Posts Tagged ‘Warlock

21
Jan
20

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

 

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“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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

26
Oct
16

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Samhain’s Darkest Horse

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created by Matt Ryan Tobin

 

“I do love a good joke and this is the best ever, a joke on the children.” – Conal Cochran, Halloween III: Season of the Witch

a Primal Root written review

If you know me int he slightest, it’s not a secret by any means, I am enormous fan and champion of the misfit third entry in the long running Halloween horror franchise began by John Carpenter and Debra Hill way back in 1978 with the original Halloween. The exploits of escaped mental patient Michael Myers aka: The Shape (Nick Castle), his considerably psychotic child therapist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and the blossoming young virgin babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) came to a close with a fiery explosion at the end of Halloween II. Michael was engulfed in flames that were sure to turn anyone made of flesh and blood to nothing more than a hand full of ash, and CERTAINLY must have killed that goofy nutbag Dr. Loomis who flicked the Bic that blew the explosive gas ward of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital sky high…leaving Laurie Strode alone in an ambulance pondering the terribly contrived and problematic twist that Michael Myers was actually her brother all along, which totally negates the random nature of the horror in the original Halloween and reminds you that if you make sure you know your biological family tree and keep dibs on all the blood thirsty, unkillable maniacs, you can avoid this sort of predicament and spare your friends every Halloween night.

Halloween II would have been a pretty fine conclusion to the story of Haddonfield and it’s brotherly Boogerman, if the original film hadn’t had a far more suitable and deeply unnerving conclusion already, so where was the Halloween franchise to go from it’s 1981 sequel? Would John Carpenter and Debra Hill venture to make another lazy, dull, predictable story about the now totally cremated and burned to smithereens masked madman Michael Myers? Well, if you are familiar with these two remarkably creative, innovative and fearless individuals, you know that this is exactly the road they’re not going to travel. In fact, their decision would go on to become the stuff of legend. The third installment in the Halloween franchise would be a massive departure from the story of Michael Myers and would, instead, tell a brand new, original story based around the holiday of the title, Halloween. It part of an incredibly commercial and brilliant concept of Carpenter and Hill that would make the Halloween franchise a yearly canvas for an infinite number of creative minds and filmmakers to create their own, unique, one off Halloween stories that could birth any number of spinoffs, sequels, remakes, reboots and reimaginings down the road! One paper it sounds like a wonderfully viable and lucrative concept, one that would keep the franchise running strong for decades to come! Debra Hill came up with the basic concept of the story, “witchcraft meets the computer age.” The team contacted Nigel Kneal (writer of the The Quatermass series) who wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what would become Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. 

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Our film begins with the creation of a digital jack-o-lantern set the dark, ominous tones of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s fantastic score. Long gone is the iconic Halloween theme that immediately puts audiences on edge. Here, the score is menacing, low, and mysterious. The audience accustomed to the simple stalk and slash formula of the previous entries are clued in right off the bat that there is something different at work here. The jack-o-lantern is no longer something physical we’ve all held, touched and carved before. No, this is something alien and untouchable. As the credits conclude, the computer generated grinning jack-o-lantern begins to flash over white as an audible buzzing is heard. It’s strange, off putting and the significance of this is a totally mystery to us… for now.

The story centers on Dr. Challis (legendary cult icon, Tom Atkins), a flawed, damaged gentleman who is not by any stretch of the imagination your typical hero. This guy is divorced with two kids, a womanizer and, from what it would seem, a functional alcoholic.  At every turn the man is sexually harassing his staff (or, I guess it would just be called flirting in the early 1980’s) of knocking back beer or bourbon. Even when visiting his ex-wife she mentions, as his pager goes off to call him to the hospital, “drinking and doctoring: GREAT combination.” She hasn’t witnessed this man drinking, he just showed up smelling like booze. Yeah, this guy is our hero, ladies and gents!

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Womanizer. Drunkard. Hero.

Challis arrives at the hospital to care for a man in hysterics who is clutching a popular Silver Shamrock Halloween mask and babbling what seems to be nonsense about “They’re going to kill us! All of us!” Challis sedates the man, puts him in a room, slaps the nurses ass and goes to sleep it off in the doctor’s lounge leaving the poor old guy all alone so minutes later a silent man in a three piece suit can just wonder into his room and dismantle his skull bare handed. When Challis is woken up by the nurses cries over the patients sudden case of collapsed skull, he gives chase, but it’s too late. The silent killer has doused himself in gasoline and blown himself up in his car. Challis looks on with a face that clearly expresses and slightly hungover “What the fuck?” The audience feels his pain.

The murdered man’s daughter, Ellie (the gorgeous Stacey Nelkin) shows up to claim the body and the local authorities try to comfort her by claiming it was just a random psychopath who walked in off the streets and single handidly crunched her father’s head into bloody, flappy chunks. The next day she track Dr. Challis down early in the morning at a local bar and enlists his help to figure out just who wanted her Father dead and why. Dr. Challis, who can never say no to a free booty call, grabs a sixer of Miller High Life, calls his ex-wife to back out of his obligations and heads off the Santa Mira, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, the town her Father was last seen headed before he became a babbling lunatic with a warrant out for his noggin.

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What Dr. Challis and Ellie uncover between swigs of bourbon and all night fuck sessions, is a vast, deadly, evil conspiracy, one that has been conjured up over hundreds of years and will bring the world to it’s knees as horrifically grotesque sacrifice is made. As the mastermind behind this horrifying plan suggests, “The World is going to change tonight.” And if this evil madman’s scheme does pull through, the world will be transformed forever…

***SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!****

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Okay, so it turns out the guy who runs Silver Shamrock novelties, Conal Cochran (played with enthusiasm and cheerful menace by the late, great, Dan O’Herlihy) is a druid and a warlock with a massive army of murderous robot people. He also has stolen a block from stonehenge and is chipping off pieces of the missing block to add just a fragment of the stone into the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks along with a small computer chip. What is the importance of all this? Why is Mr. Cochran willing to murder people in order to ensure these masks are made and are the hottest Halloween masks on the market?  What is the deal with the big giveaway happening Halloween night where all the children must watch their TV’s while wearing their Silver Shamrock masks in order to win? Because it’s all part of a grand scale child sacrifice. That’s right, when the big giveaway happens, those wearing the Silver shamrock Halloween masks will be subjected to a blinking jack-o-lantern. This image in conjunction with the piece from stonehenge will end up melting the head of the child wearing  mask and produce copious amounts of roaches, spiders, and venomous snakes.

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Yes, this plan is totally fucking bonkers. Evil always works best when it’s bonkers, if you ask me. It;s so bizarre, so downright disturbing and nightmarish, it totally devastated me when I was a kid watching Halloween III: Season of the Witch for the first time. In the typical language of cinema, the kid never dies. Then you see Halloween III: Season of the Witch, you do not only get to witness a little kid get his head melted, but you watch as he, still living, chokes up rattle snakes, roaches and and tarantulas before his horrified parents eyes. I honestly watched the scene much like Dr. Challis does as he watches through a monitor in Cochran’s secret warehouse. You cannot believe what you’re seeing. It;s so dark and weird and macabre and unflinchingly grim…it then dawns on you that in matter of hours this is going to happen everywhere. In every living room all over the world. I know a lot of people bring up that THE BIG GIVEAWAY is at 9pm and that the movie didn’t account for time zones. Ugghh, I am sure the time zones are adjusted and that the filmmakers just didn’t want to make it monotonous by listing ALL THE DIFFERENT TIME ZONES all of the world.  Anyhoo, it’s a nightmare to imagine as kids die a prolonged, agonizing, supernatural death and their poor parents then get attacked by the living, nasty contents of their now melted spawns cranium. I can’t help but imagine what this little practical joke will do to the economic thrust of the holiday season. Shit. Little Buddy’s head is gone, I guess we can return that Atari to Toys R’ Us…

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Also, I must address the Ellie controversy. A lot of people wonder if she was  robot all along or not. My theory is that Ellie was a real, flesh and blood human being through the whole movie until she is captured by Cochran and used to lure Dr. Challis to the Silver Shamrock Factory. Cochran had a crude robot duplicate of her made, Dr. Challis rescues that robot,and Ellie is left to burn alive in the Silver Shamrock explosion. Yeah, my theory is dark, bleak and assumes the female lead suffers a brutal death by burning all alone in the bowels of mad toy maker’s factory, but to me that is the appeal of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Our hero is inept, saves no one, including his own children and the world witnesses the absolute terror that Conal Cochran has unleashed upon the world. The film ends with Tom Atkins, Dr. Challis, screaming into the phone as the Silver shamrock jack-o-lantern flashes on the screen, “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIIITTTT!” And the credits roll. He doesn’t win. We are left to imagine the outcome of this gruesome terrorist attack. To this day, the ending of Halloween III: Season of the Witch sends chills down my spine. If you think about it, that ending could symbolize the corporate take over of America. Our youth poisoned by what they are fed day in and day out through all forms of media until their heads rot and the same nasty, mean, venomous shit comes pouring from their mouths. Fuck…could Atkins have been trying to warn us all long? Did the evil that occurred at the end of Halloween III: Season of the Witch already occur? I take a glimpse from time to time and see what comes spewing into my living room through cable television and it’s not hard to imagine that the kind of televised consumer apocalypse may have already happened.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a the underdog of the entire franchise. History speaks for itself. The movie bombed horribly due to the fact it was critically panned and the fans wanted more of the same, which they got a few years later in the hideously underwhelming Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which I do enjoy, it’s just a really, really, cheap, poorly shot, and not very entertaining or inspired movie.

To be be perfectly honest, I couldn’t stand Halloween III: Season of the Witch when I first saw it as a child. It was too dark, too mean and there was no Michael Myers!I was right there with the folks who were disappointed in the lack of familiar elements.  However, time has been very kind to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it has grown into a sort of cult favorite among horror movie aficionados. After watching the same Michael Myers bullshit over and over and over I began to go back to Halloween III: Season of the Witch just to remind myself why I didn’t like it. Just like many of my horror brethren, I think many of us found what we initially presumed to be the film’s weaknesses to actually be this movie’s greatest strengths. Folks like myself who revel in the third installments stand alone story, bizarre gore effects, disturbing mystery, incredible fresh and creepy score, nightmarish concepts and and damn fine performances. It’s the last of the high quality, well shot and intriguing Halloween films and possibly my favorite of the entire series, including John Carpenter’s original, which I have tremendous respect for…but Halloween III: Season of the Witch is such a one of kind masterpiece of the macabre, I look forward to watching it every single Halloween season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Myers and the original Halloween just fine, but like I said earlier, I always like my evil to be a bit more fucking bonkers side of things.

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created by Cavity Colors

Every October I watch as people create more and more original art based on Halloween III: Season of the Witch as it’s cult status and admiration grows. I’m not going to lie, it brings a salty tear to this Trash Cinema fans eye every year as I watch what was once the laughing stock and whipping boy of the Halloween franchise become more and more the stand out and most beguiling dark corner of the whole series.

I award Halloween III: Season of the Witch 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

 

 




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