Posts Tagged ‘VHS

21
Jan
20

(SFW) Spookies (1986) or Billy Learned The Truth at age 13

 

spookies poster

“Uuuuuuhh, look at me: I’m Duke, the horny ghost!” – Duke, Spookies (1986)

a Primal Root written review

As an only child of the 80’s my mind is littered with memories of weekends spent at local video stores in the town where I grew up, Tallahassee, Florida. Nothing beat the thrill of an early Friday evening after school, ordering up a cheesy, greasy, sloppy pizza and heading to the video store to peruse the shelves for a new VHS adventure to waste my weekend with either with a fried over or totally on my own.  I would head past the New Release section and head straight to the Horror shelf where the most lurid, colorful and creative covers were. I would pick up every single box, gaze at the covers and their suggestive artwork and just let my imagination run wild simultaneously psyching myself up for what I might choose to take home with me that weekend. In the halcyon days of the video rental store era, when there was money to be made and stores were a dime a dozen and each store had THOUSANDS of titles to choose from, the cover art of a movie could make or break a tape. Just like the posters for Drive-In films of the past, you had to reel your audience in with artwork that promised something truly astounding.

One such VHS cover that branded itself on my brain and was always around at every damn video store I’ve ever been to, the 1986 nightmare fever dream…SPOOKIES.

44f5a2bbda64d52c0224a2f169e4cd7b

Direct your eyes to the poster heading this review created by comic artist Richard Corben. Imagine your tiny eight year old hand clutching the tape that contained the movie THAT artwork was based on? The lovely woman with huge breasts straining to pop out of her white dress as she is surrounded by a variety of creepy, weird creatures that seem to have no real connection to one another. There’s a grim reaper looking guy, a little goblin creature, someone with light popping out of her head and other undefinable atrocious monstrosities that leave your young mind spinning at the possibilities! And then there’s the bizarre face looking over this scene, with glowing red eyes and mouth that looks like it might be full of blood and what looks to be a bloody would to the middle of his forehead. What the Hell are Spookies and what in the world could it ever possibly be about. All I knew was that if the case contained Blood, Breasts and Beasts, it was going home with me, because that was the promise of an unforgettable late night and a fantastic story for the kids at school Monday morning. “Guess what I watched this weekend?”

Full disclosure, Spookies freaked me the fuck out when I was a kid and I think it’s due almost entirely to the face that it’s two movies in one. It began life as a film entitled Twisted Souls written and directed by Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran. However, during post-production, creative differences flared up between the filmmakers and their producers, and ANOTHER director, Eugenie Joseph, was hired on to film additional scenes with new actors which would change the film into something else entirely. He added several different subplots and excised over 45 minutes of the original film to create what we now know as SPOOKIES. And, to be perfectly honest, it gives the film a kind of unhinged nightmare logic quality that three me off entirely as a child. It did not follow the rules established by countless other horror films I had seen, so you just never knew what was going to happen, and to me, that is certainly a strength.

The film begins with a little kid named Billy (Alec Nemser) running away from home through the forest. His parents forgot his birthday, so he’s ditching them for the life of a homeless teenage idiot. He, of course, ends up getting stalked by a werecat guy in a golden vest who moves his face around as much as possible to make the latex creature stuff attached to his face seem like his actual face, but it instead just makes him look like a spaz. Billy meets a creepy drifter guy who instantly reminded me of Kiefer Sutherland from Lost Boys, who mocks Billy for being a stupid teenage runaway with nice shoes, clean clothes and an optimistic outlook on life. You think this drifter character is going to come in handy later as either a hero or villain, but as soon as Billy wonders off deeper into the woods, the drifter’s face is shredded into coleslaw by the ever present werecat. Billy ends up in an old, seemingly abandoned mansion and finds a room all decked out for his birthday…but there’s no one there. Not only that, but the balloons don’t have helium and are ties to the ceiling, there’s a moaning baby doll in a chair and teleporting toy robots and being the idealistic idiot that he is, Billy thinks this is a surprise birthday party his parents planned…even though there’s no one there and it’s creepy as shit. So, Billy opens a large present he thinks might be a bowling ball, only to find the severed head of the sorcerer sitting there waiting to wish him a happy birthday. Kind gesture? Sure. But it understandably terrifies Billy who runs off in the wilderness where is is pursued, once again,by the cat man who eventually corners Billy, slashes his face to ribbons, tosses the little boy into an open grave and buries the struggling boy alive, killing him.

Spookies_1.1.3_dab6667e-5127-4e43-bef3-b5ed245b2eee_720x

This scene fucked me up as a kid who loved playing in the woods at night living in the heavily wooded suburbs. I could easily put myself in his shoes and wanting to expect the best from my situation only to find myself missing most of my face and being suffocated to death on mouthfuls of heaping shovel scoops of dirt. See what I mean about the nightmare logic of SPOOKIES? It makes about as much sense as your standard childhood nightmare, only you’d wake up as soon as that first fling of dirt hit you in your bloody, stupid, face. In any other film, that kid would have ended up becoming the sidekick of some adult character who showed up. or would end up being the star, booby trapping monster and shit. No. Not in Spookies. In Spookies the 13 year old child dies along and afraid. His parents obviously don;t care about him or love him and he is now gone forever. Dead and buried in an unmarked grave by a catman, never to be mentioned, thought of or cared about for the remainder of the film. Now children, what do you think THAT felt like? It’s cruel, and awesome to 37 year old The Primal Root, but when I was just a Jim Henson’s Trash Cinema Baby, that whole sequence fucked me up real good and proper to the point I lost sleep over it and would get REAL nervous in the woods I used to play in without hesitation. Anyway, enough about me. Lets get back to SPOOKIES!

Spookies Gang

We are soon introduced to our cast of victims who are driving around looking for a party out in the middle of nowhere, where do they end up? Of course, the old haunted mansion where Billy came upon the most surprising surprise party of his short life.  The mansion is inhabited by The Sorcerer whose name is Kreon (Felix Ward) and is on the verge of bringing his beautiful dead wife, Isabelle (Maria Pechukas) back to life once the final victims are sacrificed, namely, this new group of “teenagers” and adults looking to party. There’s the three piece suit wearing elder statesman of the group, Peter (Peter Dain), who is constantly butting heads with the “teenage” tough guy, horndog, and bizarrely placed zipper enthusiast, Duke (Nick Gionta) who also happens to take them to this haunted death trap mansion in the middle of nowhere. Along for this trip to Hell is Linda (Joan Ellen Delaney) Duke’s poor girlfriend, the ginger in the tiny periwinkle blue top with the massive tits she never pops out of the chute for us, Meegan (Kim Merrill) who is attached to Peter and I assume is his wife. There’s another couple, Dave and Adrienne (Anthony Valbiro & Charlotte Alexandra) who suffer from Rich being highly insecure and freaking out all the time over Adrienne controlling everything he does even though all she does is watch him freak out. There’s the obligatory joker/idiot Rich Peter Iasillo Jr) who spends the movie tripping over thing, dropping things, making poor jokes and even poorer decisions. My favorite character, Louis, who as I recall has two lines before being sucked down into own grave and dying before the action even really gets started and is never mentioned or again, let alone, mourned.  Also, odd lady out, Carol (Lisa Friede) Who starts not feeling well at the mansion, gets possessed by Kreon and uses a special Ouija board to unleash a bouquet of highly creative and vicious practical effect monsters to track them down and kill them one by one.

spookiesgrim

 

The Gang knows their lives are in mortal danger and decide to split up to find a way out of this death trap. Some search around while others find secluded rooms to stay fully dressed and fall asleep in before being savagely gnawed upon by Hell beasts. Spookies quickly becomes a cornucopia of freakish blood thirsty hellions dead set on killing off every last cracker in the house. There’s a legion of little reptilian snake demons, a seductive, blood draining Arachnid Woman, a giant lizard man that shoot out head melting electric tentacles, a scythe wielding Grim Reaper and even a trio of chronically flatulent Much Men who rise from the floor of the win cellar and fart like Grandpa after Christmas dinner, you know, fast, furious, loud and with a vengeance.  Not only this, but there’s a legion of zombies surrounding the mansion, making escape impossible.

spookies-cover

People get lost, massacred, tempers flare, fights break as these characters fight for survival in this colorful, bonkers house of blood lusting horrors and it’s just as much fun as it is absolutely baffling. Add in that tacked on subplot about Kreon and and all his various creatures including CatMan and the Jawaesque Korda (A.J. Lowenthal) Son of Kreon and Isabelle, and Isabelle herself, who NEVER interact with the characters from the original film, Twisted Souls, at all despite being shot in the same location and always appearing nearby. It’s actually fun watching how they edit around two totally different stories being told but having to be meant to interact with one another. Towards the end of the film, the plot is left hanging when it comes to our group of party animals that must all be killed in order to give Isabelle life. Some supernatural event occurs where they all begin to age rapidly, an item is thrown, lightning enters a character’s eyes and that’s the last we see of them. Are they dead? Wounded? Senior Citizens? Monsters? What the Hell happened? Instead of us ever finding out, we are treated to an extended zombie chase scene where Isabelle’s clothes get torn off (though she never shows off the goods) as she tries to escape the clutches of the ghoul who resurrected her, the evil warlock Kreon, after she has seduced him and driven a knife deep into his forehead. Will we get any form of closure or will Spookies leave us wondering what happens next? Because if there’s one thing we know…ambiguity is scary.

muck

Spookies, man, what a fucking ride. It’s a film that feels like a sugar rush nightmare fueled fever dream filled with wild ideas that head down colorful hallways before being utterly forgotten and left for new ideas down even more colorful hallways. It’s like a horror film with A.D.D. and darkly sadistic sense of humor. Where Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm has a similar fantasy/unreality feel to it, Spookies, to it’s detriment or gain, depending on how you like the movie, due to the production issues and different hired hands and stories being mixed together, proves a much weirder concoction. Is the movie good? Absolutely not, it’s total Trash Cinema. But is it entertaining? Gang, Spookies never lets up. It’s balls to the walls ideas, throw it against the walls to see what sticks creativity mayhem. It;s colorful, it’s sloppy and it SHOULD. NOT. WORK. Seriously, this should have been a failure of the highest order. But it is so goddamn unabashedly manic and willing to do anything and go anywhere, you can’t help but join in the glee and stick with it to see just what insane shit will happen next. To me, that’s a Trash Cinema win of the highest order.

Spookies_1.1.20_be9bde6d-c712-4565-90ef-7133c4c3dd9f_720x

 

Spookies is a VHS Video Rental store gem that’s well worth tracking down. If you, or someone you know, is even just mildly curious in cult Trash Cinema, Spookies is a great place to start. It’s a deranged and absolute delight. Unless you’re an overly sensitive and imaginative child living in the woods. Then it’s just good, old fashioned nightmare fodder.

Spookies_1.1.22_c3c9f1fc-f668-44db-876f-53b05466705f_720x

I’m awarding Spookies FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

09
Oct
16

The WNUF Halloween Special (1987-2013)

wnuf-halloween-special

“This is not some Halloween prank. The grisly evidence of the supernatural is real. – Frank Stewart,  The WNUF Halloween Special

a Primal Root written review

This day and age everything we want is right at our fingers tips. All the information (and misinformation) we need is jut a key stroke and a mouse click away. Movies are on demand, Netflix streams their tiny list of titles right into our living rooms…but not long ago we had to dig. A younger generation will not know of the struggle it once was to locate an obscure title or horror film, a rare bootleg of a strange, grotesque, bizarre television occurrence or to pay exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase a copy of something you’ve heard such tall tales of that your expectations are sky high, only to pop in the VHS tape and realize you’ve totally been had. Sure, it was a kind of dark age of horror cinema geekdom, but for every tape you watched that was absolute dog shit, you would come across some absolute gold. Even some strange, unlabeled tapes from the local thrift store, flea market or Goodwill that left you wondering just what the fuck you witnessed and had your grasping desperately at what was left of your Taco Bell and Mountain Dew fueled teenage sanity.

wnuf-halloween-special-2013-00-04-10

However, in 2013 some innovative and intelligent filmmakers decided to try and recreate that exact same vibe with The WNUF Halloween Special, a feature film intended to look and feel like a lost, legendary 1980’s local news Halloween broadcast that went terribly wrong and has become the stuff of Urban Myth. The film begins with the all too familiar bright blue VHS screen we all recall from the era, a white triangle with the word “PLAY” pop up in the top corner as an audible click is heard and we are transported back to a simpler time, a crappier time perhaps, where audio was spotty, video quality was always poor and everything was tacky and damn proud of it. Of course, those living at the time had no idea and it was embraced in all it’s clunkiness.

Our news anchors at WNUF, dressed as a witch and Dracula respectively, are just as cheesy and goofball as you might expect, only going serious face when the story calls for it, like a story about local tragedy where an asian boy dressed as G.I. Joe when to a Vietnam veterans home and was gunned down. It’s a dark chuckle, but a damn good one, none the less. We are also told repeatedly to stay tuned for The WNUF Halloween Special at 7pm, right after the 6 O’Clock News where the ultimate ham and local news anchor, the mustachioed  Frank Stewart, played by the dead pan and hilarious Paul Fahrenkopf, will host a stunning exploration into the supernatural and unexplained phenomenon occurring within the walls of the infamous Webber House,  the site of ghoulish murders. Frank enlists the help of a famed Husband, Wife and Feline psychic team as well as a local Catholic Priest to accompany him on this journey into the horrifying, the macabre and the unknown…

frankstewart

It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, folks.  But it all works in the movies favor, because for the most part, if you can suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it doesn’t feel staged.  It all feels pretty damn real thank to the very natural, often improvised performances. What also lends a lot of credence to the proceedings are the fantastic fake local commercials that keep interrupting the action after our perilous reporter looks into the camera telling us, “We’ll be back RIGHT AFTER THIS!” There are some truly wonderful ads created for the fictional but very nostalgic local haunts like Tokens arcade and pizza parlor as well as late night horror movie shows to broadcast later in the evening and even political attack ads! It goes a long way to making the whole film feel more like genuine lost relic of a bygone era than your typical found footage genre entry.

Much like The Blair Witch Project over a decade earlier, it began building hype via word of mouth. Once the Halloween Special was completed filmmaker Chris LaMartina started getting the word out by dubbing the film directly to VHS, hand writing labels with Sharpie and dropping it off without anyone noticing at VHS collector conventions for people to stumble upon. I’ve even heard they drove around Baltimore tossing VHS copies of their movie out the car window in the hopes of people picking it up, sliding it not the VCR’s and getting rumors and copies circulating.  I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to be one of the lucky ones who tumbled across one of those original VHS tapes before it became common knowledge that this was all staged and wondering just what you had come across. It must have a been the most wonderful kind of mind fuck.

wnuf_1900monster

Sure, we all know it’s fake now, but I cannot heap enough praise on The WNUF Halloween Special. It has a lot of fun transporting us back the days that folks like us used to look forward to dressing up in costumes, going to Halloween carnivals with our parents and trick or treating around the neighborhood with our friends. The WNUF Halloween Special brings back those feelings of just how special Halloween night was to us as children, sure, it’s still special to us know, but as a child in meant something even more. I for putting so much effort into creating that reality for us, once again, WNUF should be commended.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but by film’s end we see another nightly news broadcast five days after the fact with our original two news anchors discussing with us whether or not what we witnessed on screen during the WNUF Halloween Special was a hoax or not. They mention the disappearance of certain people…then put on their best smiles, forget about that bummer and move on full force into discussing Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Its crasstastic, pitch perfect in it’s dark humor and mocking the attention span of the typical television viewer. But, you know as well as I do, that it’s only one year before Halloween comes round again… The WNUF Halloween Special takes place in 1987…who know what happened in 1988?

I award The WNUF Halloween Special 3 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

28
Aug
14

Killer Party (1986) or I myself prefer a big, fat, cucumber

killer-party-movie-poster-1986-1020199150

a Primal Root written review

Among the most everlasting and endlessly interesting paradoxes of the horror slasher genre are those rare films that charm your cinematic pants off with their absurdity, their unabashed disregard for the established genre rules and conventions and being totally different from anything else you’ve ever thrown down to watch on a Trash Movie Saturday with The Gang. I’ve always found such films to be thoroughly engrossing simply because I don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect, we’re in the hands of an original thinker, one who says “fuck you,” to the old horror genre guards, “we’re going to tell this story my way!” It’s a bold, strange tactic for approaching a horror sub genre and often delivers something unlike we’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, this approach often plays poorly with the genre die hards, and are typically rejected for being “too weird” and are relegated to the ever growing pile of forgotten and neglected horror oddities.

Enter Canadian made slasher horror lost nugget of pure gold, “Killer Party,” Directed by “Funeral Home” helmer,  William Fruet, and written by Barney Cohen, the visionary who wrote 1984’s perennial fan favorite, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”, “Killer Party” is one of the most off beat offerings of the entire slasher era. To describe it would be a disservice, as the film actually contains some fun moments where the rug ends up being pulled out from underneath the audience, leaving us in a form of exhilarated bafflement as to what the Hell movie we’re actually watching…or resentment and annoyance, if you’re looking for another Friday the 13th clone.  Obviously, these two creative minds knew the well treaded rules of the genre and it’s apparent they had a blast fucking with everything audiences had come to expect from their dead teenager opus.

killer party girls

The main story of “Killer Party” centers on three high school best friends who are starting out on their freshman year of college and are pledging to the same sorority together.  Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes, playing the excited optimist), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch, playing the adorable nerd with a penchant for awesome pranks and excellent special effects), and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson, playing the quiet, shy, somewhat repressed young lady). As luck would have it, their hazing ritual will be taking place in an abandoned Frat house that’s been left to rot since a freshman was decapitated by guillotine when an initiation ritual went murderously haywire. Of course, someone on campus has their nuts twisted in a knot over this, as evidenced by the house mother getting her brains bashed in with an oar and smeared all over the steps of this old, sagging, frat house.

The hazing itself, with a ritual highlight being the girls having raw eggs dumped into their mouths and then spitting the aborted baby chicken goo they catch into sundae glasses, but the fun and games come to an end when shit starts getting all poltergeist. Noises are heard, glasses fling themselves off tables and shatter across the floor, and someone puts a light on a dimmer and turns on a fog machine from the other side of the door down to the basement. Vivia goes to investigate on her own as the other Sorority Girls hold each other and cry. Once the ladies gather up enough courage to check on Vivia, they witness her fastened to a guillotine, where her head is unceremoniously, but efficiently, lopped off and sent rolling down the stairs.

killer party head

Turns out this was all a hand crafter prank by the creative, resourceful and immanently lovable Vivia, who not only managed to scare the living shit out of every woman in the house, but also secure herself and her two best friends, spots at the sorority house of their dreams, which seems to be filled with judgmental uber bitches and I can;t for the life of me figure out WHY they want to be a part of this sisterhood so badly. Never the less, the following evening the Sorority sisters will be throwing a celebratory April Fool’s Day party at the abandoned frat house and will be inviting the boys from their fraternity that likes to prank them by unleashing jars full of angry bees upon them while they’re nekkid in the sorority hot tub.  Now that’s fun!

Several university staff members investigate the frat house on their own and go missing on account of their brutal murders, but thankfully for us, no one notices these folks have vanished into oblivion without a trace and the party can commence. The only person who senses that there might be some spooky shit going on in the crusty, dank, frat house is the lovely,  quiet, Jennifer, who gets the oogie-boogies every time she steps foot into that roach motel. Once the festoonery is displayed, the kegs are tapped, and the costumed revelers arrive, things start getting just a little bizarre. Supernatural shenanigans start going down, subtle at first, but then more apparent, pranks are had, but what are pranks and what are vengeance fueled demonic paranormal phenomena?  As an audience, you’re never quite totally sure what the fuck is going on, even when somebody starts trudging around the house in a turn of the century scuba harness and begins spearing folks with a trident. Is this for real, or some sick and twisted joke? By the end of “Killer Party,” all is made clear, and it might be a bit more disturbing than you expect.

Killer-Party-2

Coming out in the same year as “JASON LIVES!: Friday the 13th Part VI,” Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2”, and the year after  Dan O’ Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead,”  it was apparent that the genre had begun having fun with itself, it’s fans and the conventions of the genre they had created in the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the mid 80’s, there had been so many fucking slasher films that the formula was  practically etched in stone. It seems many filmmakers decided one of the best ways to go about eschewing these predictable traditions was to turn those rules on their heads and have fun with what folks were expecting. In a way, those films became final salutes, the last gasping breathes of a cinematic genre that had all but run it’s course and are now hailed as some of the most beloved cult favorites from that time period.  “Killer Party” is another entry in this select group of offerings from the mid 80’s.

What sets “Killer Party” apart from these other offerings is that our lead protagonists, Vivia, Jennifer and Phoebe are incredibly likable characters. They’re not your run of the mill sex pot, teen dream, centerfold, slasher standbys, in fact, the three girls straight up dorks. All three look and are played as your “girl next door” type, they don’t dress for sex appeal, they dress for warmth and comfort (this thing was filmed in Canada, after all). Not only that, but they are intelligent, headstrong and ridiculously funny, never taking themselves too seriously. If I am being honest, I’d rather hang out with these three ladies than anyone in any other slasher franchise. Seriously, they’re that appealing.  And I gotta give credit to Joanna Johnson’s performance, especially in the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the film. That woman goes for broke and it’s pretty goddamn outstanding. My jaw drops to my popcorn littered floor every time I watch her transformation at the end of this thing.

killerparty4

“Killer Party” doesn’t redefine the genre, or anything and it’s lacking in the gore department and the TnA quotient is pretty low.  Hell, it’s not even all that great of a movie, but what it IS, is a very fun and unpredictable piece of Trash Cinema. Filled with bizarre funeral home mishaps, nekkid young women being chased by furious swarms of killer bees, and impromptu rock and roll zombie dance parties taking place at one of the coolest god damn drive-in’s I’ve ever seen, “Killer Party” is a rare, wonderful oddity. The kind you used to see on the video rental store shelf and take a gamble on. Killer Party never ever makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which may rub many hardcore slasher film fans the wrong way. But for the rest of us willing, able and hungry for something refreshingly bizarre and unique, this is a party worth crashing, Gang.

I’m giving this sucker THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

10
Mar
14

Funland (1987) Dancing with the Angel of Death

funland

a Primal Root written review

As a lifelong Floridian, with The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios close by,  you grow up having a special kind of understanding of the amusement park business.  I’m sure to those who travel hundreds or thousands of miles and spend entire fortunes to come visit our state’s economic clit ticklers still feel the magic when walking down main street while wearing your short Dad shorts and fanny pack  in the skull liquifying summer heat or  watching film legend Brendan Frasier mug for the camera as they are thrown around on the indoor roller coaster based on the contemporary cinematic classic, “The Mummy Returns”, but for those of us in Florida who take a stroll through these parks on an almost annual basis, we can tell you there’s some shady shit going on just beneath the fairy tale surface…

This just might be why 1987’s bizarre, skit heavy, amusement park centered comedy/psychological drama “Funland” holds a special place in my rotten, filthy, heart.  “Funland” is one very strange, very off kilter film filled with a dozen or so ideas of which only about a half of them ever take root and really make an impression.

Funland is preparing for another season of family friendly fun and attractions, with hundreds of new recruits just chomping at the bit to press the “START” button on the park’s rides,  clean brat puke off the sidewalks or sell concessions at the ridiculously racist “Fresh Watermelon” stand! Most excited of all is Bruce Burger (David L. Lander, Squiggy from Lavern and Shirley), the clown mascot of “Funland” who was once the head accountant before suffering a complete mental breakdown that left him believing he is the actual incarnation of the parks clown mascot, Bruce Burger. See, the park’s owner, Angus (William Windom) believes in loyalty over profits, and keeps this mentally unstable man on board as Bruce Burger.  It’s a sweet, home spun gesture, but Angus soon meets his end the way most decent men do,  found dead face down in a body of water under mysterious circumstances.  his wife soon after sells the entire business to the mob who are only concerned about the bottom line an begin filling the park with less family friendly attractions like the Celebrity Death and Disease exhibit and dismantling the musical showcase in order to replace it with strippers.. In all honesty, I might actually go to an amusment park with these kind of attractions.

fun1

The mob also decides to fire Bruce Burger and brings in the “National” Bruce Burger whose played by a  classically trained actor who constantly complains about his job and reminisces about his thespian history ad nauseam.  Bruce takes refuge in the recently closed down wax museum and finds solace in long conversations with a hallucination of Humphrey Bogart  (Robert Sacchi, who pulls off an excellent impression of bogie) and a sausage puppet. Bruce continues living at the park and dressing the part, but his hallucinations and psychosis continue to grow worse, culminating in a strange moment in the Funland cafeteria when the gentleman behind the lunch counter begin rapping, The Angel of Death appears briefly, never to be seen again, and the entire crowd drops what they’re doing and start moving and a groovin’. Once this hallucinatory episode comes an end  the ghost of Angus shows up to grab a bite to eat with Bruce and to divulge the horrible truth, he was murdered. So, it is decided over a game of poker between Bruce and his three most prominent hallucinations  to take action. Bruce steals a mafioso’s gun, heads to the top of the theme parks clock tower and opens fire over the strenuous objections of the talking sausage puppet.

“Funland” is among the most bizarre Trash Cinema videos I’ve ever watched.  David L. Lander as Bruce Burger does a damn fine job portraying the gradual mental collapse of Bruce Burger, a man already teetering ont he edge of total insanity. to the film’s credit, Bruce’s steady decline is hardly ever played for laughs. If the awkward, out of place gags featured in “Funland” were edited out you’d have a far darker film on your hands. but, in a way, all the attempts at levity give the movie an even more disturbing quality. One stand out sequence features the aforementioned “Fresh Watermelon” stand where a white junior manager is giving instructions to the four black men who will be working the stand.  The junior manager asks “Is anyone good with knives” and all the black men back away in fear. Can someone tell me just what the Hell this means? What are these guys afraid of? Was there a scene missing where the junior manager stabs a man to death?

Fresh-Watermelon1

When it’s all said and done, “Funland” is far from a  perfect film, but it is the kind of film that you want to watch to the bitter end simply because it’s so unpredictable, so looney and has so many goddamn plot elements you’ll be dying to see how it all gels together. Seldom do you come across a film that manages to undercut it’s amateur execution and redeem it by way of own it’s twisted, surreal  logic.  It’s constantly quirky and strange making all the logical sense of a fever dream.  To my own amazement, this works in the films favor and makes for an enjoyable, head scratcher of a flick.  For fans of unique, one of a kind, absolutely bonkers trash cinema, “Funland” is one you should really check out.

I give “Funland” Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

19
Nov
13

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

pit_poster_01

a Primal Root written review

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

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

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

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

pit 01

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

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

That's a bad touch, Sandy.

That’s a bad touch, Sandy.

 

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

Suck it, Grandma!

Suck it, Grandma!

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

D'Awwww...

D’Awwww…

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

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

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

It's basically a prequel to "Ted"

It’s basically a prequel to “Ted”

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

Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

09
Nov
13

V/H/S 2: Cassette Carnage

V-H-S-2_Poster_4_23_13

a Primal Root review

Anthology movies, like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and VHS, are so often a mixed bag of the mediocre, boring and sometimes genuinely outstanding,  which is why I am happy to report the majority of VHS 2 is a pretty horrific and entertaining ride. That is, if you can make it past the the wrap around segments which are just as dull as they were in the original VHS, and the very first story entitled “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” which is a cure for insomnia, you will be okay because it all picks up from there.

VHS-2-Cyber-Eye-646x3621

See, in “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” we are shown the story of a young man who loses and eye and gets it replaced with a…bionic one that not only allows him to see, but records everything to a VHS recorder I’m assuming the doctors implanted up his ass. Now, why a hi-tech procedure like this would end up having the recordings of it’s clinical trial dubbed to something as defunct and rarely used as VHS is beyond me, but at least the 15:9 aspect ratio kind of makes sense, I guess. Anyhoo, the new allows this guy to see dead people meandering around his posh house out in the suburbs. He is befucked by a young woman who explains what going on and exposes her lovely tits in the process. Things go from bad, the worse, to I;m going to gouge my bionic eye out with a three pronged kitchen utensil because I’ve seen a couple ghosts over the span of 12 hours.   It’s dull/ Even by my standards, I just could not muster up the effort necissary to be interested, that is, until that fleeting moment when the read head takes her top off. Otherwise, this entry is on par with the wrap around, it fails to engage and feels like it’s there to fill up time. Eye implants have been done (Tobe Hooper’s segment in Body Bags, that terrible movie with Jessica Alba that featured a truly inspired title, etc.) and this one was not an impressive entry into that sub-genre.

DO NOT DESPAIR! I nearly did, too. Trust me, things get better.

VHS 2 MOVIE

Goddamn zombies. Those fucking things are everywhere. Prime time television to baby bibs and lunch boxes, those undead fucks are as inescapable as Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. Enter “A Ride Through the PArk” the story of a young gentleman who goes on, you guessed it, a ride through the park. Things take an interesting turn when a bloody and bitten young woman collapses onto his bike trail screaming for help. Our fellow goes into help her and gets his neck chomped for his trouble. Soon he dies and transforms into a shambling, bloody, undead zombi himself and is able to record his sticky, gruesome, blood soaked escapades via the camera attached to his helmet. What makes this entry somewhat interesting is the use of POV, it’s expected, but this is the first time I have seen it happen from a flesh eating corpses perspective and it actually proves to be an interesting and darkly comical experience.  Our protagonist undead biker guy ends up devouring a couple who stop to help him out, transforming them into zombies in the process. Things hit a high note as soon as the zombies meander upon a little girls birthday party in the park. It’s one of the funniest and wildest moments in a franchise that has seemed overwhelmingly beholden to the morose and ugly. Sure, this is tragic, but my God, it’s fun watching parents scatter and children scream as they flee into the woods and mini-vans.  The zombies are doing their jobs and doing them well as the living  constantly fuck up, you know,m throwing baseball bats at creatures intent on stripping the flesh from your bones rather than hanging on to it, you know the type. Well, some of our undead biker’s humanity still remains and it leads to a sad and, again, guiltily comical finale. This entry has energy, creativity and is a hoot AND a holler. When I found out Eduardo Sanchez directed this puppy, it made me all the happier. The man was half the creative mind that brought us 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” which helped blaze a trail for all the found footage horror film that followed. He’s also had a hand in numerous damn fine horror and sci-fi films over the past decade or so under the radar. It only makes sense that he would join The Collective who brought us he VHS franchise. Well done, sir!

VHS_2_Safe_Haven_1_5_13_13

“Safe Haven” may just be my favorite short film in this batch. It tells the story of a a news crew doing an investigative piece about an Indonesian cult. The leader of this cult is small, wide eyes fellow who, it is implied, sleeps with all the little girls in his cult so that they may be “purified.” At the cult’s headquarters, which are located far off in the sticks, the news crew is thrust headlong into a very important ceremony for this cult. The tension swells as we the viewers know this is not going to end well for anyone. This segment keeps you on your toes to the very end, turns every convention on it’s head, and manages to actually be shocking and horrific in it’s Jim Jones styled story. It’s no surprise, seeing as it was directed by Gareth Evans, the gentleman who delivered one of the best, bobe crushing, martial arts films in sometime “The Raid: Redemption” in 2011. The man understand staging, suspense building and character payoff. “Safe Haven” is one very strong, stiff drink and  I don’t want to spoil a damn thing, you really need to see this short.

VHS 2 slumber

And the final segment “Slumber Party Abduction” is another entry that manages to knock it right out of the park. This entry involves a step brother and sister spending a weekend together as their parents head out of town for a vacation. The older sister invites her arrogant boyfriend over and the younger brother invited his buds and all manner of hijinks ensue.  There are water balloons, interrupted sex acts and masturbation caught on doggie cam. It’s a ll pretty sophomoric and stupid as this kind of shit always is, but THANKFULLY there’s some insidious shit going down that the hardly register to the kids until it’s literally right outside their door. What we end up with a siege film caught on tape and once the chaos begins, the action and horror never lets up until the final, frenetic moment.  you know how the second tale was told from the zombie perspective? This tale is told almost entirely from “Doggie Cam” since the dog has had a waterproof camera attached to his head. The poor little dog, Tank, captures every last terrifying moment on tape and ends this episode on a brilliant, downbeat and heartbreaking note.  Jason Eisner takes advantage of his set up by presenting terror through the eyes of several helpless children and their pint sized pooch. The kids are very natural and easy to believe, and once the shit hits the fan, each loss is felt. Damn fine piece of horror film making.

And then the movie ends with the shitty, uninspired conclusioon to the wrap around story which involves murder, crab walking, a bloody, wagging tongue and a well times thumbs up.  Come on guys, give me a fucking break.

At the end of the day. VHS2 is an upgrade over the original anthology which almost felt like an excuse to expose an ample amount of female flesh rather than present any truly affecting horror stories. Three out of four stories are solid gold which is more than I could have ever hoped for. I was braced for  disappointment and found myself surprised and fairly impressed.  It cool to have a new anthology franchise out there, especially one to feature found footage, it seems like the possibilities are limitless and could produce more great horror stories and bring unappreciated filmmakers some well earned limelight.

3 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. Worth checking out!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

brain-damage-poster-4

a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

brain_damage_poster_02

Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




Dumpster Diving

Categories