Review: Trailer Park of Terror

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Trailer Park of Terror (US-2008; dir. Steven Goldmann)

Reviewed by Robert Hood

comic-coverLike some sort of unnatural horror spawned from the genetic residue of Rob Zombie, Herschell Gordon Lewis and the Crypt Keeper from EC Comics’ Tales From the Crypt after a particularly nasty one-night stand, Trailer Park of Terror offers up a howling mix of redneck sensibilities, supernatural nastiness, spurious morality and gore-splattered degradation — all with its tongue firmly planted in places it’s probably best not to think about. Add the fact that it also has a hard Southern-rock soundtrack (much of which is sung and played by a decaying corpse with an electric guitar), and surely you can’t complain if you choose to pay a casual visit to its sodden, storm-battered, pink-flamingo-and-car-hulk-decorated precincts only to find yourself getting eviscerated for your trouble.

Based on Imperium Comics’ horror anthology series (which in turn is a reincarnation of the EC Comics horror ethos), Trailer Park of Terror begins with a poignant prelude in which Norma — a killer blonde trailer-park chick who wants nothing more than to escape the hell-hole that is her life — prepares for a date with a nice young man who seems to love her for herself and may be her ticket out. But the local rednecks start doing what local rednecks do and before you can say “AC/DC Rocks!” the boyfriend is accidentally impaled, leaving Norma, full of despair and hatred, the easy target of a demonic road cowboy offering revenge. Next thing, she’s slaughtered all the inhabitants of the trailer park and blown the whole thing, including herself, to smithereens.

Years later, during a vicious thunderstorm, a busload of young urban hard-cases out on a bonding camp accidentally end up stuck in the trailer park after their religious camp leader takes the inevitable shortcut. An attractive blonde woman runs the place and lets them shelter in the apparently uninhabited cabins. Of course, the cabins are more inhabited than expected — by the rotting and quite active corpses of the dead rednecks and other trailer trash who died there — and the result isn’t pretty.

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Trailer Park of Terror doesn’t break new ground in theme or narrative structure, being a pretty standard comicbook supernatural morality tale, but it does work the trope with trashy stylishness. Its redneck characters (zombie-like in their physicality, but actually corporeal ghosts) are energetically played out, a sort of even-more-caricatured complement to the folk that inhabit Rob Zombie’s House of a Thousand Corpses. And the stereotypical victims are (mostly) well-deserving of their fate. As in the EC template, there is a pseudo morality at work and the lone survivor is the one you expect to survive. Her survival comes about narratively because Norma (trapped into being the leader of the gruesome crew when she gave in to her own desire for revenge) recognizes a shared sense of injustice, but subtextually it is dependent on the fact that the survivor doesn’t bully anyone, isn’t taking drugs and doesn’t act like a tart — an outsider in a group of less-attractive social misfits.

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But the morality is inconsistent and in the end a furphy. The film isn’t meant to be taken seriously on any level. It’s a hellish rollercoaster ride, with gaudy imagery, in-your-face comicbook characters and lots of black, back-country humour. And gore, of course — gore of the kind that makes us smirk at its excess rather than gasp in horror at its grim truthfulness.

In short, Trailer Park of Terror is trailer-trash horror — well done and entertaining enough, but only if you like that sort of thing and are happy to slum down for the 97 minutes it takes to get through the night.

This review was first published on Horrorscope.

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