‘The Tripper’ *** Movie Review 110307


The Work=***
‘The Tripper’ is one of those comical horror movies that falls in tone somewhere around ‘Evil Dead 2’. The thing is that while ‘Evil Dead 2’ may not be held in the same regard as many great works of cinema it is no less successful a feature. You might begin to realize that it is not so easy to make a film like ‘Evil Dead 2’ when you watch one that treads on similar ground like ‘The Tripper’. I can recommend this for those that are in the mood for a comical horror film but be aware that the movie is a bit uneven and doesn’t really get going until the last half roles around.

The trouble I have writing a review for a film like ‘The Tripper’ is that I want to like it more than I actually do. As a film ‘The Tripper’ is something of a mixed bag. It follows a group of drug taking hippies on their merry way to concert in the middle of Forrest. The law is slim out in the woods and our band of merrymakers are planning on a long trip full of just about every type of drug possible (and some booze too). Unfortunately for our would-be heroes and many of the other concert goers the concert is being held right at the doorstep of a madman that dresses up like late president Ronald Reagan, runs with a dog named Nancy, picks up an ax, and goes on a hippie killing spree.

The character of ‘The Tripper’ (Christopher Allen Nelson) is the strongest element in the film of the same name and it is really the reason I am recommending the film. I can’t help myself, there is something about the character that I feel is a sort of madman genius. He just seems inherently funny. Plus writers David Arquette and Joe Harris flesh this guy out more than you might expect. He has several reasons for being obsessed with Reagan (and not simply for the former president’s disdain for hippies).

Arguette also produced (along with wife Courteney Cox) and directed and appears in ‘The Tripper’. There is no denying that Arquette has made a very personal film. He clearly has a soft spot in his heart for the material and infuses the film with many details and touches that mean a lot to him. The issue is, he doesn’t seem concerned with whether or not they register with an audience. This coupled with a quick-cut, somewhat spazy’, direction style, lead to a rather disjointed feeling while watching the film.

Another issue is with the central characters. While there is a bevy of memorable supporting players (probably most notably concert organizer Frank Baker, played by Paul Reubens) the drug laced main characters are not all that memorable or really sympathetic. I realize it is called ‘The Tripper’ and not ‘The Hippies’ but the villainous Reagan fan has limited screen time and most of the film is carried by the hippy concert goers. The movie does have a natural lead in the form of local law man Buzz Hall (Arquette brother in-law Thomas Jane) but sadly he doesn’t get much in the way of development.

So the film is a bit disjointed and light on scares but I still can’t deny that I love the character of ‘The Tripper’. He’s a great comical, horror character and for some reason I kept thinking while I was watching the film that he and Buzz would make for a fun read in comic book form. Arquette shows he can helm a film and his promotion of ‘The Tripper’ shows his love for the work. He has made a film that may be a mixed bag for me but I can’t help it, I have to recommend. I’d love to see a comic book spin off and I would even be curious to see what Arquette and co’ would do with a sequel. Sure, it is light on scares and doesn’t get rolling until late in the run time but darn it all, ‘The Tripper’ as a character overcomes all the shortcomings. Recommended.


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