Posts Tagged ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

Part Nine: Yours Truly, Robert Bloch 

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con New York City

George browsed a book vendor while waiting for the auditorium to open for tonight’s panel. A blue covered book caught his eye, on the cover was the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. Flipping through the pages, he remembered reading Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby as a kid. He put it back, then noticed a few movie novelizations and spin-off books were present. George spotted a Halloween novel. It wasn’t an adaptation of one of the movies though. The title read, “Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.” by Nicholas Grabowsky. This book also brought back memories, as he borrowed it from Dan back in film school. The novel was an original story where both Michael Myers and Dr. Gavin survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II. Myers awakes from a ten year coma to wreak havoc on Haddonfield. Dr. Gavin returns to again save Laurie Strode, who now has a daughter. Myers is legitimately blown up in the climax, but the novel ends on a great twist when Laurie is killed by her now psychotic eight year old daughter, who has inherited her uncle’s madness.

George then picked up the next book, which he never read. Halloween: The Revenge apparently followed the exploits of the child psychotic. It looked pretty cool, and he soon put it down to browse Halloween: Child’s Play, which was a crossover novel where the killer girl gets with Chucky, the evil doll from the Child’s Play series. The vendor told him a new crossover novel was coming out soon, mixing the two aforementioned series with the new Puppet Master films. “That sounded fun,” George thought to himself.

He put these books back when he noticed two others. American Gothic was a novel he’d read as a teenager. It was about this guy named H. H. Holmes who had a literal torture chamber in his house. George made the mistake of lending the book out in college and it never got back to him. The thing was, this case was actually real. Dr. Holmes Murder Castle, was a factual account of the real life case by the same author of American Gothic, the same author he was going to meet tonight. He hadn’t read the factual account, and decided to buy both books. After paying and putting both books in his bag, he went into the now open auditorium. 

The special topic tonight was the history of the horror film, hosted by the man George sought to meet, Robert Bloch. George was growing to like his work, but he wondered why Bloch was presenting on this topic, since he had little if anything to do with horror movies. As the author was introduced, George now realized, per the MC’s introduction, that Bloch wrote television episodes for shows George liked, such as Monsters, Tales of the Unexpected, and Darkroom. Not only that, but he also wrote episodes of the original Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. The MC joked that Robert Bloch had the heart of a young boy, which he keeps in a jar on his desk. This elicited laughter from the audience and Robert Bloch took the stage.

After receiving a warm reception, the author graciously thanked the convention for having him, then jested “You were too cheap to ask Stephen King and you knew I needed lunch money.” The audience laughed some more. George did not expect to find the master of psycho tales to be cracking jokes, but there he was.

Naturally Bloch started with the golden age of horror of the 1930’s and 40’s. He pointed out how the classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were all foreigners, and/or characters from European folklore. Then in the 50’s you had the nuclear monsters in the wake of the atomic bomb. George remembered watching those movies. His dad and his sister liked them too. He remembered one time he covered himself with a blanket trying to scare his sister while they watched The Blob. He rolled over to her in his disguise and Helen just laughed hysterically.

There wasn’t as much to cover in the 1960s, but Bloch noted that the 1970s brought a pronounced change. George cheered ferociously at the mention of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Hearing such an exuberant response, Bloch pointed to George and said “I bet you loved the sequel, the Tennessee Slumber Party.” to which George and everyone else howled in laughter. Bloch went on to explain how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a 1974 film about a group of hillbillies in rural Texas. The lead villain, a deformed character named Saw-man, dispatched random motorists with his trusty chainsaw. George wished with all his heart that that movie could have turned into a series. In his mind it could have stood up there with the modern franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Unfortunately, in the real world, a sequel never came.

Bloch’s point about Chainsaw was, while it was not a big hit, it marked the beginning of a trend of homegrown American horror, of scary stories of not a foreign or alien menace, but about your neighbor, the guy next door. Other movies mentioned included Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, which Bloch joked was followed by the sequel the Woods have Noses. Bloch theorized that in the wake of the Manson murders and the social unrest of the 1960s, audiences were developing a taste for real life and brutality in their horror. George was never academic about his fandom, but he was unsure of Bloch’s theory. After all, as the author himself had said, the aforementioned films were not big hits.

Halloween was mentioned, which brought about a big cheer. “If you remember, the first two Halloween movies weren’t about ghosts and werewolves,” Bloch reminded the audience. “It was about a boy, Michael Myers, who was a psychotic killer. Michael Myers wasn’t from another country or from outer space, he was from anytown USA. Now, hearing the cheers in this crowd, assuming you’re not cheering for me,” to which the audience laughed again, “these movies obviously found an audience.” Another cheer erupted as Bloch continued, “but the truth was these weren’t very successful movies when you look at the box office. Now if you look in the last decade, we seemed to have taken the idea of the home-grown threat, and brought it back to the monster. If you look at Halloween, it did inspire a sub-genre known as the slasher, with movies like the Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but they weren’t huge hits like 1980’s Friday the 13th with it’s Jersey Devil, or like CHUD, or Critters, or the Thing remake. You did have ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, with Freddy Kreuger being slasher-esque, but he’s also like a ghost, more supernatural. Halloween itself got away from the slasher genre it helped create in its later installments, bringing in witches and ghosts and werewolves. Reportedly the next entry of that series is going to involve vampires. I have an idea for the following one though.” He then suggested, pointing his finger up in the air, “It should be about Jack the Ripper!” Again the audience laughed, especially from those familiar with Bloch’s frequent works involving the infamous London serial killer.

“So what will the 90s bring to horror cinema,” Bloch asked as he reached the end of his speech, “who knows? Sequels for all the big franchises are still in the works, but undoubtedly a new generation will come along with new characters that will make us scream.“

After dinner Dan and Victoria sat in on a presentation on entertainment law. The presenter was a young woman, a lawyer who specialized in the entertainment business. Dan found her quite attractive. She had a certain special poise and intelligence about her, similar to what Dan saw in Victoria.

When the presentation ended the woman stayed to take questions from the audience. As Dan and Victoria approached, the woman greeted Dan with a smile and said “Nice shirt.”

Dan looked down at his Halloween shirt that he forgot he was wearing. “Thanks.” he said. Then looking back up at her he asked. “Are you a Halloween fan?”

“Yeah I got a soft spot for the original.” The lawyer revealed. “Actually I auditioned for a role in it.”

“Wait what!?!” Dan and Victoria were both surprised as Dan asked. “You were an actress?”

“Well my mother was.” The woman said. “You probably never heard of her. Janet Leigh?” 

Dan drew a blank but Victoria recognized that name. “Oh, I know her, she was in the Machurian Candidate and Angels in the Outfield!”

“That’s right!” The woman said, pleasantly surprised.

“And she was in Touch of Fear!” Victoria added enthusiastically.

“The Orson Wells classic.” The woman said. Then pointing at Victoria she said to Dan. “That’s a smart girl you have there.” 

“Thanks,” Dan said, “she’s the best.” 

“Aww that’s so sweet.” The woman said, admiring the young couples affection for each other.

“So what happened?” Victoria asked.

“Well when I was young the acting bug got me, so I dropped out of law school to give it a shot. My big break never came though.” she explained, revealing no remorse over her path in life. “So eventually I went back to school, became an entertainment lawyer, and here I am!”

“That’s really cool.” Victoria said. “Do you ever regret it, not getting to act?”

“Sometimes I think about it, but I like what I’m doing.” she answered.  “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take a stab at it!” she said laughing while she thrusted her hand in a stabbing motion. “In the meantime if you ever need representation here is my card.”

Both Dan and Victoria took her business card. Dan looked down to read it. “Jamie Curtis.” Looking up he said “Well it was nice to meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too!” Jamie Curtis said. She smiled as the young couple walked away. The lawyer then turned to chat with the last few people remaining in the room.

Leatherface is a prequel to the 1974 classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and focuses on the origin story of the franchise’s chainsaw wielding lead character. For whatever reason, Leatherface was given only a limited theatrical release and was then sent straight to Video On Demand services.

The majority of this film takes place in 1965, the premise being that years prior local law enforcement took the Sawyer children into protective custody. Now, nearing adulthood, they have spent several years in an insane asylum. One night there is a riot, and four inmates escape along with a kidnapped nurse.

Surprisingly this entry takes the feel of a horror road trip movie, akin to The Devil’s Rejects or Natural Born Killers, with some scenes reminding me of Hannibal and the more recent Revenant. The majority of this prequel focuses on the inmates being on the run from the police, one of which is shown to be pretty crazy in his own right. I suppose this is an attempt to make Leatherface more sympathetic.

There’s also the issue of which of these inmates turns out to be Leatherface, which adds a hint of mystery to it. However, maybe because of this, the cannibalistic nature of the Sawyer family is downplayed until the end, and once Leatherface’s identity is revealed, it was unclear to me what ever made him think to make his first skin mask.

Clarice, one of the escapees, was to me the most intriguing character of the film. Given she was a supporting character, I suppose that counts as a weakness. The scene taking place in a diner was the highlight of the film. If you pay attention to character names, you’ll catch few nods to the first second, and previous chainsaw films. Until the end there is limited onscreen violence, but if you recall the same was the case for the original. It does have a modern polished look to it, and it could have used more of the grit of the first movie.

Leatherface is not a great movie, but it is not terrible either. It is better its previous entry Texas Chainsaw 3D from a few years ago. If you’re a fan of the series I would recommend it.

I’ve never reviewed a movie on here that I haven’t seen in a theater, but I wanted to review this as I’m a fan of the Texas Chainsaw series. It came out the first weekend of 2013 and I was in Korea at the time where horror movies always seem to come late. To my knowledge it never came to Korea, the fact that it bombed probably didn’t help.

Texas Chainsaw is unique, in it’s not a remake, but a direct sequel to the original movie, ignoring the other sequels and the remake and it’s prequel. So it’s kind of a reboot of the sequels. To my knowledge that’s never been done before.

It opens with a brief recap of the first movie. We get highlights that have been digitally restored and looks incredibly sharp. Picking up immediately where the original left off, the local Sheriff goes to the house and wants to bring Leatherface in. We see the family, including Grandpa. Other family members show up, (including one played by original Leatherface Gunner Hansen) and after a tense moment it appears they agree to send Leatherface out. However the local towns people show up, and acting as vigilantes they burn the house down. The look of the film in this sequence matches the re-mastered look of the original highlights that were just shown.

After the fire one of the men from the town finds a woman from the Sawyer family holding her baby. The man kills the woman and takes the baby. The rest of the film picks up with that baby, now and adult woman named Heather, learning of her birth right. This isn’t a plot twist, it’s established right up front. Apparently she had a grandmother that recently died that married into an oil family and has this big mansion. Upon first viewing I didn’t catch how she got all this money.

Texas Chainsaw starts out great and has a good premise following up on the theme of family. Unfortunately it’s not scary at all. Leatherface, who obviously survived somehow, has a very underwhelming reveal, and while starting off strong it lost me when Heather and her friends do something incredibly stupid regarding the house. 

The commentaries and features are interesting, as it’s revealed that the actual original chainsaw appears on film. The Sawyer house from the first movie was meticulously re-created, only to be burned to the ground. That opening scene that I loved was actually directed by original Chainsaw director Tobe Hooper. There’s three different audio commentaries, during which some of the other chainsaw films are subtly knocked. However most of those sequels I feel are better than this.

One of the commentaries has cast members from the original, including Gunner Hansen and Marilyn Burns, who played the surviving character from the first movie (who’s character isn’t mentioned in this, I was curious about what happened to her) and makes a cameo in a flashback scene as Heather’s grandmother. Most of that commentary is spent talking about the original film. This may be the only case where the DVD features are more interesting that the feature.

One issue is there’s a big time gap the film makers purposely ignore. The original explicitly states that it takes place in 1973. This new movie definitely takes place today, and Heather is a 20 something. On the commentaries they say they basically ignored this, and put some 80’s era cars in the Tobe Hooper directed opening scene to make up some time difference. But even the 1980’s is 30 years ago now. This would have been a good movie to make in the 90s (only scarier) instead of the even worse Texas Chainsaw New Generation. 

I really wanted to like this and I really wanted this to succeed. Before it was released Lionsgate stated that something like 6 sequels were planned. I was curious where they would take it, but it probably won’t happen now.