Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Lukas Haas, Thomas Jane, Jamie King, Jason Mewes
Directed by David Arquette
Man, this one’s been a long time coming for us. I’ve had about 6 different chances to see it and missed every one of them, which now I’m glad about because The Tripper is a movie that needs to be seen with a Fantasia crowd. If you’ve never been to Fantasia, you really don’t know what it’s like, but they have the best moviegoing crowds in the world if you ask me.
Arquette’s directorial debut has been the subject of a lot of silly controversy based around its ad campaign, which made no qualms about showcasing the film’s pro-drug message. Because After Dark Films didn’t want to release it on 4/20, a date that holds great significance for potheads, Arquette had to get the film out there on his own. He managed to get it shown in good sized multiplexes, but the word of mouth wasn’t enough to make it a success, which is too bad because I think horror fans with a sense of humor will really enjoy this slice of gory goodness.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the premise by now, but if not: The Tripper takes place during a modern-day Woodstock-esque festival being held in the forests of Northern California. A group of druggie kids are the film’s heroes, accompanied by a girl, Samantha (King), going through the usual depression that comes along with getting out of a bad relationship. This particular one ended because he was an overbearing asshole who decided to come down on her while she was at the height of an acid trip. So, understandably, she’s not there to do drugs, just to chill out and celebrate peace. Or some such nonsense.
Of course, a killer is on the loose in the woods at the same time, and almost right off the bat the bodies start piling up. Though it’s been said that The Tripper is about a psycho targeting hippies, and believe me that does happen quite a bit, the killer is really not particular about who meets the business end of his axe, taking out everyone from town officials to local crazies before his hippie killing spree really begins in full force.
Some say The Tripper is full of political subtext. Considering the killer is obsessed with Ronald Reagan, that would be an easy call to make, but that’s just not the case. Sure, there are some jokes made with political slants, but the closest it gets a message is the explanation of the killer’s freedom having to do with Reagan’s decision to shut down so many mental hospitals 20-some years ago. The rest of the “political” humor consists of jokes about George W and Republicans, which work about half the time.
A good amount of time passes before the action really kicks in, something that normally bugs the hell out of me, but in this case I was all right with it because Arquette’s cast is solid enough to carry the film. Their characters are just three-dimensional enough to make them believable. Jane in particular chews the scenery anytime he’s on screen and has managed to endear himself even more to me. He’s really the first name actor to come out of Hollywood as a true fan of horror, and his involvement in this, both in front of and behind the camera, speaks volumes about how much he appreciates the genre.
Of course you’re probably wondering about the kills since this is a hack-n-slash film at its heart, and I’m happy to report that they’re plentiful and gratifying. There are a few off-screen deaths that it would’ve been nice to see, but for the most part it all happens right in front of your eyes and they’re all pleasantly vicious. Nothing in the middle of The Tripper tops the kills that both open and close the film, one by chainsaw and the other the demise of Paul Reubens, but none of them exactly disappoint either.
It’s clear Arquette knew what he was doing with The Tripper and has a real affinity for the slasher aspect of our genre. Though I would like to see him try something a little more seriously scary in the future, he’s got a good head for the horror/comedy mix, which largely has to do with the quality of his cast.
Though it does have some pacing issues and moments thrown in that are just there for the sake of setting up a joke, and the end really takes forever to get where it’s going, I still had a blast with The Tripper (as I said, the crowd didn’t hurt), and hopefully you can, too, when it’s out on DVD this October.
4 out of 5
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