There’s a great deal to be said about freedoms in America. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press… free love. David Arquette has included all of these elements along with an extremely twisted and satirical sense of humor in The Tripper. He’s also included some other, slightly more controversial themes, in monumental amounts. Things like swearing, drugs, political humor, sex, social commentary, nudity and lots of rock and roll. It almost makes you proud to be an American, but it does a good job of making you ashamed as well. The Tripper finds a way to offend just about everyone and it does it all while wearing a starched white shirt, red tie, bright blue suit, a Ronald Reagan mask and carries a double-sided axe. By the time it’s over you’ll swear you’re slightly hungover and have vague memories of some kind of crazy party. However, like most great parties, you’ll be tempted to do it again.
The Tripper centers around three couples on their way to a small mountain town for the weekend long American Free Love Festival hosted by Frank Butler (Paul Reubens), a rich, foul-mouthed venture capitalist who seems to be trying to create his own forest version of Burning Man. This is where, as Joey (Jason Mewes who just sounds too much like Jay without Silent Bob) puts it, “hippies from far and wide meet to do drugs, have lots of sex and talk about the state this country is in.”
The movie begins in 1967. Dylan Riggs (Redmond Gleeson) cares for his ailing wife while his young son, Gus (Noah Maschan) sits in front of the television watching graphic news coverage of the war in VietNam. The stodgy old television journalist switches to an article about expansion of the Redwood Forest being shot down by none other than Ronald Reagan with a quote, “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen ‘em all.” The phone rings and the man is called away to an emergency at the logging site he runs. Dylan grabs his son and loads him into his truck. While they drive along the mountain roads the radio announces more news about the war and Reagan. The beaten old pickup truck rambles up to a conflagration of hippies trying to stop the loggers from cutting down any more trees. After a heated exchange the foreman gets physical with one of the demonstrators and it escalates with the hippie hitting him across the head with a rock. The foreman draws a large, semi-automatic pistol and is immediately arrested by the local police. Young Gus, who has witnessed the entire exchange, simply snaps. In what can only be described as a nod to Leatherhead the boy picks up a chain saw, revs it into life and pins the hippie who clobbered his father to a felled tree with the chainsaw at full tilt. Cue the spraying blood, loud music, screaming onlookers and hysterical wailing of all involved. The police grab the boy and stuff him into the patrol car, parked next to the one his father is locked up in, while they scream to one another. A homicidal, psycho killer is born.
The movie then cuts to modern day, where our six main characters are crammed into an old Ford van (that looks suspiciously like a blue version of The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo) speeding along a winding road and stoned out of their minds. As the characters try to decide if anyone is actually sober enough to be driving the viewer is treated to psychadelic sights and sounds right out of a Doors video. Before you can say, “make love not war” a huge great dane lunges across the road causing the van to swerve onto the embankment and the occupants pile out into the forest to relieve themselves. They attempt to scare each other by cracking jokes about stumbling into booby traps set by paranoid pot farmers when suddenly a truck full of local hicks drives by, chucking beer bottles and splitting open the head of Ivan (Lukas Haas). After some quick field medicine with a suture needle, a hip flask of whiskey and loads of encouragement while Ivan yells, “I’m Rambo” the group gets back on the road.
They end up at a small gas station, with a gift store and coffee shop filled with locals, to buy more beer and bottled water, when the truck full of rednecks shows up. One of the rednecks, Muff (Arquette), pulls a knife and Samantha (Jaime King) sweep kicks it out of his hand and jumps on his back. The two end up wrestling on the floor when a slack-jawed employee shows up and shoves Muff into a wooden newspaper rack, turning his arm into a compound fractured mess. In the rush to get back outside Samantha leaves her cell phone behind to be discovered by the employee, whom we find out is actually a grown Gus (Christopher Allen Nelson), who listens to a call from Samantha’s abusive ex-boyfriend.
Even before the concert can start the bloodbath begins. Starting with a skinny nudist sporting a giant red afro who stumbles into a hunting snare and a very old hippie, decapitated by an axe wielding Ronnie. The murders threaten to end the festival but no one seems to be sober, or smart enough, to care, to the chagrin of the local de-facto Sheriff Buzz Hall (Thomas Jane).
The effects aren’t perfect but that only seems to enhance the fact that this is not a serious horror film. It’s a mixed bag of irony, satire and ridiculously laughable characters that make the horror seem bearable. Don’t look too deeply for any hidden meanings. What you see is what you get. The writing, acting and high production value, as a whole, make for a thoroughly entertaining viewing. The DVD Special Features include an entertaining commentary with David and Richmond Arquette, Paul Reubens and Thomas Jane, a “Behind the Spleens Featurette” with actor interviews and a short, surprisingly comical documentary about one of the producers who actually found a severed human finger at one of the locations just before shooting was scheduled to begin.
For horror fans this movie may not be frightening enough but, like a drug induced haze, you’ll be laughing so hard you just won’t care.
David Arquette (director) / David Arquette, Joe Harris (screenplay)
CAST: David Arquette … Muff
Richmond Arquette … Deputy Cooper
Courteney Cox … Cynthia
Paz de la Huerta … Jade
Ben Gardiner … Wilson
Balthazar Getty … Jimmy
Lukas Haas … Ivan