1/31/07

910 The Final Sacrifice

(1990, Horror, color)

Rowsdower?

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

A foolishly named drunk and his paternally conflicted stowaway battle an evil cult.

Summary:

Rowsdower?Once upon a time, in the wilds of Canada, majestic herds of beefy men in black Mexican wrestler masks ran through the snowy woods, their machetes gleaming in the moonlight. Their quarry: another beefy man, seen only from a distance among badly focused trees. Their leader: a thin, bug-eyed gentleman with dark, curly tresses spilling over the collar of his long black trench coat. Another unidentified man in a red Mexican wrestler mask laboriously loads a rifle. A shot rings out. The opening credits roll. Seven years later...

Noodly teen Troy MacGreggor visits his father’s grave, and vows to discover what happened to him. To this end, he breaks into a trunk in the attic to search through his father’s old belongings, much to the consternation of his loving Auntie Grandma. Among other things, Troy finds a nonsensical treasure map, a portrait photo, and a letter to his father’s partner, Mike Pipper. Apparently, Dad MacGreggor and Mike Pipper were archeologists of some note until they ran across the remnants of the mighty Ziox Civilization, an ancient death cult of lumpy Canadians.

Masked cultists surround the house the very next morning while Auntie Grandma is away. The thin, bug-eyed gentleman bursts in through the newly chainsawed door. (His long tresses have given way to close-cropped hair with a splash of white shoe polish at each temple to indicate the passage of time). Conveniently (a close cousin of the word somehow; I’ll use it often in this summary) the bug-eyed man knows of the map’s discovery. Troy must hand it over...or die! Troy escapes through the basement and outruns several large cultist vehicles on his ten-speed before jumping into the back of a moving pickup truck.

The battered truck predictably breaks down a few miles down the road, and Our Hero emerges from the cab to find Troy huddled among the empty beer bottles and dirty laundry. They bond as they fix the truck with flannel and whiskey, and Our Lumpy Hero introduces himself to the beleaguered teen. Quoth he, “Rowsdower. Zap Rowsdower.”

They get along amiably enough until Rowsdower stops at a gas station payphone to report his stowaway to the local Mounties. While he’s thus occupied, Troy spots a car full of crazed cultists with submachine guns approaching from afar. He starts the truck and drives away. Rowsdower gives chase and manages to leap into the truck bed before it pulls out of reach. They scuttle the pursuing vehicle with a crate of empties.

Rowsdower presumably takes over driving duties, and the truck breaks down again shortly thereafter. They camp out in the wilderness for the night, and have a tender discussion about the evil cult on their tail. Rowsdower conveniently knows all about the Ziox cult, their bug-eyed leader Satoris, and his evil plans to rule the world. Next morning the truck still won’t start; Rowsdower sends Troy to get some water before they start hiking towards the nearest town. Troy soon gets distracted by three large stones in a row. Conveniently, this is one of the landmarks from his father’s ancient map. He and Rowsdower follow the incomprehensible markings to a hole in the ground, filled with papier-mâché masks of evil cartoon characters. Troy finds one of his father’s notebooks at the scene. He uses it to decipher more of the map, while Rowsdower gets captured by cultists.

Standard capturer-capturee banter between Satoris and Rowsdower reveals Rowsdower’s status as a former member of the cult. (Yes, earlier in the film Troy conveniently stowed away with an estranged Ziox ex-cultist, i.e. the only one who could help him.) Rowsdower escapes shortly afterwards in a muddy and confusing action sequence. He finds Troy, and they hide in the basement of a backwoods garbage house. Fortunately, the cultists only search the first floor. Troy and Rowsdower emerge to find the house inhabited from the attic as well.

Conveniently the hairy squatter is none other than Dad’s old partner, Mike Pipper. (Imagine an unwashed, malnourished version of the late Jim Henson with the voice of Yosemite Sam.) Pipper helps Troy finish interpreting the map, and tells them the tale of the majestic city of Ziox. In ancient times, their God punished them for idol worship by sinking their city into the wilds of Canada. The survivors and their descendants were doomed to wander the earth as bloodthirsty cultists. The only way to undo the curse would be to destroy the idol, but though he’s searched for years, Pipper has never been able to find it. Rowsdower fills in the other side of the story: If Satoris finds the idol, and makes a final sacrifice to it, it will grant him an army of invincible warriors, allowing him to rule the world! Later, Pipper takes Troy aside to explain Rowsdower’s former association with the cult, and suggest that perhaps Rowsdower was the one who killed Dad MacGreggor.

After a nightmarish dream sequence, Rowsdower wakes to find Troy has been kidnapped by cultists. (Which begs the question, why didn’t the cult just finish them all off in their sleep? Oh well.) Satoris has conveniently found the idol without their help, and will sacrifice Troy to it in pursuit of world domination. Oh, but first he has to wait for Rowsdower to get there, because he knows his villain etiquette and can’t start the evil festivities without first crushing his lumpiest rival. Rowsdower and Satoris fight with the torches and grappling hooks that seem to litter the idyllic Canadian countryside, while the idol (actually a papier-mâché bull head on a stick) looks on. During the expository fight banter it comes out that Rowsdower was meant to kill Dad MacGreggor, but he refused at the last moment. This forced Satoris to kill him instead, and prompted Rowsdower’s exile from the cult. Satoris knocks down Rowsdower and is about to deliver the killing blow, but Troy frees himself with a pocketknife and shoots Satoris in the back. This causes the bug-eyed cultist to burst into flames, which causes the idol to fall over, which causes the ancient city of Ziox to rise up from the ground, which causes all the other cultists to remove their Mexican wrestler masks and, with their miniature city, ascend to Ziox heaven. Troy and Rowsdower fix their pickup and ride off into the sunset.

Introduction:

Dagnabbit!Mike and the ‘Bots receive notice from Gypsy that the power will go out for a few moments. “No looting this time,” Mike warns. The lights go out. Crashes are heard. The lights come back on. Crow has broken into his own room and stolen his own TV, while Tom has hurled a mannequin through Mike’s window and stolen his recycling. Crow plans ahead. “If it goes out again, I’m going to grab my blender.”

Host Segment One:

Pearl determines to take over the world one person at a time. First on the list is a Mr. Todd Gunderson, but not even the whiniest of pleas will convince him to submit to the will of Pearl. Next up is Tom Servo. Quoth he, “Sorry baby, nobody rules the Tom-Monster.” “Your defenses are impenetrable,” Pearl cries, and sends him back to the Satellite of Love.

Host Segment Two:

Mountie Tom interrupts Mike and Crow’s Canada-bashing session to sing a song in praise of our northern neighbors. Mike and Crow add less-than-complimentary verses of their own. Tom decides to give Canada-bashing a shot and takes it way too far. “Just where the hell does Canada get off sharing a border / with countries far superior to it...” Mike puts a stop to it before Tom can get obscene.

Host Segment Three:

Bobo contracts Hockey Hair from a bad can of Canadian bacon, and passes the highly contagious disease on to everyone else but Mike. Apparently Mike had Hockey Hair for a number of years in his youth, and when you get it once you can never catch it again.

Host Segment Four:

It seems Mike’s immunity to Hockey Hair has left him vulnerable to Grizzled Old Prospector Syndrome, which involves pipe-smoking, copious facial hair, and the tendency to use expletives like “Consarnit!” In trying to determine the disease’s cause, the ‘Bots ask Mike if he’s kissed any prospectors lately. Mike thinks about it, and there was this one guy...but no, that was a surly truck farmer. “Durn fine kisser, though!”

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow don black hoods and carry machetes to start a death cult of their own. When Mike asks, they describe their unholy rituals as involving the baking of muffins and the watching of Ally McBeal, though sometimes they will also view taped reruns of Sisters. Freaky. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl tries to bribe a man named Carl into submission. The Traveler’s Group calls with a better offer just before Carl can capitulate.

Stinger:

Quoth Troy, “Rowsdower?”

Thoughts:

I hates that rabbit.Simply typing out the name “Zap Rowsdower” does not do it justice. Sure, it looks stupid; it just doesn’t look stupid enough. To get the full effect, you need to hear it spoken aloud. No, no, not by you. You have far too nice a speaking voice. I can hear the disbelief in your tone, a kind of “who in their right mind would name a child that?” effect you could get just as easily by saying “Apple Martin-Paltrow” or “Moon Unit Zappa.” No, “Zap Rowsdower” is a very special name, and it requires very special treatment. First, you need a thirteen-year-old boy. Borrow one if you don’t have one yourself. (They’re not hard to find. In fact, it should be fairly easy to persuade someone to pay you to take one off her hands for a while.) Be careful not to get anything too masculine. The skinnier the better—you want a boy who will wear a ski jacket to hide his lack of shoulders even in the summer. A nasal squeak helps, but it’s best to find one whose voice is just starting to crack. Now make fun of his favorite movie/novel/television show while you beat him up until he cries. (If you have the authority to do so, you can revoke his Internet privileges for a week to give his whining that little extra kick.) Now ask him to say, “Zap Rowsdower.” There. You hear that? That isn’t just a stupid name. That is the most pathetically idiotic name ever conceived in the history of cinema. Now give the poor boy some action figures and a pizza, thank him for his cooperation, and send him home. Or, if you prefer not to antagonize a potential future multi-billionaire software magnate, you could just watch The Final Sacrifice and wince at each of the thirty-some-odd times actor Christian Malcolm addresses his costar’s character by name.

The Final Sacrifice reminds me an awful lot of the Season Six snorefest, Last of the Wild Horses. Not because it has a horse in it, but because the plot hinges on a lengthy series of unlikely coincidences, the removal of any one of which would immediately bring the movie to a screeching halt.

Or does it? Looking closer at this low budget Canadian turkey reveals that what originally appears to the casual viewer as slipshod storytelling is actually the subtle manifestation of an entire level of divine intervention. Of course I am referring to the Ziox Pantheon. How does Satoris know that Troy has found his father’s map, and why didn’t he show up during any of the prior seven years when it was moldering, unclaimed, in the attic? Because his dark idol (we will call him Non-Glutinous, Bovine God of Tall Sticks) could not reveal it to his followers until Troy had wakened him by gazing upon his unholy symbol. While fleeing beefy wrestlers, why did Troy climb into the vehicle of a sympathetic former cult member? Of course it was due to the machinations of the benevolent Ziox deity Marconi, God of Three-Ton Radios and Other Finicky Appliances, who arranged for Rowsdower’s truck to break down just long enough for Troy to find him. No doubt Marconi was also responsible for causing the truck to break down again right next to a landmark depicted on Troy’s ancient map. How did Satoris find the idol, even when Dad MacGreggor’s map and the power of Non-Glutinous could not help him? Naturally, it was due to the help of Porcine, Trickster God of Speech Impediments, who always plays both sides against the middle. Rowsdower’s serendipitous grappling hook weapon must also have been placed by the yawning prankster deity. Now that I think about it, the conveniently well-informed and well-placed Mike Pipper is probably none other than Porcine himself, in mortal guise...

What? Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t make any of this up. No need to. It’s all right there in the movie itself, if you look hard enough. Really.

My favorite sketch of this episode is the Canada song in host segment two. It starts off amusing, builds to funny, and then ends up hilarious when Tom takes his Canada-bashing too far. The Hockey Hair/Grizzled Old Prospector Syndrome sketches are a close second, and Pearl’s ineffectual attempts to take over individual people work well also. (And, boy, they’ve watered down her character from the evil competence of the Comedy Central era. All that wormhole surfing must have shorted out something in her mind). Also, if Tom could just ask, I would simply give him my recycling. If he throws that mannequin through my window one more time, I’m taking it away and not giving it back…

The film segments are hilarious, largely thanks to the Satellite crew’s mockery of our pathetically unheroic heroes. Unflattering shots of Rowsdower’s jeans while pushing his filthy, broken-down truck out of the mud are enhanced with Mike’s comment, “Children and pregnant women should not watch this scene. In fact, no one should watch any of these scenes.” After frequent repetition of the ancient civilization’s name, Crow says, “Ziox™: Now with Lapitiphamin.” When the toothpick model of Ziox rises from the earth and ascends to heaven, Tom says, “Not actually a lost city; it’s just unclaimed.” Also included are numerous comments about Dad MacGreggor’s vague resemblance to actor/football player Larry Csonka, and a gut-bustingly funny sequence during the end credits when Crow tries to pitch The Final Sacrifice to Mike as a weekly television show. The commentary is quotable and rapid-fire all the way through, and the host segments are first-rate. This is one of the best episodes in the run of the show.