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E.C. McMullen Jr.
"'Some People' ... may be the standout story in the book."
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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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IN OTHER BOOKS
E.C. McMullen Jr.'s
CEDO LOOKED LIKE PEOPLE
in the anthology
FEAR THE REAPER
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The Silver Scream
E.C. McMULLEN Jr.,
GEORGE A. ROMERO,
and many more.
Extensively quoted in
The Unauthorized Companion
Robert S. Rhine's
CIRCUS OF HELL
GAHAN WILSON &
Featuring comics by
E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Can you actually make a relevant movie for a modern audience when the humor is all pop-culture topical and that topicality is a quarter century out of date?
Co-writer, director and producer, David Arquette (SCREAM), along with his co-writer Joe Harris (TOOTH FAIRY, DARKNESS FALLS, WITCHWISE), wanted to give it a shot.
THE TRIPPER starts off with a quote from former Democrat turned Republican, President of the Screen Actors Guild (elected or chosen to be president seven times: 1947-1952 and again in 1959), former Governor of California (elected twice: 1966-1974), and 40th U.S. President (1981-1989), Ronald Wilson Reagan.
"There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder"
Well, the movie doesn't start off with that quote, so watch the movie yourself to see which quote David picked. The credits play over scenes of the Vietnam War that John F. Kennedy created* and President Lyndon B. Johnson escalated^. But while we see these scenes, the audio is layered between the band, Fishbone, reciting a snarky rendition of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, and a very old guy (Richard Reicheg: LEPRECHAUN 3) telling us that war is evil.
In case we missed that,
So war is "evil". Yeah, well no shit. The whole point of war is conquer someone (Offense) or to engage and defend someone from being conquered (Defense). It is usually someone evil starting it. Nations never went to war over the choice between a tall latte or a cafe mocha. So yeah, war is evil. And David and me, we're on the same page in regards to that. You go Arquette!
The scenes of the Vietnam war sandwiched between a quote by and image of Ronald W. Reagan, makes it feel as if David is trying to tell us that Reagan started the Vietnam war. For those of you not up on your history, Reagan wasn't even President of the Screen Actor's Guild when Kennedy started the war. He wasn't even President of the U.S. until five years after U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975.
Then we see a small boy (Noah Maschan), about six or seven, watching everything we've just seen on his television. The reporter then juxtaposes his report on the horrors of 1967 Vietnam with then California, Governor Ronald Reagan being dismissive about expanding the Redwood National Forest. David follows that with a story on censorship. What does Reagan and his indifference to Redwood trees (I'm more of an oak tree guy myself - and cypress!) have to do with Vietnam and censorship? Not a damn thing, but the story has to lead in, somehow, to the next scene.
The little boy follows his little Pop (Redmond Gleeson), who is a logging supervisor, to a logging camp. Pop tries to break up a standoff between the loggers and huggers, both of the tree variety. Pop tries to appeal to the tall and burly tree hugger's sense of humanity. He explains that they shouldn't be fighting here. In fact, the little logger should be back at home, tending to his sick wife who could die if he doesn't see to her.
The big tree hugger rebukes the little logger saying, "If your wife has to die to save these trees, so be it."
That shocks the little old man who grabs the tree hugger by his jacket, forcing the tree hugger to defend himself by picking up a rock and bashing it across the old man's head.
Infuriated, the little logger pulls a gun on the big hugger when some cops run up and pull the logger away, taking his gun. Next thing you know, the tiny boy hefts a huge 60 pound logging grade gas powered chainsaw (that's the kind they use - the prop may have been lighter), runs full tilt, and plunges it into the neck of the asshole tree-hugger.
As the cops pull the boy off of tree hugger, hugger's friends gather round the burly asshole to offer sympathy and comfort, though none try and pull the still running chainsaw from his neck while he continues to kick, bleed, and scream. The formerly kindly father, sitting handcuffed in the back of a cop car, shouts that he's going to kill everyone.
Whew! Not a simple way to open a film, eh? But it follows the proud tradition nearly all slasher movies have (Well, certainly not the good ones like the original PSYCHO, or the original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or the original HALLOWEEN or the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) of making a ridiculous attempt to psychologically explain why a person goes koo-koo and becomes an indestructible supervillain with a gas powered chainsaw, handsaw, electric drill, baseball bat, pitchfork, piano wire, handsaw, axe, knife, pike, hook, rope, or glove. If you were looking for seriousness here, you aren't getting the idea yet. Arquette is going for giallo giggles at this point.
That said, I don't want to demean David's other point. Arquette, while wanting to make a silly, goofy, fun, and harmless slasher flick, still wants to make a sober, serious political statement regarding just how evil Republicans are.
So silly funky movie, but serious social commentary, okay? It's satire with hallucinogenic drugs!~
Now we come to the present. Ah... the present.
A van full of stoners, tripping their butts off, are languidly driving under the influence through the Redwood National Forest. The van is driven by Joey (Jason Mewes: DOGMA, SCREAM 3, FEAST), who leads this gang of good-time buzzheads to an old fashioned hippie concert in the national park. His friends include, Linda (Marsha Thompson: LONG TIME DEAD, THE HAUNTED MANSION), Jack (Stephen Heath), Jade aka Summer (Paz de la Huerta: ANAMORPH), Samantha (Jaime King: SIN CITY, THEY WAIT), and Ivan (Lukas Haas: WITNESS, MARS ATTACKS!, BRICK).
When they stop for a bathroom break in the woods, Ivan is ruthlessly attacked by a pick-up truck carrying presumably drunk rednecks (the subtext is, Rednecks are drunk, stupid, and evil. Hippies are stoned, stupid, and harmless). Giving aid to Ivan, Samantha asserts herself as a Rambo-In-Waiting. Later, at a roadside gas and diner where the redneck locals fawn over a televised Bush, our stoners meet up with the drunk rednecks. A pathetic altercation takes place and Samantha asserts herself as a Ripley-In-Waiting.
There is a secondary sub-plot told in back story where Samantha became friends with Linda and Linda got Sam hooked on drugs (Gee! Whatta pal!) - much to the chagrin of Samantha's cigarette smoking Republican boyfriend Jimmy (Balthazar Getty: FEAST), who is so uptight he drives around rural backroads and state parks, at night, wearing a suit and tie. His SUV sports a California license plate that spells REDST8S. Samantha is so ripped that she hallucinates her boyfriend as being a decaying zombie.
They finally make it to the area of the park where the concert will be held. The concert is put on by Frank Baker (Paul Ruebens: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) and overseen by Sheriff Buzz Hall (Thomas Jane: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DEEP BLUE SEA, DREAMCATCHER, THE MIST). It takes more than half an hour of the movie before we reach a point where we start to care about anybody. Samantha and Ivan get alone together and sort of kind of pledge a type of affection to each other, with Ivan pledging not to get too wasted at the concert.
Meanwhile, a guy who goes around the forest dressed in a suit and tie starts swinging an axe through people's necks.
Did I mention that Samantha's fiance, Jimmy, drives around the middle of nowhere in a suit and tie?
He's an evil Republican and he wants to marry a liberal hippie chick with a severe drug addiction.
Why isn't this a sitcom? Oh well.
THE TRIPPER was finished in early 2006 and took a long time finding a distributor, chiefly because it appealed to an 18-28 crowd, most of whom weren't alive during the Reagan era of the early to late 1980s. The Reagan serial killer, while being as indestructible as all Hollywood nutso serial killers, is also vocal. However his quips, out of context quotes (either real or urban myth attributed to the actual Ronald Reagan), are thrown out in the meme of snappy James Bond-style one liners after the kill (more James Bond than Freddy Krugar - I don't know why). In one, the Reagan impersonator just stands around with an axe in hand, then throws back his head and says, "It's morning in America!"
Much later, the Killer dressed as Reagan hits someone with an axe and says, "Well, there you go again." (?)
Within the context of the scenes, the lines make no sense to people who were around during that time, and have no relevance to people who weren't. And in either case, they aren't funny or scary, just "Huh?"
For the target audience, the oldest of whom were about 6 years old when Ronald left office, everything the Reagan impersonator says is obscure, leaving everyone to scratch their heads while the movie has one silent pause after another for an expected laugh that never comes.
Eventually David and crew had to go with self-distribution. It only got 50 screens and only made $20,840. As THE TRIPPER got only a three day weekend release, and assuming it got five showings per day at ten bucks per ticket, that's an average of just less than three people sitting in the audience per screening!
I know that sounds awfully pathetic, especially when you consider what should be a reasonable cache of Horror audience both for the actors involved as well as a Slasher movie with two years of promotion. That such a cast and writer, director, and producer could not generate, even among Horror Thriller movie enthusiasts, the kind of money that DtV Troma, Retromedia, and Brain Damage take for granted, is unbelievable.
Not so unbelievable once you actually see it.
The back story here is truly a cautionary tale regarding the price of wallowing in self-indulgence. David could never figure out a compelling enough reason for why audiences should pay their money to watch his ego-trip.
Granted, this is a "Socially Aware", self-indulgent wallowing ego-trip: speaking of which, THE TRIPPER also gets the -
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it will eventually attain "cult-status", but what Horror Thriller movie doesn't?
If this review leads you to believe that I must be some kind of evil Republican for not liking it, then by all means rent or buy THE TRIPPER if, for no other reason, than out of sympathy. THE TRIPPER needs all the sympathy it can get.
I give it a generous two Shriek Girls - out of pity.