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August 5, 2016

Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell

by Franz Patrick

Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell (1987)
★★ / ★★★★

A case can be made that Jim Monaco’s “Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell” is not really a movie because it consists mainly of trailers from horror pictures which range from the forgotten, the ones with strong cult following, to those now considered to be horror classics. At the same time, however, it can be considered a movie because there is context in terms of how these trailers are presented, a string that ties them together.

It comes in the form of a ventriloquist (Nick Pawlow) and his dummy named Happy—both providing comic relief—working in a movie theater where customers just so happen to be zombies. We watch the undead lumber about as they reach the concession stand and squeeze blood on their popcorn before the going inside the theater. It is perhaps the best original moment in the entire picture because humor is smoothly paired with social commentary.

About fifty trailers are shown and they have to be seen to be believed. I enjoyed watching just about every one of them not because they are especially good—some of them fascinate (the double bill “I Drink Your Blood” and “I Eat Your Skin” quickly comes to mind, as well as “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS”—which looks completely bonkers) while others come off plain and uninteresting (“Bloody Pit of Horror,” “Carnage”)—but because it is quite amazing to see what horror movie trailers in the past could get away with.

Buckets of blood are paraded on screen. Animals are absolutely harmed while making “Man from Deep River.” Stabbings are considered to be standard. Eyeballs are scooped out of their sockets. Clothing are ripped off women’s bodies. There are even strong implications of domestic violence and rape. In the middle of the picture, I wondered about the elements that heralded the change. Nowadays, horror films, even slasher flicks, rarely get away with even half of what are shown in the trailers showcased here.

It is interesting to note that horror movies that have reached a certain prestige or recognition such as Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Bob Clark’s “Silent Night, Evil Night” (also known as “Black Christmas”), Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left,” George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” and Ovidio G. Assonitis’ “Beyond the Door” have trailers that are quite tame compared to some of the others. Especially surprising to me is “The Last House on the Left.” It showed barely anything from the film. Imagine the complete shock and horror of the audience who decided to see that picture upon its release.

Certain images and scenes in Craven’s classic are very hard to take especially the highly controversial rape scene because it is shot so realistically. That scene singe-handedly turns horror into disgust and disgust into outrage. I’ve seen that film only once but that scene is seared so deeply on my mind that any reference to it makes me squirm every time—which, I think, was the point or the goal. The best horror films impact your life in some way.

There is a trailer here, a film I haven’t seen but will absolutely look into, is Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s “Africa: Blood and Guts”—also known as “Africa Addio.” It captured my attention—maybe it is more apt to say I was sickened by it—because I knew right away that the images were real. There is a certain tone, color, and aura in the images that are simply not recreations. We see real people being shot in the head, gutted, their hands cut off. But why do I want to see it? Because I found out later on that it is a sort-of documentary, a “shockumentary,” an exploitation documentary film. I wish to learn more about this sub-genre.

“Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell” is worth seeing at least once—especially by people who love and crave horror films even from the most depraved corners. It is highly likely that even the biggest, self-described horror buffs have not heard about at least a handful of the pictures featured here. The ventriloquist and his dummy segment that binds it all ought to have matched the energy, or perhaps even the content, of the previews. Regardless, the work is worthy of at least a marginal recommendation.


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