Posts Tagged ‘written

09
Jan
16

Frankenhooker (1990): Let me just find my wallet…

frankenhooker-poster

“WANNA DATE? LOOKIN’ FOR SOME ACTION? NEED SOME COMPANY?” – Patty Mullen, Frankenhooker

a Primal Root written review

My deep abiding admiration of filmmaker and exploitation cinema connoisseur, Frank Henenlotter, cannot be overstated. The man has created some of the of the most endearing, disgusting, weird and darkly hilarious films to ever grace a grind house screen.  I’ve done a Rotten Review of 1982’s Basket Case, Henenlotter’s incredible debut feature, I’ve written up a review for his masterpiece, 1988’s Brain Damage, so today I would like to discuss the maestro’s beautiful, heartfelt tale of sluts and bolts, 1990’s Frankenhooker . 

Frankenhooker tells the intimate love story of Jersey Electrician and part time mad scientist,  Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) and his “girthy” bride to be Elizabeth (the gorgeous and talented Patty Mullen). We meet this lovely young couple on her Father’s birthday, JEffrey surprises his soon to be Father-in-law with a remote control lawnmower. Tragically, in the process if demonstrating the new remote controlled lawnmowers functionality, Elizabeth manages to run herself over with the machine splattering herself all over the garden gnomes and leading to one of the greatest local news segments ever created. I’ll go ahead and treat you to my favorite quote:

“In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad, a salad that police are still trying to gather up, a salad that was once named Elizabeth.”

And this is before the opening credits even begin! We find Jefferey sometime later in a state of deep depression, cutting himself off from the world and planning to revive his fiancee whose head he managed to save in an upright freezer filled with a special estrogen based elixir he’s created that keeps her deceased head perfectly preserved, maintaining it;s freshness until he can find just the right body donor.

frankenhookeravbr-03

A quick trip to New York city and a meeting with a pimp named Zorro lands Jeffrey right in the middle of prostitute nirvana where he hopes to cultivate all his raw material. Jeffery dreams up a master plan to put hookers down using a form of “Super Crack” he himself has created for this moment. After and hour of measuring all the sleazy, adorable hookers, Jeffry has a crisis of conscience and decides he can’t go through with it. Thankfully, as hookers are drawn to crack like kittens to catnip, the hookers steal his stash, start puffing away and find out first hand the affects of Super Crack are anything but painless as they all being to explode, one after the other, into a perfect storm of meaty, bloody, hooker chunks which litter the crusty motel room.

frankenhooker_explosion

In the aftermath of this carnage, Jeffry picks and pulls his favorite parts from those strewn about the room, takes them back to his garage and assembles Elizabeth’s brand new body, consisting of several different skin tones and body sizes. One properly placed bolt of lightning and Elizabeth is resurrected…only thing is, she has the spirit of the dead hookers and their mannerisms alive inside her reanimated body.  Like a reflex action, Elizabeth now blurts out “WANNA DATE? LOOKING FOR SOME ACTION? GOT CASH?” to every man she comes across. Immediately drawn tot he dark back alley’s of New York City, Frankenhooker goes on a carnal rampage of lust and death! That is, before she comes across grieving pimp, Zorro, who begins putting the pieces together which leads to one of the wildest, slimiest, whoreiest fucking finales to ever grace the silver screen.

I wouldn’t say Frankenhooker is Henenlotter’s best film, but I will say that it is by far and away his most unabashedly absurd and most fun. Frankenhooker is an A-1 slice of Trash Cinema Gold and an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s low brow, hysterically funny and unendingly creative in a extraordinarily dark and appealing way. Also, I cannot discuss this film without mentioning the show stealing performance of Penthouse Pet of the Year 1988, Ms. Patty Mullen. She turns in a remarkable, spastic, dare I say BRILLIANT performance as Elizabeth/Frankenhooker. Decked out in enormous platform shoes, a purple skirt, bra, and matching handbag, watching Frankenhooker awkwardly walk around the grimy back streets of New York, subways and seedy motels are the film’s highlights. Ms. Mullen is stunningly beautiful, genuinely talented and gives it everything she’s got in, what is now, her most iconic role. Patty Mullen, in this filthy grovelers heart, you will always be Frankenhooker. And, yes, I am looking for some action.

tumblr_lpk69tr6Nl1qeozpoo1_1280

 

Also, the totally fucking bonkers execution of the Super Crack Hooker Massacre sequence is a high watermark in down and dirty horror comedy filmmaking. These girls, when confronted with a huge bag of crack, go totally insane. Screaming, laughing, shaking, stripping naked and slipping each other the tongue, it’s all one fucking radical party…that is until they start exploding in huge fireballs, spewing sparks and hunks of meat all over the place. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch Frankenhooker, this scene has me in tears every time. It’s a goddamn riot and must be seen to be believed. Truly one of the finest moments in 1990’s cinema history.

Frankenhooker. It’s a simple tale told on a very low budget and caked in filth, just like I like ’em. It is grotesque, nasty, and completely unapologetic in it’s presentation of it’s absolutely demented material.  Still, at it;s very core, Frankenhooker is a love story about a man trying to bring his lost love back from the dead. Sure, the guy is kind of a brilliant moron, but his heart is in the right place just like the film itself. The film manages to generate a kind of sweetness that very few films pertaining to the subject matter of running over a woman with lawnmowers and then exploding prostitutes in order to stitch all their remains together and bring back your lover ever have. Frankenhooker is a down and dirty flick, obviously made for next to nothing, but delivers some massive entertainment.

frankenhooker2

Frankenhooker, the sum of it’s parts make it well worth taking to bed with you. Just remember to, you know…wrap it up.

I award Frankenhooker 4 1/2 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

children-shouldnt-poster

a Primal Root written review

Before the man ended up tackling truly awful films like Baby Geniuses and Karate Dog, late filmmaker Bob Clark made some well loved and enduring films. Hell, they play his film A Christmas Story at least 700 times on every cable station from November to New Year’s Day, and his horror film Black Christmas is held up beside John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the most suspenseful and horrifying slasher films ever made. The deeply unsettling Vietnam era horror film, Deathdream He even created the legendary Trash Cinema Classic, Porky’s back in 1982! The man proved he could do it all and with pizazz. For my money, one of the man’s finest and most under appreciated works is one of his very first. the 1973 horror/comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is the tale of a troupe of hippie thespians who travel out to a secluded burial island off the coast of Florida for an adventure at the witching hour.  Their leader and owner of the theater company is Alan (Alan Ormsby) a complete megalomaniac who take much pleasure in putting his friends down, sexual harassment and has a penchant for loud clothing. He leads his troupe to this island with the promise that he will raise the dead. The gang catches on quick and thinks it’s all a ruse to scare the shit out of them, which proves to be the case as they are attacked by two ghouls that turn out to be fellow actors in pancake makeup. However, soon after this bit of fun, Alan ends up ordering his thespian clan to dig up an actual corpse, that of a deceased fellow named Orville, before actually promising to call up a curse from Satan himself and bring the dead back to life.

After several false starts, the magic incantation actually does work and the undead residents of the island cemetery rise from their graves to devour the usual rag tag group of acid casualties, witchy women and squares in bell bottoms, but this doesn’t happen till nearly the end of the movie. In fact, the majority of the film is spent highlighting the petty power struggles and squabbling that takes place between this group comprised of hand picked members of the Flower Power/Free Love community. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things peels back the facade and takes a long, hard look at the hippie dream of peace, love and community and how this counterculture failed on delivering it’s idealistic vision of a better, new society. Power games, sexism, and sadistic threats are what dominate this unpleasant and corrupt group of young people. In short, this is no longer a utopian world of change, but an exact replica of the society they we seeking to be an alternative to.

CSPWDTcapture001

Just beyond the caustic satire of the counterculture is a dark sense of melancholy and despair which is fully embodied in the character of Alan. The villainous Alan does not believe in traditional Flower Power, but espouses on the pointlessness of our very existence, “The dead are losers. If anyone hasn’t earned the right for respect, it’s the dead…Man is a machine that manufactures manure.”  Alan takes great pride in devaluing those around him. Calling his leading man a “slab of meat” and mocking Satan himself in his incantations. Alan lives in a world without value or truth. He even states that he will take Orville home to feed to his dogs and then use his bones as Christmas ornaments. Sure, he might be saying this all for shock value, but from the reaction of those around him you get the impression this is not an act, but who Alan really is.  So, in the end, after Alan spends so much of the film waxing his nihilistic poetry, exposing the pointlessness of life and the non existence of God or Satan, it makes a kind of deeply sick sense that the dead should return to life. Rising like malfunctioning machines comprised of rotted flesh and old bones, moving about as a parody of the living’s pointless, expendable existence.

Instead of embracing these walking dead as the ultimate substantiation of his empty, nihilistic beliefs, Alan does everything in his power to save his own ass. In one of the film;s most memorable moments of absolutely shocking and comical pessimism, Alan and a female friend run up the stairs for safety, followed closely by the flesh hungry dead. Alan, in a moment of complete selfishness, pushes this woman down the stairs and into the arms of the flesh eaters coming for them. The actions stops for a moment as the woman and zombies alike stop in their tracks and stare at Alan, as if astonished at his loathsome cowardice, before taking this young woman off to be eaten.

This is where that vision peace and love got us. Not the most cheerful of thoughts to consider.

children-shouldnt-theyre-up

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one brutal in it’s sick, drastically dark satire, but it’s still a fantastic comedy. Filled with quirky performances, snappy dialog, and some fantastic one liners.  On a near non-existent budget, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things manages to be both completely entertaining and utterly engrossing  while reminding you why you dread running into those kids you used to hang out with in drama club back in high school. The thespians are all very real, very human characters and the zombies, in cheap makeup and thrift store clothes, are vivid, nasty customers with facial expressions registering rage and hate rather than the typical benign indifference of a Romero zombie. After being rudely awaken,  these dead folks are back to settle a score.  The makers of this film use their limited budget to their advantage and deliver an intelligent, bleak look into a counterculture that never did take, died,  and simply rotted away like flesh from the bone.  In the end, it’s Death getting the last laugh.

I give Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

martin_poster_02

a Primal Root written review

“Do you believe God’s whole world runs by the laws of the few sciences we have been able to discover? Oh, no, Christine, there is more. But people are satisfied. They know so much, they think they know all. And that makes it easy for Nosferatu. That makes it easy for all the devils.” -Cuda, Martin

 

George Romero’s name immediately conjures up images of his iconic shambling, flesh eating “shoot ’em in the head” zombies, and it’s no wonder. Hell, the man’s spent the better part of a career spanning over forty years devoted to these walking dead flesh eaters who changed the landscape of horror cinema forever with movies like Night of the Living Dead (!968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2004) among many other “Of the Dead” films and follow ups spawning countless unofficial ineffective sequels and lukewarm, forgettable remakes and also saturated the market for the past decade influencing everything in pop culture to the point I wish someone would just put a bullet in my head and end the unimaginative, cash-in, living dead hysteria that won’t seem to ever fucking wind down and die.

But to concentrate on the man’s most popular and commercially successful ventures is to ignore the bold and creative films he is lesser known for. Films like The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow,The Dark Half, etc. The man has made some phenomenal films outside the living dead canon he’s most known for, and I’d like to focus on what I consider to be among his most intriguing and underrated works, the independent vampire flick, Martin. 

Martinpic

Martin tells the tale of a shy, quiet, troubled teenage boy who believes himself to be a vampire, in fact, he comes from a lineage of his family that other relatives believe is cursed with hereditary vampirisim.  We’re introduced to Martin (John Amplas) as he stalks a fellow female passenger on an overnight train to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As he stalks this average young woman back to her overnight cabin aboard the train, we watch as Martin imagines her waiting for him behind the locked door in a revealing neglige, seduced by his vampire charms, lusting for him and embraces Martin with open arms, allowing him to feast on her warm red blood.  What Martin imagines is presented in grainy black and white, like the classic Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, like Dracula or Frankenstein, before cutting back to the bright, technicolor of reality where Martin attacks the young woman in her cramped cabin. The reality is far from Martin’s dream scenario. He walks in to the sound of her flushing the toilet before she steps out with her hair up in a towel, wearing a well loved bathrobe, her face caked in beauty cream as she blows a huge snot rocket into a wad of toilet paper. When Martin attacks her, intent on doping her up with a well placed prick of his syringe, she fights back with everything she has, hurling obscenities like “FREAK! RAPIST! ASSHOLE!”  athim while struggling against his clutches. Honestly, Martin is a shrimpy looking dude, and I have a feeling she would probably kick his ass normally, but the drugs take hold and she passes out, thus, allowing Martin to slice her arm open with a straight razor and dine on her blood. That’s right, Martin has no fangs.

When the train reaches it’s destination Martin meets his new caretaker, his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Cuda is a devoutly religious and highly superstitious  man,  and believes completely in the old family legend that some members are cursed with vampirisim. Cuda takes the boy in with the hopes of saving Martin’s eternal soul before destroying the creature of the night for all time. As you might guess, Cuda has nothing but contempt for young Martin, addressing him as Nosferatu and even threatening to put a stake through Martin’s heart, killing Martin without salvation, if Martin harms anyone in his city. But it’s not long before Martin ignores these warnings, and sneaks off into the night to hunt and feed.

martin7721

From the very first frame, Romero, with the help of a haunting, beautiful score from Don Rubinstein and utilizing the fading landscape of Braddock Pennsylvania, imbues his film with a sad, bleak, disturbing atmosphere, one where the American Dream has run dry and the world is left to rot and decay. The mills have alls hut down, the local economy has crumbled, and everyone left is struggling just to survive. The tone is one of desperation as a population holds on to the dying old ways of their lives and existing in denial.

As Martin stalks and ambushes his victims, it becomes apparent that sex is not his concern at all. In fact, when he is propositioned by a female shopper he befriends at Cuda’s grocery store, he has no idea how to respond. Turns out, Martin’s still a virgin after all these years and has no idea what to make of this. The lure of sex seems to hang all about Martin, and his response to it comes off as confused, sad and out of place. When he finally does give in to the seduction, he comes away unfulfilled. This is not your typical lustful vampire.

What Romero has sought out to do with Martin is, much like he did for zombies in his 1968 horror milestone Night of the Living Dead , is to deconstruct the vampire legend and all of the conventions we as an audience hold to be law. Martin is Romero’s treatise that examines the myth of the vampire, (featured in black and white, either as fantasy or long ago memories of how being a vampire once was, this point is left ambiguous) and reality (shot in bright, bold, 1970’s color) de-romanticizing the vampire legend. Also being tackled here is religion and superstitious belief.

martin7710

Martin cannot stomach the reality he exists in, and instead, creates intricate fantasies (presented in grainy black and white) where he visualizes himself sneaking into a grand castle rather than some  sleazy 70’s bachelor pad, or striding into the arms of an eager lover rather than holding down a shrieking victim who just took a huge dump in the adjoining bathroom. He imagines himself into the romantic Hollywood reality of the movie vampire, the one that is so alluring. which might be why he’s so quick to state “There’s no magic. There’s no real magic ever.” several times in the film. Crucifixes, garlic, holy water, sunlight, the classic rules do not apply in reality. Martin has no fangs, he uses a straight razor. He has no powers of seduction, he must use dope to keep his victims from breaking him in half. This is not a world of magic and super human power, this is stone cold, un-romantic reality.

Still, Martin believes he is actually a vampire and must feed on the blood of the living in order to survive, just as Christians believe utterly and completely in the resurrection, Heaven, Hell, and the power of the holy spirit. Martin still places an importance in the canned icons of his belief system, “The Hollywood Vampire” but is intelligent enough to know he is only humoring himself with these fantasies and delusions. After one startling moment in the film where Martin scares the living shit out of Cuda by stepping out the darkness  wearing a cape, bares fangs and has a pallid complexion only to finally laugh at the old man and reassure him, “It’s only a costume.” Martin has been told all his life what he is and has come to believe what’s been drilled into his head from birth.  Martin longs to be one thing, but he knows he is something else and this knowledge is the essence of the film.

Martin also takes dead aim at organized religion, portraying it in vapid, empty terms. Romero himself plays a hip priest who insults the shitty wine his church serves at communion, doesn’t believe in angels or demons and loves the movie The Exorcist. And when Cuda calls upon an old school priest to ambush Martin and perform an exorcism of their own, it comes off as an old useless ritual and Martin simply walks away as the priest blubbers on reading from the holy text. But more disheartening than any of this is Cuda himself, a man so blinded by his own faith that he believes it is his divine right to wield life or death over his own flesh and blood. Cuda believes the vampiric curse and that it is his duty to destroy the evil, to murder his own relative in the name of God. This is the same mentality in religious hysteria that leads followers to murder doctors who perform abortion and claim to be pro-life but support capital punishment, to commit atrocious acts of violence in the name of your own personal lord and savior. It’s sick, it’s twisted and it’s wrong.

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

In the end, Martin is a film about the lies we tell ourself and the delusions we live every day. Those that we have been taught by those closest to us and those we tell ourselves simply to get by. Martin wants so badly to be a vampire he is willing to kill others. Martin admires the lore and power of vampires. How they are loved, feared and lusted after, all things that the shy, timid misfit feels he can never obtain.

Martin is a singular, gorgeous, and poetic take on the vampire horror film and it’s Hollywood lore. To date, I have never seen a more thoroughly unique and sweetly sad vampire tale.  This is the rarest of horror movies, one not about a horrible other, or even about the creature next door. No, this is subtle, ambiguous look at what makes monsters of us all. A look into the heart of the horror in our everyday human existence and the evils we are capable of inflicting on one another. Not only through physical acts, but through the power of ideas, belief and control.

I give Martin FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. If you ask me, this is Romero’s absolute masterpiece.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

10
Aug
14

(NSFW) Sex and Fury (1973) Brutal Beauty or Vengeance is a Dish Best Served Nude

artwork by Andrew Peters

artwork by Andrew Peters

a Primal Root written review

I gotta say, there are few things in this realm of existence more exciting and beautiful than a badass nekkid woman brandishing a kitana and lopping various body parts off goons and heavies in the heat of battle. Watching the blood fly and the breasts bounce is truly a remarkable experience and a sight to behold.  I had always assumed these scene could only play out in my imagination, a daydream of a man obsessed with filth and the female form. To my astonishment, to my pure delight, the 1973 pinky violence epic, Sex and Fury, managed to commit this dream like boner inducing bloody massacre to a vivid, mind blowing reality.  Friends and Collective members, I may have just fallen in love with a movie.

Sex and Fury, directed by Noribumi Suzuki is the story of  one young woman’s quest for vengeance after witnessing, as a child the brutal, gore drenched murder of her detective father by the Yakuza gang. His final gift to her, the only witness of the assassination, are three hanafuda cards, the deer, the boar, and the butterfly, which will serve as clues to the identity of his killer. 20 years later, this little girl has grown up to be the stunningly gorgeous and deadly Reiko Ike, who gives herself the identity Inoshika Ocho, coded based upon her quarry (ino = boar, shika = deer, ocho = butterfly).  All the while, gang ringleader Kurokawa (Seizaburo Kawazu) and his flunky Iwakura (Hiroshi Nawa) consolidate the power of their Seishinkai Group, securing the carving of their turf in an ever changing and modern Japan.

sex_and_fury132

Ocho has become a well known and highly renowned gambler and thief and ends up having a beef with the Seishinkai after a dying Yakuza gambler begs Ocho to save his daughter from the rapey clutches of Iwakura, a mission she relishes tackling. Along the way she crosses paths with two other characters, the son of a murdered Seishinkai rival, Shunosuke (Masataka Maruse), who has some excellent emo hair and, like Ocho, a similar lust for vengeance. Ocho also runs across the scrumptious Christina (Christina Lindberg) a sexy and mysterious young woman from out west who has a legendary rep for being unbeatable at gambling and is also extensively talented with a firearm. Believe it or not, these characters and events all come together and lay the path for Ocho’s brutal quest for payback.

Reiko Ike (Battles Without Honor or Humanity) throws herself into the role with full bore ferocity that’s a pleasure to witness. She’s an lovely screen presence with striking features and a body that’s a knock out. for me, the movie doesn’t get much better than during Reiko’s extensive and lengthy nude sword fight with about a dozen Yakuza henchmen that starts in a bathtub and ends in a snow covered courtyard that soon turns shades of pink and red and the body parts fly and blood sprays by the bucket full. The fight is well staged and beautifully choreographed and shot and is truly a spectacle to behold. I can honestly say I’ve never seen another nude fight scene comes close to this sequence. Honestly, it is a thing of beauty.

eyes_wide_shut

Also, I must mention Christine Lindberg (Thriller: A Cruel Picture aka:They Call Her One Eye), the cult star of some now notorious sex flicks and exploitation classics, has never really had much range, but does the best she can while trying to speak in stilted and awkward phonetically learned Japanese. Whatever\issues do arise from her presence in the film are more than made up for by her character’s ridiculously melodramatic story line, show stopping outfits and some very sexy scenes later in the film. Really, it’s just cool seeing Christine in just about anything.  My only gripe about Sex & Fury is that is often tries to depict sexual assault in a titillating manner, which has always been uncomfortable for me to watch but seems to be a staple of Japanese and Hong Kong films of the period. Thankfully, these scenes make up a very small portion of the film which is otherwise a none stop flowage of awesome sauce.

Bottom line, Sex and Fury is supreme Trash Cinema entertainment. There’s just about everything you cold possibly one from a genre picture of it’s ilk, sword play, gun play, graphic violence, martial arts, sexy women, copious amounts of nudity,  and many of these elements crossing paths at the exact same time lovingly and painstakingly realized.  Sex and Fury is truly remarkable piece of Trash.

I’m giving Sex and Fury FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

christine_poster_by_cakes_and_comics-d5ht3mc

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

FlamingChristine

At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

christine-se_shot7l

Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

christine-se_shot6l

I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five 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

26
Jan
14

Ms. 45 (1981): Vengeance be a Lady or Bullets Over Ballsack

ms_45_theatrical_onesheet__large

 

a Primal Root written review

In the late 70’s and early 80’s horror and exploitation cinema saw a rise in the popularity of the “rape/revenge” sub-genre. In a film of this nature, a woman or man is raped and violated followed by the person violated, or someone close to them, going on a roaring rampage of blood soaked revenge against those who have so violently attacked them or those they love.  Movies like “I Spit on your Grave”,  “Deliverance”, “Last House on the Left”, “Straw Dogs” and countless others were all part of this trend towards vigilante revenge fantasy films, where innocence is raped and the victim must seek their vengeance.  My own idea why this sort of sub-genre sprung up and became so popular were the crime statistics of the time and the general unease in society that the system, and those sworn to protect us, weren’t up to the task and that the only way for us to survive was to take matters into our own hands. The rape/revenge film taps into that deep, dark, fantasy where the victim gets the last laugh against the low lives who savaged them.  In most cases there is a clear line between good and evil and the vengeance is always righteous and well justified in the viewers eye. This evil redneck sodomized this young woman for an hour, so she cuts his dick off and lets him bleed to death in her lovely Airbnb log cabin rentals art deco bathroom. You get to cheer on these folks as they fight fire with fire and watch with glee as the wicked are punished.  It’s a very base, primal formula and story.

Enter Abel Ferrara’s 1981 “Ms. 45″ (aka: Angel of Vengeance”), the story of Thana, a young, mute seamstress working for an up and coming fashion designer and living in New York City where there just so happens to be a constant single file line of sleazeballs and scum bags garnishing the streets, ogling women, and serenading them with wolf whistles and cat calls as they walk by. We get to experience this uncomfortable, sexist deluge through the female POV came of those unlucky ladies having to ignore and endure this harassment and MAN is it effective.  As Thana makes her way home from work she is accosted and raped at gun point in broad daylight down an alleyway by a man in a Halloween mask. Before departing, the man threatens that he’ll be back before booking it off into the sunset and surely haunting Thana’s every waking moment for the rest of her life. And in one terrifying moment, actually does appear as a nightmarish phantom hallucination to Thana as she tries to undress and take a shower after the attack.

Zoe-Tamerlis-in-Ms-45-remembering-zoe-tamerlis-lund-12109019-800-534

Thana, in shock, makes her way back to her apartment only to find a burglar has broken in and is waiting for her. Again, she is raped at gunpoint…but this time she strikes back and bashes her assailant’s skull in with an iron. As she begins disposing of attackers dead body, which she has sawed into several pieces and begun depositing all over New York City wrapped in shopping bags, she’s chased on foot by a young man that has mistaken one of these bags as something she accidentally dropped and is trying to give back to her. For his trouble, Thana shoots this poor sucker in the face.

Before you know it, Thana is a woman on a mission. As she gains confidence and a thirst for vengeance she transforms from a mousy young woman to a deadly black widow. Dressing more provocatively, wearing makeup and pulling her hair back, Thana takes to the night time streets of New York to murder as many abusive, rapey, evil men as she can find. She ends up blowing away a pimp seen beating a hooker, a gang of would be rapists and a man in a limousine who tries to offer her cash for sex. It’s a blast watching Thana take out these sleazy, violent cocksmiths. One can clearly see how Thana perceives these men as threats  and you cannot help but cheer as she delivers hot, blood spattering, genital mutilating vengeance from the barrel of her gun. I must admit a certain feeling of satisfaction witnessing this carnage.

primary_Ms45-1981-1

But “Ms. 45”  is a more complex film than your typical black and white, Good vs. Evil rape/revenge film.  “Ms.45” exists in a more realistic world painted in varying shades of grey.  Thana pursues the advances of a creepy, aggressive photographer. The man comes on to her in a restaurant, follows her down the sidewalk yapping her ear off until she agrees to go to his studio. Once there, she guns this guy down in cold blood. The man was obviously a creeper, treated Thana as subhuman, another conquest to stick his teeny weenie in, but did the slimy bastard deserve to die? He never actually succeeded in harming Thana or actually proved he had any intention to.  He was gross, nasty and aggressive…but he never actually hurt anyone during his time on screen.  As a viewer, I sure as shit didn’t want to spend any time with this guy, but did he earn the bullet riddled dose of death he received?

For Thana, it steadily grows from a quest for vengeance to a gender specific killing spree as she begins targeting anyone with the offending genitals. she stalks down a young, Asian man who she eyed making out with his girlfriend. The man was just kissing the woman he is attracted to and it’s completely mutual! No force, no rape, but Thana no longer seems capable of  discerning what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and in her bloody quest for revenge has found herself becoming a monster herself.

“Ms. 45” reaches it’s climax at her fashion designer bosses’ Halloween party. Thana dresses up as a nun, attends the party as her bosses’ date, and packs some heat below her garter. In a chilling, horrifying, slow motion finale Thana opens fire on every man at the Halloween party. The crowd screams, begins panicking and trying to escape the barrage of gun fire.  This woman we were once rooting for has blurred the line so completely between good and evil that she is willing to kill any man at all because she sees every man as a threat. It isn’t until a friend of Thana’s,  one of her female co-workers, grabs a butcher knife, sneaks up behind Thana holding the blade at crotch level, making the phallic symbolism unmistakable, and then plunges it into Thana’s back, that the killing finally stops. Thana turns, her eyes widen in shock as she realizes it was a fellow woman who has killed her, sliding the phallic knife into her. The mute Thana then whispers her one and only line, her dying word, “sister” and falls to the ground dead.

Ms45

Abel Farrara created one of the most unique, disturbing and thought provoking films in this sub-genre of horror, and incidentally, one of the more interesting of the 1980’s. The film seeks to bring the idea of blind vengeance into the discussion of rape and revenge. When does  revenge simply start becoming mindless killing? Is it ever justified? When does the hero become the villain? These are questions few films within this sub-genre take the time to ask . In “Ms. 45” we are given plenty of time and opportunity to meditate on just what has happened to Thana, where Thana finds herself at the end of the movie, and the mechanics of our own reaction to the steps in her journey from victim, to vigilante to victimizer.  This very well might be why “Ms. 45” is so effective, so chilling and so infinitely open for debate and discussion.

Thana is a voiceless woman in a city overrun with outspoken, sexually aggressive men. Once irrevocably turned into a victim she finds an artificial voice in violence, in the firing of her gun and the killing of others. She cannot scream for anyone to stop, but her gun has the power to scream and stop her tormentors.  It isn’t until the end, when she is stabbed to death by another woman, that she finds her true voice, and in my opinion, opens her eyes to the horror of what she has begun. She is no longer an angel of vengeance but a demon of destruction. By the evil of others, she herself, has become an evil doer.

Of course, this is just The Primal Root’s take on the movie. I would love for you to check it out sometime and share your thoughts on the “Ms. 45” and just what you took away from this flick.

Ms45-1981-4

Also, let me just say Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who played Thana, is remarkable. with only one line of dialogue in the course of the film, Zoë manages to make Thana into a fully fleshed out,  believable, human character.  Zoë was one remarkable, creative talent and a natural beauty with screen presence to spare. She even went on to co-write Abel Ferrara’s notorious “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel.   Sadly, Zoë was a long time heroin addict and died of drug related heart failure in 1999. she was 37 years old.  For more on Zoë I highly recommend http://www.zoelund.com/ which is run by Robert Lund.

I forgot to mention, there is also a subplot featuring Thana’s obnoxious landlady and her yapping mutt. At one point Thana takes her land ladies’ dog for a walk intent on killing it. She ties the dog to a pole, and draws her gun ofn the cornered mutt. We never see Thana kill the pooch but it’s assumed that she did only to have the poor little guy return home right before the credits roll. It’s an interesting note to end the movie on, that Thana so easily can kill a man, ANY man, before she could kill a dog.

Certainly not a feel good movie, and surely as shit, it ain’t for everyone, “Ms. 45” is an excellent piece of exploitation, horror, Trash Cinema. It’s well worth checking out and deserving of it’s Cult Classic status.  I’m giving “Ms. 45” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




Dumpster Diving

Categories