Friday, 5 October 2012

Trailer Park of Terror - review


2008 (USA)


Contains spoilers.

Trailer Park of Terror, written by Timothy Dolan and based on the comic series of the same name is a film of two halves.

The first half concerns the ill fated Norma (Nichole Hilt) and the residents of a small isolated trailer park in the deep south. Here, ostracised and removed from main stream society they live in deprivation and squalor and survive day to day by doing what they must, which for Norma means selling her body like her mum did before her. Seeing a possible way out, she is about to go out on a date with a genuinely nice guy from outside the park when jealous and painfully aware of their own inadequacies, a group of her redneck neighbours take it upon themselves to cause a bit of trouble accidently impaling the guy on a metal fence. Raging with grief Norma storms away and encounters who we presume to be the devil, who offers her a means of retribution. Returning to the park she releases a lifetime of pent up emotion and anger through the barrel of a gun but resigns herself to an eternity of damnation.

The scenes proceeding the massacre are emotional, full of intensity and deeply disturbing. Director Steven Goldmann whose previous work was all Country music videos perfectly captures the sense of resignation felt by the people of the trailer park. Each character is deeply flawed and has depth and a story. They feel raw, authentic and full of self-loathing and bitterness.

Cut to the modern day. It's been a couple of decades since the massacre and a group of six wayward teenagers returning home from a week long mountain retreat with Pastor Lewis (Matthew Del Negro) find themselves off the main roads. Colliding with a broken down truck in the middle of the night and in the torrential rain they see the lights of trailer park and knock on Norma's door seeking help. Offering them refuge until morning she settles them into the now empty trailers and then starts on the Pastor successfully enticing him to her bed. During their tryst the man of god starts to realise something is seriously wrong when part of Norma's face collapses and unable to continue, angers her to the point where she pulls off his head; this is when we realise, forty minutes or so in, that the sociological biopic we've been watching is about to take a rather dark new direction.

The deal struck with the devil has turned Norma and the denizens of the park into festering zombies of the night hungry for human flesh. Over the years they've appeared from time to time to prey on lone truckers and the arrival of the Pastor and his troupe this night has got them particularly excited and riled up. The zombies are exaggerated parodies of their former selves, they're still coherent and they still possess the same quirks and dreams they had when they were alive but they're still stuck in their own proverbial ruts; it's the curse of the trailer park, and the theme throughout of being unable to escape whether alive or dead. Other than now being gruesome ghouls nothing has really changed for these people at the fringe of society.

There's no infection or virus, no pandemic or apocalypse, what we have is straightforward demonic reanimation. Having sold her soul Norma has condemned herself and the citizens of the park to an eternal life of preying on lost souls. There's no indication they can be killed, no talk of head trauma putting them to eternal rest and no signs that this is a curse that can be broken. They're malevolent, dark and evil but the way they're portrayed is also still comical especially the redneck duo Merv (RoachLew Temple) and Roach (Myk Watford), an ex-army vet drug addled red neck guitar player who struts and sings from the top of his trailer accompanying all the carnage below with heavy rock country.

As the true horror of what the kids have stumbled into becomes apparent and the zombies make themselves known the film soon turns into full parody mode with exaggerated dialogue, sadistic crude horror, gore and some ridiculously over the top scenes. It's really quite at odds with the serious tone of everything that leads up to it and I'm really not sure what I think about it all. I mean, for the most part the whole thing still works, the background story is beautifully and authentically told, the characters are all built up and the scene is set for a dramatic finale, the over top comedy and parody of the second half doesn't disappoint with shocks, scares and many memorable scenes; it's just I'm not sure how well it all meshes together. If I'm honest I think I'd have preferred either for it to maintain its levels of maturity and introspection through to the end, or push the fun and parody a little harder while it set the opening scenes. All this being said though, it does kind of all still work.

Trailer Park of Terror is a fun wacky film full of great effects and memorable moments. It's sumptuously directed and styled with some of the best special effects and make up I've seen. It has a thumping good soundtrack, great characters and acting and for a limited budget I can only raise my hat. I can't help but think though there's a missed opportunity somewhere; there's something not quite right and for all I enjoyed the exaggerated mayhem of the last thirty minutes I couldn't help but question how and why it decided to go quite so mad and ridiculous. Quite the ride and recommended, 7/10.

Steven@WTD.

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