Archive for the ‘31 Flavors Of Horror’ Category

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974

 

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was a movie of its time, and it reflected that as surely as any other more prestigious and acclaimed American classic.  It’s a genuinely important American film. Movies of the era such as THE GODFATHER, TAXI DRIVER, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE are justly heralded, but THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is equally important as a historical document of the 1970s.

 

JUST DON'T.

 

The movie arrived in 1974.  This was the era of the Vietnam War.  The war was still going on when the movie was being made.  What director Tobe Hooper and his collaborators did, consciously or otherwise, was to capture the anger of the era.  Obviously there are no politics directly addressed by the story, which is at its core, like PSYCHO before it and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS after it, a hyper-fictionalized elaboration of the Ed Gein story.  The political furor of the era is not to be found in the main text, but instead, it roils underneath, embedded within the ferocious, hopeless atmosphere of the piece.

 

YAR

 

Five years before THE DEER HUNTER or APOCALYPSE NOW, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE managed to reflect the cultural unease, disillusionment, and nihilism that the war in Vietnam, by all accounts, engendered in American minds.  Note how iconic franchise villain Leatherface carries a chainsaw as his weapon of choice.  The chainsaw treats human bodies like inanimate objects – like meat.  The chainsaw is more businesslike, less up-close-and-personal than say, the fangs of Count Dracula, or even the knife wielded by Michael Myers.  The house where Leatherface dispatches most of his victims is, literally, a slaughterhouse.  Meat lockers line the walls.  Bones decorate the room like promises.  The ruddy cinematography by Daniel Pearl gives the images alarming texture.  You can almost smell the coppery metallic death in the air.

 

BONEYARD

 

Horror audiences have become inured to this kind of imagery but in 1974, it had significance.  Human bodies treated like cattle, hung by meat hooks and clubbed in the head with ruthless efficiency.  It’s an impersonal, industrial kind of murder.  When the movie does demand an emotional response to the murders, it does so in unusual, script-flipping sorts of ways.

 

HEY IT'S FRANKLIN

 

Think of Franklin (Paul Partain), the wheelchair-bound character – sure he’s disabled but he’s also one of the most intolerable creatures in film history.  This is a type which movies normally sentimentalize, yet Franklin is so shrill and abhorrent that, if anyone, most audiences end up siding with Leatherface by the time Franklin is sent to his fate.  As the film progresses, the murders are purged of sentiment. Only madness awaits.  Chaos becomes constancy.

 

DELICATESSEN

 

In THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, human beings are just meat, ground up by an unintelligible enemy that cannot be reasoned with or dissuaded.  Now think again of the Vietnam War.  In general terms, the first sentence of this paragraph could be describing the actions of a murderous giant carrying a chainsaw, or that of a lengthy and unpopular overseas conflict which tore apart many American lives.  How much of this thematic resonance was intentional on the part of the young filmmakers and how much was intuitive does not matter as much as the fact that it IS resonant.

 

RED DAWN

 

What an opportunity, then, for a horror movie released in the modern moment, to address some comparable sociopolitical subtext.  Again America is embroiled in an unpopular war overseas.  Unlike the era of the Vietnam War, however, many Americans are not concerned with the details of our current war on a daily basis.  Modern war affects some of us profoundly and many of us hardly at all.  This is very fertile ground for the kind of veiled commentary and brutal satire which is buried within so many of the great horror films.

 

TC3D

 

So far, the current practitioners of the genre are largely failing us.  This past year’s TEXAS CHAINSAW, which I reviewed back in January 2013 and from which I expanded this piece, was an absolute failure to engage either the individual intellect or the sociopolitical viscera.  The most popular horror films of 2013 were haunted-house films like THE CONJURING, spooky and relatively innocuous as far as cultural resonance goes.  Zombies remain the predominant horror paradigm of the moment, whether they be sweet and lovelorn as those in WARM BODIES or swarm-y and CGI-abetted as in WORLD WAR Z or impeccably-designed and personality-free as in The Walking Dead.  And if it’s not zombies, it’s vampires.  And so it has been for over ten years now.

 

ZOMBIE GOSSIP

 

Ghosts.  Zombies.  Vampires.  Dead things.  This is what our horror films are reflecting back upon us. What does that say about our modern preoccupations?  Things have changed.  Times have changed.  Of course, OF COURSE, horror films are almost always about death in one form or another.  But the recent onslaught of horror movies by and large feel antiseptic and by nature of their generous CGI budgets, ultimately safe.  THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, by contrast, feels like a documentary from Hell.  THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, even looked at today, has an energy, an urgency, a vitality, a ferocious vigor to its bloodletting which stands in contrast to the majority of today’s horror output.   Look again at that final, indelible image:  Leatherface, denied his final victim, swinging his chainsaw with simultaneous fury and futility in a blind rage, lit by a dawning sun.  For a killer of masses, in that ultimate moment he is alive.  It’s his Marilyn Monroe moment.  This is how a monster becomes a star.

 

DAWN OF THE RED

 

This is a piece I wrote for Daily Grindhouse. I am reposting it now because a fortieth-anniversary restoration print of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is playing tonight at 11pm, at New York City’s Film Society Of Lincoln Center, which, yes, is precisely the highbrow venue which a film this important deserves. 

 

@jonnyabomb

 

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WTF HOLIDAY

Halloween 2013 is gone (RIP) and Thanksgiving is right up at the door. Guess it’s true what they say:  Time flies, but turkeys can’t (RIP).

I haven’t posted here at Demon’s Resume in quite a while, but that’s not for lack of doing things.  Quite the contrary:  I’ve had no lack at all of doing very many things.  Allow me to recap the most interesting of them, if you will, and then I’ll get back to being a more regular presence here on my own site.  [All of the pictures below will take you to the links I mention, so feel free to click away.]

  • First off, a reminder that my Paracinema cover story on action heroes and aging is still available:

Paracinema #20

For seven bucks plus shipping costs, it can be yours.  And it should be!  It’s some of my best work ever.

Hal Needham

  • For those who love the sound of my voice…:  I was on the Daily Grindhouse podcast for the first time!  I was there to talk about Hal Needham, the all-time great stuntman and director, who passed away last month.  I had occasion to briefly meet Hal Needham the year before he died, so this was sadder than it would have been, but we had a fun time talking about his movies.

Also:  This is my written tribute to Hal Needham.

  • And I also wrote a tribute to Ed Lauter, another great Hollywood tough guy we lost in October.  This has been a rough year in a lot of ways.ED LAUTER
  • In happier news, in October I completed my month-long horror-movie celebration, which I did this year for Daily Grindhouse.  I did more than 31 posts this time.  Here they all are (click on the posters to head to the reviews):

THIS IS THE END (2013) EQUINOX (1970) NEAR DARK (1987) TREMORS (1990) THE MANITOU (1978) MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) BEST WORST MOVIE (2010) THE WICKER MAN (1973) Suspiria (1977) LADY TERMINATOR (1989) JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960). Pacific Rim (2013) NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)Carrie (1976)  Basket Case (1982) Cheap Thrills (2013) Re-release poster for HOUSE (HAUSU), designed by Sam Smith. Nosferatu_poster_by_PandoraDisenos Squirm (1976) SHOCK WAVES (1977) HALLOWEEN (1978) THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007) CHOPPING MALL (1986) STREET TRASH (1987) DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE aka CEMETERY MAN-POSTER The Visitor (1979) The Colony (2013) 

 

Hey, did I ever mention I was on Huffington Post Live a couple times?

Jurassic Park (1993)  Evil Dead (2013)

Here I am talking about re-releases and reboots, for JURASSIC PARK 3D and EVIL DEAD 2013:  {CLICK HERE}

 

Oblivion (2013)  The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

Here I am talking about OBLIVION and THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES and really awkwardly hitting on the host: {CLICK HERE}

 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

  • My book club has been recording our monthly talks as a podcast, so you can listen to any of the episodes by visiting the Books For Crooks page.  For fans of me and of what I do, you’ll probably want to listen to the episode where I recap LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, one of the most baffling movies of the year.

The Butler (2013)

  • I did a list of Underrated Horror Movies for my pal over at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.  In case you didn’t have enough of me and horror-movie talk already, here’s a bunch more.

Rupert Pupkin Speaks

And there’s even more of my writing out there in the world!

Daily Grindhouse

In addition to horror-movie writing, I also wrote about a variety of movie-related subjects for Daily Grindhouse in the past several weeks.

CHILL

Here’s a list of the Top Ten Greatest Nazi-Killers In Film History.

TODAYS-LESSON

Here’s a piece on Japanese cult epic BATTLE ROYALE.

RROARR

Here are some words about legendary artist Jack Kirby and a new museum dedicated to his artwork.

somethingtodowithdeath

The Daily Grindhouse crew (including me) made a list of the Top 50 Essential Books About Cult Movies. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.

VANITY-PAULA-PATTON

Here’s where I cast the upcoming Mötley Crüe movie (this one’s really fun).

Warren Oates shooting the shit with Lee Marvin.

On top of all that, I’ve been much more active on the Demon’s Resume Facebook page, where I’ve been posting fun pictures, links, and various inanities which wouldn’t warrant entire posts here at the site.  It’s me and my unique tastes in bite-sized amounts, in case all my other escapades are too time-consuming.

And as always, you can find me at all kinds of odd hours on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

So how’s all that for a start?

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

My month-long horror-movie celebration is appearing on the Daily Grindhouse website this year, but I will keep you updated here also. There may even be some special treats and “DVD extras” — you never know! Every time I add a column, I’ll post it in this space, so keep this tab open on your browser and hit “refresh” every day for a new piece on a different movie.  Clicking on the posters will take you to the articles. Collect and trade all 31!

THIS IS THE END (2013)0. THIS IS THE END (2013)

EQUINOX (1970)

1. EQUINOX (1970)

NEAR DARK (1987)

2. NEAR DARK (1987)

TREMORS (1990)

3. TREMORS (1990)

THE MANITOU (1978)

4. THE MANITOU (1978)

MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)

5. MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)

BEST WORST MOVIE (2010)

6. BEST WORST MOVIE (2010)

THE WICKER MAN (1973)

7. THE WICKER MAN (1973)

Suspiria (1977)

8. SUSPIRIA (1977)

LADY TERMINATOR (1989)

9. LADY TERMINATOR (1989)

JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011)

10. JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011)

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960).

11. EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960)

Pacific Rim (2013)

12. PACIFIC RIM (2013)

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

13. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Carrie (1976)

14. CARRIE (1976)

Basket Case (1982)

15. BASKET CASE (1982)

Cheap Thrills (2013)

16. CHEAP THRILLS (2013)

Re-release poster for HOUSE (HAUSU), designed by Sam Smith.

17. HAUSU (1977)

Nosferatu_poster_by_PandoraDisenos

18. NOSFERATU (1922)

Squirm (1976)

19. SQUIRM (1976)

SHOCK WAVES (1977)

20. SHOCK WAVES (1977)

HALLOWEEN (1978)

21. HALLOWEEN (1978)

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)

22. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)

23. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

24. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

25. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

26. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

27. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

CHOPPING MALL (1986)

28. CHOPPING MALL (1986)

STREET TRASH (1987)

29. STREET TRASH (1987)

DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE aka CEMETERY MAN-POSTER

30. CEMETERY MAN (1994)

The Visitor (1979)

31. THE VISITOR (1979)

The Colony (2013)

THE COLONY (2013)

And if you follow me on Twitter, you can get alerted to these updates as soon as they happen.  Seriously, drop everything. It’s just plain that important.

@jonnyabomb

Pumpkin

 

 

 

Never trust a poster.  Enjoy them, admire them, put them on your wall, but don’t you ever take their words as gospel.  My point:  If DEADLY FRIEND is “Wes Craven’s Most Terrifying Creation,” well then I’m an eight-foot-tall fuck machine.  Truth in advertising would read more like, “Wes Craven’s Most Inadvertently Hilarious Creation.”  Because otherwise you’re misleading people.  Imagine if somebody’s first exposure to Wes Craven’s work was DEADLY FRIEND!  They’d think he was a modern-day Ed Wood.  Actually, that’d be an awesome prank.  Show a young person DEADLY FRIEND first, and then show them THE HILLS HAVE EYES or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  Nice way to demolish someone’s sanity.

 

 

 

scooby

 

 

 

Wes Craven is a vitally important yet somewhat problematic figure in horror cinema.  He’s made some viscerally horrifying movies that easily earned him a spot in the pantheon, yet he seems to yearn to  scare us in other ways, such as making some movie with Meryl Streep called “MUSIC OF THE HEART” and in this case, making what seems to be a kids’ movie about yellow robots and street basketball that takes a sharp right turn into some kind of weird BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN zombie movie.  Put it in chronological perspective and there’s some truly inexplicable stuff going on:

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1984, Wes Craven released A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET onto the world. Pantheon spot assured. Just two years later, the fatally-compromised DEADLY FRIEND threatened to revoke his horror-master status.  What a thundering misfit of a film.  Clearly several people along the way had drastically different ideas about the movie they were making.  Is it a horror movie?  If so, what kind?  Is it a suburban nightmare vision like Craven’s previous film?  Is it a science-gone-mad story like Mary Shelley’s classic Promethean myth?  Is it an R or a PG-13?  No one knows!  DEADLY FRIEND only works as a comedy, but if you look at it that way, it’s absolutely phenomenal as a comedy.  The movie concerns one of those genius kids you could only meet in the 1980s who teaches college courses and invents a bright yellow robot named “B.B.” (voiced by the same guy who voiced Roger Rabbit).

 

 

 

robot v. punks

 

 

 

 

The robot, which is like a big yellow Johnny Five from SHORT CIRCUIT if Johnny Five had less motility but still a decent pickup game, and if he’d lacked Steve Guttenberg as a calming influence and thusly been willing to crush the nuts of neighborhood punks in a vise-like grip, is the equivalent of problem dog. The kid loves him, but he bites, and eventually he’s got to be put down. The one holding the shotgun is the one-of-a-kind Anne Ramsey – you know her from THE GOONIES, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, and SCROOGED. She plays the mean neighborhood lady who shoots up the kid’s robot. A sad day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the kid has managed to befriend his troubled next-door neighbor, who is played by a very young, distressingly-cute Kristy Swanson. The girl, Sam, suffers under an abusive father, who ends up knocking her down the stairs, which sends her into a  coma. Insanely, the doctors comply with Dad’s decision to pull the plug.  Having now lost his two only friends in the world, what else can the science kid do but put B.B.’s robot personality into Kristy Swanson’s body? If this were any other 1980s teen movie, there’d be sexual overtones concerning having your very own Kristy Swanson robot at home, but it’s a Wes Craven flick, so the robot Sam has to end up going on a killing rampage, despite the fact that, no offense, Kristy Swanson isn’t all that scary.

 

 

 

yowza

 

 

 

Come for the STORY OF RICKY-esque scene where Kristy Swanson destroys Anne Ramsey’s skull with a basketball, stay for the hilariously non-frightening end-credits song where B.B. the robot raps his own name over ominous synthesizer strains.  There’s no way to tell what on earth anyone was thinking, but the end result is a nutball classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an expanded version of an article that appeared on the great movie site Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Please go visit! 

 

 

And me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

Hardware (1990)

Richard Stanley is a drastically-underrated director and Sergio Leone enthusiast from South Africa whose work is ripe for rediscovery.  I’d seen his 1992 film DUST DEVIL before, but not his debut feature, HARDWARE, which I happened to finally get around to during the same weekend I saw the new DREDD movie.

Hardware (1990)

From where I’m sitting, there aren’t many movies as true to the post-punk 2000 AD aesthetic as these two movies, DREDD and HARDWARE, although my friends in the UK will definitely have more trustworthy opinions on the matter.  HARDWARE is based on a short strip from 2000 AD, the same series from whence Judge Dredd arrived.  It actually is derived from a Judge Dredd storyline!

Hardware (1990)

Hardware (1990)

This is the basic pitch:  A trenchcoat-rocking soldier named Moses (Dylan McDermott) purchases the wreckage of a robot found in a post-apocalyptic desert, and brings it back to his sculptor/artist girlfriend Jill (Stacy Travis). While Mo is out, the robot activates and attempts to murder Jill in her apartment.  It may visually call to mind the Terminator of 1984, but this guy’s got some even nastier moves than that cyber-Arnold had.

Hardware (1990)

The deceptively-cheap movie — it’s stylish and relentless and looks like plenty more than a million bucks — is almost entirely about this battle, although it makes time for awesomely bizarre and/or disturbing performances by John Lynch (BLACK DEATH), Mark Northover (WILLOW!), and most unshakably, William Hootkins (STAR WARS, BATMAN, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) as maybe the grossest movie pervert ever.  Iggy Pop and Lemmy also briefly contribute their talents, but with all that craziness surrounding, it all comes down to Jill and her fight to stay alive under attack by that freaky, ferocious robot.  It plays out, under Stanley’s direction, as an intensely tangible experience, despite springing out of a totally bonkers sci-fi set-up.

HARDWARE is available for purchase from Severin Films.

Hardware (1990)

This piece originally appeared on Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

@jonnyabomb

superbeasto_dvd.preview

Now here’s a strange duck:  A hard-R horror-comedy adult cartoon feature from musician/director Rob Zombie, featuring the usual voice suspects and a couple surprise voices. The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto is a filthy, funny, deranged mess of a kitchen sink of a movie that will please a certain kind of person, ideally in a certain state of mind (if you get me), and will turn off the straight-laced. For my part, I’m just glad that something like this exists – it’s comfortable knowing that there’s a place in the world for adult animation, even if it’s not exactly my flavor.

The story, as much as I can collect it all in one column, goes a little something like this: El Superbeasto (voiced by comedian and co-writer Tom Papa) is an insanely horny luchador – somewhere between Santo and Dirk Diggler – who is the big cheese in the titular Haunted World, a geek-dream dimension where zombies and werewolves and strippers coexist in constant hysteria. As soon as El Superbeasto falls for the town’s alpha-stripper, Velvet Von Black (voiced by Rosario Dawson!), she is abducted by the misleadingly named Doctor Satan (voiced by Paul Giamatti!) and his long-suffering gorilla henchman. El Superbeasto is aided in his rescue attempt by his younger sister, Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her hopelessly infatuated robot sidekick (Brian Posehn.) At the end of the day, this is all about high school: Doctor Satan was the school nerd, in love with the head cheerleader (Suzi X) and constantly tormented by the school bully (El Superbeasto.) Doctor Satan will have his revenge, and hump it too!

El Superbeasto is fairly described as Heavy Metal meets Ren & Stimpy (the design, pace, and much of the voicework is heavily indebted to John Kricfalusi’s surreal/absurd classic series.) It’s also probably fairly described as Rob Zombie’s most fun movie, even his best. I’m on record as saying that I root for Rob Zombie’s cinematic endeavors – he loves a lot of the same things I love (rock n’ roll, old horror movies, pretty girls, badass character actors, monsters, and mayhem) and he brings a competitive energy and enthusiasm to the horror genre – but his movies have thus far turned out unnecessarily unpleasant, even sadistic, in finished form. (Haven’t seen his Halloween 2, but that goes back to the old cliché about not wanting to put my hand back on the hot stove that burned me once before.)

El Superbeasto, thankfully, plays out differently. It has its excesses – who am I kidding? It’s ALL excess!  But there’s a sense of gleeful anarchy and a swinging swagger that permeates the whole thing and makes it never less than watchable. For me, there were two elements to elevate it:

1)      The voice work by the unconventionally wonderful movie stars Paul Giamatti and Rosario Dawson is unconventionally wonderful. If I didn’t see from the credits that they’d be featured, I might never have guessed. Is there such a thing as Method voice acting? Giamatti and Rosario are completely and unrecognizably committed to their wackadoo characters, and the results are weird and funny, truly superior voice acting.

2)      The movie features several original songs by Hard N’ Phirm, the comedy team of Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman. The songs are by far the funniest part of the movie – they’re exactly the right tone and vibe and they smartly comment on the action and the more blatantly exploitative parts of the story. It makes certain scenes that might have been creepy to watch hilariously creepy. I’ve seen these guys do their thing before live and they’re great – it was a fun surprise to enjoy their contributions here.

So whatever it says about me, I watched the whole damn thing. I probably wouldn’t watch it again but I’m happy to have watched it once. It’s crazy in its own very specific way and I can respect that. However: If you’re the kind of person who is offended by cartoon boobs or cartoon sex, be forewarned. Stay away. It’s understandable, but you won’t want to see what happens here. As for the rest of you maniacs? Eat, drink, and be merry.

@jonnyabomb

Originally written on October 10th, 2009.

 

 

Evil Dead (2013)

 

You guys know me pretty well at this point, so you can probably guess where I’d stand on the remake without even reading a word from me.  It’s relatively simple.  If this movie truly wanted me to love it, it would have called up the Jessica Lucas character to take on the role of “the new Ash.”

Since they didn’t, I not only need to start up a new tally for 2013, but I also had to get a little vicious.

>>>CLICK HERE FOR THE REVIEW!!!<<<

And if you’re looking for some lighter reading, here are a couple pertinent posts….

JONNY’S LIST OF 13 HORROR MOVIES EVERYONE SHOULD SEE.

JONNY’S TAKE ON “BRUCE CAMPBELL VS. THE ARMY OF DARKNESS” (1992).

All you Deadites can come at me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

 

Jessica Lucas