Paz de la Huerta
Retro Comedy Slasher
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The Tripper (2006)
30th Mar 08
A van load of drug addled new age hippies who are en route to an outdoor rock festival in the giant redwood territories of California encounter a Ronald Reagan obsessed serial killer. There, I've said it.
Review The Tripper is pretty straightforward retro slasher (i.e. it was made last year, but thinks it was made 20 years ago) about a van load of drug addled new age hippies who are en route to an outdoor rock festival in the giant redwood territories of California. They’re a nice enough bunch too; all of you will spot Kevin Smith regular Jason Mewes playing to type by driving the van while high on acid in the opening seen, then there’s the dreaded hippie guy who’s obsessed with who’s taking what and how much they’ve got left for the weekend, the sexy druggie chick cliché character who just wants to get high and laid at the same time (those kind of girls are rare in real life, eh guys?), and sensible hippie guy with a goatee whose girlfriend, a rather gorgeous blonde called Samantha, has just come out of a relationship with an over protective and obsessive straight laced conservative type, so there’s a sub plot in the making right there. The small logging town where the festival is being held is run by a corrupt mayor who cares not a rats ass about the safety of the revelers, despite the fact that the last festival ran by that guy of Pee Wee Herman fame had a couple of fatalities, and despite the fact that local small town sheriff played with exceptional small town goofiness by Thomas Jane of Punisher fame is doing his absolute best to keep everybody happy, tripping out wasters and frustrated loggers alike.
His biggest problem though is what to do about that Ronald Reagan obsessed serial killer, complete with hunting dog called Nancy, who’s taking out anyone who gets too close, but has an especial distaste for hippies ever since the events played out for us in the intro, where twenty years or so ago a young child gets his spontaneous and rather graphic own back on a bunch of tree hugging hippies who are the stopping his lumberjack father doing his job. Of course, that was then and now is now, and people change a lot in 20 years, so whoever that kid is now is a bit of a mystery.
So there you have it: druggies get wasted, the mayor won’t stop the event, the organizer is a money grabbing scumbag, the local sheriff is trying his best but struggling and a Ronald Reagan look-alike is killing indiscriminately. With a plot like that you can’t really expect this film to take itself too seriously and it doesn’t, which singularly plays towards both this movie’s strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, this flick is extremely easy on the eyes and ears, all the main cast are either good looking kids or well known faces of the genre, so the script zips along without much effort, even if sometimes the dialogue does slip into Hollywood style hippie drug banter, which can border on cringe worthy if you let it, but it shouldn’t. Also the body count is high, it’s not easy to predict who’s going to live and who will be a goner in the next scene, neither is it even obvious who the main character is, although since the incredibly pretty Samantha is the only character with a fleshed out back story, of her young conservative hippie hating domineering boyfriend abusing her, it don’t take much to expect her to last until the final reel, or at least until said boyfriend makes an obvious appearance later in the movie when the surviving characters are all pointing their fingers at each other.
Along the way there are a few good set pieces too. The encounter with the redneck locals in the gas station sets the tone well early on, and the festival scenes are all suitably chaotic, filmed through some kind of druggie haze without descending too far into film student cliché. The aging hippie encounter in the wood is a highlight, as is the paint balling bit, plus of course the first body in the crowd mass panic is decent value too, as is watching a grown man hide in a chemical toilet. Things really get going though when half the cast are dead and Ronnie’s on a full on rampage, the summer solstice acid campfire hippie slaughter montage is almost worth the price of entry alone.
Of course there are negatives. It’s a slasher homage, which I think explains why nearly all the blood is a nice unrealistic bright red, and I hope people get that joke like we did. But the main issue is the feel of the film, which really can’t decide whether it’s a serious slasher with comedy moments or a straight comedy horror slasher spoof. This means you never get that involved with the characters, are never scared when one of them is getting stalked by Ronnie, and when they die it’s not shocking, only funny. This isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong there’s a lot to enjoy with The Tripper and many of you will love this movie, but if you are looking for a really serious retro massacre movie, this isn’t it.
But if you can accept that and enjoy this film for the good old fashioned 80s style horror comedy that it is, then you’ll have a lot of fun with it. It also has a nicely ambiguous and very corny epilogue, leaving the path for a cheaper sequel with more gore and less plot wide open. Let’s hope so anyway.
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