3 and a half stars  Buy this film and help with the site's running costs!

directed by: David Arquette
starring: David Arquette, Richmond Arquette, Courteney Cox, Paz de la Huerta, Ben Gardiner, Balthazar Getty, Lukas Haas, Josh Hammond,Stephen Heath, Brad Hunt, Thomas Jane, Jaime King, Bert Kinyon, Noah Maschan, Jason Mewes, Christopher Allen Nelson, Rick Overton, Waylon Payne, Paul Reubens, Michael X. Sommers, Marsha Thomason

choice dialogue:

“A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.”

- Ronnie lays down the law.

slash with panache?
[review by Justin Kerswell]

David Arquette's THE TRIPPER lives up to its name: half slice and dicer and half mind fuck.

The basic premise at least sticks close to the classic slasher movie framework. In the prologue (set in the Summer of Love, 1967), a young boy watches his logger father clash with a group of hippie activists, who are trying to stop redwoods from being felled. After a violent altercation, the boy reacts to seeing his father hit by picking up a chain saw and felling one of the hippies in a shower of blood.

Cut to the present day, and the same forest is now home to the 'Free Love Festival' – a back to nature love-in, fueled by drugs, drink and sex. The festival – run by Frank (a wonderfully foul-mouthed Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman)) – attracts hippies like bees to an LSD spiked honey pot. Amongst these stoned revelers is a passion wagon of twenty-something stoners, with enough drugs to take out an army. Along for the ride is Samantha (Jaime King), a vulnerable flower child who is trying to get over a bad acid trip and forget her violent yuppie ex (Balthazar Getty). With her is her new boyfriend Ivan (Lukas Haas) and a motley crew of revelers. Peace and love don't seem to be high on the agenda after they have a violent run in with a group of rednecks, led by Muff (Arquette), at a local store (with echoes of a similar scene in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (1982)).

It seems that the festival has a history of mishaps, with a number of hippies going missing each year. Sheriff Buzz Hill (a wonderfully sardonic turn by Thomas Jane) is keen that things will be a little more peaceful this year, despite the mayor trying to sweep these 'accidents' under the carpet. He also has to deal with the now elderly woodsman (whose son was sent to an asylum back in 1967), who still has a hatred for hippies, and (in more than a nod to Crazy Ralph) barks at them, “Get outta here! This is the last time I'm going to warn you, you commie, pinko bastards!”. The woods are also full of traps to stop light-fingered sorts from plundering the ganja farms that dot the inner recesses – which sees at least one naked (and frighteningly ginger) hippie meet his doom. To add to this already heady brew, there's also a nutter in a Ronald Reagan mask prowling the glades with axe in hand; hacking apart any tie-die camper that stumbles across his path ...

At first glance, THE TRIPPER appears to be a one-dimensional take on the well trodden slasher formula. And, of course, Arquette has already been through that particular mill three times as the dippy Deputy Dewey in the hugely successful SCREAM franchise. Whilst, the backwoods providing the scenic backdrop for much stalking and bloodshed is familiar (and always fun), Arquette imbues the film with a schizophrenic quality. THE TRIPPER has an underlying streak of black humour, but it's also disturbing and frankly disorientating. Taken at face value, you'd imagine a film where someone dressed as Ronald Reagan is killing hippies would be a relatively obvious pastiche of the era that ran parallel (making uncomfortable bedfellows) with the classic slasher movie period of the early 80s. Of course, back then there was the irony that whilst Republicans made much mileage of their hatred of gorily violent films, the likes of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were seen by some as ultra Conservatives (destroying the permissive society one hack at a time). The sex=death motif was an accident on the part of Carpenter et al (he in fact famously apologised for the implication), but it was only a matter of time before someone took it to a logical extreme and supplanted Voorhees for Reagan. Of course, this in itself is not a new idea – perhaps Arquette wasn't aware that Richard Nixon got a similar treatment in the little seen 80s slasher HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY 5 (198 ).

However, fittingly for a film where much of it is shot through a freak out kaleidoscopic lens, nothing is quite what it seems. Far from making the hippies the heroes of the piece, they are mostly violent, self-obsessed fuck ups with such little regard for anything (even themselves) that they continue to party hard even when bodies are falling all around them. In fact, the only people who come out of the film with any sympathy are the two characters who meet in the middle – the hippie girl who has sworn off drugs and the cop who doesn't have a problem with the the free living lifestyle.

Arquette further spices the pot by, perhaps questionably, inter-cutting the latex and corn syrup with real life atrocities from the Vietnam War. Perhaps the most interesting twist is that the film hammers home that the killer is able to spill blood because he was released onto the streets as part of Reagan's short-sighted mental health policies. Regardless, neither arch conservatives nor liberals will find total vindication for their beliefs.

THE TRIPPER is quite unlike any slasher movie I've seen before – and in a market place crowded with homogenized crap that can only be a good thing. The pacing lags occasionally, but it mostly works as a slasher flick. Some less than convincing gore fx only seem to add to the kooky charm. Arquette scores points for a virtuoso set piece where 'Reagan' crashes a hippy party, and for making the final girl inadvertently take acid during the climactic chase scene (surely the only worse thing than being chased by a homicidal maniac with an axe is doing whilst you're tripping your tits off!). Also, whilst the off-the-wall comedy doesn't always hit the spot, at least the killer doesn't indulge in too many wise-crackin' one liners. Plus, I loved the scene where a victim-to-be pleads for his life – “But I'm a Republican!”.

Ultimately, I can imagine THE TRIPPER turning off those looking for a more traditional slice of the action. But those adventurous souls out there: turn on, tune in and drop off a severed limb!


BODYCOUNT 26  bodycount!   female:8 / male:18

       1) Male killed with chain saw
       2) Female has face ripped off
       3) Male found dismembered
       4) Male decapitated with axe
Male has neck broken
       6) Male chopped up with axe
       7) Male chopped up with axe
       8) Male disemboweled with hunting knife
       9) Male stabbed with hunting knife
     10) Male found dismembered
     11) Female found dismembered
     12) Male hacked with axe
     13) Female hacked with axe
     14) Male impaled on spikes
Hippy dismembered with axe
     16) Hippy dismembered with axe
     17) Hippy dismembered with axe
     18) Hippy dismembered with axe
     19) Hippy dismembered with axe
     20) Hippy dismembered with axe
     21) Hippy dismembered with axe
     22) Hippy dismembered with axe
     23) Hippy dismembered with axe
     24) Hippy dismembered with axe
     25) Male attacked by dogs
     26) Male killed wit
h chain saw