fragasso’s year, man. In 1990 his magnum opus, most fully realized and beloved film Troll 2 saw the light of day as a direct to video release. It’s a film that has gained an ever expanding and rabid fanbase with it’s bizarre concepts, lost in translation screenplay, goofball acting and bargain basement effects mingling with it’s genuine nature basically guaranteed it would find an audience over the years to laugh and cherish it for it’s bonkers presentation.

 

But, a far lesser known darker, more adult and, until recently, incredibly difficult to find offering from Claudio Fragasso was released in 1990 under the title Night Killer. It’s film that, too, has gained cult status for many the same reasons as Troll 2, even enjoying a similar retitling to try and sell it as a sequel to something it was never intended to be. Italian producers actually retitled the thing Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, which translates to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, therefore making Night Killer Italy’s unofficial third sequel to Tobe Hooper’s legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre despite Night Killer not featuring a single chainsaw in any shot of the film much like Troll 2 only featured Goblins…and not a single goddamn Troll.

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Night Killer begins with a spastic and, frankly, embarrassingly bad dance rehearsal for some kind of on stage production. One of the performers arrives late, gets naked and then then punched entirely through the gut by a killer is a strange, creepy fright mask that looks like it might have been left in the car too long on a hot summer day, as it appears more than a little melty. Not only that, but the killer is also wearing a dark trench coat and highly rubbery Freddy Krueger inspired glove on his right hand featuring long corn cob yellow finger nails. When you put all the pieces together, The Night Killer actually kind of looks like Freddy Krueger and The Toxic Avenger’s love child.  So, after we see the late dancer’s bare breasts, she is impaled and dies. Farewell and adieu to you bare breasted lady!

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Noticing her absence and also having the epiphany that whatever fucking musical dance show she is directing is going to suck goat balls, the musical’s director flies into a bizarre, seemingly unscripted improvised rage where she mumbles a lot, and stumbles over what she’s saying before storming off the stage to find the late performer who went to change. When she finds the dead dancer’s corpse, The Night Killer slits her throat takes his fucking time chasing her off the top balcony of the theater where she plummets to her death. The chase takes what feels like an eternity as the director gasps for air and tries to scream while dramatically stumbling down corridors, up stairs, downstairs and eventually over the railing. It feels like an appropriate death scene for a theater major.

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We are then treated to an opening credit sequence where a woman hands off her pre-teen daughter and her luggage to an unidentified man, then the man brings the little girl to who I must assume is his wife. Honestly, this happens over the opening credits and I have no idea who these fucking people are, how they’re related or what the situation is. I assumed it was a pair of divorced parents and the little girl was going to spend the weekend with her Dad and her step-Mom, but we find out, later, that this is not the case at all. But this child hand-off opening sequences is totally baffling as there is no dialogue whosoever to establish just what the Hell is happening.

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Turns out, the lady who just sent her daughter packing is our main character, her name is Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman, who you may remember as Billy and Ricky’s slain Mom in the original Silent Night, Deadly Night) who eats what looks like an entire club sandwich for breakfast before lowering the neckline of her oversized sweater to stare at her tits in the mirror and perform the rare horror movie soliloquy about her marriage being on the rocks before being interrupted by a call from her ex-husband who she estimates is “drunker than usual” and explains to him that Clarissa has gone away to the country with Annie, so, again I must assume here that Clarissa is Melanie’s daughter and Annie is possibly the woman we saw in the opening credits. It’s strange having a movie that’s so damn mysterious you have to try and figure just who the characters are. Anyhoo, the phone call with who might be her estranged husband ends with he her screaming “DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN!” into he receiver before slamming the phone down and her possible estranged husband shattering his glass in his hand and screaming “MELANIE!” We never see his face, as his back is turned to us in every shot he is in and his voice sounds a lot like the killer’s. Could it be him?

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Fast forward a second or two and she receives another phone call from the actual killer who tells her “You’re a fine looking woman, Mrs. Beck. You’re just MADE to be fucked senseless.” and “I won’t kill you straight away, first I’m going to fuck your BRAINS out!” She hangs up, calls the cops, but it’s too late. The masked killer reveals himself to already be inside her home with the line, “I can’t wait 5 minutes, Mrs. Beck, I’m too HORNY!” Melanie fights valiantly to kill the intruder, but it’s no use. Once cornered, the killer reveals his face to her, not the audience, and we cut to a week later where she has amnesia and it turns out she was rescued offscreen by a man named Sherman, who is married to Annie and takes care of Melanie’s daughter Clarissa. See, it’s ALL coming together! Sherman even got a deep cut across his face for saving Melanie. And, for whatever reason, only Melanie can identify the man who held her captive for eight hours despite Sherman’s face to face encounter with the Night Killer. I’m sure there must be some logical explanation for this, but being that this is a Claudio Fragasso film, you never know if this is a clue, a red herring, or just inept screenwriting and filmmaking, so everything is absolutely unreliable. We also learn from Sherman that Melanie’s husband was booted off the police for undisclosed reasons. The plot thickens to the point of crusting over as it becomes unidentifiable!

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Immediately after Melanie is released from the hospital an asshole in a jeep drives up next to her and begins cat calling her between taking swings of his 40oz. She flicks him off and speeds off, but he stalks her down to a restroom where she pulls a gun, makes him strip nekkid, and dump his clothes in the crapper. He runs out of the restroom and drops this incredible line of dialog…

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Now, you might think this sweaty, bug eyed creeper with the incredibly active body language will never be heard from again, but this psychopathic stalker actually tracks Melanie down at the beach where she is attempting to kill her herself with a load of pills. This guy actually picks her up, carries her into the ocean, forces her head under water so she is forced to drink salt water so she’ll barf up all the pills she just ingested. This moment of valiant and violent heroics is followed by this guy kidnapping Melanie and keeping her locked in a seedy motel room where he presents her with Kentucky Fried Chicken and French Fries “Nothing does it to me like friiiiied chicken!” before sticking a unloaded gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger and tying her down nekkid and making her say “Pretty Please” over and over again. This bug eyed, vicious rapist is named Axel (Peter Hooten from Orca: The Killer Whale (1977) and Inglorious Bastards (1978)). We are led to believe this guy is the actual Night Killer as we see THE Night Killer impaling voluptuous blonde woman at the local aquarium after hours and killing prostitutes in his art studio after they recite the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and then putting them in identical masks as him and making out with their dead bodies as Axel hold Melanie hostage. Are they one and the same? Are there two separate homicidal rapist scumbags running around this little city? I can only tell you that this film is so absolutely off the wall unpredictable and poorly put together, I doubt you will be able to guess every twist and turn Night Killer has to reveal by it’s laugh out loud what the fuck conclusion.

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Night Killer is actually a pretty impressively devious, dark, demented horror film that doesn’t let logic or any for of real common sense get in the way of it’s hysterically over the top, super imaginative, if completely illogical twists.  What really helps are the no holds barred over the top performances from the entire cast. Top to bottom, everyone is going for the gold and trying to sell this fucking movie. Sure, their performances are wacky and laughable…across the board, actually, as they try with all their mediocre acting might to pull of this ludicrous dialog. There are even some moments of genuine terror, especially during scenes between Melanie and Axel as the actors both play off one another really well. Every scene is pitched to the extreme and it’s something that works in Night Killer‘s favor and makes the proceedings far more enjoyable and engrossing, even if it is in a laughably Trash Cinema way.

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I understand writer/director Claudio’s original vision was to make a psychological horror film with very little violence and gore, but the producers balked at the director’s initial edit of the filmed and hired exploitation legend Bruno Mattei (director of Rats: Night of Terror (1984) and Strike Commando (1987)) to add some gore to the proceedings, hence, all the really out of place moments of Night Killer’s claw punching through people. I honestly think the psychological horror elements are the strongest of the film. You can feel what Claudio was really going for with Night Killer and the gore elements always come off as out of place and make the film feel even cheaper than it obviously is.

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This was my very first time seeing Night Killer and I was genuinely impressed by this trashy slice of cheese. It was not afraid to go to some pretty extreme places, took a lot of risks, and obviously not afraid to create a film that was absolutely baffling and send the audience through a dark, nasty tale without a map or even a compass. You literally are thrown in totally blind, with no clue as to who these people are, what’s going on, what the time frame is or how things are connected and you are expected to keep up and fill in the blanks. And it works. It blows my mind to say it, but by the film’s end, being kept in the absolute dark makes it all work. It’s either really tricky and somewhat smart screenwriting, or it’s absolutely moronic and they got lucky. I like to think it’s the work or a Trash Cinematic genius. Let’s face it, Troll 2 shouldn’t work either, but goddamn if it’s not one of the most legendarily entertaining Trash Cinema films ever made. Night Killer is cut from the same cloth and deserves just as much notoriety and recognition among Trash Cinema fans.

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I am awarding Night Killer FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

30
Jul
16

Eaten Alive (1976):A Slice of Deep Fried Southern Sleaze

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down and viewing the strangest, nastiest, weirdest films that have ever been made. Years I’ve spend renting, sitting in theaters and even buying movies for my collection before ever having viewed them in the hope of tracking down a little nugget of dirty trash cinema gold.  And in all those years, few have reached the levels of sick, disturbing, nasty southern fried exploitation sleaze and depravity as Tobe Hooper’s 1976 bargain basement horror flick, Eaten Alive (aka: Legend of the Bayou aka: Death Trap aka: Horror Hotel aka: Murder on the Bayou aka: Starlight Slaughter). This flick is about as seedy, filthy and low brow as horror cinema gets. It’s garish, lurid, ultra cheap and is missing so much of the artistic flourishes which made Tobe Hooper 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only a massive success with audiences but critics too, so much so that it is considered an American classic and even has it’s original negatives housed at The American Film Archive.

You will never find Eaten Alive being lauded over and put in a film preservation vault. Not, this is the kind of movie main stream critics use to wipe the turd crusted asses with. This is the ultimate deglamorization of the horror genre. The colors are thick and heavy, the sets rudimentary, ramshackle, and worn down, totally caked in dust, dirt and filth.  And the first lines we ever hear are during a close up shot of a huge belt buckle coming undone as a young Robert (don’t call me Freddy) Englund exclaims, is a raspy southern accent “My name’s Buck and I’m rarin’ to FUCK!” He makes this exclamation as he bends a young prostitute over and attempts to ass fuck her, which she is less than willing to do. Eaten Alive begins…with a man trying to stick his cock up a woman’s ass… Sophie’s Choice, this is not.

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It all gets even more dark and mean spirited from there, as the madame of this particular Pussy Shack, Miss Hattie (Morticia herself, Carolyn Jones) boots the young prostitute , Clara (Roberta Collins), out on the street for refusing to let young Buck savage her inexperienced poop chute with his throbbing, eager, member. She ends up heading deep into the bayou to stay at the run down, once thriving, now absolutely disgusting and grotesque Starlight Hotel. It’s a shanty out in the middle of the swamp and houses not only the disturbed, one legged, bespectacled, murderous proprietor… Judd (Neville Brand), but also is the domain of Judd’s behemoth per crocodile, a crocodile he claims he got directly from The Nile, which stays in a fenced in portion of the swamp right beside the front porch of The Starlight Hotel.

Clara is chopped to pieces and tossed to the crocodile within minutes of arriving when Judd realizes she used to sling leg for cold hard cash back in town. He flips his shit, tucks his scythe into her young, lovely flesh several good times and tosses her still breathing body off the porch, into the swamp to spend her last gasping breaths chocking on her own blood as she is torn to pieces by the resident devourer of anything made of meat. It’s a pretty nasty, unapologetic and fucking cruel way for this character to meat her end. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho…only set in Florida Man’s South. Where these sorts of things are still shocking, but not necessarily surprising and everything is much more gruesome.

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Eaten Alive is a horror movie with no exits, no easy way out from the grueling, unrelentingly malicious story and it’s schlocky tone. From the get go, the audience knows that their emotions, their nerves, will not be spared and, as my close, personal friend, Joe Bob Briggs once said, the key to a good Drive-In movie is that anyone can die at any moment. Tobe Hooper keeps this rule close to his heart in Eaten Alive, as many kind hearted, well meaning characters are introduced and then have scythes rammed through their skulls and an enormous gator tugs at their flailing legs and pulls them in half. It’s that kind of ride. Innocent family pets are shown being bitten into and dragged to their watery deaths while their adolescent owner screams in horror. So, be warned, this movie is for the sicker of us who respect films that can show just how unlikable and horrifying the human condition can be.

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There’s an outstanding sequence where a little nuclear family stops by The Starlight Hotel to stay the night and collect bed bugs. The married couple, Faye and Roy are played by none other than two of my favorite character actors, Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise). Their marriage is obviously a slow burn downward spiral into permanent psychosis and Roy apologizes constantly, fantasies about his wife using his eyeball as an ash tray and barks all night. It’s a tense, wholly bizarre marriage filled with passive aggressive behavior and absolute batshit crazy behavior. I’m not sure what the fuck is exactly going on here with these two when they’re alone together, but I do feel for their little daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) who spends her time screaming in despair with her hands clasped over her ears as her parents act like complete nutty bars. It’s one of those scenes that I;m so happy exists, because it’s so much fun to watch these two actors go tow to tow and go crazy on one another, but the implications are disheartening to say the least.

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Soon, Clara’s sick and slowly dying Father, Harvey (Mel Ferrer), and his blonde, well stacked daughter, Libby show up in town looking for Clara. Harvey knows he will be gone soon and wants to find her so he can make good with her before his imminent demise. Things ended on a sour note and he wants to be the bigger man and is desperate to track her down. Where do they end up staying? You guessed it! The Starlight Hotel! The two begin to investigate her disappearance which gets the local Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman). All the while, Buck (Robert Englund) takes his curvy young girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe) up to The Starlight Hotel for a little consensual sodomy which all leads to a collision course with absolute horror at the dank, gross and inexplicably popular hellhole of a hotel. There’s gotta be a Motel 6 nearby, right?

 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Eaten Alive is the film’s distinct lack of anyone to really root for, it’s lack of humanity and likable characters. There’s not much to distinguish the villain of the piece, Judd, from the rest of the stories inhabitants. We can;t root for Buck, he’s a rapist, a drug dealer and a fucking bully. Sheriff Martin is totally incompetent and impotent as a lawman or any kind of hero. Roy is a failure, a whimpering loser on the verge of a psychotic break down…even Clara’s Dad is so obsessed beyond reason with finding her and comes off as a total jerk. Still, you see these poor sacks of flesh getting filleted by Judd and then ripped to pieces by the voracious crocodile and you genuinely feel bad for these poor, fucked fuckers.  It’s like a treatise against having faith in humanity. Possibly even life itself. Did I mention this movie is dark?

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Some of the women fair a little bit better and are able to save themselves most of the time and work together to overcome the blood thirsty men who happen to be coming after them intent of sinking as much blade into their young soft bodies as possible. But, possibly the only totally sane character in the whole film is Roy and Faye’s young daughter, who is certain to be scarred for life after her long weekend witnessing horror after horror and narrowly escaping being stabbed to death and Eaten Alive… Yeah, I foresee many hefty therapy bills for the rest of this poor child’s life…

 

There’s a lot of joy to be had, also, in watching a young pre A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund playing a pretty nasty piece of white trash dirtbag named Buck in Eaten Alive. He gives his all in what could have been a pretty forgettable character, but that Englund personae pulls through and makes Buck a pretty memorable piece of shit. You can’t help but see the shadow of Freddy in so many of this characters posses and mannerisms. I often like to imagine that Buck is possibly Freddy Krueger’s cousin.

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All this being said, Eaten Alive is a kind of harrowing masterpiece of deep Southern sleaze cinema. The gore is gnarly, the kills palpably unpleasant, the effects all bargain basement which, in it’s own way, adds to the sticky, morbidity of the piece AND there is a plentiful helping of gratuitous tits and ass, which is kind of the sugar that helps this dirty little pill go down. The sleaze on display here is authentic. One walks away from a viewing of Eaten alive feeling dirty and in need of a shower. There’s no deeper meaning to be found in this head first dive into depravity, murder and insanity. It’s a film totally preoccupied in the grimy, the dirty and the disturbing and offers no apologies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only blood, chaos, death and darkness. And what could be more terrifying than that?

I award Eaten Alive 4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

21
Nov
15

The Funhouse (1981): The Reality of Horror

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a Primal Root written review

“Who will dare to face the challenge of the Funhouse? Who is mad enough to enter that world of darkness? How about you, sir…?” -Funhouse Barker, The Funhouse (1981)

 

Who doesn’t love a night amongst the neon lights, swirling machinery, salt of the earth carnies and deep fried delicacies of the fair? As The Primal Root and lifetime admirer of all things filthy, the North Florida Fair is a true thing of beauty. The aroma of artery clogging treats like cotton candy, loaded cheese fries, funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos co mingle with the unmistakable stench of fresh vomit, Carny B.O. and still warm shit straight from the occupants of the livestock pavilions assholes. It’s the smell of a fine, trashy adventure ready to be had! The sound of screaming patrons as they are spun at incredibly unsafe speeds on rides older than their grandparents and just as rickety as the Bacon Blast they just ate moments ago churns within their stomachs threatening to become a technicolor projectile of half digested nastiness! Because. let’s face it, fun is only bolstered when there’s a constant threat of either being puked on or a fate worse than death. These are simple truths.

Case in point, Tobe Hooper often overlooked 1981 low rent, down and dirty slasher shit kicker, The Funhouse! It’s the kind of film that did fairly well when it came out but never created a sustainable franchise and got forgotten about by the mainstream horror aficionados. Which is a shame, really, because The Funhouse is actually a pretty great slice of the old Trash Cinema Grade B meatloaf.

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The story is about a young, very pretty, VERY healthy young lady named Amy (played by the criminally underrated actress, Elizabeth Berridge). She is set up on a date by her two buddies  Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin) with a young stud and gas station attendant, Buzz Dawson (Cooper Huckabee). Against the advice of her parents, Amy and her friends attend the traveling fair that’s in town. Things get off to a rocky start as Buz insults Amy’s Father…but he soon amps up the charm and before you know it, he’s wrapping his arm around her, she’s resting her head on his shoulder and discussing letting Buzz ram his prize winning cock through her fresh harvest cherry with Liz while the hang out in an alarmingly grotesque carnival shit house. That’s right, Amy’s a virgin, Buzz is a”pistol” and Amy’s been saving it for someone special. I mean, this guy DID play that strong man carnival game, ring the bell and win her a stuffed panda, so the least she can do is spread her legs and let him ring her bell, too! Right? Right? Well, that’s how it sorta works in slasher flick logic anyway.  And what better place to lose it than by trespassing into the carnival’s FUNHOUSE and staying the night in there? Honestly, it is kind of a romantic notion to lose one’s virginity in there. Imagine, those things are NEVER cleaned so the drippings of your busted cherry will be all over The Funhouse floor FOREVER! So, one day when the carnival comes to town you can share a ride with the grand kids, point to an old brown stain on the floor and say “That’s where I treated a distant memory named “Buzz” to my unspoiled cooter! No, not Buzz Aldrin. This guy worked a gas pump…” But, I digress.

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Before you can say,  “dead whore”, the kids witness the creepy Funhouse attendant killing a fortune teller by the name of Madame Zena (Oscar nominated actress and Andy Warhol Factory regular, Sylvia Miles) who also doesn’t mind fucking for money on the side. See, Madame Zena simply touches the guy’s dick and he shoots his wad. She keeps the money, says a deal’s a  deal, but the Carny who just blew his load doesn’t see it this way. He yanks her tits out and strangles/electrocutes her to death. It;s a pretty horrifying/awesome scene.  The Carny is soon joined by his Father affectionately known as Funhouse Barker (Kevin Conway, who happens to play all the other Carnival Barkers in the film) and it is revealed that his son is hardly human at all, and is in fact, some kind of red eyed, sharp clawed, protruding fanged, drooling, screeching albino mutant deformity. It’s a pretty amazing reveal and one that puts a huge shit eating grin on my face every time. As Father and son discuss their plan for covering up Madame Zena’s murder we soon discover that this is far from the first time The Funhouse Barker has had to cover for his son’s murderous ways. In fact, it is even mentioned that his son killed two little Girl Scouts once. Yeah, this twosome is pretty vile. There are several shots in the move that linger on what a general ride goer at The Funhouse would consider fake rotten corpse props hanging from the walls of the ride. But the shots last for quite a while after we are made aware of this Father and Son’s past and you start to wonder how many of those crumbling dead bodies might actually be the real thing?

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Father and son decide they will ditch Madame Zena’s body in the woods and then blame her murder on “The Locals.”  As if Columbo couldn’t figure this shit out…ANYHOO, Richie drops his lighter, the Gruesome Twosome get wise to the fact that there are witnesses to the murder and the hunt is on!

The Funhouse is in many way a horror movie about horror movies. At the film’s very beginning, as we are treated to a lovely glimpse at Amy’s beautiful boobs, there are blatant and calculated homages to our horror film heritage represented by blatantly by  John Carpenter’s Halloween in the form of that film’s killer POV shots, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as Amy showers and is menaced by an unknown assailant with a knife. As a viewer, we are well aware of all these tropes. We’ve seen them and we know where it is going. The young, naked, nubile woman in the shower is going to get sliced and diced. That’s how these things work. HOWEVER, in The Funhouse, the sense of menace is soon turned upside down as the masked killer is revealed to be Amy’s little brother Joey pulling a prank and scaring the shit out of his big sis. This is meant to represent the horror film experience. Something scary is seen, but it is at the end of the day, harmless. What is frightening and thrilling on the screen isn’t going to actually harm us. James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein is repeatedly mentioned in one form or another. In Joey’s room there is a poster of Frankenstein’s Monster on this wall above his bed, Amy and Joey’s parent’s are seen watching Bride of Frankenstein on cable TV safe in their living room and even The Killer Carny Creature wears a Frankenstein mask through most of the film to cover his terrifying true appearance. The fictional face of a homogenized, harmless, well loved fictional monster is used to cover up the real terror just under the thin layer of latex.  It is a theme throughout The Funhouse. The kids go on carnival rides, scream are thrilled and have a blast. The ride stops and they step off unscathed. They witness a magician, Marco the Magnificent (played by legendary character actor and The Phantom of the Paradise himself, William Finley) drive a stake into a young girl’s heart. She spews up blood as she screams in agony. The crowd is horrified! But then the lights come up and the young girl is shown to be unharmed, and in fact, Marco’s lovely daughter and assistance. It was all an illusion, a trick, and order is restored. Again and again, the teens face things that outside the carnival would be truly horrendous, but here, it’s all an illusion. They are safe.

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That is, until they witness reality. In one of my favorite sequences in The Funhouse, the teens have snuck into The Funhouse to stay the night. The camera cranes back to show the lights of the traveling carnival shutting off, the rides shutting down, and inside The Funhouse the animatronic figures that populate it wind down to a halt. The notion of being alone, in the dark with all these creepy figures is the stuff of nightmares and is terrifying to contemplate. The camera steadily, slowly pulls back from the traveling carnival as the crowds leave pour out, the rides stop, and the lights shut down. The camera pulls all the way out to the parking lot. The veneer of amusement and fun are now gone and we are alone. Trapped in the dark. And evil is lurking.  Just like the horror film itself. You watch it, you have fun at the thrill of make believe monsters and mayhem. But when the movie is over, the credits roll and you go home…the real world awaits.

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I fucking adore The Funhouse. No other movie captures the sleazy, greasy nastiness of the traveling carnival quite like it. Hooper populates the movie with some great, memorable, believable characters…and some that are a bit cartoonish and over the top, but it all plays into the carnival atmosphere and it pays off exceptionally well. Sure, on the surface it looks just like another one of the popular dead teenager movies that came down the conveyer belt of the 1980’s, replete with plenty of death, destruction and nudity, but if you just pull back that mask, if you dare to look beneath the surface, The Funhouse is a much more thoughtful, much more intelligent horror film than you initially thought.

I award Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Taking a trip through The Funhouse is well worth it, Gang.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

16
Oct
14

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 40 Years with a Whole Family of Draculas

 

Patric Reynolds

Patric Reynolds

 

In Loving Memory of Marilyn Burns 

A Primal Root Written Review

Our experience begins in the void of darkness, we are blind to the world around us, yet we can hear the nearby sound of a shovel burrowing into the soil. The sounds of heavy breathing, exertion. Our senses are heightened alright as our minds race with the possibilities, as we are made to feel uncomfortable, trapped, anxious…And then our very first image. The visage of a thoroughly rotten, glistening, corpse that eerily resembles a batch of General Tso’s chicken, illuminated by a camera’s flashbulb, accentuated by the startling sound on the film;s soundtrack rumored to be anything from a cello to Tobe Hooper running a pitchfork down a piece of metal. Either way, in the span of mere seconds, the audience viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is experiencing one thing above all else, fear.

The premise is simple. Throw a pack of kids in their late teens and early twenties into the heart of darkness, watch them die and then cheer on that one young woman who remains as she struggles for survival. We would call it cliched if it weren’t for the fact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the very first. To call Texas Chainsaw Massacre a milestone in horror cinema is justified. Like absolutely nothing that came before it in the film’s attempt to truly obliterate the sanity of anyone who views it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired a generation of horror filmmakers and decades worth of copy cats who could never dream of coming close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s raw, uncompromising, power. Though many sequels and cash-in’s follows in Chainsaw’s wake, there is no other horror film like it.

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Tobe Hooper, a young filmmaker out of Texas,  was inspired by, as legend has it,  tales of serial killer Ed Gein and his penitent for digging up corpses to steal their skin and wear it as well as the man’s hobby of turning the remnants of the dead into furniture and serving dishes. Another inspiration came in the form of a holiday shopping trip to Sears. As hooper stood in the hardware aisle int he midst of the holiday shopping madness, his eyes fell upon a rack of chainsaws when the thought came to him, “I know of a way to get out of this place in a hurry!” According to Hooper, within second, the premise for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most innovative and enduring piece of cinema to come out of the hippie movement, it has become a touchstone for the end of the movement an highlighting the sick, subversive nature or our American culture and society itself. In the wake of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the failed war in Vietnam, the brutality of The Civil Rights movement and The Tate-Labianca murders, it was no wonder such a ferocious, merciless, hopeless piece of cinema was the product. Many other horror films of the era, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, all dealt with the frustrations, horror and disheartening of a generation of idealists, who struck out to change things, and watching as that struggle got buried, and never actually took hold. By the late 60’s and early 70’s we had become a nation haunted by that period in time when so many believed in a dream, only to watch it fall apart, like a person being chopped to pieces under a whirring chainsaw. None matched the unbridled fury, the primal scream of disgust and anger that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delivered. All at once, the young people of a generation are painted as idiots, ego-centric assholes willing to mock one another and leave those less fortunate behind as they seek their own personal pleasures. And by films end, we are reminded, that it’s all just business as usual as an ancient old man in a suit and tie sucks the blood from the tip of the new generation’s finger tip. The message is clear, welcome to the American Nightmare, don’t expect to ever wake up.

MB2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a true work of absolute terror. A story pitch perfectly told, well acted, beautifully shot and fantastically edited. I could go on all day about Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of the premiere achievements in outlaw independent filmmaking, but the results speak for themselves.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now, 40 years later, considered a film classic and a masterpiece of the horror genre. All these decades later and it has not lost an ounce of it’s power to drive it’s audience to the brink of their sanity. To this day, as Leatherface dances with his chainsaw and the sun rises over rural America, just as the film cuts to black, dead silence, I still have to catch my breath every time.  40 years on, and we’re still feeling the the influence of that idyllic summer afternoon drive that became a nightmare. The most bizarre crime in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre LEGENDARY status aka: Infinite 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

19
Oct
11

Texas Chainsaw Massacre part2 Screening for Trash Cinema Night Nov. 5th

Hey Gang,

The Primal Root here to invite everyone to Tallahassee Florida’s trashiest, friendliest, tavern in town, Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack on November 5th at 10pm where we will be showing Tobe Hooper’s sick, demented, bloody, disgusting, hysterical, satirical 1986 horror follow up to his 1974 horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s right, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season we will watch as society gets it’s greedy, selfish ass fed back to it in Tobe Hooper’s 1986 immortal classic, Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2!

Just like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part 2 is every bit as much a product of it’s time. Where the original was concerned with out and out horror and America’s disillusionment at the end of the Vietnam War, Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2 has something new to say about the rapid consumerisim, yuppie culture and nature of capitalism in that had taken hold of our country in the mid 80’s

Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2 works as a brutally violent dark comedy where the typical audience member will find themselves laughing their asses off as they try to hold back the dry heaves.

So come on out to Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack for November 5th Trash Cinema Night as we join the Sawyer Clan as they prepare their award winning chili for the masses! Grab yourself a cold pitcher of your favorite beer, sink your teeth into some “prime meat”, lick my plate you dog dick, and enjoy one of the sickest, funniest, most subversive trash horror epics to ever be released in the decade of excess!

Stay Trashy and we hope to see you there!

-Root

22
Aug
09

Spontaneous Combustion

“Stop, Drop & Roll”

a review by Jessica Dawn Summers

S. CombustionThere were many movies that Tobe Hooper directed that never received the fame and recognition of his early classics, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist.  This gem, however, may just deserve some of that acclaim, even if only for the originality of the material. How many movies have you seen in your life about Spontaneous Human Combustion? This is the only one I have ever seen, that’s for sure. That fact completely aside, I genuinely found myself loving this movie.

Starring the amazingly talented Academy Award Nominee Brad Dourif, you might ask yourself, “How is this film Trash Cinema material?” The answer lies within the special effects, prop hands and arms, and bizarre qualities of the pyrotechnics in this movie. I will do my best to describe them, but you must see them to truly appreciate them. Not only will you enjoy the multi-faceted plot, unique storyline, and quality acting, but the icing on the cake is what happens anytime someone starts to burn.

It’s 1950’s America, and fear of the atomic bomb weighs heavy on the hearts of Americans, from scientists to housewives. Young newlyweds Brian and Peggy agree to participate in “Project Samson.” They are to test an experimental vaccine on themselves, in exchange for a fat check to help them as they start their life together.  This vaccine was to make them immune to radiation, and to test such a drug, the two were placed in spitting distance of a nuclear explosion. They survive, and to all tests it appears that the vaccine did in fact protect them! The real treat of this back story is the old fashioned patriotic news reel announcing “America’s First Nuclear Family,” narrated by that rich, masculine voice all the old reels seemed to have.

While in quarantine after the event, Brian and Peggy occupy their time by making a baby. Baby David is a healthy, happy baby boy born on the 10th anniversary of Hiroshima. It appears the couple’s dreams are coming true, until shortly after the delivery, Peggy and Brian burst into flames and die a horrible death; holding each other’s rubbery-looking bodies and screaming until they are nothing but black char.

The couple had been followed closely by a shadowy group of military higher-ups and nuclear research executives who sit at long tables under spotlights and smoke a lot. These guys were originally plotting to abort the baby for fear of what it might become. Now, with the death of the couple, they are left trying to decipher what happened and what might be in store for the baby.

In a bizarre and surreal scene, a creepy guy with an eye patch who apparently works for the shadowy group, rules it “SHC,” or Spontaneous Human Combustion. As if to illustrate his point, he takes a stick, works it into the blackened remains of Brian’s head and pulls out a tiny, shrunken skull. I guess what makes the scene so startling is how absolutely foam-like Brian’s head is. It’s much too light, and eye-patch guy struggles to keep it from falling off whatever it’s propped up on. And does human bone really contain so much moisture that high heat would shrink a skull to the size of a fist? Beats me.

Thirty some years later, David’s new name is Sam and he’s a high school teacher and going through a nasty divorce. On the eve of a new local nuclear power facility coming online, a string of deaths befalls Sam’s associates; each one fire related, after some sort of conflict with Sam.  It’s about this time that Sam’s mysterious fire power reveals itself through burnt fingertips and exploding, flame-spitting holes in limbs which not only resist but are exacerbated by water and fire retardants.

One of my favorite burning scenes is where Sam’s girlfriend Lisa is driving him to the emergency room after a bad “flare-up.” She’s speeding to the hospital in a panic, and Sam starts a terribly timed heart-to-heart speech about his love for her. Lisa then responds in a similarly badly timed fashion to explain how she had been set up all along to watch his progress by the same shadowy group responsible for his pain. He gets emotional, which gets his fire-power going, and his arm explodes into flames again. Lisa screams weakly, keeps her eyes on the road, and only swerves a little – an admirable feat when her passenger is cooking alive and screaming his lungs out. I think that if I were in that situation, I would have at least pulled over, if not flipped the car. I definitely would nominate Lisa for some sort of leadership role should the zombie apocalypse ever happens. This girl can stay focused! Or she’s just a terrible actress. Six one way, half a dozen another.

In the final segment, Dr. Marsh attacks Lisa with a mysterious injection that causes her arm to erupt into flames. Sam’s evil ex-wife shows up and douses Lisa with a fire extinguisher:

Lisa: “Stop! You’re making it worse!”
Ex-wife: “I know.”

In the epic finale, a crispy-looking Sam shows up to fight off the ex-wife and save Lisa. Lisa resists his efforts and flails about, screaming incessantly. Sam sort of melts into a person-puddle, and as Lisa screams, a huge ephemeral hand reaches out of the puddle and pats Lisa’s chest. Lisa’s fire is extinguished, and at this moment, the dubbed screaming continues on for a few seconds, while Lisa’s mouth is closed, then stops abruptly.

This movie really has a lot of things going for it. Brad Dourif sweats buckets throughout this movie, starting at about the 20 minute mark. I suppose it’s appropriate since he’s burning to death. His sweaty, greasy, heavy-breathing, bug-eyed depiction of the character is really, really fun. The burning scenes are absolutely spectacularly bad. Rubbery looking arms are suddenly way too long as they flame up and are held in front of the victim’s face as the person looks down and screams. If I had a poster of this camera angle, I would frame it. The fire strangely does not seem to spread normally, and if you look close, it appears somewhat “on top” of the picture. Clothing somehow doesn’t burn either.

Underlying it all is cautionary tale of the dangers of trying to harness the power of the atom; and the age-old battle of science verses nature. Ultimately, this is a very good story accompanied with terrible effects, but held together tightly by a fantastic performance by Brad Dourif.




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