|The Texas Chainsaw Marathon (03.27.14 - 03.29.14, 7 movies)|
|03.27.14||The Texas Chainsaw Massacre||Tobe Hooper||I just finished reading Gunnar Hansen's Chain Saw Confidential about the making of this movie. It inspired me to revisit this one... and fuck it all of them. So, over the course of the next few days or whenever I can fit them in, I will re-watch all the Texas chainsaws... even though it's kind of a bum proposition because I'm starting with the best. I would say I would marathon it but... we're talking about 7 movies plus a DVD documentary that I snagged and it's already 3am... so this will be an exercise in moderation as well as nostalgia.|
This first film is magic. It still works. It's such a brutal experience. Watching it again after many years, the pacing had completely stretched in my mind. The chase through the woods was like 15 minutes in my memory as was the dinner scene and the van stuff. Really I thought the movie was those 3 scenes... They're really not that long... they had just stuck so firmly in my brain that they dominated over everything else.
Reading Hansen's book, you kind of get the sense that this happened by accident. I'll have to re-listen to the commentary to hear Hooper talk directly about it, but mostly it feels like an accident too. It's a wonder that the movie came together at all, much less as effectively as it did. And Christ you feel the heat.
So we're off to a good start. Somehow I think my memory has been pretty kind to the next three in the series, but we'll see. I'm looking forward to them.
Side Note: I absolutely love and cherish my DVD copy of this movie. I think it's a Pioneer release of an Elite laserdisc because there's lots of mentions in the credits. It's a fantastic disc full of comprehensive extra footage with contextual introductions and trailers for the next three films and a great group commentary in addition to some fancy digital transfer and new stereo mix of the soundtrack (although the original mono is also available). It really reminds me of what was so great about DVDs (and by extension laserdiscs) back in the early days before the studios figured out how to ruin them. Love it.
|03.28.14||The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2||Tobe Hooper||This reminded me a bit of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 in that the first film felt definitively seventies and the sequel couldn't be more eighties. Where the original was an indie production of a dozen people out on their own in the Round Rock summer heat, this is a full on Cannon Golan/Globus buy-the-soundtrack popcorn fest. Half of it takes place in some underground carnival of dust and bad props, Leatherface is all of a sudden sexualized and the Cook monologues hard-core while the girl is strapped in to the dinner table. The daringly subtle comedy of the first is on full display here (one look at the classic poster tells you that). Basically everything that felt casual and implied in the first is now made completely explicit and exploited.|
That said, it's hard to blame an 80s horror movie for being an 80s horror movie. It's a product of it's time no less than the original so I don't see that as necessarily bad. And moments are still effective like the scene on the bridge where the UT fans get it (remembered) and the scene where hot-top intimidates the girl in the radio station (remembered) and the scene where Leatherface puts L.G.'s face on the girl (forgotten).
I remember when I watched all the Nightmares on Elm Street that it was interesting to see how quickly the character of Freddy became caricature and the same thing happened here. Leatherface is referred to by name a bunch and does his signature saw raised/head shimmy in every scene that he's in. Again, maybe that's the time period...
In the end, it's a pale disappointing shadow of the original, but really the original can't be sequelled. It's an artifact almost like it was found in some creepy attic half-melted from the heat. To spend any more time with that family is just a bad idea.
However, creating a new family that acts just like them? With Viggo Mortensen eating blood off your bumper? Let's see about that...
|03.28.14||Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III||Jeff Burr||I remember liking this entry in the series quite a bit when it hit my local video shelves. I feel like maybe it was better than a lot of the other horror movies I was renting at the time. In fact I feel like maybe I saw this before the original, although I have some fragmented memories of the second, maybe seen on cable at some point when I was younger than I should have been.|
Watching it now, I do find it drags less than the second film. It's kind of a half reboot, half sequel that makes no canonical sense but whatever... at this point TCM means two and only two things: Leatherface, and crazy cannibal family. The trailer for this one had "Junior" having his chainsaw delivered unto him Lady-of-the-lake style. The chainsaw dominates the poster. The beginning titles involve an Elm Street-esque montage of Leatherface stitching together his mask. I also remember this being the time that they started offering "professional" Leatherface masks in the pages of Fangoria for some unbelievably rich (to a middle schooler) sum. At this point he's in the rogue's gallery right next to Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees and Fred Krueger. I guess Pinhead too, right? Oh and don't forget whatshisname from Hatchet! LOL.
Anyway, Viggo didn't eat the blood from the fender like I remembered. It's interesting that Savini did the second one and KNB did the third. Those guys have dominated the horror make-up for decades now.
I'm all over the place with these notes. I guess I liked this ok. The family seems crazy for no reason and they seem more focused on hunting humans than anything else... actively predatory rather than tucked away on their own although I guess that's a natural progression from the last one.
Bring on the fourth... which I think it going to be the hardest to get through although again I have fond memories of seeing it when it first came out, thinking it was better than it should've been. We'll see!
|03.28.14||Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation||Kim Henkel||AKA The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.|
You know, all through watching Dallas Buyers Club I suspected something was up but now after revisiting this I'm convinced that McConaughey's Oscar was payback for this performance going unnoticed.
McConaughey won the Oscar when Dallas Buyers Club producers included this movie on the screener with an engraved note saying "Most Improved" in frilly fancy script.
When William Friedkin met with mcConaughey to talk about his role in Killer Joe, Friedkin was worried that McConaughey didn't have the chops to carry such a heavy performance. "I can do it, Billy," he said. "I understand this character completely. Hell, I AM this character." Friedkin looked at McConaughey with concern in his eyes. "It's not that," Friedkin said, "I know you understand the character and his motivations. It's the fact that you don't have a remote-controlled cyber leg to hold you up in this one. The part's too HEAVY!"
ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT
Ok ok enough awesome McConaughey humor. Let's talk about this movie.
So... ok the obvious point is that most of this movie is really really terrible. The characters are distilled to the point of satiric jokes (although the dick guy is hilarious and the bitch girl is almost as funny), the performances are terrible, the whole Illuminati angle is a complete mystery and I guess tries to answer a question that nobody ever asked, much of the action feels sloppy and low low budget (although thankfully this is pre-digital video so it still looks better than half the shit today), and Leatherface now just screams like every moment he's in a scene he's more Screamface than Leatherface. And of course... McConaughey has a fucking CYBER LEG that's receptive to any REMOTE CONTROL that... I don't know... gives him super stomping powers or something.
So if you take all of that and disregard it, there's some pretty good stuff here. I like that it's shot in Austin (which I don't think the third one was even shot in Texas... I saw an awful lot of Joshua trees), I like how turn-it-to-11 insane McConaughey is right from the get go. I like a woman crazy thrown into the mix, although the first actual boob in the series gets inserted out of nowhere and - if I can type this without dying of irony - kind of cheapens the film. I like the throwback cast at the end and sometimes (SOMETIMES) the script feels sharp. And even though I hate the Illuminati thing, I like that they tried to take it somewhere instead of just telling the same exact story again. Now, whether I prefer an underground carnival or 20 year-old McConaughey working for Mr. suit-and-flesh-rings, I don't know. I'd probably put the third one above both other sequels. But it could have been worse. For a movie like this that maybe never would have been released were it not for Jerry Maguire and A Time to Kill, it SHOULD have been worse.
So there you have it. the "original" series is done. It's a super fragmentary and relapsing series really. By this time Jason had "died" and Freddy fought dream warriors and... who knows what Michael Meyers did I don't really like most of the Halloween movies. But now I'll probably take a little break before dipping into the "reboot" series... It's funny what 10 years does... music videos and 9/11 changed a lot.
|03.28.14||The Texas Chainsaw Massacre||Marcus Nispel||I must've seen this right before making this site because I'm surprised it's not in here already.|
So... Isn't it funny that I got more of a kick out of The Next Generation than I did this... It's just so... boring. I mean all of the Michael Baby/music video setups and filters and sprayed on sweat and where the fuck is all this dripping water coming from and who are they kidding like Jessica Biel has to kill the blonde dude just because he can't do a pull up?
From a misogynist point of view, Kudos to Marilyn Burns for going braless in the original. Staring at Jessica Biel's navel is ok but they go out of their way to give her a soaking wet white tank several times and some mysterious maternity bra shows up. Ugh.
Um... so things I liked. R. Lee Ermey of course... his sheriff is nicely nutso and is easily the best part of the family. Oh yeah, so Leatherface has no nose now? Huh? Sorry... things that I liked... hmmm.
Well I'm pretty sure I'll still like this more than the next. To be honest I'm kind of looking forward to seeing the latest one, but the prequel I still kind of remember sitting through at a Fantastic Fest and thinking it was stupid and boring so... hopefully I'm wrong!
|03.29.14||The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning||Jonathan Liebesman||The less said about this one the better. It's like a remake of a remake following the formula of the first Platinum Dunes film with a few prequelly bits like "oh look that's where R. Lee Ermey lost his front teeth" and "oh look that's when that old slaughterhouse closed." Really the only differences (spoiler alert) are that the girl doesn't get away in the end and leatherface starts off with a face of real leather and we get a full monologue on how the family started eating people.|
It seems like the first movie happened a long time ago in a place far away. This was all handheld shakiness and weird artificial grain and close-ups and dried fake blood. It's a chore to get through. Hopefully the next one isn't as bad, although at this point I don't think I can imagine a new take on this movie. It's weird... I don't feel particularly like these fit the slasher genre perfectly. Even though teens get killed, I feel like most slasher films really flourish their kills where the first TCM threw them away very quickly. That was what was so great about them. They're kind of like the kills in the Godfather films where each one has an interesting detail and then they're gone. Even with these remakes the teens never die in progression and it's really quite a mess. So maybe because of this different formula, each movie feels more like a half-remake than a sequel to me. The second one is really the only film that feels like it progresses from the original. All the others are more variations on a theme, and watching them all together so close is kind of getting exhausting.
|03.29.14||Texas Chainsaw 3D||John Luessenhop||Well I guess I wrote too soon. All I could think about while watching this is that I had JUST wrote that these are not typical slasher movies and they're all closer to remakes than sequels and here we go with a movie that starts AT the end of the original and follows the slasher template very closely (since the crazy family has become just Leatherface alone and killing teens for no reason). Well at least it's something different from the previous four films.|
The beginning scene went a long way with me. Because of it I found myself willing to forgive all the cheap looking digital gore and the shots where you can see the chain not moving on the saw while he weilds it and the inexplicable reason why the girl refuses to button her shirt up. In fact, I quite liked the twist on the story and making Leatherface more sympathetic. I kind of feel like if the girl was a different type and could pull it off, there's a great ending here where she not only accepts her heritage but also embraces it and starts a new family there. I guess that's sort of what happened with the scene after the credits but you never see her not skittish around her cousin and I just don't buy her doing much other than acting hot and showing off her skinny waist.
Also... a lot of it is not great. Not terrible I guess? but not great. For as non-bloody the original was, this was awash in Karo. It did feel a lot like someone's take on putting Leatherface into a Friday the 13th or something. It's funny that didn't happen until now...
So it's an interesting - if not entirely successful - ending to this marathon for me. I did like this one a whole lot more than the previous two, even though I kind of wish they hadn't flash forwarded and set the whole movie in 74 and dealt with the direct aftermath more. I was really taken with that intro. Anyway, I have one more epilogue to this celebration in store: an hour-long Blue Underground special feature checking in with everyone circa 2000 or so. Since I don't think I'm counting what's probably a DVD special feature as an entry here, I'm going to watch that (and perhaps listen to the commentary on the original disc) and update this note with some final... notes.
The Blue Underground doc was interesting. A lot of the stories and even some quotes show up in Hansen's book, but it's always nice to see the faces as they speak. It also gave a glimpse of how compromised all the sequels were. It's worth watching.
So... final thoughts. The original really does deserve all the credit it gets. The sequels are all kind of rough. But you know... compared to the Nightmare or Friday sequels I'm not sure they're THAT rough. And what I found to be interesting is that, for the most part, the sequels are far enough apart that each one reflects the changing landscape of horror, from indie 70s to excess 80s to tucked pant-legs early 90s to cyborg-fixated mid-90s to music video early 2000s all the way to a post-Avatar 3D.
In the end after all is said and done, this is how I'd rank em:
Wow they are almost in order! I wonder if that means anything...
And now just for fun, let's throw some awards out:
Best Leatherface: Gunnar Hansen. No contest. Everyone else seems to be either imitating Gunnar or acting like a professional wrestler trying to sprint.
Best Gag: The working chainsaw through Leatherface's belly in Part 2. Sure it was kind of obvious that there were two saws, but both chains were moving and his prostetic belly was gross and huge. It was awesome.
Best dig during the opening narration: Next Generation. "Regrettably not one of the family members was ever apprehended and for more than ten years nothing further was heard. Then, over the next several years at least two minor, yet apparently related incidents, were reported." Ouch! Sick burn...
Gooiest bodies: Part 3. The adipoosal or whatever that word is... KNB did some awesome work in that intro with the level 5 biohazard suits pulling up fake heads out of snot and semen. Completely gross.
Best throwback crew connection: It's a tie between Daniel Pearl shooting the 2003 remake and Wayne Bell doing the music for Next Generation. It's a shame that awesome beginning camera flash sound effect was never used as effectively as in the first film. The last four all brought it back in some fashion but they repeated the same sound over and over again like it was sampled from the original. What made the first one so cool was that the sound changed each time you heard it. Sometimes it crunched closed and sometimes it tapered off and the flashbulb glances at the gooey corpses were cut together to match those awesome eerie sounds.
Biggest Dick: Barry from Next Generation. Thinking back I think he's my favorite part of the movie.
Biggest Douche: Ryan from Part 3. Ugh just shut up and stop shining your glasses at me.
Biggest Badass: Benny from Part 3. Not even Leatherface can take out Ken Foree. The only male to survive any of the films... thanks to his weekend warrior training and... all that practice killing zombies I guess.
Biggest Trooper: Marilyn Burns from the original. All the other actresses had to get dirty and cry for a few hours. Marilyn was actually bludgeoned and cut and put through hours or physical and emotional torture, and she STILL came back for two cameos later in the series. Most of the other girls got bras too.
Craziest family member: Tough one. I would say McConaughey but I think he just liked to throw around his girlfriend. Instead I think I'm going with Ed Neal for his hitchhiker in the original. His performance in the van set the bar for everyone else in the entire series. Sorry Viggo, painted fingernails ain't gonna cut it.
Cyber-est Leg: McConaughey in Next Generation. Seriously what the fuck?
This was really fun. If anyone read this, thanks for making it to the end!