Thursday, October 30, 2014

State Park (Rafal Zielinski, 1988)

Three friends enter Weewankah Park located in the wilds of Michigan... (Hold up. Aren't you going to bemoan the fact that this film is yet another Canadian production pretending to be American?) Nah, I'm done doing that. Besides, State Park (a.k.a. Heavy Metal Summer) was, according to my exhaustive research, shot in both Québec and North Carolina. However, when Rafal Zielinski's name appears in the credits, that should tell all you need to know as far as the national makeup of this motion picture goes. I know, he made Valet Girls, the ultimate L.A. movie. But, for the most part, the bulk of his cinematic output is Canadian. Like I said, though, I'm done doing that. Anyway, where I was? Oh yeah, three friends enter a Yellowstone National Park/Algonquin Provincial Park-style park located in Michigan. It sounds like a simple premise, but what occurs to these three friends whilst inside will... (Don't tell me, it will alter the spiritual trajectory of their lives forever.) It's true, some trajectories of a spiritual nature will be altered; three, to be exact. But the manner in which this film goes about altering these particular trajectories is the stuff of Canuxploitation legend.

Don't believe me? Um, a creamy, freckle-covered redhead dons a bear suit (in the middle of summer) to help a handsome environmentalist save his small business from an unscrupulous land developer.

Still not convinced, eh? How 'bout this. Instead of cheating on her boyfriend by engaging in vaginal intercourse with every able-bodied, penis-owning male in the park, a vivacious blonde gives them all haircuts.

Really? You still need convincing? Okay, if this doesn't convince you, than nothing will. A fashion-forward woman thinks she has landed a real hunk when she uses her no-nonsense gams to bag herself a good-looking fella down by the water. Only problem being, this anatomically correct hunk is actually a punk. Or, to use her words: "He's a heavy metaler!!! A disgusting lowlife!"

And thanks to a well-written scene that took place earlier in the movie, this fashion-forward woman makes it abundantly clear that she despises everything associated with heavy metal.

There you have it, this film has three strong female characters each with their own distinct personalities. Your move, other movies.

The cool thing about each character is that they all reminded me of someone else. The actress who plays Eve (Kim Myers), the creamy, freckle-covered redhead, was a dead ringer for Meryl Streep, while the actress who plays Linnie (Jennifer Inch), the vivacious blonde, had a Kelli Maroney vibe about her.

As for the fashion-forward woman, she reminded me of... Oh, who am I kidding? There's only one Isabelle Mejias. Not to take anything away from Miss Myers and Frau Inch, but the moment I saw Isabelle Mejias appear onscreen as the adorable Marsha, I knew she was going to be my favourite character.

You're right, her character could have turned out to be a real hosebeast. But I didn't care, I was on Team Marsha from the get-go.

Oh, and I just remembered who Isabelle Mejias reminded me of. She reminded me of, that's right, Isabelle Mejias. A channel called Citytv used to air a movie called Unfinished Business all the time back in the days when they didn't run infomercials 24/7, and the female lead was played by none other than Isabelle Mejias.

In an ironic twist, Unfinished Business features music by The Parachute Club. What's that? How is that ironic? Oh, I'm sorry. There's a scene in State Park where Isabelle Mejias is wearing what she describes as a "two hundred dollar jogging suit," and her designer jogging suit, believe or not, practically screamed The Parachute Club.

After enduring the film's goofy opening scene (a guy in a bear suit causes havoc on a construction site) and an opening credits sequence set to a song that was the definition of Yello-esque, we meet our principle cast. From what I gathered by paying attention to what the characters were saying, Eve needs money, Linnie is about to get married and Marsha... Well, Marsha, to put it in the crudest terms possible, just wants to get laid.

How about those guys a few cars back who are also waiting to get into Weewankah Park? What am I saying? Those guys are heavy metalers, and we all know how Marsha feels about heavy metalers. (Are you sure "heavy metalers" is the right term? I mean, I thought "headbanger" was the preferred nomenclature.) It is. But Marsha calls them heavy metalers. Which, in a weird way, makes me like her even more.

When the spiky-haired heavy metaler, Johnny Rocket (Peter Virgile) starts smashing his dark-haired pal, Louis (Louis Tucci), against the side of their van, Marsha says: "Violence is so passe."

Finally entering the camp... Though, you have to wonder how Johnny Rocket and Louis managed to get past Corky (Andrew Jackson), the park's sycophantic head of security? It wouldn't take much for Corky–who, on top of being sycophantic, is a real asshole–to send the heavy metalers packing. Hell, just looking at them would be enough. What I think happened was, Corky temporarily left his post to help Mr. Rancewell (Walter Massey), the area's resident evil businessman.

It would seem that Louis and Johnny Rocket and Eve, Linnie and Marsha have a lot to learn about camping, as both their attempts to prepare food are met with failure. To make matters worse, the women mistake one of Marsha's belts for a snake and Louis's Gerontophobia is brought to forefront when he discovers the camp site next to theirs is occupied by an elderly couple named Tallahassee Ray (Rummy Bishop) and Ethel (Jessica Booker). Upon seeing them, Louis says, "Old people.... weird, man."

Remember when I said that Eve "needs money"? Well, she needs it for collage. And she figures she can earn a quick 5000 bucks by winning the "Wilderness Challenge," a race that involves swimming, running, kayaking and orienteering, or, as Louis calls it, "oriental-teering."

This plan hits a bit of a snag when we discover that Eve doesn't know jack-shit about orienteering. And, to make matters worse, all the orienteering classes are booked solid. So what's a freckle-covered redhead with alabaster thighs to do? After rebuffing her first request to help her, Truckie Honeycutt (James Wilder), the owner of the Honeycutt Market, is given no choice but to help her when Eve threatens to reveal Truckie's secret identity. That's right, Truckie is a mild-mannered store owner by day, a bear suit-wearing environmental activist by night.

You see, while wandering the woods, Eve spotted a man carrying what looked a bear suit through the woods. She didn't see his face, but she did see his ass (which was packaged in a pair of tight cut-off jean shorts). Well, later that day, Eve saw that ass again (packaged in the same tight cut-off jean shorts). Anyone wanna guess who was attached to that ass? Yep, it was none other than Truckie.

Oh, and don't feel too sorry for Truckie for being saddled with a name like Truckie, his younger brother's name after all is Trailor (Christopher Bolton); who, by the way, spends the majority of the movie hitting on Linnie.

While Linnie is busy giving random dudes "haircuts" and Eve is out "orienteering" in the woods with Truckie, Marsha has decided to snag herself a man. Grabbing her trusty binoculars and slipping into a Adrienne Vittadini one-piece bathing suit, Marsha scopes the beach for man candy.

Spotting a colossal man-babe in the water, Marsha positions herself on the dock so that the first things he sees when he comes ashore are her sexy stems. Repositioning her legs in order to maximize their impact on the male viewer, Marsha uses her shapely lower half the same way a fishermen uses a lure to land himself a mackerel or a bass.

To surprise of no-one, Marsha catches her prey with relative ease. What is a surprise, however, is the identity of the man she caught. Yep, the guy Marsha snagged by employing her first-rate gams is none other than Johnny Rocket. Robbed of his spiky hair, make-up, leather jacket and chains, Marsha doesn't seem to realize that she has just fallen for a heavy metaler!

Will Marsha be able to put aside her prejudice towards heavy metalers and embrace the power of love? Will Linnie run out of men to give haircuts to? Will Eve win the Wilderness Challenge? Will Louis get over his fear of old people? Will...

Enough with the questions, tell the nice people if this film is good or not. Right. So, yeah, it's good and junk. In fact, it was more than good. It was refreshing to watch a camp-based movie that doesn't involve a masked psycho-killer murdering teens or one that has to rely so heavily on crass humour. Boasting a strong pro-environmental message, State Park (a.k.a. Heavy Metal Summer) taught me that you shouldn't judge people based on their clothing, some old people are not lame, and slow and steady does in fact win the race.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain, 2001)

Of course, wouldn't you know it, all my memories of camp involve getting frostbite, sleeping in a mice-infested cabin and being shunned by chunky Finnish chicks. I mean, seriously, whose bright idea was it to drag a bunch of kids from the relative comfort of the big city and plop them in the middle of the wilderness? Oh, did I mention that this wilderness dragging took place in the middle of January? No? Well, it totally did. Sure, I didn't have to spend the entire winter up in Algonquin Park, but you try spending three days locked in a drafty cabin with a bunch of people you don't like. In other words, there were no Abby Bernstein's to swap mouth spit with, no burger-flavoured blondes to swap mouth spit with, and there were definitely no bowlegged brunettes named Katie to swap mouth spit with either. Even though it's filled heartbreak, casual child murder, flippant heroin usage and sexual perversions you didn't even think existed, I envied the characters who populate Wet Hot American Summer, one of the greatest summer camp movies of all-time.

All this talk of swapping mouth spit got me thinking: Anyone wanna guess whose mouth spit I desperately wanted to swap with after watching this movie? Okay, you in the purple muumuu. (I'm going to say, Ron von Kleinstain.) Yes, I wanna swap mouth spit with Judah Friedlander. Ha ha, very funny.

Yeah, you. Yeah, the guy in the Quebec Nordiques jersey. (Well, since you mentioned her first, and given you're exquisite taste in women, I'm going to go ahead and guess that you wanted to swap mouth spit with Abby Bernstein.) Ding, ding, motherfuckin' ding! We have a wiener. By the way, anytime I see someone wearing a hockey jersey that isn't a Quebec Nordiques jersey, I shake my head in disgust.

At any rate, not only did I want to swap mouth spit with Abby Bernstein, I wanted to pound her pussy into submission. I know, I better get in line if I want to pound anything located on Abby's shapely organic structure, as her wet hot American holes are very popular throughout Camp Firewood. But still, every time the sexy camp counselor in the pink "I've Been Civilized Long Enough" t-shirt would appear onscreen, significant biological changes would occur within certain pants-based parts of my anatomy.

In a weird twist, not much is really pounded in this movie. That is, if you don't count a helpless Frigidaire and Bradley Cooper's not quite limitless asshole, as both those things are pounded pretty hard. No, as far as showing the characters displaying affection for one another, writer-director David Wain seems to have a thing for open mouth kissing.

Alright, maybe calling it a "thing" is a bit of a stretch, but there were times where it felt like I was watching a series of scenes strung together that featured Paul Rudd's Andy aggressively making out with a burger-flavoured blonde (Elizabeth Banks) or a bowlegged brunette (Marguerite Moreau), or Abby Bernstein (Marisa Ryan) aggressively making out with, well, just about everyone.

Oh, and when I say, "everyone," I mean, everyone. Don't believe me. Okay, you see that kid who lit one of his farts on fire at the talent show? She totally makes out with him.

It's August 18, 1981 and it's the last day of camp. Located somewhere in the wilds of Maine, the campers and counselors at Camp Firewood have one last chance to make some memories that will, hopefully, last a lifetime.

A sexually frustrated camp counselor named Coop (Michael Showalter) sees this day as his final opportunity to woo Katie (that's right, the bowlegged brunette). Only problem being, she spends a better part of her day cleaning out the inside of Andy's mouth with her tongue.

While Coop's focus is on Katie, a sexually frustrated camp counselor named Victor (Ken Marino) sets his sights on Abby Bernstein, the hottest female camp counselor on the entire Eastern Seaboard.

When Victor spots Abby licking a spoon in the camp mess hall in an erotic manner, he nearly jizzes in his jean shorts.

It looks like the nerdy kid in the cape (Gabriel Millman) is beating both Coop and Victor to the punch. No, he's not making a play for Katie and Abby. He's hitting on a bunch of girls his own age in the mess hall. Sure, his attempt to court them goes terribly awry when the focal point of his advances (the blonde on the right) calls him a "douchebag", but at least he's making an effort. Which is more than I can say for the adults in this movie.

Take Henry (David Hyde Pearce), for example, a sexually frustrated astrophysicist who is spending the summer living in a cabin next to Camp Firewood. He's hit on by Beth (Janeane Garofalo), the camp director. But what does he do? He pushes her away after she asks him if would like to come teach the kids about science.

If you think that's it as far as sexually frustrated characters go, you would be wrong. Get ready, because we're about to meet Gene (Christopher Meloni), the camp's, you guessed it, sexually frustrated chef/Vietnam vet. Though, to be fair, Gene's frustration goes well beyond anything sexual. Whether letting slip that he has a bottle of dick cream, informing others that he wants to fondle his sweaters, getting the word out that he needs to smear mud on his ass, or telling those who will listen that he wishes to hump a fridge, Gene has some serious issues to work out. However, I don't think a single day in late August is enough time for Gene to fix what's wrong with him.

Or is it? You'd be surprised by what one can accomplish in a single day, especially at camp in the early 1980s.

The film's best scene when it comes to getting a lot of shit done in a short amount of time just happens to be the film's funniest. It's when Beth drives into town to pick up some lube for Nancy (Nina Hellman), the camp's nurse (the lube, by the way, is for her pussy). As she's driving away, a group of camp counselors hop in the back of her truck. What happens next is the greatest montage to involve french fry consumption, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, marijuana usage, back-alley cocaine purchasing, purse snatching and heroin abuse in the history of cinema.

I know, some people will tell you that the scene where a jean jacket wearing Paul Rudd reluctantly cleans up after himself in the mess hall is the funniest scene in the film. It's true, the scene is funny (he really doesn't want to pick up those utensils off the floor), but the amount of involuntary laughter I expelled from my primary laugh-hole as I watched a twitchy Janeane Garofalo laid out in the corner of a dilapidated drug den was off the charts.

Speaking of Janeane, the scene where her character puts mousse in her hair to impress Henry was very relatable. I mean, haven't we all put mousse in our hair to impress someone at some point in our lives? While the mousse does impress Henry (it gives her hair more volume), her lack of knowledge when it comes to astrophysics could doom their relationship before it even begins. However, a quick trip to the library solves  that problem, as the town's library has a surprisingly robust astrophysics section.

Oh, it wouldn't hurt if Henry stopped by the library to do some boning up as well (a relationship is a two way street). Luckily, like their astrophysics section, their one on camp directing is surprisingly robust as well.

Did I mention that Molly Shannon and Amy Poehler are in this movie? (like Andy, I'm way too lazy to check). Whatever, Molly plays an art teacher whose going through some marital problems (she's comforted by one of her students) and Amy Poehler plays the director... or is she the producer? She runs the camp's theatre with Bradley Cooper. Anyway, the art teacher plotline gets creepier and creepier as the film progresses and I loved it when Amy uses the word "usurp."  As in: "How dare you usurp my authority..." The emphasis she puts on "usurp" made me giggle.

Boasting a talking can of mixed vegetables, four child murders (well, two of them are negligent homicides), a gay tool shed sex scene, two Ruth Buzzi references, a character credited as "Cure Girl," a non-played baseball game (my favourite kind), "Love Is Alright Tonite" by Richard Springfield, Elizabeth Banks in a bikini, and at least two scenes that involve the stunning Abby Bernstein shoving a stick of gum in her mouth before inhaling some guys face, Wet Hot American Summer is one of the few movies to capture the spirit of the early 1980s, and I have no problem whatsoever placing it alongside other camp-set classics such as Sleepaway Camp and Little Darlings. Sex, drugs and casual child murder! Woo-hoo!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Killer Party (William Fruet, 1986)

I don't mean to imply that the rest of Killer Party (a.k.a. The April Fools) is complete crap, but the first eight or so minutes of this Toronto shot slasher flick are freakin' amazing. And... Okay, I might as well get this out of the way before I continue: There's a scene in this film where an American flag can be seen lurking in the corner of a university library (it's lurking behind Paul Bartel to be specific). I know, I said it was "Toronto shot," and the last time I checked, Toronto wasn't in the United States of America, but the makers of this film clearly don't want you to know that. Anyway, getting back to the opening eight or so minutes. Were the first eight or so minutes and what transpires afterward made by the same people? I mean, the opening is bursting with creativity, while the other stuff is bursting with nothing whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, I did love what Elaine Wilkes, Sherry Willis-Bunch and Joanna Johnson brought to the table as a trio of collage age best friends who want to join a prestigious sorority at a Toronto university, but they can't compete with black seamed pantyhose and pink and blonde crimped hair.

Just to clarify, the black seamed pantyhose were attached to the shapely legs of Elizabeth Hanna, who plays Stephanie, the daughter-in-law of the dead woman in the coffin at a church funeral,  and the pink and blonde crimped hair belongs to Danielle Kiraly, who plays April, a bubbly teen attending a drive-in movie with her boyfriend.

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself: What are these characters doing in the same movie? That's just it, they're not in the same movie. Are you ready? Here it goes: Stephanie's a character is in the movie April is watching at the drive-in. Isn't that wild?

What's that? You say lot's of movies do the old movie within a movie gag. Oh yeah. Things get even wilder when we discover that April is actually a character in a Thriller-style hard rock music video by White Sister. See what I mean? Weird, wild stuff.

Anyone care to guess who's watching this Thriller-style hard rock music video? That's right, one of the college age women from that trio I mentioned earlier.

I don't mean to continue to rag on everything that occurs after it's revealed that April's in a music video, but it's almost as if the people behind this movie decided to throw in the towel after the eight minute mark.

Though, to be fair, "Best Times," written by Alan Brackett and Scott Shelly–the song that plays while Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes), Vivia (Sherry Willis-Bunch) and Jennifer (Joanna Johnson) ride their bikes to class–is a thousand times more awesome than that White Sister song.

Opening with a funeral service for a woman named Annabel, we watch as the bereaved family members leave the church. Just as the aforementioned Stephanie is about exit, she asks the priest if it's okay to go back in to pay her respects one last time. Hmm, isn't that sweet, I thought to myself, Stephanie must have really loved her mother-in-law. Oh, wait, she just told Annabel that she hopes she rots in hell. After she says this, multiple times, mind you, Annabel grabs Stephanie and pulls her into the coffin. As she's pulling her in, we get some great shots of Stephanie's black pantyhose as she struggles with what I assume is Annabel's reanimated corpse.

Just as the coffin is about to be set alight in the church's crematorium, we're whisked to a drive-in movie theatre where April and her boyfriend (who is all hands) are watching Stephanie burn to death.

Hankering some popcorn, April walks, or, I should say, skips, to the theatre's large, neon-light adorned concession area. Only problem is, there's no-one there. On the bright side, the neon lighting does an excellent job accentuating the 1980s overkill that is April's overall look.

The crimped hair, the kooky tights, the pink gloves, the white lace scrunchie, everything about her ensemble practically screams shopping mall new wave.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a rock video featuring bombastic lead singers with hairy chests, keyboardists in torn football jerseys and zombies starts up.

As the music video is winding down and the band "White Sister" finish singing: "April! You're no fool!" We're whisked (yet again) to a living room, where Phoebe is watching the White Sister music video.

It helps to know that this movie's original title was "The April Fools" going in, because if you didn't (like I didn't), you would no doubt wonder what the hell is going on.

If you're like me, and you love '80s synth-pop with detached female vocals, think the University of Toronto campus is beautiful, especially in the fall, and wish more movies would sport chicks riding bikes, then the next sequence is for you.

While her friends Phoebe and Vivia are gung-ho about joining the Sigma Alpha Pi sorority, Jennifer is a tad apprehensive.

It wouldn't be a collage set horror film without pranks, and we get a real doozy of a prank when the slobs at Beta Tau unleash a jar of bees next to a backyard hot tub filled with naked Sigma Alpha Pi ladies. There are numerous things to like about this scene. But I think the appearance of the great Terri Hawkes (Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II) is the real reason to cheer. Quirky fun-fact: Terri Hawkes provides the voice of Sailor Moon on the series of the same name.

If Phoebe, Jen and Vivia want to join Sigma Alpha Pi, they're going to have to convince the sorority's leader, Veronica (a wonderfully unpleasant Alicia Fleer), they're worthy. And if that means reciting childish nonsense ("I, myself prefer a big fat cucumber") or stealing t-shirts from Beta Taus, than so be it.

Even though Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul), who plays an English professor, makes an allusion to it, I still love the fact that no explanation is given as to why Phoebe, Jen and Vivia are all wearing one red item and one white item on their feet (mismatched sisterly solidarity perhaps?). If memory serves me correctly, Phoebe has on one red shoe and one white shoe, Jen is wearing one red sock and one white sock, Vivia is rocking one red legwarmer and one white legwarmer.

Surviving "Goat Night," Sigma Alpha Pi's elaborate initiation process (a process where Terri Hawkes and Alicia Fleer appear in togas), Phoebe, Jen and Vivia are on the fast track to becoming fully fledged members of the sorority. Yay!

Fashion-wise, I don't know which I liked better: The sight Sherry Willis-Burch rocking a pink sweater with a yellow neck or Alicia Fleer gliding down the school's hallways in a tight pencil skirt. Ahh, talk about your tough decisions. Either way, nothing comes close to topping the ensemble Danielle Kiraly wears during the film's much ballyhooed opening.

I don't know why movies like this bother to hire make-up artists and special effects people if all they're going to do is edit out all the blood and gore. The film might be called "Killer Party," but not a single character is killed onscreen. Boo!

On the plus side, the so-called "Killer Party" does feature some killer looks. And if I was going to give out the prize for best costume at Sigma Alpha Pi and Beta Tau's Costume Party: April Fools Night, I would have to go with Phoebe's aerobics get-up: Tights! Legwarmers! Leotards! Headbands! Armwarmers! Oh my! Second prize would go to Martin (Ralph Seymour), the film's primary red herring, for his Madame Bovary costume.

Would have Killer Party been a lot better had the blood and gore not been edited out? Maybe. But still, if you like '80s fashion, '80s music, or are a fan of Toronto... in the '80s, you should check this flick out.