Archives for posts with tag: Troma

The Jar

The Jar (1984) ***

Paul (Gary Wallace) is a dull, bearded man who will spend most of The Jar wandering through nightmares and staring at his surroundings with irritable angst after experiencing a fateful auto accident. The other driver, a strange old man (Les Miller), is shaken and uncommunicative, so Paul takes him home with him to his apartment. The elderly gentleman soon disappears, but leaves behind him a jar wrapped in a paper sack. Inside the jar is a little blue demon, and before very long Paul is suffering visions of his bathtub filling with blood and his shower head emitting rays of otherworldly light that transport him into a dark, rocky pit. Crystal (Karin Sjoberg), a beautiful, bright-eyed brunette with a dimpled chin, for some reason takes an interest in Paul, wants to date him, and attempts to drag this drab, unfriendly nutcase out of his madness and increasing isolation.

An offbeat, minimalist horror obscurity that will try and annoy all but the most open-minded seekers after the arcane, The Jar is a film that flouts conventions, refusing to conform to the expectations of genre buffs. People who rented the video based on the cover image of what the box describes as “a repulsive, embryonic creature” and hoped for another Gremlins (1984) or Ghoulies (1985) must have been sorely disappointed, as the thing only appears onscreen for a second or two at a time and is almost totally inanimate, to boot. Unremittingly weird and yet frequently boring, The Jar‘s most unforgivable fault is that next to nothing happens for the duration of its draggy 85 minutes.

On the plus side, The Jar has quite a few eerie moments and shows how scuzzy production values and a cast of non-professional actors can sometimes evoke more menace and atmosphere than high-dollar horror. The Jar, in a Vietnam flashback scene, also contains the most maddening helicopter noise ever heard in a film, the electronic sound design doing much to sustain viewer interest for much of this rather frustrating movie. Unsurprisingly, this was writer George Bradley’s and director Bruce Toscano’s only film.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky (1990) ****

Bill (Steven Cooke) is a nerdy, liberal weenie and recycling enthusiast being bullied by the jocks at school when he fortuitously finds a recovering alcoholic leprechaun (Garry Kluger) in a beer bottle. Granted three wishes, Bill naturally wants a shot at hot cheerleader Krissi (Lezlie Z. McCraw), which brings him into intensified conflict with sadistic stud Tony (Rick McDowell), who also wants to get his paws on her. The hit-and-miss Irish magic results in such memorable moments as Bill being turned into a cat, Tony’s tennis racket coming to life and giving him a whacking, and Bill shrinking to mite size, riding a naked vixen’s bar of soap as she lathers herself, and bouncing around in Krissi’s panties and holding on for dear life in the perilous jungle of her pubes. Throw in a few quaint soft rock songs, and Getting Lucky has the makings of an 80s classic.

Admittedly, Getting Lucky, sporting its 1990 copyright, is not technically an 80s movie, but it does demonstrate nicely how the early 90s were in many instances a holdover, a culmination, or a last gasp of the 80s – and so it narrowly squeezes in as an 80s Oddities Month pick. Something of a straggler within its genre, Getting Lucky is essentially a throwback to the early-to-mid-80s variety of teen raunch comedy, a genre which had lost steam over the course of the decade, with the charming likes of Screwballs (1983) and Hot Moves (1984) having given way to lamely tame youth fare like The Allnighter (1987) and How I Got into College (1989). At the same time, Getting Lucky‘s imaginative nastiness is tempered by a sweetness and innocence that at times recalls The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High (1987).

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended to fans of films of this type.

 

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A soullessly grotesque throwaway horror comedy directed by Troma alumnus Scott Mckinlay, Creep Van is the story of musclebound weenie and car washer Campbell (Brian Kolodziej), who, as a montage of his failures at previous jobs amply illustrates, is a young man of limited wits and prospects. His new boss, Mr. Kaufman (Gerald Emerick) – no doubt named after Troma President Lloyd, who appears briefly in Creep Van – sees something in him, however, and coworker Amy (Amy Wehrell) is also friendly as well as being likely girlfriend material. Unfortunately for Campbell, he has no car, and the man whose van he wants to buy is driving around Detroit committing a series of cartoonish murders. Will Campbell succeed in winning Amy? Can he protect her from the killer? Will Campbell ever buy a car, move out of his friend’s house, and get his own place? What price glory, Campbell?

Kolodziej, who could be a young Travolta minus the talent and sex appeal, is adequate in the lead, but receives precious little support from the story, script, and direction. The horror is so fake, the humor so flat and self-consciously winking, that no sense of reality or suspense is ever allowed to develop from the succession of vulgar, violent, and ultimately pointless scenes that constitute Creep Van. The revealing of the killer’s face, kept hidden until the end, is devoid of dramatic effect or meaning, and no explanation of motivations is ever offered. This is because Creep Van is a scarily inhuman, contemptuous film that concerns itself neither with good storytelling, good taste, engaging characters, nor perfectly reasonable audience expectations of resolution and emotional satisfaction. Tonally schizophrenic, the film veers from campy, gory whimsy into an incongruous ending so anaesthetically bleak and hostilely matter-of-fact that it can have been conceived with no intention other than simply to spite the audience. 2 out of 5 creepy stars for this junker.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Creep Van is:

9. Diversity-skeptical. The fear is palpable as Campbell practically bows and scrapes after clumsily bumping into a black man in a restaurant. His loutish black coworker, meanwhile, calls him “stupid white boy” and “snowflake”.

8. Anti-vigilante. Campbell fails to save Amy from her captor and ends up in jail for his trouble.

7. State/regulation-skeptical. The seat belt and the airbag, two symbols of man’s vain quest to contain the fury and chaos of the universe, become instruments of death in the Creep Van, with the belt constricting like a boa and cutting into a woman’s flesh and the airbag thrusting a wreath of thorns into an unsuspecting driver’s face, martyring man with his own presumptuous, promethean safety precautions.

6. Business-sympathetic.  While not a capitalist film (see no. 1), Creep Van does present a pitying portrait of the American entrepreneur in the dweeby Mr. Kaufman, the car wash owner and one of the few likable characters in the film. Solicitous to a bizarre degree, Mr. Kaufman shows concern for Campbell’s happiness and even asks him in an avuncular way about his sex life.

5. Ironically (cf. no. 1) anti-religion, at least religion as practiced at present. Mr. Kaufman likes sex and tells Campbell, “It’s not a sin, not in these troubled times. The church has made great strides in this area.” The corruption of man’s expression of spirituality also emerges in the characterization of Swami Ted, whose ministrations appear to be little more than a mystical means of getting women to take off their tops.

4. Anti-drug. Users die painfully. Swami Ted, a “bud” aficionado, gets a radio antenna through the neck – perhaps a cruel visual metaphor to the effect that Ted has tuned in and dropped out?

3. Misogynist/anti-slut/anti-feminist. Campbell’s poor situation in life is partly the fault of a good-for-nothing porn actress ex-girlfriend who selfishly maxed out his credit cards and got him evicted from his apartment. Women are brutally punished and mutilated throughout the film, their only apparent crime in more than one instance being over-friendliness or the wearing of a tank top or other scanty garment. One representative feminist, a tough, disgustingly mannish thug with dreadlocks who beats up a redneck, is immediately afterward cut into gooily oozing halves when the Creep Van rams her against a wall.

One holds out a hope for Amy, a comparatively wholesome girl-next-door type who dresses conservatively, hesitates to give herself to Campbell immediately, and is turned off at the sight of his roommate’s scuzzy, cohabiting girlfriend. One might expect that Creep Van‘s overbearing superego could forgive her for accepting Campbell’s invitation to have a beer with him and later spend the night with him since he is, after all, our protagonist. Shockingly, however, even Amy apparently fails to live up to Creep Van‘s Inquisition-level requirements for female purity of body and mind and must also die – killed, most sadistically, when Campbell mistakes her for the villain and thrusts a tire iron down her throat.

2. Anti-X. Whether by design or not, Generation X emerges as the lazy, oversexed, inarticulate, foul-mouthed, druggy, and shameless scourge of the planet as depicted in Creep Van. As Mr. Kaufman says to Campbell, “You’re doing your work better than 82% of the people in here, but you and I both know that doesn’t mean much.” Kaufman further evinces poor confidence in America’s young workforce when he sends Amy out to get him a drink and admonishes her, “Make sure they don’t spit in the papaya juice.” Campbell almost seems to be beginning to develop a work ethic at some points, but also complains about the “rich assholes” whose cars he cleans.

The men of Generation X are mostly effeminized and at the mercy of the women in their lives. Campbell’s friend Bob is a masochist and Mexican wrestling fan who enjoys masked sex in a doghouse and being abused by his crude, tattooed, and perpetually topless girlfriend. “I’m your bitch,” he tells her during a montage that shows her slapping and punching him, digging her platform heel into his back, shooting a dart at a target covering his crotch, and nonchalantly ordering a pizza while he performs cunnilingus on her. Her demise, the viewer may rest assured, is going to be an atrocity.

1. Manichean. Scenes of thieves meeting unenviable ends might at first suggest a zeal for private property in Creep Van; this would be a misleading seeming, however, as what is fundamentally objectionable in the universe of this film is materialism. The material world, with no exceptions, is inherently evil and worthless. Those who live in it and value its pleasures are in error, so that their sinful flesh must be excoriated, their vile bodies ripped apart and splattered like watermelons. Thus, even nice Mr. Kaufman, the friendly capitalist, must die along with all of the horrible others.

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