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  Tripper, The Ronald Ragin'
Year: 2006
Director: David Arquette
Stars: Thomas Jane, Jaime King, Lukas Haas, Marsha Thomason, Balthazar Getty, Jason Mewes, Christopher Allen Nelson, Paz de la Huerta, Richmond Arquette, Paul Reubens, Stephen Heath, Redmond Gleeson, Josh Hammond, David Arquette, Brad Hunt, Courteney Cox
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1967, out in the forests of California, young Gus was watching the Vietnam War footage on television as his ailing mother lay in bed in the next room. His father was distraught, but put on a brave face in front of the boy and asked him to accompany him to his work as a logger, but there was to be a problem, as they discovered when their truck pulled up at a protest. There was a swathe of trees to be cut down, and environmentalist hippies were up in arms, causing an obstruction. When Gus's father confronted one of them, he was sent into a rage when the hippy said he would rather Gus's mother died than a tree - and so was little Gus, grabbing the nearest chainsaw...

The Tripper was a pet project for writer (with Joe Harris) and director David Arquette, a co-production with his wife Courtney Cox, who also appeared in a small gag role. Arquette loves horror movies, and here was his chance to give something back to the genre, but this was no Scream rip-off, it featured a sincere political message. There was a snag, however, in setting liberals against conservatives it didn't really give the liberals, whose side Arquette was supposed to be on, much to cheer for and tended to pander to the conservative's leanings towards aggression and violence.

For the villain is actually none other than Ronald Reagan, who many would not see as an especially bad chap, yet here he was wielding an axe and setting about the hippies attending a rock concert out in the forest a few decades after Gus applied the chainsaw to the protestor. We're in no doubt that this Reagan is Gus in disguise and wearing a mask of the ex-President (although not a particularly convincing one, it has to be said), just as we know that his drive to stamp out the liberals will make him kill, but for the first hour he hardly appears, leaving our band of heroes with the cops and rednecks to deal with.

That group of hippies, who arrive in a van, are supposed to be indicative of the young people of today and their lack of passion for anything but getting high and enjoying sex, and if they're not doing that they're talking about it. Nevertheless, there is a character marked out as the final girl early on, and she's Samantha (Jaime King), who has recently fled a damaging relationship that she has not really gotten over yet. While her friends are intent on partying, she is more moody and fragile: a worrier. It is Samantha who will suffer the climactic confrontation with the psychopathic Reagan, and you can see that plotwise The Tripper is very much like the rest of the slasher field.

There is a decent character on the other side of the political divide, however, and he is cop Buzz Hall (Thomas Jane), whose attempts to deal reasonably with, say, an old geezer who sets traps for the hippies, or the massive amount of drugs being taken in his territory, are strained to breaking point. Also appearing in roles that presumably weren't much of a stretch are the likes of Kevin Smith regular Jason Mewes as one of Samantha's drugs-obsessed friends and Paul Reubens as the weaselly concert promoter who has unwittingly set the stage for the murders to begin. But if you didn't know that Arquette was on the side of the liberals, you could easily be forgiven for thinking he was cheering on his deadly President figure as he mows down the cast. Music by Jimmy Haun and David Wittman.

[Momentum's Region 2 DVD has a trailer and cast interviews (mostly Arquette) as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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