Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2



Imagine that you’re a filmmaker in the position to create the follow up to your biggest success to date. Adding stress to the opportunity is the fact that this success is one of the key touchstones in horror movie history. With this as his starting point, Tobe Hooper must have been under an enormous amount of pressure when making the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

Revisiting the sequel almost 30 years later, I think Hooper performed an amazing feat. To recreate the perfect storm of elements that made the original what it is would have been an impossible task – something that both fans and critics didn’t fully appreciate at the time of the film’s release. Instead, Hooper and co-writer/co-producer L.M. Kit Carson updated the scenario and again commented on the social climate at the time in which the film was made, but now it was the 1980’s with which they were dealing.

With that in mind, Chainsaw 2 is a dayglow gore fest (some of the over the top FX were cut during the film's initial release, but they've been reinstated in subsequent versions) that fits in perfectly with the comedy-horror vibe that defined the genre in that decade (see Re-Animator, Night of the Creeps, Evil Dead 2, et al). Gone is the realism and harsh horror of the original, replaced by fantasy and fanaticism – an understandable reaction to the Reagan Era. The difference is there, right from the beginning when we first hear Hopper and Jerry Lambert's terrible synth score that really emphasizes the potential annoying weakness of the instrument at the time. Happily, there are a number of great tracks from 1980's bands like The Cramps and Concrete Blonde on the soundtrack (some of the film is set in a radio station) that help balance it.

Present in the first film, black humour is more obvious in Part 2. The family homestead is replaced by the Texas Battle Land amusement park, taking the threat away from that of the dysfunctional family and its interaction with youth culture, and placing it entirely in the realm of entertainment. This conscious choice away from the sensibilities of the 70’s and into the 80’s is reflected in Tom Savini’s effects work, Cary White’s Production Design and Richard Kooris’ cinematography.

The cast of the original, so natural in their performances, are matched in their effectiveness by their 1980’s counterparts, albeit in a “heightened” manner that connects with the film’s tone. Caroline Williams as Stretch delivers an outstanding performance and the only one grounded in reality; Dennis Hooper, a returning Jim Siedow, Lou Perryman, and Bill Moseley as the unforgettable Chop-Top are all terrific too.

In 1986, a fan of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre expecting more of the same would be greeted by a film that seemed to revel in the exact opposite of what the 1974 classic offered: over the top onscreen gore (trimmed, but the build up if not always the payoff was there), broad comedy, overtly sexualized violence... Where was the fear, the ferociousness of the original? The fact is that 1986 was a far different time than 1974, and the differences between the two films are the differences between the two decades. That in itself makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 definitely worth another look.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

RELEASE ME AGAIN! More Movies That Need a (Decent) Region 1 DVD Release

In 2011 I created a list of movies that I felt should be given a decent release on Region 1 DVD or Blu-Ray. You can find that list by clicking here. Happily, many of the titles I listed are now available, paving the way for a second list, and that what you'll find below:

Arnold
(USA, 1973; Dir: Georg Fenady)



Blood and Roses
(France/Italy, 1960; Dir: Roger Vadim)



Deranged (Uncut Version)
(Canada/USA, 1974; Dir: Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby)



The Devils (Uncut Version)
(UK, 1971; Dir: Ken Russell)



The Early Films of John Waters:
Hag in a Black Leather Jacket/Roman Candles/
Eat Your Makeup/The Diane Linkletter Story

(USA, 1964-1970; Dir: John Waters)

Photo by Anton Perich

The Farmer
(USA, 1977; Dir: David Berlatsky)



I Was a Teenage Frankenstein
(USA, 1957; Dir: Herbert L. Strock)



I Was a Teenage Werewolf
(USA, 1957; Dir: Gene Fowler Jr.)



Island of Terror
(UK, 1966; Dir: Terence Fisher)



Livid
(France, 2011; Dir: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury)



Symptoms (UK/Belgium, 1974; Dir: José Ramón Larraz)



Der Todesking
(Germany, 1990; Dir: Jörg Buttgereit)



Willard/Ben
(USA, 1971/1972; Dir: Daniel Mann/Phil Karlson)



White Reindeer
(Finland, 1952; Dir: Erik Blomberg)



Thursday, 3 July 2014

Monsters I Have Loved


Like most Monster Kids, the Universal monsters are where my love of horror films truly began. It's impossible to post about these iconic creations, however, without mentioning make up artist Jack Pierce who established the look for each save for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. He was designed by Millicent Patrick with input from Bud Westmore.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My Other Blog



I started a second blog after a recent Facebook conversation with filmmaker Harmony Wagnor. In this conversation, Harmony asked her FB friends to tell her what they didn't like about Canadian films. This made me think of a TV idea I'd pitched a few years ago that didn't go anywhere. The idea was that the public would vote on the best Canadian films, and we'd end up with list that would be a catalyst of sorts - a decent starting point from which Canadians and movie lovers around the world could further explore Canadian movies.

As access to and lack of knowledge about the existence of many Canadian movies were two of the main issues that came out of the conversation Harmony started, I decided go ahead and see what I could stir up as far as highlighting Canadian films online. That's why I started Maple Leaf Movies.

What I'm asking you and others to do is to: 1) go online HERE and submit as many Canadian films as you feel belong on a list of Great Canadian Films. In the fall, we'll have a vote and determine a list of 25 (give or take) films. The plan from there is to have writers write about each of the film on the list. 2) Pass it on. I'd like as many films and as many people as possible involved with this.