Actor-director David Arquette unleashes his cinematic odyssey, ‘The Tripper,’ at the Santa Cruz Film Festival | by Christa Martin
After numerous e-mails, phone calls and waiting around for two weeks for an interview with David Arquette, I’m on the verge of giving up. Right then, my phone rings. “Hi, this is David Arquette,” says the film and television star, much to my amazement. We exchange pleasantries and he offers apologies for the confusion over scheduling an interview. OK, all is forgiven. He’s a really nice guy.
Right out of the gate, Arquette is friendly, unassuming and generous with his time and conversation. It kind of makes you want to go out and rally for his new flick, The Tripper, which he directed and is self-distributing. It plays on opening night for the Santa Cruz Film Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19 at the Del Mar Theatre.
These rallying efforts are just what Arquette needs. He’s currently on a bus tour promoting The Tripper, asking fans to encourage their local theaters to get the campy horror film onscreen. Considering the down-to-earth nature of this director/actor/Hollywood star, the fact that he’s doing an independent blitz with this film and the movie was shot in Santa Cruz, are just the sorts of things that any good Santa Cruz activist needs to know to hit his campaign trail. After all, he’s come to a town that could also be called Activists R Us. Oh, and to make our liberal audience even more stoked, there’s a pig in the movie called George W. And the bad guy in the movie wears a Ronald Reagan mask. Santa Cruz is going to love this movie.
“No hippies or Republicans were harmed in the making of my film,” Arquette says, and you just know he’s smiling on the other end of the phone. “It’s a movie and all the blood in it was corn syrup.”
Sure, they weren’t harmed, but they did get a little beat up (fake movie style) in The Tripper. The film’s plot revolves around a group of 2007 hippies. “They’re … a new form of hippie,” Arquette says. “A hybrid hippie/drug addict, irresponsible. Not the hippies of the ’60s that made serious change in the country.”
Indeed. These are the Jamie King (Sin City) and Jason Mewes (Silent Bob) types of hippies—Hollywood hippies, wannabe hippies, hippies who wear pink Ugg boots, probably shave their armpits and are a bit too pretty to be full fledged hippies. Nonetheless, they have the requisite Scooby Doo van to carry them all around in.
The movie begins with a typical day in the life of some local activists, who are fighting to prevent a tree being cut down. The guy in charge of the project shows up with his son in the car. He barks out orders to the hippies to knock it off. And then something really gruesome and telling happens. The first grandiose act of violence debuts in the movie, and the manner in which it happens is startling.
”There’s a slight political message,” Arquette says. “It’s a fun, crazy movie, a throwback to the slasher movies of the ’70s, and a psychedelic element to it. Ultimately, I wanted to make a little political statement using the extreme left and extreme right. … Maybe some of the political decisions in the world around me make a statement on the plot of the film and ultimately the main message is that the true killers and psychopaths are the world leaders who sign pieces of paper that allow kids to go out and blow their brains out.”
With that said, this is how the movie plays out in all of its campy blood and guts gore, political jabs and original twist on the classic horror film: On this sunny Santa Cruz day, a van full of hippies (including King and Mewes) set out from wherever they’ve come from, on a trip to a music festival in the heart of the eerie woods. (Photography was shot at Big Basin State Park, so you’ll probably recognize much of the scenery.) These young adults are high on both life and drugs, except for King’s character, the only seemingly drug-free person in this environment. Also, she’s carrying a few demons along with her. She recently split from a psycho, over-possessive, anti-hippie boyfriend. Later on in the movie, she begins to fear that he might have followed her up to the woods.
These Hollywood hippies arrive in the woods, only to find out that they’re not particularly wanted in these parts. Guys wearing flannels and carrying around shotguns taunt them. It’s here that Arquette makes an amusing and splendid cameo as a gun-toting lumberjack with a penchant for beating up hippies.
Our Scooby Doo van and its passengers skirt around the hills looking for their music fest where they find Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) in a role so very not like Pee-Wee. He’s an entertainment hustler who’s here to put on a show, regardless of whether or not a murderer is on the loose.
And speaking of that murderer, without giving away too much of the plot, there’s a scary man on the loose in those hills (wearing a Ronald Reagan mask), and our stars will need to watch their backs if they’re going to make it through this music fest in one hybrid hippie piece.
The script for The Tripper was written by Arquette and Joe Harris, and was produced by Arquette and his wife, Courteney Cox’s company, Coquette Productions. Coquette, as a company, was also behind the well-received Cox vehicle, Dirt, which just wrapped its season finale on FX.
Arquette seems to have a fondness for Santa Cruz. His best friend has family that lives here, and Arquette used to go to camp in this area when he was a kid. “There are a ton of really interesting people, it’s beautiful and I love the setting, and it’s got a cool eeriness about it too,” Arquette says. He adds that he “had a blast and everyone was really supportive and Big Basin was amazing and helpful.”
One of the crazier experiences that Arquette had while filming The Tripper was that, “We found a real human finger there, on the ground and had to turn it in to the rangers,” he says.
Hopefully he didn’t turn it in to Chip Street, a local who was cast as an extra in the film and played the part of a ranger. Street laughs when he recalls that his costume was so realistic that sometimes hikers would appear out of nowhere and ask Street and the other extras who were dressed up as state park rangers for directions. “We got in the habit of giving them directions,” Street says, good-naturedly. “Turn left at the tree.” He says even Reubens thought he was a ranger at one point and asked for Street to take a photo of Reubens and an extra.
A particular extra that steals a lovely moment in the film is Courteney Cox Arquette who is onscreen for maybe five seconds in a hilarious hippie bit. She’s dressed up in full hippie clothes, wearing a long blonde wig, shouting about how the mangy, evil dogs that are attacking people are “God’s creatures, they’re our friends.”
The Arquettes will reportedly be in attendance at the screening of The Tripper on the 19th at the Del Mar.
The Tripper plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19 as the opening film at the Santa Cruz Film Festival. The short film, “Chet Helms: The Big Brother of the Summer of Love” runs before “The Tripper.” Tickets are $25/general and $20/students and seniors. Ticket holders can also attend the opening night party at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz. Tickets can be purchased by visiting ticketweb.com, santacruzfilmfestival.com or Sylvan Music. Look for “The Tripper” to open at Nickelodeon Theatres on Friday, April 20.