The Film: The Tripper (2006)
The Principles: David Arquette (Director), Jaime King, Lukas Haas, Thomas Jane, Jason Mewes, Paul Reubens, Richmond Arquette, and Bathazar Getty.
The Premise: A Reagan-obsessed killer slices and dices hippies at an outdoor free love festival.
Is It Any Good: Good? Not really. Fun? Yes. While there is a lot of political satire and goofy moments, it’s still firmly in regular slasher territory. Honestly, it’s no sillier than any regular ’80s slasher and never delves into full-on parody. Why is it fun? Well for that, I’m going to spoil some things…including the identity of the killer.
Pipe down and quit your bitching! While there is a lazy (and likely intentionally so) attempt at keeping it a mystery once we pass the prologue, it is blatantly clear from the get-go who our would-be Reaganator is. The film opens with a lumberlack who has a sick wife and a young son. When he shows up on the job to find people protesting the logging, things go to shit fast. Long story short, a protestor attacks him and his little boy retaliates by chainsawing the hippie bastard in the neck. The kid, of course, is hauled off and locked up in a mental institution.
Decades later, we cut to our lead group of young drug-loving characters: Jaime King, Lukas Haas, a post-rehab Jason Mewes (who actually works here), and four others. After a run-in with some rednecks (one of whom is director David Arquette), they make their way to the festival. We’re dished out some backstory along the way to provide us with the classic “tortured final girl” (King) material that we all know and love. Turns out she had a psycho rich boy Republican ex-boyfriend (his license plate is “REDST8S”) who was none too fond of her recreational activities and flipped out on her one night while she was on acid, causing her to have a bad trip. On top of the “awful scarring” event, he’s following her.
The event itself has been put together by an asshole showman (Reubens) and the greedy mayor, whom leave poor Sheriff Buzz Hall (Tom Jane) and his deputy to keep things under control. What follows is a healthy smattering of drug usage, trippy visuals, hippie jokes, Republican jabs, boobs, bush, and dong. And murder by Reagan. Have you guessed who the killer is yet? Why, OF COURSE it is the now-grown murderous little boy. Who’d have thunk it? Our Ronnie is not only a fan of Mr. Reagan because of his anti-drug and anti-hippie stances, but also because he was released from the mental institution under Reagan’s time as Governor of California. Nice goin’ there, Ronald!
None of the kills are very inventive, but it is fun to see our Reagan-esque killer mug for the camera and spout of one-liners in character. Aside from these, he also has a habit of carving “Just Say No” into his victims and leaving jelly beans at the scene of the crime. He also has a dog named Nancy and a pet pig named George W. Yeah. That’s the kicker though. It is a fun movie. The entire concept was never meant to have a particularly deep meaning. Arquette aimed for a fun slasher romp and he succeeded for the most part. This is the kind of film that was meant for group viewing.
While no one gives a bad performance, the only clear standout here is the ever-awesome Thomas Jane. His law enforcement official is none too amused by the insanity going on around him before the bodies pile up, let alone afterward. Between the country accent, the ‘stache, and the attitude, he is a hoot from start to finish. It’s a shame that Arquette hasn’t been able to get his sequel(s) off the ground, both for the concept and because it’d be fun to see Jane reprise Buzz in a Loomis-esque fashion. While I guess there is always a chance a follow-up might materialize, I suspect we’ll just have to hope that Arquette continues to tackle the genre in the future and the results are just as fun and even better than what is on display here.
Is It Worth A Look: Yes. Don’t blind buy it or anything (but if you do, get it from us!), but definitely give it a spin on your less expensive route of choice (Netflix, Amazon Instant, DVR, etc.) and do it in the company of friends. While watching it on your own can be fun, this is the kind of silly entertainment that is best experienced in the presence of group laughter. Besides, how can you not get some enjoyment out of a film where Paul Reubens orders his lackeys to pick the pockets of slaughtered hippies so he can get a little more money out of his festival!
Arquette originally envisioned this as the first in a trilogy. The second would have been The Tripper II: Burning Bush and taken place at Burning Man with a George H.W. Bush-masked killer. The third was to have been titled The Tripper III: President Evil and contained a George W. Bush-clad murderer. While neither of these ever made it beyond the idea stage, the subtitle of the latter ended up being used as the title of this film in Germany.
The only day it didn’t rain during shooting was the one day they were actually scheduled to shoot rain-filled scenes!
Courtney Cox and Wes Craven both have cameos as hippies at the festival.
Cinematic Soul Mates: Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning, Silent Night Deadly Night, Uncle Sam, and W.