Not much entertainment trickled down to Judge David Johnson from this one.
Hippie blood will trickle down.
From director David Arquette, a slasher saga with a Republican twist.
Facts of the Case
The annual American Free Love Festival is holding its concert/drug-a-rama in a small logging town and hippies everywhere are heading to bathe in the glow of Ecstasy and rock 'n roll and body odor. One vanload of friends is particularly excited. Pals Ivan (Lukas Haas, Brick), Samantha (Jaime King, Sin City) and Joey (Jason Mewes, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) gear up to party hard, despite some uncomfortable run-ins with the local color.
But a handful of paint-ball-shooting rednecks is the least of their worries, when a maniac in a Ronald Reagan mask goes on an axe-murdering spree. With only the town police chief (Thomas Jane, The Punisher) standing in the killer's way, a lot of hippies will almost certainly die violent deaths.
Lots of recognizable names involved with this production, but The Tripper is kind of a waste of time. It's a gory movie with some fun effects and that's really about it.
What separates this from the bounty of other gimmicky slasher movies is the cast. But even they're not used to great effect. Jane at first seemed to be crafted as a quirky cop, but that never went anywhere and he just turned into a standard-issue good guy type, Haas and his cronies appeared no different than any other nameless, faceless horror movie protagonists in all of the countless splatter pics to come before this one, and Mewes in particular simply plays a variation of every other character he ever plays (read: Jay), uttering profane wisecracks and busting out comic relief. Thing is, the relief isn't comical, which is the main impasse between the film and my enjoyment of the film.
The Tripper just wasn't funny. At all. Normally I'll look the other way when dealing with the typical slasher movie, but this one is built on a willfully-goofy premise (sporting a title that doesn't quite have the desired parody effect that Arquette was going for, I think) and boasts such an impressive cast pedigree, that the fact that so much of the writing and physical gags tank absolutely cripples the thing. The pitch may have been pretty funny, and the idea interested me when I heard about it, but in execution the script just isn't nearly entertaining enough to merit a viewing.
Here's the kind of physical comedy you'll be seeing: Paul Reubens plays the festival promoter, and in an attempt to outrun the killer he hides in a portable toilet. He somehow manages to defy physics and wedge himself completely into the toilet, later to emerge covered head to toe in poop. I think this was the big comedy set-piece for the film, too, as the set-up receives its own featurette in the bonuses. Ugh.
But the medal for Least-Funniest Aspect of This Movie goes to everything involving the killer Ronald Reagan. Again, for a film that has based its entire existence on this angle, it's crucial for it to work, but it doesn't. The jokes are obvious and bad (dead hippies have "Just Say No" carved in their flesh; someone says "You call that compassionate conservatism?") and the actor's delivery comes across as just a bad impersonation. Truthfully, I don't even know the point of making the killer Ronald Reagan except maybe to infuse political commentary into the genre? (Which, by the way, was either ham-fisted or obtuse.) Overall, this was just a disappointment.
The DVD is decent, though. I wasn't terribly impressed with the soft, and sometimes grainy 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, but the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround was active enough. Extras is where the disc shine, though, featuring a low-key, casual commentary track with David and Richmond Arquette, Paul Reubens and Thomas Jane, a 10-minute making-of documentary, small featurettes on the make-up, the poop scene, an on-set urban legend and the publicity tour, a stills gallery, outtakes and a batch of deleted scenes. No one bonus stands out as must-viewing material, but the diversity and volume are enough to earn the kudos.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I said it earlier, but in an effort to leave this review on a less-than-sour note, the gore was a lot of fun.
And so much for the less-than-sour note. Flat humor, one-dimensional characters and a central gimmick that falls apart mortally gimps The Tripper.
Guilty. Submerge this one in a vat of jelly beans and let it be.
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Scales of Justice
• Actors and Director Commentary
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