Posts Tagged ‘trick

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.

Safety

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Reality

                                                                                  Reality

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

19
Nov
13

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

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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!”

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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

 

10
Oct
09

All the Monsters…Trick r’ Treat

A Review by  The Primal Root

October 31st. Halloween. A holiday with roots in Celtic tradition known as Samhain, adopted by Christian’s as the holy day of All Saint’s Day and eventually made it’s foothold as a great North American Traditional celebration in 1846 when Irish immigrants brought their own versions of the celebration to us. It’s a holiday steeped in folklore, ritual, and mystery. But many of us lose sight of how important a role this day is for us. Yes, Halloween has become an enormous commercial and marketing jackpot in recent years but one must never lose sight of the true Halloween spirit. As fall sets in, as the leaves turn brown and leave barren, skeletal trees, as the temperature drops and the wind chills our bones…we are reminded that one day we too shall fade away. On this one night a year we are allowed to be whomever we’d like to be, hide behind masks, beg for candy, and be one with the spirits of those who’ve come before. Halloween is a celebration of life in the face of death.

It’s a dark celebration filled with fun, danger and excitement. And Mike Dougherty’s recently released horror anthology Trick R’ Treat evokes everything we love about Halloween. Trick R’ Treat involves several different interweaving storylines that take place on one night introducing us to some truly bizarre, memorable characters and towards some very twisted endings. It’s a film populated with ghouls, creatures, human monsters and illustrates the evil they are all capable of.

TrickrTreat Bus

The Local Legend...

The film features middle aged Halloween tricksters who ends up  down in the dirt, a vampire run amuck,  a young woman looking for just the right man for her first time, a group of children paying their respects to those who passed in a ghastly town legend, an elderly shut in who refuses to celebrate the holiday and a young woman who makes the mistake of blurting out her hatred for Halloween. All the while the short figure of Sam Hain watched from the shadows.

In this stocky, silent, central figure to the warped tales told here, Dougherty has created a new horror icon sure to take his place amongst the pantheon of cinema heavy weights  as the cult status of this film grows and the possibilities for follow ups grow stronger.

The performances here are all strong, from veteran actors such as Brian Cox (Manhunter) & Dylan Baker (Spider-Man series) who tap into some pretty nasty places for their character motivations. Also on hand are some fresh faces such as Lauren Lee Smith(CSI), Quinn Lord (as Sam) and Oscar winner Anna Paquin (TV’s True Blood) looking sexier than ever in a Little Red Riding Hood costume and sporting her dark hair from back in the day. Not to give too much away, but when Marilyn Manson’s cover of Sweet Dreams starts playing, Anna has never EVER looked sexier.

Anna Paquin is hungry for love in Trick r' Treat.

Anna Paquin is hungry for love in Trick r' Treat.

The production quality here is tight and perfectly captures the atmosphere of a whole town brimming with the Halloween spirit and I could not contain the smile that spread across my face in delight of the successful tone Trick r’ Treat sets from the first frame to the very last. I also appreciate that writer/director Mike Dougherty never once dumbs down the proceedings in order to spoon feed the audience and stays focused on delivering the greatest on screen celebration of our beloved holiday since John Carpenter’s original Halloween back in 1978.

Trick r’ Treat is a collection of some of our all time favorite classic monsters and a brilliant assortment of some new beasts to add to our cultural Halloween mythos. Trick r’ Treat is a horror classic in the making and you truly feel like you’re a part of something very special as you watch it.

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Halloween spirit incarnate. Mr. Sam Hain makes a house call.

So obey the rules this Halloween, and if you’re lacking a bit of that old Halloween spirit, check out Trick r’ Treat. It will reignite that inner jack-o-lantern in no time.

Stay Trashy,

-Kevin

(The Primal Root)

Trick R Treat Leslie Bibb

Leslie Bibb plays Halloween Hater Emma in Trick r' Treat




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