The tree roots are alive! The tree roots are alive! Um, I mean they’re more alive than usual. Instead of just laying around doing nothing more than cracking the occasional sidewalk, the tree roots in the forest just outside of Littleton have turned it up to Defcon 1!
After eating the lovable dog of the town’s resident old coot as well as a hitchhiker who was trying to escape a would-be rapist (that chick was having a bad day!), these underground uglies have developed a taste for small town goobers!
Now that doesn’t sound like the tree roots most of us have grown up with, does it? How is it that man’s best friend suddenly turns on his master and begins strangling him, whipping him, and shoving itself down his throat and right back out of his head through his eye?
To paraphrase one of the characters in the movie “I’m no microbiologist, but something about DNA, cellular structure, toxic waste, etc.”
Toxic waste? Guess what else Littleton has besides a forest full of starving twigs? A town hooker named Paula! And also a nuclear power plant!
And I know exactly what you’re thinking when you’re watching the beginning of the movie and seeing mysterious trucks transporting stuff here and there while ominously bad synth music is playing. You’re thinking, “oh my God! Is this an Italian movie?” Let me put it this way: as soon as I saw the opening credits play, this movie’s glowing review was already written!
Mary Sellers from Umberto Lenzi‘s Ghosthouse? Jason Saucier from Lenzi’s Hitcher In The Dark? A writer named Daniel Steel (come on Daniele Stroopa – we know that’s you!) who also worked on Lucio Fulci‘s The House Of Clocks and Voices From Beyond as well as Zombie 5: Killing Birds?
And I almost choked when I saw that the costumes were by Laura Gemser! Laura is best known for playing Emmanuelle in several thousand movies and for some prison flicks (Violence In A Women’s Prison, Women’s Prison Massacre) – movies not exactly known for their costuming.
Director Fabrizio Laurenti also helmed the David Hasselhoff/Linda Blair team up movie, Witchery. Somehow Joe D’Amato is also credited in some places with doing some directing on this one, but then again he’s credited with working on virtually every Italian movie so take that with a grain of salt.
The best credit though has to be for Original Music which was by Carlo Maria Cordio. Carlo provided music for lots of Italian flicks, but the one he’s best remembered for is when he gave us the auditory holocaust of a pop song that was “Head Over Heels” from Lucio Fulci’s killer snail movie Aenigma.
Josie (Sellers) comes back to her hometown where one-time flame Matt (Saucier) is looking to rekindle their romance. Things are awkward at first, but they hang out in the woods and discover the body of the hitchhiker.
The sheriff disbelieves them and when they take him to the spot where the body was, it has disappeared! It turns out the sheriff is in cahoots with the local nuclear power plant tycoon and they are intent on covering up the illegal dumping of toxic waste in the forest.
Since the bodies left behind by the killer tree roots are full of radiation, it wouldn’t do any good to have that known to the public. Who knows what a snoopy investigative reporter would think?
Soon, the town’s old coot turns up dead and his grandson arrives in town to bury him. “Too late” says the sheriff. “Already been done by order of the coroner.”
The grandson, Brian, is somewhat suspicious, but what can he do about it? After all, he’s just a snoopy investigative reporter! But the beauty of this movie is that it’s not going to take that easy way out and have the reporter dig up the dirt on the nuclear power plant.
In a bit that harkens back to the missing person investigation that took Saucier’s character to a wet T-shirt contest in Hitcher In The Dark, Matt finds a map with all the radioactive sites in the forest marked on it by a nuclear power plant scientist while patronizing the town’s sole hooker! (He and Mary had just had a fight, so it was off to the hooker to drown his sorrows!)
After the tree roots rampage through a variety of townspeople, Matt, Josie, and their pals decide they have to take matters into their hands and defeat the roots themselves since it will be too late if they wait for help any longer.
But help arrives in the nick of time! The whole town turns out with shovels, including the chunky hooker (unfortunately decked out in a sports bra) and after Matt’s dad fails to return in his helicopter from a scouting mission (spoiler: a model helicopter is blown up during this part), everyone pours into the canyon where the flare fired by Matt’s dad was last seen.
At first, I thought their plan was to attack the tree roots with the shovels. That seemed fairly idiotic, but the filmmakers were way ahead of me. The actual plan was to have the townspeople dig up the barrels of toxic waste, load them into pick up trucks, and drive them away!
This has the unintended effect of making you feel that the poor souls strangled by the tree roots were the lucky ones, since they didn’t have to face a lifetime of painful radiation sickness. They also didn’t have to face 90 minutes of the Italians devoting their unique talents to immortalizing killer tree root mayhem.
And what was Laura Gemser thinking when she designed that sports bra costume for that chubby hooker? I guess you’re bound to make a few mistakes when you’re the costume designer on six other movies in the same year. I’m not sure what everyone else’s excuse was – most of them didn’t seem to work that much after this movie for some reason.
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