Thursday, March 31, 2011

MMM Blogfest 2011: Cursed

My two word summary of Cursed: Relentlessly Dumb.

By all means I should have turned off this movie halfway through and pooped on the DVD, but alas, I did not. In fact, by the end it had won me over. I have no illusions that this was a good film, and there's so much wrong with it that I'm ashamed at how much I enjoyed it.

I first encountered this movie while browsing the used section of my town's last remaining video store. I was shocked that a werewolf movie starring Christina Ricci, directed by Wes Craven, and written and produced by Kevin Williamson had escaped my notice. Without hesitation I plunked down the $2.99 to buy it. I now understand the price tag. Williamson is trying so hard to be clever that it renders all the dialogue completely unbelievable. And the performances follow suit. At no time did any of the actors react as a real human being would in the face of supernatural events. The existence of werewolves is practically shrugged off by all involved, and gruesome deaths barely seem to phase anyone.

None of the actors sell the reality of the situation; they seem to merely be reciting their lines. The strongest performance is Jesse Eisenberg's, not because he's at all believable, but because he fits the part so well. He is written as the comic relief, and is genuinely amusing as the hapless, nerdy brother to Ricci's too serious Ellie. The script, while completely overwrought, does provide a lot of humor that works. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of any real tension.

So, if the script was bad, and the acting subpar, why on Earth would I actually like this movie? For starters, freakin' werewolves! I'm a complete sucker for werewolf movies, and I can forgive a lot of flaws if a film's got plenty of fangs. The werewolves in Cursed looked great (okay, they looked just like I want werewolves to look. Great may be overstating it). The werewolf transformation, however, was so dumb-looking that it elicited my strongest reaction to the movie: it pissed me off to no end. The werewolf attack in the elevator was particularly effective, and the unrated version contained some pretty decent gore.

The Scott Baio and Craig Kilborn cameos were pretty hilarious, and I was hoping beyond hope that the O.G. werewolf who must be destroyed to lift the curse would turn out to be Baio. My friends and I once discussed the awesomeness of a Scott Baio werewolf movie that would obviously have to be named Baiowulf.

So, my verdict here is that if you have any reasonable standards, you're not going to like Cursed. However, undiscerning werewolf freaks like myself just may find it to be an entertaining diversion.

Dollar Bin Horror's 30 Days of Horror Challenge: Day 9

Favorite Exploitation/Grindhouse-Type Film

I don't typically go for exploitation films (see my post on Trip with the Teacher), so this was a difficult category for me. I was sorely tempted to list Herschel Gordon Lewis's The Wizard of Gore, but since it's been nearly a decade since I saw it, I don't remember enough about it to come up with a halfway intelligible discussion. So instead I've chosen Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects. While some might argue it isn't sufficiently low-budget to be considered grindhouse, but it's pure exploitation through and through.

The Devil's Rejects seems to be everyone's favorite Rob Zombie movie, but it's actually my least favorite (yep, I even enjoyed Halloween II more), and I can't quite decide if I actually like it. Nevertheless, there is much to appreciate about it. For instance, it contains what is to my mind one of the most iconic images in horror. Check it out:

The whole sequence leading up to this aftermath of being hit by a semi is pure atrocity.  The victim wakes up wearing her dead husband's face as a mask, seriously freaks out and runs blindly into the road where she meets her fate. This is truly the stuff of nightmares. The actress really went for it with this scene, and her performance was disturbingly authentic. I also enjoyed the performances by Bill Mosely and William Forsythe, and the cameo by Brian Posehn of Mr. Show obscurity. But honestly, that's all the good I can think to say about it.

What I didn't like is that the members of the murderous Firefly family are the protagonists. As someone who almost exclusively sides with the victims in horror films, I found myself with no one to root for. (spoilers) When they are taken out by the police at the end, I had no sympathy for them and felt they got what they deserved. There was no emotional identification with them, which is where the feeling of true horror resides with me.

To be honest, I probably need to watch The Devil's Rejects again, since the first time I watched it was before my personal horror revival, and I wasn't watching much horror at the time. It was, by far, the most violent and disturbing film I had seen at that point, and it was very off-putting.  Since then, I've really gravitated toward the kind of ultra-violent movies I used to avoid, so maybe I'd enjoy it more.

maybe I'd enjoy it more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Welcome to the MMM Blogfest, 2011

If I have any regular readers out there, they are well aware that my posts rarely come more than once a week. The primary reasons for this are the time-suck of raising two young boys and holding down a full-time job. But as it happens, the wife and kids are out of town for Spring Break while I'm stuck working.  The upside, of course, is that I've got 4 days of relatively uninterrupted time to view and blog about horror movies. On the average, I'd say I watch about 5 times as many horror movies as I actually write about. This week, all that changes.  So without further ado, I will begin chronicling my week's horror viewing experiences, and Cthulu help us all.

Movie #1L S&Man:
I think I've mentioned before how much credit I give to expectations in shaping our viewing experiences. I can think of no better example than the film I just finished: J. T. Petty's S&Man (Oh yeah, here come the spoilers). I spoiled this film for myself by reading too many reviews before I watched it, so I knew going in that it was a mix of fiction and nonfiction filmmaking. When I made the decision that it was something I wanted to watch, I had specific things I wanted from the film. Foremost, I have long been fascinated by the phenomenon of underground faux-snuff horror. From the moment I knew it existed, I immediately scoured the web for accounts of what films like August Underground and the like depicted. Yet, I was terrified of actually watching the films. In S&Man, I saw a way to become acquainted with these films without actually having to view them.  I also wanted insight as to what exactly drives people to make these movies.  The fictional aspect of S&Man was barely even a consideration.

In terms of what I was looking for, S&Man was a bit of a disappointment. The clips it showed from these movies, while somewhat distressing, were short, and I'm sure left out the most shocking scenes of depravity. The interview footage, while fascinating, also disappointed because they were so heavily edited that it seemed they were cutting out the most captivating parts. Of course, I don't know that for sure, and I'll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and assume they were cutting around some unusable footage.

What surprised me about this film was how well-done the fiction sequences were. The actor portraying Eric, maker of the S&Man series, was entirely believable, and I loved how his answers to the interviewer's questions hinted at something more sinister going on. I will admit to being disappointed by the ending, but I give credit to J.T. for repeatedly hitting on the theme that a real-life death on camera looks more fake than a special effect.

All-in-all, S&Man was a massively thought-provoking viewing experience, both in its documentary and fiction film aspects. It's one of those movies that forces the viewer to think about where we draw the line between what is acceptable healthy voyeurism (because come on, all movies are voyeuristic) and what is sick and wrong. Many of the real underground films shown in the movie strike me as highly fetishistic, and leave me with no desire to watch them. I've long been fascinated with the question of why I personally enjoy horror, and where my own boundaries are. S&Man actually has helped clarify this for me. It seems the majority of these underground faux-snuff films are for those who identify with the killers and rapists they depict. The thrill I get from horror invariably comes from identifying with the victims. I watch horror because I am by nature a fearful person, and feel the need to watch atrocious acts as a way of coping with my own fear. After all, better the devil you know...

The other surprising thing about S&Man was how likable the actual underground filmmakers were. Bill Zebub, while he comes off as kind of disturbed, has got a great sense of humor and honesty about what he does. He knows he's not making narrative films that you can compare to what's showing at your local cineplex. He realizes he's making jerk-off films for people who literally get off on violence. And Fred Vogel of August Underground infamy, is very articulate about what he does, and comes off as an otherwise normal, relatable human being. I found this to be comforting.

So while the film was not without its flaws, its redeeming qualities more than made up for them, and I've got to give J.T. Petty credit for constructing a wholly original, thought-provoking film.

Dollar Bin Horror's 30 Days of Horror Challenge

Can it be true that I let more than a week escape me without checking in with Dollar Bin Horror? It must be so, because they are already up to Day 8 of their 30 Day Horror Challenge, and I haven’t yet jumped on board.  The challenge is simple: they have selected 30 categories of horror movies, and will be writing about their favorites in each category. In a show of horror community outreach, they have invited any and everybody to participate.  So here’s me playing catch-up:

Day One: A horror film that no one would expect you to love, but you do
Not that I really know what people expect from me, but I’m going to go with The Craft here.  I know The Craft gets a lot of love, but generally not so much from grown men or fans of Rob Zombie.  I am both of these, but still find The Craft irresistible.  Let’s just start with the obvious: all four girls are insanely cute and brimming with attitude. Fairuza Balk gives a genuinely menacing performance as the coven leader who has the proverbial balls to demand limitless power from an ancient deity, and in the process changes from an abrasive-but-sympathetic outcast to a power-mad psycho. Sure it’s a juvenile power fantasy and I’m way outside of its demographic target, but I somehow relate.

Day 02 - The horror film that you relate most to
This was a tough one. For the most part, I watch horror movies specifically because I can't relate.  That is, the terror and violence that goes on in horror movies is entirely outside the realm of my personal experience, which is part of the attraction.  A big part of me wants to list The Invisible Man here, because of how I've long sought anonymity.  In high school, I got by mainly by not being noticed, which saved me from a lot of potential bullying.  I still like to maintain a low profile, but seriously, people don't start blog in order not to be noticed.  The main problem with this pick is that (embarrassingly) I've never seen The Invisible Man.  So instead I'm going with Triangle, mainly because Melissa George's character (Jess) is struggling with raising an autistic son. Both of my boys have varying degrees of autism, though not nearly as pronounced as the boy in Triangle. (Caution: spoilers ahoy) When it is revealed that Jess has become an abusive mother, it is heart-breaking, and all too close to home.  Though I'm by no means an abuser, I feel awful whenever I go off and have a yelling fit, precisely because I know the boys don't understand that they can be exasperating.  You start to feel like you're watching this awful person berate the ones you love most in the world, and to your horror, it is you.

Day 03 - Your favorite slasher
Hands down the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. The miraculous thing about this film is that no matter how ridiculous and over-exposed Freddy got, you could still go back to the original and be genuinely frightened. I’ll admit that it hasn’t aged gracefully (and to be honest, some of those special effects looked hokey even in 1984), but the scenes that work are as effective as ever. My favorite part of the film is still the opening scene where we see Freddy’s un-burnt hands constructing his bladed glove, which segues into Tina’s nightmare. Freddy is shown only in silhouette against a backdrop of steaming pipes. Who could forget the image of Freddy’s finger-knives sparking along the metal boiler room pipes? This was the first slasher I ever saw, and it took several years for me to build up the courage to watch it.  Disappointingly, I can no longer remember how I felt at that first viewing. Exhilarated, I would guess.  Triumphant for overcoming my fear. At any rate, after I watched it, I was hooked. I quickly purchased used copies of the first 3 Elm Street flicks (the 4th had yet to come out) and watched them over and over again for months.

Day 04 - Your favorite werewolf film
Werewolves have been a favorite of mine since childhood. I loved werewolves long before I was brave enough to actually watch a werewolf movie. And now you want me to pick just one?  You’re asking me to diss Lon Chaney Jr., Oliver Reed, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Katherine Isabelle all at the same time? If I must. And I must, because I am totally in love with Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. For me, it is the film that best recreates the atmosphere of a dream. I love how the toys and knick knacks from Rosaleen’s bedroom make surreal appearances between stories. Basically, the whole film is about the difficult transition into adulthood, and the conflicting emotions that arise from sexual awakening.  In her dream, Rosaleen exerts power over each of the boys and men that vie for her attention, but her sleep is troubled and she wakes from it as from a nightmare. Even though the cover art freaked me out for years, it is not a scary film by any means. Many people feel it is pretentious, boring, cheesy, or some combination of the three. So it’s not for everyone, but it has managed to cast its enchantment on me.

Day 05 - Your favorite monster movie
My sincerest apologies to Creature From the Black Lagoon, but you are but one monster.  When it comes to monsters, I aim to get the most fang for my buck.  Therefore, I must choose Clive Barker’s monsterfest Nightbreed as my favorite. I have always loved monsters, and scary movies are my favorite, but I’ve never found monster movies to be particularly scary. With Nightbreed, I get more monsters than I can shake a stake at, as well as the true horror that is David Cronenberg’s serial-killing psychiatrist. Plus, anything that came out of Clive Barker’s brain is automatically awesome in my book. While Mr. Barker may have his limitations as a director, the sheer exuberance of this film won me over from the first viewing. Is it blasphemy to say this is his best film? I mean, have you actually watched Hellraiser lately? Time has not been kind to it. A Pascal Laugier remake would have been a thing of beauty, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Day 06 - Your favorite vampire movie
Okay, I’ve got two other vampire movies set aside for different categories, so this is actually my #3 pick, but is still easily one of the genre’s best. Katheryn Bigelow’s classic Near Dark has got it all: wicked-scary vamps, blood and gore galore, a sweet little love story, and a happy ending. Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright make one of the cutest on-screen couples ever, and you immediately want them to be together, whatever it takes. I also like the idea of a family of Nomadic vampires living in a van with blacked-out windows rather than finding some secluded manor home to hole up in.  The malevolent glee with which Bill Paxton slaughters people disturbs me to no end.  Near Dark used to be fairly obscure, but its cult following has grown substantially over the years.  You’ve probably seen it yourself, yes?

Day 07 - Your favorite supernatural horror film
Alright, I passed on [REC] for this category, because I’m still not sure if the zombie-like outbreak was supernatural in nature (I haven’t seen part 2 yet, so I’m not sure what answers it will provide). But I thought I’d give it my hundredth shout out anyway (Yay [REC]! I totally heart you!).  Instead I’ll go with the first movie since The Exorcist to make me avoid the dark parts of my own home: The Ring. It’s probably because I spent so much of my childhood deathly afraid of horror movies, but I am completely fascinated with movies about the ultimate scary movie (see also Cigarette Burns, The Hills Run Red).  The Ring is about a movie that literally kills anyone who sees it. You can’t get much more ultimate than that. (Uh-oh, spoilers)  The fake-out happy ending where Samara’s soul is at peace totally suckered me, and I was preparing to be hugely disappointed by such a clichéd ending.  Then came one of the all-time classic lines: “You weren’t supposed to help her… Don’t you understand, Rachel?  She never sleeps.” Never has a line of dialogue been so scary.
Day 08 - Your favorite horror anthology
Up until about two years ago, the hands down winner would have been Creepshow, which I've loved since I was a tween.  But then came Trick 'r Treat.  I've never seen the segments of an anthology film fit so seamlessly together, and it is infinitely rewatchable because of all the touches of foreshadowing that you miss the first time around.  This is the movie that made horror fun again, and is the perfect Halloween film to check out with friends.  Even the ones who don't generally like horror will have a blast with this one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Final Girl Film Club: Blood and Roses (1960)

Does the presence of vampires automatically make a film a horror movie? This used to be an interesting question back in the day, you know, before it could be answered with two simple words: "Duh, Twilight."  As horror fans, I think we've definitively kicked that series the hell out of our genre and sent it home with its fluffy werewolf tail between its legs. But what to make of Blood and Roses?  After all, it is the film's tragic and romantic elements that drive it, and like in Twilight, the supernatural part is merely a vehicle used to explore other themes.

The difference, I suppose is that Twilight is a money-making machine rushed into production to cash in on the popularity of the latest (semi)literary phenomenon, while Blood and Roses is an artfully-made film based on a classic gothic tale from 1872. Basically, we want Blood and Roses included in our genre because it doesn't suck.

The best thing about Blood and Roses is its original take on the vampire mythos. Millarca is not your garden-variety drain 'em and leave 'em bloodsucker. When we first encounter her, she is no more than a voice in Carmilla's head.  Right away, this sets up the audience to question whether this is a case of supernatural influence or some sort of psychotic break with reality. When Millarca appears to Carmilla, the audience never sees the vampire, only Carmilla's reaction. In fact, the whole film is set up to screw with the audience's sense of reality. My only complaint here is that in the end, the voice-over narration spells everything out explicitly, denying the audience the pleasure of piecing it together themselves.

The highlight of the film is the hallucination/dream sequence. Carmilla approaches her cousin's fiancee, Georgia, as she sleeps, moving aside her nightgown at the neck to take a bite. But the bite is never shown. Rather, the picture goes black and white, and Georgia has a vision of Carmilla bleeding copiously from under her necklaces, which is striking because the red of the blood is the only color on-screen. This is followed by a sequence of increasingly bizarre images, such as a girl swimming upside-down outside the bedroom door, a long tunnel with a queue of hundreds of seated women (victims or incarnations of Millarca?), and a topless Carmilla strapped to a surgery table while masked nurses with red gloves prepare her for some nameless procedure.

Going into the film, I had heard it was a lesbian vampire movie. Once I'd figured out that it wasn't exactly a horror movie, I just figured it would be a lesbian romance thinly disguised as a vampire film. But after watching it, I'm honestly not sure what to make of the film's homoeroticism. There's no doubt that a lesbian undercurrent runs through the film, but I'm not entirely sure why it was there, since the whole plot centers around Carmilla being in love with her cousin Leopoldo and being jealous that he's getting married.

Still, there's all kinds of meaningful gazes and exchanges between Carmilla and Georgia, who even share a kiss (there is a drop of blood on Georgia's lip, giving the filmmakers a defense in case of attack by 1960s homophobes). Also, part of the film's vampire mythology is that female vampires only feed on females, which has got to mean something, but I'm a little too dense to figure it out. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a social statement hidden somewhere in there. After all, horror has always been a transgressive genre, and was therefore one of the few media available in 1960 in which to address taboo subjects.

I did find the movie to be somewhat insulting to women. The female characters are treated as fragile, flighty, silly things who must obey the men in their lives. But I don't think the filmmakers had any sort of misogynist agenda; it is just an artifact of the time it was made.

I've read that in the original French version, the narration is performed by the character of the doctor, rather than by Millarca, and that it's much lighter on exposition. The narration, especially at the end, is heavy-handed, unnecessary, and a little damaging to the experience. I've also read that the Netflix version is the dubbed version, but it looks like they're speaking English to me. Anyone know the real deal on this?

Overall, I enjoyed Blood and Roses in the same way I enjoy most Hammer films: not as scary movies, but as gorgeous pieces of gothic diversion--a comforting escape from both the world and the intensity of modern horror. This is a beautiful film that I will want to return to, even if there are more roses than blood.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This is Just To Say

I have eaten
the brains
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so white
and so gelatinous

Oh yeah, and this is also just to point out that there's (finally) a new post up on my other blog, Films My Spouse Made Me Watch.  The concept behind the blog is that my wife and I have disparate taste in movies, so we often watch different films and go on and on about how the other should really check them out. The one who inflicts the movie upon the other writes a preview about why they chose that particular film, then we watch the film together, and the inflictee writes a response. It has been defunct for the better part of a year, but we're ready to revive it.

I note this here because many of the posts, including the newest, have to do with horror films. The latest is Let Me In.  We've also written about [REC] and the Nightmare On Elm Street remake.  Here's a link, and you'll also find I've added it to the sidebar.

Idea for the Next Friday the 13th Movie

Rather than continuing the current reboot with a Part 2, why not make Camp Crystal Lake: The Mrs. Voorhees Story. It would be a retelling of the first Friday, but focusing on Mrs. Voorhees struggles to raise her special-needs child while working for poverty-level wages in the kitchen at a run-down summer camp. The teenage counselors are irresposible adolescents who routinely put children at risk to run off into the woods to smoke pot and have sex. She teaches young Jason fundamentalist lessons about the wages of sin, and loudly denounces the teenagers as Hell-bound heathens.

When the counselors allow her son to drown she goes ballistic, hunting down the counselors with no regard for who was actually responsible. The film would recreate each murder from the original, but show Mrs. Voorhees performing the killings.

The film would end exactly like the original with the death of Mrs. Voorhees and the reemergence of Jason.

The trick would be to keep it scary, even though the killer is no longer a mysterious figure. I suppose you could always focus on the tragic side of the story, rather than the frightening.

Who's with me on this?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meet Lil' Crawley

The Mancave finally has an official mascot: Lil' Crawley.

I made him myownself using both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, plus a Wacom tablet decked out with the mighty art brush. Feel free to save and repost him, but please give credit to Enigmatic Deezyne.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to Ruin Perfectly Good Trash - Case Study: Trip with the Teacher

So maybe I’m not too well-versed in 1970s exploitation flicks, but my latest viewing experience had me running the gamut of emotions from pure, soaring, trash cinema love to utter shock and nauseated disgust.  Pretty powerful stuff, no?  But then, no, it really wasn’t.  It was a trifle of a film, stupid and pointless, and executed by clueless incompetents. At the same time, there’s a real darkness behind the movie’s dopey exterior which was supremely unsettling and made for one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time.
The film in question is “Trip with the Teacher,” from 1975.  I watched it first thing in the morning--not the optimal time for horror viewing, but you get your kid-free hours where you can. Because I knew the kids could be awake and making a servant of me at any minute, I opted not to watch a movie I’m seriously eager to see, but instead thought I’d go with something cheesy and fun. Last Christmas my sister gave me the “Gorehouse Greats” collection, and of the twelve titles, this one intrigued me. So I popped it in.

For about half the run time, it was everything I could have hoped for and more.  From the moment the title music began, I was in bad movie heaven. The score is worse than 70’s porno bad. I was laughing aloud before the production company’s logo appeared.  And bonus, we get to groove to the soundtrack while watching endless long shots of a short bus moving through the landscape.
Eventually, the director treats us to a peek inside the bus and we meet the titular teacher and the four girls she is chaperoning.  The teacher reads a droning history lesson while three of the girls stare out the windows and the other nods emphatically, hanging on the teacher’s every word.  That, my friends, is character development—see, she’s the studious, teacher’s pet type. The dialogue on the bus is so impossibly bland that you can’t not laugh. Here’s a small sample:
Studious Girl: “Are there any Indians still living there?”
Teacher: “Why of course.”
Studious Girl: (enthusiastically) “Wow, then we’ll get to see them, won’t we?”
Teacher: “We sure will.”
Studious Girl: “Won’t that be interesting?”

Rebellious Girl: (sarcastically) “Yeah.”
But it gets way better.  Next we meet the biker brothers who are the film’s villains.

Hippie Brother to Gas Station Attendant:
"What do you do out here when you get horny, old man? Or don't you get horny?"
Hippie Brother has blown a tire, and Psycho Brother cannot be bothered to do anything but plop down by the roadside and look menacing.  As luck would have it, Nice Biker shows up with a patch kit and a hand pump.  He fixes Hippie Brother’s tire and invites himself along for the ride. While a lesser director would probably just cut to the next scene at this point, Burt Whatshisass knows that audiences aren’t that smart.  They’ll get confused if you just jump to a shot of the three guys riding, so he kindly shows us how they got on the road.  In fact, he shows us how they very, very slowly mount their bikes, kickstart them, wait for Nice Biker to fasten his safety helmet, and carefully take off down the road.  I shit you not, the one shot lasts for 55 excruciating yet hilarious seconds until all three riders have disappeared around a distant bend, and then lingers a few seconds more on the empty road. It’s as if the director couldn’t stand the thought of a single frame of his precious film touching the cold, dirty cutting room floor. It becomes kind of a running (unintentional) joke that every time the bikers depart or arrive, we have to sit through the entire process of them mounting, starting, and taking off, or slowing, stopping, and dismounting, usually very slowly.

Nice Biker shows some teeth!
Eventually, the bus breaks down, and the girls get a chance to stretch their legs and have an uncensored conversation away from their chaperone. The dialogue is great as always, with the girls talking sex in the tamest, most euphemistic of language.  The Rebellious Girl is, of course, the sexually experienced one, and she teases the Virginal Girl, who calls her a bitch, and they come to blows.  As if I didn’t love this movie already.
At this point in the movie, the Psycho Brother has already killed a feisty old gas station attendant (who is hands-down the coolest character in the movie) by dropping a jacked-up car on him.  The death is tame and in no way gory, and the act is preceded by the same goofy music that the movie opens with.  It is supposed to be the “suspenseful” music, but is just goofy and makes the scene laughable.  So let’s take a moment to recap: we’ve got this terrible “Gee-whiz!” dialogue, a reluctance among the girls to talk about sex directly, and a murder scene that is about as disturbing as The Care Bears Movie.  This set up a false expectation that the film was going to go on being a tame, somewhat innocent proto-slasher. But it is the very goofiness and innocence that makes the transition so jarring when things start to get ugly. 

Psycho Brother gives a genuinely creepy performance.
As the film continues, the bikers pull the short bus out into the middle of nowhere on the pretext of helping out, then trap the girls in an abandoned old house. Given the premise of the movie, a sexual assault scene was expected. What I didn’t expect was that it could change the tone of the movie so abruptly that it could shock even a jaded horror-nerd like me. The scene isn’t super-explicit, and it cuts before the actual rape begins, but the viciousness with which the Psycho Brother attacks and rips the teacher’s clothes from her body felt way too real. I was convinced that this dude was not acting, and the director just found some crazy rapist motherfucker to turn loose of the set.  And the reaction of the teacher, whose performance had previously been wooden, was equally real.  The fear on her face during the scene, and her looks of hatred afterward, seemed just too genuine, especially after half a film’s worth of sub-amateur acting.

The aftermath of rape. This movie isn't fun anymore.
After the rape scene, I felt genuine dread for whichever poor girl they decided to put in a room with that psycho next. Thankfully, only one other of the girls had to be subjected to his “acting.” The Studious Girl gets it next, and again Psycho Brother tears her clothes off viciously, but rather than raping her, he suffocates her by pushing her head into the sand.  I swear you can see the actress take a lungful of sand and choke.  And again, the scene feels way too real.  I felt genuinely sorry and scared for this poor actress who looks to be having the low point of her career.
So there I was, angry because I’d been robbed of the right to have “discovered” a new holy grail of fun, cheesy B-movies, shocked and disgusted at what I’d just witnessed, and then the filmmakers pull off their final coup – A huge insult placed like the cherry on top of a steaming manure-heap of cinematic injury.  The Nice Biker had previously been driven off a cliff, but in a misogynistic twist that puts the assault scenes to shame, he returns in the final act to rescue the girls because, you know, no way four healthy girls could possibly fight off a pair of leather-clad bikers, let alone muster the brain power to attempt an escape.  But it gets worse.  After the rescue, our hero bids the girls a fond adieu and rides off into the sunset, and the film closes with the teacher actually fucking smiling, like she’s just pleased as punch that she only lost a quarter of the girls.  This woman has been brutalized, and you’d think her students would have to take on the role of protector in the end.  But no, the status quo is maintained and the Teacher’s brutal rape was but a minor bump in the road back to normal.
So, here I am, disturbed and angry with the film, but thinking I’ve got it all figured out, then came the final twist.  I had missed the Psycho Brother’s name in the opening credits, so by the end I was waiting for his name to reappear so I could google him and find out that he went on to a couple of minor genre roles before being jailed as a serial rapist.  But then his name came up: Zalman King.  That Zalman King? The erotica director Zalman King?  Sure as shit yes, it was him, which either means that Zalman King really is a batshit crazy bastard, or that it was a masterful piece of acting that stands out primarily because the rest of the cast sucked so hard.  Which is to say, I don’t quite know what to make of all this.  I had believed while watching Trip with the Teacher, that I had come across silly movie that became unintentionally disturbing when a particularly ugly bit of truth shone through the terrible performances.  However, if I gave the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and believed that they were masterfully manipulating my emotions and expectations to provide the maximum impact of the violence, then this film would be some strange species of masterpiece.
But I don’t give them that benefit. Too much of the film is an amateurish mess for me to believe that the director could have pulled off a mindfuck like that.  As it is, the early promise of the film as a true trash classic devolved into an ugly, brutal, offensive movie that I couldn’t recommend to anyone.
Oh, and by the way, this post contained spoilers.