Posts Tagged ‘unintentionally

24
Aug
12

Wicked Stepmother: Low Rent Surrealism

a Primal Root written review

I’ve never seen a movie like it. That’s probably the most accurate critique I can give Larry Cohen’s jaw-droppingly bizarre and nonsensical 1989 supernatural comedy opus, ‘Wicked Stepmother’.  A forgotten oddity of the VHS era,  probably best known for containing Hollywood empress Bette Davis in her final screen performance, ‘Wicked Stepmother’ has got to be some kind of hallucinatory cinematic comedy milestone. Who knows if Cohen & co intended this movie to be such a rapid-fire array of awkward moments, dumbfounding performances and cheesy effects. All I know is that it all comes together as an if not totally enjoyable film, certainly an outlandishly botched witch’s brew movie delight. One thing that may be said with total confidence for ‘Wicked Stepmother’, you will never, EVER see another like it.

This fiasco begins with a police investigation led by TV’s Tom Bosley who you may remember from ‘Happy Days’ (RIP) or if your grandparents were fans of the ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’.  His mission? To locate an evil witch with a penchant for marrying her way into families and using her powers to make them unimaginably wealthy before robbing them blind, shrinking them to the size of plastic army men, and stashing them in shoe boxes under the bed.  It sure seems like a waste of time for a witch of such immense power. There’s just gotta be a more effective way to maintain a steady cash flow.

The witch in question is Miranda Pierpoint, played by the legendary Bette Davis (RIP) putting forth a stiff monotone and (we can only assume) unintentionally  disturbing performance. Miranda has just gotten hitched to an elderly widower, Sam  (played by the late, great character actor Lionel Stander with that unmistakably gravely voice). In one of my favorite sight gags of the movie, we see images of Sam’s first wife on his night stand.  Low and behold, it is Joan Crawford,  Bette Davis’ long time rival.

The new marriage comes as a shock to his adult daughter, hyper-allergenic and moderate psychopath, Jenny (Colleen Camp, who should win some kind of lifetime achievement award for this one, single cringe-inducingly campy performance).  Her husband Steve (David ‘I’ve gotta’ Rasche, desperately try to keep up with Colleen’s camp) though surprised by the sudden change in homestead seems to be taking things well, and attempts to mediate between his wife’s control freakery and his new chimney stack of a mother-in-law.  Their son Mike (Shawn Donahue, who would play his final role the next year in 1990’s immortal classic, ‘The Willies’) is appropriately willful and mainly just refuses to refer to the new addition ‘grandma’.

To Jenny’s fury, Miranda smokes more than the entire cast of Mad Men, combined, in the families’ WASPy digs. She also cooks, eats, and tempts the family with nothing but grilled meats despite Jenny’s insistence in that everyone bow to the nutritional excellence of her broccoli souffle. Although Steve is clearly inclined to give into Miranda’s politically-incorrect ways, Jenny throws her hubby one of her well-practiced psycho glares and puts the guy back in his place. He hunches over the dining room table to choke down his helping of lettuce and oatmeal while thinking about his genitals and how nice a home Jenny’s made for them in her handbag. Miranda also has a cat which unlocks an avalanche of comedic potential as Jenny is…get this…ALLERGIC to cats!  So she spends much of the movie sneezing at inopportune moments and standing around sniffling and delivering her lines with her stuffed up, mongoloid voice. Really. It is a laugh riot. Yeah.

However, my favorite scene in this mayhem shows up early as young Michael is at a beach, unchaperoned, watching some coeds in bikinis bounce & bop around via a game of volleyball.  Earlier, Michael has told Melinda he’d never call her “Grandma”, that she can, basically, burn in hell, then proved himself the deeply cool thug he is by popping the collar on his jean jacket and walking away. Apparently he was strutting his way to the beach where his requests to join in the volleyball game were denied.  However, as luck would have it, the lovely young witch Priscilla (played byTia Carrera’s sister, Barbara! SHWING!) shows up, complete with beflowered sun hat and black veil and winks at Michael, which apparently bestowed upon him with the power to do front flips over the volleyball net. For what purpose? Who knows. It impresses no one in the game and even seems to piss off the more hyper-hormonal boys of the pack. And yet, poor little 12 year old Michael has caught the eye & libido of a twenty something beach bunny. Unfortunately, as often happens at movie beaches,  two buff, blonde dickweeds start kicking sand in Michael’s face while he’s chatting up his new dish.  Again, the young lad is in luck as Priscilla gives him yet another power of Filipino Flip fighting through which Michael hops around cracking bimbo dude skulls.  All of this results in a scene of total prepubescent wish fulfillment, the busty beach bunny takes off her modest shirt to reveal her ample cleavage and offers herself up to the young man with the unmistakable innuendo, “Come here, I’m gonna show you something…” A goofy grin spreads across Michael’s mug as she leads him off to rock the freckles off his face.

The kind of Wicked Stepmother all young boys dream of.

It was around this moment I began to wonder just who was the projected market for this film? It’s a wicked stepmother, fairy tale kiddie charm, sure, but the focus is primarily on adult relationships. In fact, Michael is led off to be statutorily raped, and that’s pretty the last we see of the kid with the exception of him showing up for group shots  lasting mere seconds in the final scene. This thing’s obviously not quite for youngins… but the humor is on a pretty even keel for adolescents despite it meandering between adult issues (i.e. marriage difficulties & geriatric homicide) and it’s unchecked childish hokeyness.  99.9 % of the films run time is spent dealing with figuring out how to murder an elderly woman and a married man fantasizing about/having adulterous sex with Tia Carrere’s sister while a writhing cat tail wags around out of her pooper, growing vines in the yard against an painfully-obvious blue screen under the guise of “decorating for the holidays”, answering trivia questions on game shows, and figuring out a way to write Bette Davis out of the movie since she walked off set about two days into production.  The leave was publicly attributed to her disgust with the script, though it was later stated that the true cause was her deteriorating health.

How do they write her out, you ask? Remember Priscilla? Well, she and Miranda apparently share the body of a black cat. But, see, both spirits can’t cohabit in one body at the same time. “There’s no room for two people in one cat!” a witch academy instructor exclaims revealing this terrible piece of plotting. So,  after Miranda’s 11 minutes or so of screen time are up, she vanishes to be replaced by Priscilla.  Don’t fret, gang, the cat Miranda inhabits also smokes as much as she did, so it’s like she never left! In fact, one of the most bizarre moments of the entire film are cutaways to a black cat hand puppet paws holding cigarettes up to it’s little feline mouth and puffing away, it’s unnaturally large, bugged out yellow eyes and dilated pupils nervously darting around in their sockets.

Eventually the detective character shows back up at a clandestine witch class where Jenny also happens to be attending so she can look for answers as to how to get rid of Miranda/Priscilla for good. Priscilla learns a couple words in Latin and is ready to take on Priscilla in head to head in the ultimate blue screen combat! It’s a breathtaking sequence that pulls no punches in the bargain basement action and effects arena.   Will Jenny be able to banish the money hungry witches from her home? Or will her family end up pint-sized, broke, and shoe-boxed? To be honest, I was too busy laughing my ass off to care.

The bottom line is that ‘Wicked Stepmother’ is one of those films that must be seen to be truly understood. It’s terrible. I mean, this thing is bad. This sucker is Samurai Cop, Troll 2 level bad. But it is still ridiculously entertaining. The intended jokes all fall flat on their faces, but it is totally made up for with unintentional hilarity. It’s like some kind of surrealist fever dream that just keeps getting more absurd and illogical as it progresses. None of it makes a lick of sense and there are an abundance of moments that will leave you wondering if you just actually witnessed what you did.  Better Davis’ performance alone make up for the absurdity of the opening portion of the film.  She is never without a cigarette in her hand and recites her dialog in the emotionless drawl of a late 60’s TV robot.  Once Bette departs the film, the hammy acting, and cheese ball effects really become the stars of the show and lift this sucker up onto another plateau of Trash Cinema altogether.

I may have said too much already. I don’t want to spoil this sucker for you. But when I look back lovingly upon ‘Wicked Stepmother’,  no words can really do this acid trip of a film justice.  I’m not sure if exactly if it’s my strong palette for trash that allowed me to enjoy this thing or if it can be experienced by others and be loved just as thoroughly. I was not expecting myself to end up with the affection I now have for this piece of wack-o film making. Please, if you haven’t seen it, do so. And if you have, please, share your thoughts with us here at The Trash Cinema Collective.  Again, in the annals of cinema, there is nothing like ‘Wicked Stepmother’.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

17
Sep
11

Creature: Of Alligators and Incest

a Primal Root written review

Those who know me also know Drive-In Critic Joe Bob Briggs is pretty much my icon. My hero. The man I look up to as my role model. And those who know Joe Bob Briggs are well aware that he’s broken down the formula that makes a B-Movie worth out time. The elements are the fabled, legendary, Three B’s. That is: Blood, Breasts and Beasts. My entire life this has proven to be the key to my enjoyment of a bad movie. As long as those three ingredients are there I’m not bored.

And then I saw the recent film, “Creature”.  A southern fried monster tale about a mean tempered, horny, century old alligator man who rules over a stinky, tobacco stained Louisiana swamp land looking for a place his slimy gator seed can take purchase. Lucky for him, three supernaturally idiotic marines, two of whom bring along their girlfriends and one who brings along his in heat, hooter flashing sister,  have decided to head out into the swamp in search of a death trap, excuse me, I mean…tourist trap.

Who will survive and who gives a shit?

The six attractive younguns stop by a local gas station called Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and…oh shit, no, wait, it’s just called Chopper’s and is run by…Chopper played by Sid Haig. His little gas station/general store also happens to be a bit of a  museum honoring the local legend…Lockjaw, the malevolent Alligator man who lives in the swamps.  Anyway, Chopper tells them a little bit of the legend, gives them directions (any of this sound familiar?) and the kids head off to go die after flashing their tits and drinking some wine.

It’s a familiar set up and the whole film feels like a brain damaged cross breeding of Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses and Adam Green’s Hatchet. I know both of those films have achieved cult status ( The former of which I can understand. The latter? Not so much…) and I am sure this horror abomination will fit snugly amongst that cannon as an interesting side note to that strange slasher fan boy genre birthed early this century.

Might as well kiss that ass goodbye...

It’s that backwoods hillbilly genre that really took off during the naughties with independent horror. From Wrong Turns, to Devil’s Rejects to Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboots, everyone was digging on uneducated, blood thirsty, backwoods, gut munchers. Hell, that resurgence took hold even before that whole Saw franchise flooded the market with torture horror. However, this trashy flick, “Creature”, pulls one aspect of these films that’s typically only touvhed upon and forces it out there into the spotlight for the audience to take a long, creeped out look at. And that element is the wonderful world of incest.

Yes, incest. I know the old southern saying, “The closer the kin, the deeper in” but this flick takes that sentiment to whole different level. Remember when I told you one of the marines brought his red headed, libido of a rabbit, sister along? Well, when her attempts at date raping one of her brother’s friend’s girlfriends doesn’t work out she finds her brother…and gives him a sloppy handjob in the middle of the swamp and then complains that he now can’t fuck her with his wet noodle.  It’s awkward, to say the least and luckily Sid Haig rushes onto the scene and punches her square in the nose before things can escalate.  Being an only child, I’m not sure if this is how regular brother and sisters, umm, handle one another. They never really touched on this sort of thing on Family Matters or Step by Step.

Anyway, the incestuous sister’s got a date with that wild man bachelor known as Lockjaw!

Lockjaw finds the scent of Herbal Essence hard to resist.

Yes, the eternally wet, red head, incestuous sister is pulling a double header tonight and is now bound, gagged, and ordered to fuck a giant gator man. So, bestiality is now entering the equation in “Creature. But, see, she can only bump uglies with Lockjaw once her feet are hacked off. …the Hell? If someone could explain to me why in the word that is necessary I would greatly appreciate it. I don’t know why in the world they felt the need to make the plot of this thing so damn convoluted and jam as many rules  and oddly out of place plot twists as they could when none of it really goes anywhere.

It’s such a basic story. You have a Gator Man looking for love. A pack of attractive twenty-somethings, three of which possess the proper genitals, wonder into his home turf. The movie practically writes itself and would have been a riot if they had kept it simple, fast paced and FUN! Whoever wrote this thing just bogs the movie down with weird side tracks and sub plots and meaningless stretches of dialog that aren’t funny, don’t mean anything within the context of the movie and advance nothing. It’s as if they were struggling to make this thing feature length and just didn’t know what to do. The movie’s run time is 93 minutes but it feels like it goes on for over two hours as scenes drag into nothing over and over again with neither a payoff or anything that enhances the story.

Daphne and Velma share a tender moment on their latest kooky caper!

HOWEVER! The film does feature a ton of nudity! Three gratuitously displayed pairs of lovely lady breasts and even some in your face full frontal female flesh(Breasts, Buns AND BUSH! Booger would be pleased.) for the audience to ogle in the very opening of the film. This poor, totally naked woman has no lines, is completely nude and is killed and out of the movie in about 5 minutes time. I guess it’s a bad idea to go skinny dipping in a gator/rapey flesh eating Hell beast infested swamp. I am looking forward to her next project because in these 5 minutes Jennifer Lynn Warren won my heart and is one of the most memorable elements of the movie. Being naked as a jay bird certainly didn’t hurt…

The gore is a little lacking. I was expecting a bit more in a film about Lockjaw the Gator Boy who leaves a little to be desired as well.  The creature effects are great and all but I couldn’t help but notice how the monster looks almost identical to the Koopa’s from the live action Super Mario Brothers movie. Yet, the fellow inside this creature suit does a great job bringing it to life and making the most of it. He possess, stalks and attacks like a pro. Sadly, we are never treated to a Lockjaw sex scene. SEE! Now that would have been entertaining! And we do get undeniable proof that such a scenario did occur at some point in the movie, but for whatever reason, we aren’t treated to that moment of pure animal-man on woman horror. Eh, maybe in the direct to video sequel starring Bill Moseley? Only time will tell.

"I Shouldn't Be Alive" New Season Begins This Fall

And they never did explain the regenerative properties of the swamp itself that a man could get shot square in the knee with a rifle then run on that leg for the next thirty minutes of the movie and not even limp. Well, maybe it’s just because he’s a marine? Either way, this might be my favorite unintentionally funny aspect of the film. How much the lead character gets shot, stabbed, and repeatedly crushed and beaten mercilessly by Lockjaw. Including one excruciatingly long slow motion sequence towards the end of the film where Lockjaw repeatedly pounds full force on the character’s sternum and ribs, and then, seconds after the attack, the character can simply get up and walk it off.  I always thoroughly enjoy that sort of stupid shit in trashy films. There’s also a pretty hysterical spider attack sequence where a guy gets pounced by tarantulas and then treats the bites with…bottled water?

I just wish there had been more of that fun, dumb, stuff to tide me over in between scenes of nonsensical redneck banter, jewelry gifting, potato chip scavenging,  and boyfriends getting upset because his girlfriend is getting naked in a tent and making out with another sexy woman looking to get a threesome going. Who ARE these people?

“Creature” has a whole lot of promise and I was eager to take the trip it so obviously wanted to deliver. But somewhere along the way it seems the whole thing got lost, forgot where it left it’s fun, Drive-In, B-Movie spirit and left us imagining all the awesomeness that could have been. “Creature’s” heart is in the right place and the filmmakers obviously have an affection for Trash Cinema. I mean, it was director Fred Andrews first time at bat, so I will cut him some slack. I just hope that the next film he delivers is a bit more streamlined and heavier on the sick, demented fun.

As Joe Bob might say, there’s just too much dang plot getting in the way of the story!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

And, yes, that’s Eggs from the second season of True Blood.




Dumpster Diving

Categories