David Arquette’s new horror film, The Tripper, opened last Friday at the Clinton Street Theater. Wait! Before you throw the paper down in disgust, open yourself up to the possibility that the B-minus actor might just have pulled off his directorial debut with more success and style than one would expect.
David Arquette’s new horror film, The Tripper, opened last Friday at the Clinton Street Theater.
Wait! Before you throw the paper down in disgust, open yourself up to the possibility that the B-minus actor might just have pulled off his directorial debut with more success and style than one would expect.
It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s more entertaining and clever than a thousand Saw IIs. For that matter, it’s better than a thousand Screams.
The Tripper follows the travails of a van full of hippies at some kind of California forest love-in. As the festival gets under way, a Ronald Reagan-masked ax murderer begins slaughtering everyone in his path, including a satisfyingly unscrupulous Paul Reubens as the concert’s sleazy promoter. Naturally, Pee-Wee and the mayor of the small town the festival takes place in are in cahoots for a quick buck, which means that the mustachioed local police are forbidden to close the forest when kids start turning up headless. The expected chaos ensues.
Telling any more narrative would give too much away, but suffice it to say that Pee-Wee is not spared the ax in what certainly must rank as the best scene in the entire movie.
Sure, it’s not the most original plot ever. You have the kids, the road trip, the creepy setting, deranged hicks, and a coming-of-age type love story. But to his credit, Arquette takes the formula and runs with it in an interesting direction, without letting himself get too caught up in what he’s doing. There are not a lot of fancy effects and sets, just a forest and some fake blood. The gore itself, while copious when it appears, is spaced far enough apart to guarantee a little more impact per pint.
The gang of kids that pass for the main characters are a bunch of unlikable little shits, which is for the best since they mostly serve as chainsaw fodder. We are mercifully spared any actual coming of age or consummation of romance. The more conservative heroine (Jamie King) manages to keep her wits about her and survive Reagan’s rampage, with help from the small-town sheriff and his pot-smoking deputy. Interwoven with the plot is a subtle political message, and it’s not the one you might expect. These days, hippies and their grimy ethos are often celebrated, with so-called squares given the proverbial finger.
It easily could have been that way with this movie, but lucky for us Arquette took the high road and actually made his message worth hearing. The hippies come off as a bunch of self-involved, useless douche bags. They don’t listen when they are warned about the peril that awaits them in the woods, laughing in the face of the cop that warns them and continuing their drug-addled revelry. The heartless bastards even spray poor Jamie King in the face with acid as she’s being pursued by the killer.
Business and government, represented by the town’s mayor and the festival promoter, clearly don’t give a shit about the concertgoers, and so it is left to the town sheriff and the heroine, the lowliest and squarest of all the characters, to set things right. The mayor and promoter end up undone by the force (i.e., the killer, a psychopath released from the asylum) they themselves have unleashed. It all sounds very tidy in words, but on screen it’s wrapped up in a silly, entertaining, easy-to-like package that makes it a lot easier to digest. Yes, you could probably wait for it to come out on video, but where’s the fun in that? This is worth a trip to the cinema and five of your hard earned dollars. Hats off to you, David Arquette. Who would have thought you had it in you?