Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ReMarathon 2011, Part 3, And Soon The Nightmare Ends

And now for the final installment! And this's personal!

Children of the Corn
by Donald P. Borchers
Well here's your problem, you hired children! You needed actors! If I was to count the ways in which this made-for-tv remake of an already terrible movie that last I checked was still producing execrable sequels fucked the dog, I'd need about a hundred more fingers. I mean fucking wow! The child actors are across the board horrible, each of them giving performances that might charitably be called performances. It's kind of astonishing to think that not a single one of these kids was worth a damn with the camera rolling, but here you have it. That'd be alright if the film had a solid anchor in its two leads but David Anders and Kandyse McClure manage to be even more horrid than the children. Sweet Christ, does this film shit the bed on the bad acting front. After a sermon that counts as the high point of the kid who plays Isaac's time in this movie, we meet the shrieking, horrible, no-fucking-way-are-these-dickbags-married, protagonists. Vicki and Burt are their names and they're headed christ knows where, literally screaming at each other the whole time. They hit a kid, stop in the town of Gatlin, get attacked by the cult, and are killed, but not fast enough for me. These two give shameful performances, but McClure really takes the cake. Right after Burt hits the kid, she takes the reins and doesn't relent. "It's Maaaan Slaughter!!!! Don't you wanna come and see? So you can tell all your NRA buddies what you bagged in Nebraska!" She delivers this horrible dialogue in a new kind of cadence that humans haven't gotten around to using yet. She's hysterically awful from start to finish and I'd say the movie was worth seeing just for her histrionic lunacy, but frankly it gets old after the first twenty minutes. A minute with Vicki Stanton is funny, two is hysterical, three makes you want to kill yourself. And from there it just gets worse. Truly, nothing goes right with this film and to top it off, Anders says "Why don't you put that in your god and smoke it?" To children. Who have probably never even heard the original saying before. Wow, wow, wow!

The Stepfather
by Nelson McCormick
McCormick and Cardone at least stuck much closer to the outline of the original film, a great Reagan-era family values parable, but you have to ask why when they maintain nothing of that film's underlying motifs or importance. Subtext is verboten here, it's all about the murder, but even that takes its sweet ass time getting here. If the remake money ever dries up, these two would be at home making Lifetime originals. The murders in this film are too tame because McCormick doesn't have the balls so really it's all very whitebread and boring and you wonder why you're here. In order to draw the teenage boy set they hired Amber Heard, who's something of a fixture here these days. Mark Kermode hypothesized that McCormick stuck her in her underwear everytime the film was starting to lag. That woman's vagina gets more screentime than Penn Badgley. I'd like to ask a practical question: are these movies funded in part by record companies? Badgely's hero puts on headphones and they play songs that all sound the same, but I'm sure are from different bands. Why? There's no way this kid listens to this shit, so is someone paying to have these bands played? As for the movie, just fuckin' skip it, it ain't worth your time. Jon Tenney's the best thing about it and he's got ten minutes of screentime.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
by Samuel Bayer
Ah, well it was bound to happen I guess. And wouldn't you know that they fucked it up in one of the dumbest possible ways. Samuel Bayer, the guy who directed videos for "Stand" by Poison and Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake," a ghastly resume indeed, at least has an eye for visuals that escapes Dave Meyers, but this still winds up being one of the most rancorous of the Michael Bay remakes. Turning The Hitcher into a commercial slightly better than having your balls cut off was bad enough, but remaking A Nightmare On Elm Street and making it about molestation would be like remaking Dr. Strangelove and playing it as gripping drama. But that's exactly what Bayer and writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer did. I hope some day they remake fuckin' Hostel and make it even dumber just so this generation gets what its like to have your movie raped quite so bad as this. To his credit the movie is lit very well, but Bayer also manages to make Freddie Krueger seem more silly than anything else, and he keeps fucking with the dream rules. And as much as I like Rooney Mara (she got out of bad horror movie land but quick after this. Look for her, appropriately enough, in the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), there is no performance here that makes this worth watching. Jackie Earle Haley embarasses himself as the villain and the screenwriters fuck up his motivation in one of the most egregious ways imaginable. They go right for the whole pedophile aspect, making that his sole motivator. The problem is this: he sexualizes the girls he kills, Mara especially. Can anyone tell me what pedophiles find attractive again? Oh right, children! Yeah, that's right. He wouldn't like these kids anymore. And worse still, you know without a shadow of a doubt that he did it, erasing all of the subtext from Craven's film. And as if that weren't enough, there's nothing dreamlike about the dreams. Craven's film is remembered as having revolutionized the way dreams are conveyed in film and his techniques are still being copied today. Bayer seems content to steal, except in one instance, and everything he steals that was practical and revolutionary in 1984, is cold, digital and stupid here. Bayer perversely changes nothing about the real world and the dream world in the vane hope of catching the audience off guard, but in doing so he negates what the fuck he's doing. Dreams don't look or feel real (if only he'd waited to see Inception!) but the ones Bayer cooks up are supposed to look real and confuse you because the characters don't know they're dreaming half the time. In other words, this movie gets less than zero right and its creators should be made barren at first light.

And Soon The Darkness
by Marcos Efron
Well, at least they're remaking something relatively obscure. And managed another extraordinary feat: they made a horror movie of almost total predictability and safety. I can think of no one aspect to recommend it. It's bland and ordinary and one of the only mysteries in recent memory where the only suspects are actually the guys who did it. It might be them, you think it's them, it's them. The usually splendid Karl Urban is a non-entity. Odette Yustman and Amber Heard lead the cast. Odette Yustman's most unique feature is that she's better looking than Megan Fox. And Amber Heard; I've seen her in five or six movies, three of them recently and I don't think I could pick her out of a line-up if the other people were old chinese men. She exudes nothing but a willingness to appear in horror films. There's less than nothing to see here, not a shock or a scare to be found and has a future as one of those movies you rent thinking it'll be gory fun and then it isn't and your party sucks as a result. The only thing that got my attention about this movie was that it was produced by Anchor Bay, the one-time champions of schlocky home video. I was wondering how they were getting along these days and then realized they put Children of the Corn and our next film, I Spit On Your Grave on DVD. And then I stopped caring.

I Spit On Your Grave
by Stephen R. Monroe
The original movie had a hard enough time escaping controversy in '78 without a fuckwit like Stephen Monroe ignoring the subtext and making it a backwoods Saw clone with an emphasis on sex, if the poster wasn't a big enough clue. Using sex to sell a movie about rape earns you a one-way-ticket to hell in my book. Hobos should pee on you. Muggers should be given your address. I have no time for someone who'd turn in a second-rate piece of shit like this and name it after one of the most widely misunderstood/infamous films of all time, a movie that earned its reputation thanks to continued hand wringing over something people still won't talk about. It's happening today. Look at Lucky McKee's The Woman. That movie went out of its way to stare a very uncomfortable subject in the mouth because it had an incredibly specific point to make about the nature of white masculinity and people flipped the fuck out. Monroe's shitstain of a remake is in borrowed spotlight and has nothing to say. If they'd called this movie anything else, Always Lock Your Door or She Waits In The Woods, something generic like that, no one would have bothered with it because it turns rape into a supposedly compelling argument to turn into the Jigsaw Killer for a weekend. But Sarah Butler's performance is barely there (it's certainly nothing like it needed to be to acquit this movie of its crimes. Camille Keaton's performance alone answers any and all questions of mysogyny as far as I'm concerned) and Monroe never misses an opportunity to get her naked, which negates any argument he may have had in the first place. It's all boundlessly stupid and even more so considering that Steven R. Monroe makes shitty made-for-syfy movies like Ice Twisters and Ogre and the second he was done with this deeply unpleasant assignment, he went right back to making Mongolian Death Worm. Andrew Howard gives a good performance, but it's not worth sifting through shit to get to it. Before I go ahead and write this off and encourage you to do the same, I want to draw your attention to this bit of trivia from the IMDB:
According to director Steven R. Monroe, the studio submitted an uncut version of the film to the MPAA to see if by chance they would get an R rating. The MPAA came back and said "look, you've got an NC-17 movie, but we don't recommend that you cut it down because we feel like it's really impactful." Yeah...I bet they said that.

Mother's Day
by Darren Lynn Bousman
I admit that I was interested in seeing this, though not without reservation. It was Darren Bousman's first feature outside the Saw franchise, excepting his misbegotten musical Repo! The Genetic Opera, which he'd made once before as a short. So this was his first movie with a clean slate. I was willing to look past the Saw films because I really wanted to see if he had something to say. James Wan, left to his own devices, has less-than-nothing to say. After laughing my way through Insidious, I though perhaps Bousman had a better chance at my respect. Bousman's talent remains in question, though Mother's Day proves he's a perfectly decent director when he wants to be. If I compare this to The Woman again, just as it's the last thing I saw, I can say that though I thought that film smarter and more cunning, I have to admit that Bousman has a tighter grasp on mechanics. His screenwriting, on the other hand, needs work. The problem with Mother's Day is that it's made of punishing vignettes that pit people against each other in an impossible situation, which if you'll recall is what he spent the last ten years doing making Saw sequels. Call it SawBurbia but all that it means is that he didn't remake Mother's Day so much as The House on the Edge of the Park. A woman and her insane sons crash a housewarming party after a botched bank robbery (think Reservoir Dogs, actually, no, think Last House on the Beach) under the impression that the house is theirs and that their mother is there waiting for them. It was, at least up until a few months ago when it was foreclosed upon and the newlywed Sohapis won it in an auction. There's just one problem. Ike and his brothers have been sending money to this house because they thought their mother still lived there. If the Sohapis and their guests want to leave alive they have to fork over the money, keep gutshot brother Johnny alive, not make trigger happy Addley mad and most of all not upset their crazy fucking mother.

Fitting that we should end our marathon remake fest with this one as it features cast members from My Bloody Valentine, Sorority Row and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In this movie's corner is tight if not particularly discerning direction from Darren Bousman and characteristically strong work from Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore and Briana Evigan, who I rooted for the whole film. You survive Sorority Row, you earn my respect. That she's very cute helps too, but I digress. On the other hand none of the set-pieces that make up the film's second and third act haven't been done before and better; people beat each other to a pulp though they keep getting back up past the point of that being reasonable and I really can't shake the feeling that this was a bunch of Saw ideas recycled into another screenplay, just as Bousman's Saw 2 was once something else entirely that was retrofitted into the series. And beyond that the film's thesis is tired and without the green-and-grey scale or the amped up theatricality of the murders, I can kinda see why its producers shelved it so long (it wrapped in 2009 and has seen very few screens, legally that is, since then): it's a joyless slog. It doesn't matter how likable everyone is because you know pretty much from the beginning that no one's survival is guaranteed; it doesn't help that people are killed in that annoying "thought you were the villain" way that horror directors are so fond of. So why watch nice people get killed? Well, that's a question that you have to ask yourself before watching most horror remakes because 14 times out of 20, that's what you'll be watching. I'm not opposed to remaking a movie if you do it well and have a reason. Eli Roth talks a big fucking game about being able to do justice to Tobe Hooper's Funhouse. Guess what? Tobe Hooper did justice to Tobe Hooper's Funhouse. It needs Eli Roth remaking it like the human body needs heroin. I say unless you prove you can make your own movie, something Eli and the rest of this crew have proven rather sad at lately, you shouldn't be allowed to remake someone else's. Until then, do some research, find these movies and appreciate why they were optioned in the first place: they're worth watching....well, maybe not Children of the Corn. We'll just have to see if everyone learns their lesson in another ten years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ReMarathon 2011, Part 2

Now, where were we? Oh yeah!

Black Christmas
By Glen Morgan

Ok, finally. Here's a film that not only does something completely different from its namesake, but also uses the story from the earlier film in a clever way. So, this movie retcons the story of Black Christmas into a modern day plotline, or, well, that's not exactly true. For those of you who've seen Black Christmas (which I'll be reviewing before too long), you'll remember that the voice on the phone continually mentions two people called Agnes and Billy. Well, Glen Morgan's Black Christmas has weaved them a backstory. Turns out Billy and Agnes were siblings whose parents were totally insane. Billy responded by cutting his parents up, carving their skin into the shape of Christmas cookies and eating them on December 25th. The girls living in the sorority that used to be Billy's house celebrate this with a macabre little ritual. Mrs. MacHenry, the dorm mother, assigns one of the girls Billy when they do their secret santa giftgiving every year. The eight girls left in the house this Christmas are split about it. Heather the jesus freak doesn't like it, Lauren the alcoholic slut doesn't care for anything festive, Kelli doesn't want anyone to fight, Melissa takes Lauren's side because she doesn't like Heather, Dana doesn't have a personality, Eve is too much of a space cadet to take part in the discussion and both Megan and Clair are already dead. Now, the film plays it cool here. As much as we're all obviously supposed to assume that Billy has had a hand in the deaths of the poor coeds, we're also shown quite clearly that Billy has yet to break out of the insane asylum he's been kept in since cutting up his parents. Make no mistake, he does break out, and violently, but the question remains: who's the hulking blonde in the attic who's carving up the girls of Delta Alpha Kappa?

There are two words that spring to mind when I think about this version of Black Christmas: Fucking Insane. Every oblique angle shouts crazy, every few minute someone is murdered in the craziest fucking way possible, every new plot development makes someone either a suspect or a victim, blood and viscera shoot out of wounds like someone turned on a hose. People don't just bleed in this movie, they fucking explode. The lighting is absolutely nuts and the camera work matches it every step of the way. With Black Christmas, Glen Morgan has effectively out De Palma'd Brian De Palma. The swaths of red that litter the colour scheme, the jaundiced villain, the enormous slant on voyeurism, the presentational lighting, the is-it-stealing-or-homage quality that imbues every angle. Christ on a cricket, no wonder Morgan hasn't worked since. Weirder still, despite its sorority house setting and cast of not-quite stars, there's almost no nudity and none that couldn't be someone's body double. Now, here's where the problems start. I really liked Black Christmas but not without reservations. It has big problems, pacing chief among them; the thing moves at the speed of sound to no real ends. Characters arrive in time to make a hint of an impression before being killed and the girls who make the slightest impression last the longest. And I have to dock some points for the way Morgan so quickly dispatches Leela Savasta, a better and more courageous actress than two-thirds of the girls in the sorority. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, for instance, should have been the lead. She's the most memorable of the girls by far (Crystal Lowe a close second) and attacks her role, making it impossible for her to remain in the single-trait slot tat Morgan wrote for her. Katie Cassidy is the main character basically by default. She's by far the least interesting and charismatic of the girls. And I can't say I'm really on the side of a movie that carves up a bunch of well-meaning teenage girls (especially when the script makes such a huge fucking deal about the bonds of sisterhood), but style does count for something and this film drips with it. I knew Morgan trafficked in the unsettling after his redo of Willard, but this thing leaves that, and frankly everything covered here today, in the dust. It's not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach and it's not a good movie like the original was, but sweet jesus, it's deranged. I'm kind of amazed that there's no force in place to tell people about movies like this and Orphan, because they really need to be seen to be believed.

Hannibal Rising
by Peter Webber
Now, ok, I'll admit that this doesn't quite count. Red Dragon can only be considered a remake in the loosest sense, in that it was only following the same novel as Michael Mann's first treatment of the Hannibal Lecter story, Manhunter. But it was clearly supposed to be more in keeping with the newest films on the world's most famous cannibal, because, well, Brett Ratner stole Ridley Scott's aesthetic even if he seemed to have been following Mann's earlier script. So with the last film in the series being as shameless a cash-in as Red Dragon, it was tough not to lump Hannibal Rising (why is my urge to always call this Young Hannibal?) in with the then-novel spate of glossy remakes. In fact it was this and Michael Bay's The Hitcher that I remember causing me to throw my hands up and start avoiding these things as a rule. I didn't realize that Hannibal Rising wasn't meant to grip the coattails of a franchise that hadn't made a dignified sound since 2001. The book that it's based on, however, was. Before it was an indifferent-to-poorly received movie it was a universally panned novel that took all of the mystique out of a character that not even a film as shitty as Red Dragon could undo. Thomas Harris, the book's author, apparently needed a bigger house, because there's no defensible reason for the book, and its written in such breathless, purple prose that you get the impression that he needed to finish it before the movers take the couch he's sitting on. He goes so fast that he fucks up several crucial, already spelled-out details from previous books, one of them kind of crucial as it's the reason he goes on his lifelong killing spree. The book's thesis was simple: Hannibal wasn't the embodiment of evil for no reason, he was evil because some Nazis killed and ate his baby sister. While all the angry literary critics who made up the books audience agreed that its not a bad impulse to suggest that all bad people typically have a reason to be that way, they also rightly posited that Lecter was a fictional character and no one gave a shit how he became evil, they just wanted him outwitting/flirting with Clarice Starling. It might not be morally right but its fucking entertaining, which is why people read the sort of thing Harris writes in the first place. The movie tries hard to stick to Ridley Scott's template and undo some of Harris' blind traipsing around history, trying to account for how someone with a vendetta forgot it and became history's greatest monster.

Hannibal's family is killed at the tail-end of WWII by some nazis played by ringers like Rhys Ifans and Kevin McKidd . He grows up with an awful big chip on his shoulder and outgrows the boarding school that has been set up on his family's estate. He escapes when he gets tired of the shitheads who run the place and the dipshits who go there and goes looking for his uncle. The older man is dead by now, but his mistress (the impossibly beautiful Gong Li, who, like everyone else in this movie, is better than this) takes him in and teaches him how to use a samurai sword in the film's dumbest scene. His killing technique refined, he tests it out on a collaborator who upsets his aunt one day in the marketplace. He escapes but not without arousing the suspicion of Inspector Popil (Dominic West, also way better than this. The way the man looks in his long coat is the second best thing about the film. The way Gong Li looks in a kimono remains the best, even if she looks tired and bored throughout) who can see that Lecter is probably guilty but that he's only killing evil men. It's the kind of conundrum that goes nowhere, because the movie then gets to its real business, Lecter hunting down and Saw-killing the nazis who ate his sister. And as with any prequel, there's no real tension because you know that Hannibal's going to be around for dozens and dozens of years after the events of this film. The only tension is whether he'll rescue his aunt from one of Ifans' traps, but even that ain't much. The movie's more like a grotesque painting than a proper horror film, anyway, pretty, but totally static.

Peter Webber was probably as good as this movie was going to do. But he's not a horror director and doesn't have the stomach for gut spilling. So in lieu of that, he makes the movie and all the characters and their houses as gorgeous as possible and mostly suceeds, but this wasn't supposed to be a sober costume crime drama, it was meant to be about Hannibal, but Webber's camera doesn't really like Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal. He's the only active character in a landscape of well-worn, beautifully passive faces and he doesn't gel with the rest of the film. It's a movie that wants to be about the poetry of murder like Hannibal, but doesn't have enough to say on the subject of murder. It's got the same structure as a Saw film or the later I Spit On Your Grave remake, and so should be a straight-up exploitation film but isn't. So it's all very pretty and perfunctory and boring and I hardly noticed it going by. Interestingly, this was the last film Dino De Laurentiis produced. Back in the day he was so miffed about Manhunter's success that he reportedly gave the rights to Silence of the Lambs up for free, which then went on to be one of the most successful films of all time, anyway you choose to look at it. Fitting that Dino died trying to correct his biggest financial mistake with an even bigger one.

The Hills Have Eyes 2
by Martin Weisz

Joe Bob Briggs said of Blood Feast that it's a more interesting film to talk about then watch. This is true of the tortured history of the sequels to both versions of The Hills Have Eyes. In 85, a year before Tobe Hooper gave us the much hated sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre under the watchful wallets of Golan and Globus's Canon group, Wes made a sequel to his best film, The Hills Have Eyes. It was...shameful. And just as Tobe's film got something of a do-over sequel wise that was a totally grim and pointless affair (can't make a sequel to a film where the villain's had his chainsaw arm off), Wes Craven got to live vicariously through the sequel to the remake. Wes was a good deal luckier in his directors than Tobe, but ultimately both tarnished their own reputations because the mere idea of a sequel brings down the classiness of the original idea, even if the respective requels were slightly better than they wound up being. Alexandra Aja and Marcus Nispel were more or less evenly matched in America, even if Aja's debut was a touch more auspicious than Nispels. John Liebesman, however, had nothing on Martin Weisz's credentials. Weisz' film Grimm Love might not be the best thing I've ever seen, but it boasted two incredible lead performances and a David Fincher-inspired production design. On the other hand, he's also a fucking music video director, which probably accounts for Hills Have Eyes 2 being totally throw-away. But back to Craven. I think he clearly saw an opportunity to correct past mistakes when Fox Atomic optioned the sequel. He and his son Jonathan even wrote the damned thing. And from the look of the trailer, you'd really think they'd nailed it. Seriously, check it out. It's one of the better trailers I've ever seen. That the film looked so handsome from far away is a little disappointing because there's nothing unique or interesting here. It's a touch better than these typically get, but that's all really. A bunch of guys with guns head into the desert, are hunted by cannibals and most of them get slaughtered. Its Aliens to Hills Have's Alien. Except with a 65% drop in quality and suspense. The best thing you can say about it is that it is markedly better than the first Hills Have Eyes II. But, really so's anything...except this next film.

The Hitcher
by Dave Meyers
Michael Bay productions exist largely to sell tits and bad emo music, which is why his Transformers movies are scored largely by Linkin Park and the sound of Megan Fox's hips swiveling. It's also why when he gets what I'm sure are sticky, sweaty palms on a property, he'll find someone with less scruples than even him to direct it. Bay didn't direct The Hitcher, but it's tough to picture him doing a worse job than Meyers. Meyers' spooktacular CV include the music videos for The Offspring's "Original Prankster" (the one with the shit sandwich), Creed's "My Sacrifice" (the one where Scott Stapp pulls himself out of a river), and Dave Matthews Band's "I Did It" (the one that steals from movies as diverse as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Evil Dead 2, which proves that he's seen enough scary movies that he should hate his version of The Hitcher and especially the asshole who directed it). And boy does that show; the film is basically one long music video. The first image is terrible and the shittiness never relents. A computer generated hare steps out onto a desert highway and is hit by a car. Then, set to one of the many terrible songs this movie has up its sleeve, Jim Halsey calls his girlfriend and wakes her up. They're supposed to go on a road trip today! OH NO!!!! She's totally making them late! Yeah, it's that kind of film. Fucking shoot me. The movie plays out with exactly the same beats as the original except that Halsey isn't alone, and he doesn't end up being the lead character, though he certainly starts out that way. Already the movie is beyond saving. By giving Halsey company right away, the writers have already taken away the thing that made the first The Hitcher so compelling in the first place: Halsey's complete isolation. Even when Nash shows up, she's more like a mirage than a character and Eric Red's screenplay is pretty fucking vicious towards her presence. By putting Sophia Bush in the car, Bay has neutered the movie to the point of ABSOLUTE Irrelevance. No matter how good Sean Bean's performance might be (and frankly he's been better. He seems faintly embarrassed, like he knows he's being undercut by the dumb movie he's in at every turn), it doesn't fucking matter because Bay doesn't kill the only pair of tits in the movie.

And that's all before we consider that Ryder has morphed into a generic boogeyman. He's everywhere and nowhere and he's unkillable and has unlimited ammo. In the dumbest scene in the movie, Ryder appears in a Thunderbird to take down a squadron of cop cars while Nine Inch Nail's "Closer" also comes out of nowhere to score the scene. Man, fuck this movie. By the time we've gone through the most memorable scenes from the first movie, rendered useless because of the high school play level acting from its two charisma-free leads, we get to the conclusion. By this time Sophia Bush is by herself and Ryder has killed all the cops in the van taking him to prison in an impossibly dumb way. So she takes the sheriff's gun to go kill Ryder. But, best part, Ryder fucking takes it from her, and then kills the sheriff. So not only does she fail to kill him when it meant her boyfriend's life, she can't even do it when she has nothing to lose. So she finally gets ahold of another gun, which happens to be a shotgun that would knock her right on her ass if she fired that thing in reality and kills him. So her victory is hollow and the movie it closes has the dubious honor of being one of the worst films ever made. Nice work, everybody. Lunch?

April Fool's Day
by Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores
Now, before we begin, a note. Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores would like very much like it if we called them The Butcher Brothers, which is adorable. After all, their movies couldn't be more harmless if they replaced every actor with a Jack Russell Terrier and called it a gallery installation. Having seen their rather terrible 2010 film The Violent Kind, I knew I was in for a treat when their cute pen name appeared under the words "Directed by." Incidentally that they don't add "Barely" is false advertising that I think could get you a class action suit going. The plot and gotcha twist at the end are in keeping with the original film, but my question is why bother. None of the people in this film are what you could call "actors" or if they are, Flores and Altieri convinced all of them not to act as some kind of experiment. Now eventually they settle into it (what's that they say about broken clocks?) but for the first forty-five minutes, we're privy to a movie in which exactly one person seems to be doing anything other than reading lines from a card. Holy Fucking Shit is it terrible. That exception, in case you were wondering, is Scout Taylor-Compton. She acts circles around these motherfuckers. If she made Chloe Moretz and Lori Heuring seem like they're trying too hard, then imagine how she decimates these clowns. And because the Butchers are such god awful filmmakers, the movie looks for all the world like an overlong episode of One Tree Hill or some damn thing. Even worse, they totally and utterly believe in their terrible, terrible screenplays so that all the non-actors deliver their lines as woodenly and sincerely as possible. Never a good combination. It's never less than absolutely embarrassing, like when the movie spends more than five minutes on a fake talk show discussing something we just fucking saw happen. We know what happened, we were there, yet they perversely go over the events of the crime in excruciatingly full detail. If they were actually related I'd say they dethrone John and Erick Dowdle as the worst family of filmmakers working today. Though try as they might, they don't succeed in making Scout Taylor-Compton look less than professional.

Prom Night
by Nelson McCormick

Speaking of Wicked Little Things, the script for the update of Prom Night comes from J.S. Cardone. This is a little odd to me because Cardone was active at the same time as the first Prom Night. In fact, Cardone's debut film The Slayer, one of the original video nasties, has a plot almost identical to Humongous, the film that Prom Night director Paul Lynch made in the same year. The plot here is a touch different from the oddball Canadian original; It has no name in common with Lynch's film and instead centers on Donna Keppel. About a year ago her whole family was killed by her math teacher who had a bit of a thing for her. They caught him and locked him up and Donna moved in with her aunt and uncle. She seems to be doing better in her new town and the chemistry she has with her friends is believable. The problem there is that it's too believable. Like "who gives a fuck about these vacuous teenagers if they're all going to get killed" believable? I really feel like Nelson McCormick and Cardone are better at the quieter moments in these films. They should really think about making films about the foibles of professionals and their less-than-professional children. I didn't really like the teenage characters (and what was Jessica Stroup doing in a prom dress? She played a commando in Hills Have Eyes 2, how old is she supposed to be?) but I believed that they believed in their own shallow nonsense. The best part of the movie is watching Linden Ashby and Jessalyn Gilsig at home acting like a concerned married couple or Idris Elba acting like a seasoned professional and doing preliminary rounds in the hotel he suspects a murderer might find or Brittany Snow as Donna and Scott Porter as her boyfriend in her bedroom after they think the trauma is over. The moments of calm the movie finds are superb and made me like it despite it being a cash-in with no sex and no real violence. The bitchy prom queen doesn't even get stabbed. What the fuck kinda slasher movie is this, anyway? I'd like to know from the people who really liked this (it made enough money to give McCormick and Cardone their next job, which we'll talk about soon enough) what they like about it? It's not particularly scary, sexy or bloody. If you read this, please go ahead and put that in the comment section because I'd love to know.

My Bloody Valentine
by Patrick Lussier
This has roughly the same story as the original My Bloody Valentine, which was one of the better Friday the 13th knock-offs the early 80s-slasher boom produced. The key difference of course is that this became a springboard for the burgeoning 3D industry, then nearing its apex. This of course means that it looks like shit. I was under the impression that this was Lussier's first film, which would have excused the amateurish camera work (I chalked the look to the shitty 3D cameras, but there's no reason it should be so poorly filmed). But he's been doing this since Dracula 2000. Remember that piece of shit? Yeah, well he also did two fucking sequels. Yikes. Anyway, the movie doesn't work as a horror film and frankly the 3D is wasted as often as its used. For every time the pick-axe comes flying at the camera, there's ten tons of shit thrown by one character or another that isn't 3Dified. And the 3D murders end up looking incredibly lame anyway because they naturally couldn't actually throw a mining tool at their expensive 3D cameras, so instead they CG it in later in post, making the whole project totally useless. And then there are little irksome things littered throughout the movie. A woman is hit in the stomach with an axe and blood hits the wall? The killer manages to run through a grocery store and then out the door and around back in ten seconds and then when another character makes the same trip it takes about three minutes. In one scene the killer's shadow starts close to a character, then gets far away as he approaches her...? That's just shit filmmaking. And then the reveal takes us back through a few murders we've already witnessed and flat out lies to us about things we've seen. You might generously call it unreliable narrator, but I call it lazy filmmaking.

In fact the one saving grace was, like Prom Night, its relationship dynamic. I really enjoyed Kerr Smith as the sheriff being shaken up by wife Jaime King's former relationship with Jensen Ackles. Now Ackles isn't worth shit, but King and Smith are terrific and they're the only reason to watch this piece of shit. When Lussier starts casting doubt about Smith's innocence, it only works because of how firm a grip he has on the character. There's a moment about halfway through when he wants King to rat on Ackles but she won't do it. His anger there is terrifying and understandable at once, and it's probably the best moment in the movie. I wanted a film just about their marriage. Alas, I got a movie about 3D tits and poorly executed jaw removal. Sigh.

Sorority Row
by Stewart Hendler
Now Tayne I can get into. Sorority Row is obviously a remake of The House on Sorority Row but it's really like all remakes in one. The ur text. There are elements of Black Christmas, April Fool's Day, My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night here and it's sleazy and bitchy enough for all of them. Thank christ, says I. If I had to sit through another film that doesn't even best its source material in body count, I was going to snap. Sorority Row starts with April Fool's Day's opening gambit: a prank. Garrett has fucked up, so his sister Chugs and her sorority sisters Cassidy, Jessica, Claire, Megan and Ellie have decided to fake something pretty fucking serious. They convince Garrett that Megan would get with him and to roofy the girl's drink and then film his bedroom as she fakes a reaction. They drive her out to a mine when she plays possum in the car and then take things just a touch to far. Garrett thinks she's really dead, so he opens up her wind pipe with a fucking tire iron, which says to me, he was going to snap sooner or later anyway. So with Megan actually dead, they agree that the only solution is to throw her down the mine and forget it ever happened. Cut to eight months later, the girls start disappearing. Not only that, anyone who even overhears them talking about it, also goes. Now, we know what's really happening: they gettin' fucking murda'd! But who is it? And what do they want?

The one thing you'll hear complaints about, I'm guessing is that there isn't nearly enough sex to make this a grindhouse classic. And the murders could be a little more frequent, but this movie plays the game and well. You don't like any of these girls because most of them go pretty far out of their way to earn the crazy ass fate they wind up with. Seriously the way these women meet their maker is pretty off the wall. In order to let them know that they are being killed because of what happened to Megan, the killer has crafted some kind of crazy fucking knife that's shaped like a tire iron, but consists of several kinds of knife. Between the horrid murders, coed showers, all the sex that's hinted at and Leah Pipes as the consciousless leader of the sorority, you're looking at one hell of a sleaze-fest. It's the kind of film that never looks over its shoulder and I appreciate its efficiency. It's ten kinds of dumb but I had a fucking blast howling at the screen with a room full of like-minded individuals.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

ReMarathon 2011, Part 1

From the opening seconds of Quarantine, you know instantly that they've fucked the dog. Jennifer Carpenter's human interest reporter looks into the camera and says that her name is Angela Vidal. But that's not how she pronounces it. She says it "Vie-Dell," which is how no one pronounces that name in any part of the globe unless they've been hit in the head with a hammer and recently. In the writer-director's attempts to give the film it's own voice, they managed to make one of the dumbest translation mistakes I've heard since Jesus Franco first fell in love with Lina Romay. Remakes, in theory, are a way to tell a story again on the off chance that there was something off about the original. In the case of, say, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the movie was told much like a TV movie; it was uncinematic, slow and largely very boring. It was also wrapped up in an insanely complex niche of Swedish government. You fix those problems by giving it to David Fincher, a director renowned for his beautifully visual storytelling and distinct stylization. In a perfect world, that'd be the only way you remake something. Our world is far from perfect and so we get a remake every six months of something that either didn't need to be remade or could have used a remake but the folks in charge address problems that weren't pervasive in the original, inventing new ones on the way, kinda like giving someone with a broken leg an intubation. One out of every...let's say 21, for no reason at all, will have enough going for it to overlook the fact that it's pissing in a pretty important pool. But largely these movies could have been called anything, which means that they're cash-ins. The Hitcher is pretty much exactly the same movie as its inspiration, except it sucks a grizzly bear's asshole. Prom Night and House of Wax bear strictly nominal resemblances to their counterparts, which means they had nothing but cold calculation and dollar signs on the brain. Why call a movie House of Wax if it's got nothing to do with any previous version of House of Wax? Because a name is something, I guess. And producers assume people will come to see a movie that's already kinda sorta succeeded...if you call being slightly worse than Friday The 13th or not the most embarrassing Stephen King adaptation of the 80s when placed next to The Running Man success. Well, lately curiosity got the better of me and after checking out the totally horrible remake of Friday the 13th, I decided to run the gauntlet, as it were, and check out every one of the slick, new remakes to see if anyone had anything to say. As a hint for what's to come I will say I was totally in the mood for the kind of blunt, sexualized violence these movies promise when I started this experiment. Now that it's over, I want everyone in Hollywood to die a violent, embarrassing death.

The Amityville Horror
by Andrew Douglas
Now, look before I dig in here, I gotta lotta remakes to get through so if I rehash the plots of movies that you've already seen (or should have, if you call yourselves professionals) we'll never get home. The bad news is that the plot is exactly the same as the original, which is why it never goes anywhere. The good news is that Michael Bay didn't yet take hold of every aspect of these Platinum Dunes films just yet. He's writ large over The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that film was enjoyable enough if you shut your brain off. Here, he's made as good a choice as I think it was possible to make in giving the film to Andrew Douglas, the director of Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Just as John Stockwell seemed an odd but ultimately rewarding choice to direct Turistas, Douglas' involvement saved it from what might have been, so that now it's simply forgettable. He's not much in the way of a climax but he fills the movie with enough memorable and beautiful images that I wasn't offended. The story is dumb and it's loaded with cliche, but Douglas' steady camera and love for the natural imagery surrounding the house that Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George buy make this a markedly better film than its predecessor. If only that meant something. As it is, Amityville is so slight it almost doesn't exist. No one's in any real danger because there are no incidental characters and the best parts about it are mostly divorced from the plot. All in all, not a terrible second effort from Platinum Dunes, but they should have quit while they were ahead.

House of Wax
by Jaume Collett-Serra
I guess the plot is required here as it has absolutely nothing to do with the superior Vincent Price film, or that movie's inspiration from the 30s. In this one, a bunch of fucking kids are going to see a football game, but stop arbitrarily in the middle of nowhere to camp. They piss off some locals on their way in, who stop by in the middle of the night to cut one of their fan-belts. Why they don't cut both of them is because the screenwriters are morons, which they've proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by writing Whiteout and The Reaping in the years since this sad little movie. Anyway, two of them go looking for gas and find a town that doesn't appear to have any living relatives. In fact the only guy they find in town is in the middle of a funeral. He says he's got the necessary fan-belt, but that it's at his house and would they please wait for him to finish burying his brother. They agree and decide to hit the Wax Museum first thing. It's suitably creepy and even more so when Collett-Serra lets us know that there's some long-haired creep still working on the figurines in the basement. While retrieving the part, one of the kids is abducted, the other escapes and then their friends show up to help and are all killed and turned into wax people except the lead girl and her brother.

House of Wax has some of the angularity and baroque direction of the superiorly crazy Black Christmas, but isn't quite as insane. It's stacked to the rafters with talent poached from teenage-aimed television, including Jared Padalecki, whose since settled down in this world with his lead turn in Friday the 13th and a surprisingly strong performance from Chad Michael Murray, who just about vanished from sight after this. And then there's the reason this movie gained what little notoriety it did: Paris Hilton as one of the expendable idiots. She's bad but no more so than Camilla Belle in When A Stranger Calls. Her death scene sticks to the old truism about severed heads in horror films: they spent a lot on that head and by christ their gonna get their money's worth. To be fair this is as good as a movie with Paris Hilton could possibly be. It follows roughly the same trajectory as Marcus Nispel's Texas Chainsaw, right down to the lead's boyfriend being operated on as an indication of how screwed everyone is. It's half-goofy tone reminds me more of Tourist Trap than anything Vincent Price did in the 50s. That is, until the gore comes out and all of a sudden this becomes a much grimmer affair then it started. The best parts of the film, other than how well Murray acquits himself playing a redeemable dickbag, are the opening sequence where we meet the killers as children and hints at how much better the film could have been and then the credit sequence, which was maybe the most compelling part of the movie. I have an inordinate love of the song "Helena" by My Chemical Romance, a band I otherwise have no time for. By putting that and then Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades" in sequence, Jaume Collett-Serra manages to make it seem like I didn't just waste an hour and forty-five minutes, even though I know for certain I did.

The Fog
by Rupert Wainwright
John Carpenter has terrible taste in films. As much as I like his best work, I've always known from his seemingly endless string of documentary appearances that he likes shit and hates great movies. Which perhaps explains why he not only allowed The Fog to be remade, but produced the damn thing himself. That doesn't explain why it's the worst thing with his name on it since Ghosts of Mars. Well, maybe handing it to the guy whose credentials include the video for "2 Legit 2 Quit" and fuckin' Stigmata does. Anyway, the story's the same, except it's not scary, and they lose the ensemble aspect which made the original so interesting. And they lose the production design, which, though borrowed from the likes of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, was original enough in the context of American horror that the whole effect was all very pleasing. Here, we get a random collection of set-pieces that add up to nothing with an emphasis on stupid people being stupid and handsome people being handsome. It's all incredibly fucking boring and neutered and should be skipped.

When A Stranger Calls
by Simon West
There's a popular misconception that the original When A Stranger Calls is a horror film. It starts as one but the minute Charles Durning shows up, it's a procedural with an emphasis on suspense. And then you realize the whole thing was more a thriller than a horror film. Simon West is not half as smart or clever as Fred Walton, who also directed the original April Fool's Day, on which more in a moment. Though he's since parted company with Jerry Bruckheimer, the lingering stench of his influence is all over this movie. In fact, his first film, Con Air, is more often than not confused with the work of Michael Bay. Which is fitting because West does the same thing to the house that makes up the setting for most of When A Stranger Calls as Bay did to the house in his Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Except instead of decrepit and grimy, the house here is state-of-the-art and modern. So modern in fact that it's a stage set and never for a second looks like anything else. There's even a scene where the killer jumps through the roof of one of the rooms and you see that it's a set! And he does this ten seconds after he turns the master power to the house on. Last time I checked, the fuse box is never in the attic.

Anyway, there's no Charles Durning in this one, except for a few seconds in the beginning, it's all girl in the house. And I wouldn't mind except the girl is fucking wretched. Camilla Belle sleepwalks through her part, barely able to get up the energy to sound scared. Which, I guess, is appropriate because the guy doing all the calling isn't all that scary. He's just a guy. The whole thing feels engineered and never works to get you to suspend your disbelief. The opening is promising as we see the handiwork of the killer; the cops have to carry her out of her house in several trash bags, but the film fails to deliver on this promise. The only other thing to say is that this movie features the first appearance of Katie Cassidy, who we're going to seeing a lot more of.

The Omen
by John Moore
The only thing I'll say for this movie is that Liev Schreiber does a fine job and that they found perfect counterparts for the original roles in Pete Posthlethwaite, David Thewlis and I love any movie that casts Giovanni Lombardi Radice, but the beats are exactly the same, the effects are exactly the same, the child has a ridiculous haircut and Julia Stiles is no Lee Remick. The only part that seems to wake the film up is a seconds-long medicine cabinet scare, something these movies all traffic in. Barely there by all accounts and not at all worth your time.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
by Jonathan Liebesman

Now, look, I know I brought this one on myself (well, ok, I brought all of these on myself, but nevermind that) but I was still pissed off at this movie. First of all, they set this movie in the late 60s, yeah? How about some fucking commitment. You have, what? Seven characters in the whole film, and you couldn't find period costumes for them? Right out of the fucking gate, one of the girls is wearing a fucking La Perla bra, and she's supposed to be poor! And as if that weren't lazy enough, we're treated to basically the same fucking script and identical production design and cinematography as Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay's first Texas Chainsaw film. The only real difference is that the cast is far less adept at selling the fact that they don't know what cellphones are. Oh and it's grimmer. A lot grimmer. I knew this going into it, it is a prequel after all, but I was still so mad at this movie when it kills off the last character. This is when I knew that these remakes were playing fucking dirty. Not only do you not know anything more about Leatherface than you did in the last eight Texas Chainsaw films, if anything, the issue is muddled even further. You see him being born and then his mother dies and he's adopted by a family of crazies. So, that explains how his insanity was nurtured, but what about his birth mother made him want to cut his nose off as a young boy? Yeah, see what I mean? And I know that the mere fact that this takes place before the events of the previous film and that none of the female characters place a revolver in their vagina means that they won't be around for the next outing, but what kind of sick fuckers make a movie about people who have to be killed with a chainsaw before the film ends. That's not suspense, that's torture. So what kind of sick people turn moviewatching into torture? Why Platinum Dunes, of course. This is the first of the Michael Bay produced remakes that I openly despised and could see the disgraceful, sweaty palm of Bay steering the production from the opening sex scene to the last grubby cheat that this movie calls a climax. There were a lot of things to explore in this movie; who belonged to the face Thomas Hewitt is wearing before he steals Eric Balfour's was nothing I cared about. And it's not enough to hinge a movie on otherwise devoted to killing likable people in the worst possible fashion. Don't watch this movie. Don't play their game, you'll lose every time.

by John Erick Dowdle
The movie they've raped this time is [Rec], a movie that I'd call very near perfect, it's effectiveness as a horror film occasionally standing in the way of any artistic aspiration, which prevents it from being an A+. But as a movie designed to scare you so bad you have nightmares, it's one of the best ever made and is so efficient that you like and believe everybody as who they're supposed to be. Quarantine is a movie run through babelfish. What appears an attempt to be spontaneous is all the more insidious because it's word-for-word the transcript of a brilliant screenplay. The beauty of [Rec] was that you couldn't tell if it was meticulously planned or largely and ingeniously improvised. Here the decision is obvious because aside from a few stupid exceptions (the business with the rats), the script is word-for-word the same. Except...well, let's put it this way: Quarantine is 90 minutes and [Rec] is 75. The spanish film didn't fuck around and moved so quickly that you were constantly terrified and plot developments happened in a second. Here they take their time to make sure that you are made way more aware than you need to be about what's happening. They also deliver exactly the same lines, but take just as long to do so in English as it takes the actors in the first to do so in Spanish and they talk at three times the speed of your average english speaker. So not only are you aware that instead of writing a new script, they just copied down the subtitles, they made sure to have the actors mock the performances from the original, except more shrill and annoying. It's really kind of perverse, like watching a play by Max Fischer. As much as I hate Let Me In on principle, I have a hard time imagining it's more annoying than Quarantine.

John Dowdle is one of the worst directors working today and from his short resume, he and his writer brother Drew have absolutely no moral compass. After their hysterically stupid debut,The Poughkeepsie Tapes, their first project out of the gate was a remake and they've since made a film from an idea by M. Night Shyamalan, Devil, a movie unequaled in its offensively facile and downright childish worldview. And again, I wouldn't hate Quarantine so much if they hadn't copied and pasted [Rec] into I can't quite express to you my contempt for Quarantine, which lumbers along with its dumb caricatures, its soundtrack negating the supposed verite aspect, its cutting when they think no one's paying attention, its generally treating its audience like an abusive boyfriend until it comes to its merciful close. At no point is it believable that the camera being wielded is the kind of camera used for its ostensible purpose or being wielded by anyone but a professional DP. Fuck this movie and fuck everyone involved. You guys screwed up one of the best horror films of all time. A year after it was released. I hope they put that on your tombstone, you fucks. Oh, and they put a bra on the thing in the penthouse, who shouldn't even be there because they changed the cause of the virus. Go fuck yourselves.

Ok, woo...ok, calm...alright...ok, let's just cool off a second. Whew...Ok, I'm good. Join us next time as we continue the saga of the early twenty first century remake!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Who will survive and what will be left of them?

Marcus Nispel, like Russell Mulcahy or David Fincher, had a big handicap starting out as a feature film director. He was a music video and commercial director for many, many years before making his cinematic debut. But he had a powerful ally who'd conquered the same disability, someone who has turned out to be just as big a help as a hindrance, no matter how you look at it: Michael Bay. Many people (myself at the top of the list) consider Bay to be the man working the guillotine which narrative cinema has been forced into. But say what you will, he gets your fucking name out there. The real question is what do you do with the spotlight, once you've got it. In Nispel's case, not much, and in fact all we've learned from his forays outside Bay's auspices is that he has nothing to say, which is a shame because if I had to pick one movie that Bay and any of his music video directing, tit-ogling friends were ill-equipped to remake, it was Tobe Hooper's fantastic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, by any measure one of the ten most important horror films since the introduction of gore into mainstream cinema and, by my count at least, one of the best horror films ever made. It's to Nispel's credit that his remake not only didn't make me furious, I actually kinda liked it until I went to film school. In fact as remakes go, it's still one of the most entertaining even if it has nothing of the original's craftsmanship or integrity.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
by Marcus Nispel
Instead of five kids out to do something fairly responsible and even a little admirable, the five lucky victims in this outing are just some homely hillbillies on their way from a drug buy on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. The year is 1973, though Bay and Nispel don't care enough about that detail to get more than the clothes right. Kemper and Erin have been dating for quite some time. Morgan looks like Jerry from the original, though he's meant to be closer to Franklin in that he's a serial virgin and the hardest to like. The four kids became five when they picked up Piper, a randy girl who looks considerably older than I imagine she's supposed to be, who immediately took up with Andy, the sweatiest, hunkiest guy in the van. Thinking they'd had good enough luck they agree its best to help the girl who stumbles out of nowhere. The fact that their van almost collides with the girl doesn't seem to phase her. They bring her inside and try to get her to talk but all she can manage are a few macabre hints. Apparently "they" are all dead and she's the only survivor. When the kids try to drive her to get some help, they inadvertently pass a sign she recognizes, which sends her into a full-on freak out. When they won't turn around despite her screaming at them that they're going the wrong way and that they're all going to die, she pulls a gun out of her vagina and shoots herself in the fucking head. The hand of Michael Bay seems all the clearer now...

So after a longer time spent on the kids reaction to this event than you'd likely find in a film directed by Bay, they agree to go look for help. The only snag in going to look for a cop is the piñata full of pot in the back of the van they picked up in Mexico. Kemper makes an executive decision to ditch the weed, though mostly I'm thinking he does this to please Erin. An interesting side note here: The others make fun of Erin right away for not drinking or smoking weed while in Mexico. The decision was made to excise the fact that this is because Erin is pregnant (the producers of Deep Blue Sea did the same thing to Jacqueline McKenzie). This would have made her more interesting rather than the typical Final Girl who simply doesn't do drugs because that's just what Final Girls don't do (thank you El Santo). She's also repulsed by Andy and Piper's frantically making out after having known each other for only a day. I'd like to offer Michael Bay a punch in his fucking face for that bit of horseshit. The reason Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains a classic to this day is because it adheres to none of the gender dynamics or cliches of the films that followed in its footsteps. Right off the bat the politics of the remake are no better than a rip-off. Anyway, let's get back to how fucked these kids are. They stop at a barbecue stand to report the girl's suicide to the police but curiously the woman behind the counter insists on making the call for them. Even curiouser, the sheriff's going to meet them by an abandoned mill. The kids, being fucking idiots, go anyway and wait.

At first waiting at an abandoned building appears to be the fool's errand it truly is, especially when a boy with (obviously fake) buckteeth appears to tell them that the sheriff ain't coming. He's at his house across the yard getting drunk. Kemper and Erin decide to go investigate and instead just find a legless old man sitting in a wheelchair. After calling the sheriff's office again, the legless man distracts Erin long enough that the biggest man in the county walks up to Kemper and kills him with a goddamn sledge hammer. She retreats to the mill, thinking he just left without her while in the basement the hulking man makes a mask out of her dead boyfriend's face. Meanwhile the sheriff has come and collected the dead girl's body and been as inappropriate and unprofessional as a cop could get away with and still keep his badge. I like to think this is how Michael Bay behaves on set. But you know why this is problematic, don't you? If the sheriff has just collected the girl's body, then who was on the phone with Erin? Andy decides to go back with Erin to look for the M.I.A. Kemper at the old house again. They get in but once Legless has had enough with the interlopers and signals the giant in the basement wearing Kemper's face who emerges with a big (and noticeably modern, nice job props department) chainsaw. He catches up with Andy but Erin gets away. She tries to warn Morgan and Piper but the sheriff, or anyway the man who put the suicide girl's body in his trunk, shows up again, finds some pot in their car and really starts giving 'em shit. He takes Morgan in his squad car back to a house that looks uncannily, is, the house where the dude with the chainsaw and the man with no legs lives, leaving Erin and Piper with no way of starting the van. Not that that matters: the dude with the chainsaw finds 'em a few minutes later.

Three Transformers movies later the last act of Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes a lot more sense. Roughly a third of the movie is devoted to Leatherface following Erin around various decrepit locations with his saw trying and failing to kill her. I initially pegged this as just following Hooper's lead, which saw Sally Hardesty running for her life for a lot of the final act. That theory doesn't really fit when you realize that the rest of Hooper's story has been altered. The killings are parsed out over the length of the whole film, the family is expanded, dinner with grandpa's been 86'd, and the ending is obvious a mile a fucking way. But by having Jessica Biel run around screaming for 40 minutes the film doesn't so much resemble the original as it does a Transformers movie. In the end of all of those films the plot stops dead so we can watch indecipherable robot fighting for up to an hour. The last act isn't homage, it's just bad screenwriting. The Deus Ex Machina is also easy to overlook in the moment, but it makes no sense that the family would have changed clothes and head to the restaurant in the pouring rain so that Erin can find them for revenge. I guess what I mean is that it's easier to like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre if you haven't seen the original and if you shut your brain off. But as I rarely if ever get into the right mindset to do that (film school does that to you), I'm outta luck. Or rather, the film is. So basically if you're easily scared, this movie will definitely do the trick, but under scrutiny it's only half as good as I remembered it.

The blame for Texas Chainsaw's shortcomings can only be chalked up to Bay to a degree. Sure it takes a particular kind of arrogant fuckface to think he can remake a modern masterpiece to earn a quick buck and to use Jessica Biel's tits to sell it, no less. And to be sure Michael Bay is a fuckface but it's tough to tell his influence apart from Nispel's direction. Nispel's trademarks are hard to know because his sensibility lines up so perfectly with Bay's. The movie is pretty in that kind of color-corrected way that Bay does with his movies, but subsequent efforts have shown this to be mostly a fluke: the color correction in Pathfinder is fucking crazy. I give Nispel credit for hiring Daniel Pearl to shoot the film as he was also Hooper's DP on the original. The production design is definitely new school despite the team's best efforts. There is such a difference between the bone room in Hooper's film and the music video/funhouse aesthetics of the new one. Empty the set of actors (well, maybe keep the legless guy) and you'd be forgiven for thinking Mushroomhead or The Esoteric were about to start playing unplugged electric guitars shaped like bats. Nispel doesn't quite have a handle on storytelling and every scene is undercut by overly dramatic music and I do think it's important to remember that none of the images here are original. And then there are minor problems like that none of these kids has a southern accent, none of them looks, acts or talks like someone would in 1973 and the clothes are more someone's impression of what someone wore back then, not anything you would have actually seen back then. And I can't tell if cutting out the most gruesome parts of the film was a wise decision or not. On the one hand these kids are likable despite their vacuousness (Jessica Biel's final girl is defined more by what she doesn't do than what she does) so I don't really relish seeing them have their shit wrecked by a chainsaw, to coin a phrase. On the other hand it does seem pretty fucking tame considering we don't see much more than we did in the original, thirty years earlier. Nispel amps up the cruelty a bit and makes you really feel the injuries, which is more than a lot of Bay's proteges can claim. The scares and tension still work reasonably well even though now the thing that stands out most in the last scenes is that scads of stadium light comes spilling in through the trees. Hooper and Pearl managed to use darkness and make it look like darkness. Nispel and Pearl worked no such magic. It looks every bit the music video its pedigree would imply and that's just not good enough when you take on one of the greatest horror films of all time.

In fact the only reliable thing in the movie is the crazy performance by R. Lee Ermey. It's really no different from any of his other performances but there's something so delicious about the way he says "What are you gonna do with your tickets, hot shot?" hands down the best few seconds of the movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre didn't make a star out of anyone in particular but it did prove to Bay that by remaking movies with questionable mainstream reputations but undeniable name recognition, he could get away with doing as little work as possible and making a quick buck. In a few short years Platinum Dunes produced remakes of The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher and even a prequel to Texas Chainsaw. Meanwhile Nispel tried his hand at forcing auteur status to his name. Now I have to admit I'm impressed that even with a producer as fucking retarded as Michael Bay over his shoulder, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still one of the more effective and least face-palming of the Platinum Dunes-style remakes to date. But a made-for-tv Frankenstein adaptation and a dvd burial for his boring-as-all-shit viking movie later and it was abundantly clear that he had nothing to say. He probably saw that the only way he was going to have a proper audience again was with Bay. So in 2009, with no critical success to his name and his eye for visuals thoroughly deadened, Nispel rejoined Bay for another fucking remake. The problem is that Bay's influence on Texas Chainsaw wasn't quite as damaging to its quality as it was to Nispel's style. Bay had graduated from the Jerry Bruckheimer school of douche bag filmmaking to become a name in his own right and had more money than christ, so my guess is any attempts to make their next collaboration even half as arty as Texas Chainsaw were shot down in favor of nude water skiing, misogyny and crassly slick set design, Bay's raison d'être. Even if the movie they were remaking was something as bad as Friday the 13th, you'd think they'd at least be able to meet its quality halfway but Bay and Nispel go so far out of their way to make their remake as bad as any of the also-rans that followed the original in the early 80s. Scratch that, their Friday the 13th is as bad or worse as the worst sequels to the original film.

Friday The 13th
by Marcus Nispel
In two prologues we're given the events of the original Friday the 13th. A girl cuts off the head of Pamela Voorhees after she assures this girl that she's going to die like the rest of her friends. This girl is the last surviving camp counselor from Camp Crystal Lake, the rest of her peers evidently let her son drown and so Mrs. Voorhees is taking revenge. What she doesn't realize is that Jason is not only still alive, but he's watching all this happen. She's probably equally surprised when the girl cuts off her head instead of dying like the rest of the counselors. Jason collects his mothers head and moves into (and builds?) a system of tunnels beneath the camp ground. At least twenty years later, a group of dumb fucker college kids wander onto the camp grounds looking for an apparently massive pot crop. They find it, or rather the one kid with no girlfriend finds it while the other four have split off to have sex. But as soon as he does a giant with a bag over his head comes out of nowhere and fucking kills him with a machete. Then he kills the first couple by catching the boy in a bear trap and burning the girl alive by tying her up in her sleeping bag and hanging it over their campfire. The second couple are a touch more fortunate in that only the guy is killed for sure. The girl looks a heartbeat away from dying (and despite her showing up in the second act she'd definitely be dead if the scene had gone on another half second) but she's saved by the credit sequence. Later still we learn that this girl had a brother named Clay who's in town for the second time looking for her. Their mother has died and Clay's certain that his sister wouldn't simply skip the funeral, she's too good a person. In other words she's the kind of girl who survives a shitty horror film like this. Clay meets a group of dumb fucker college kids on their way to the lead douche bag's house for what I'm going to say might be senior week, but frankly who gives a shit? These people will all be dead soon, anyway and that's broadcast from twenty thousand leagues away. The lone holdout is Jenna, lead douche bag's maybe-girlfriend, who sympathizes with Clay's plight even as her boyfriend actively and pointlessly antagonizes him. Clay finds a kind of a dumb farmer living near the rich asshole's cabin and tries to show him the missing poster he printed out but the kid is too busy trying to sell weed to the bereaved Clay to offer much assistance. What's that, you say? Yes that does mean that the big pot plant in the woods is his, and it also means that the murderer and Crystal Lake are nearby. The big man himself puts in an appearance a few minutes later, murders the weed growing bumpkin and steals a hockey mask he has lying around his barn for good measure.

A moment's digression: Look, I know no one's expectations for this film were super high (though the screenwriters sure were, haigh-o! I laugh to keep from crying) but this scene is one of those things that always fucking kills me. Ok, so Jason's been living in this guy's backyard for who knows how long and he's clearly been the machete wielding giant he is now for at least a few years. Yet this kid manages to grow and care for a giant fucking weed patch without getting killed until this point. So what may I ask finally makes this clearly deranged body-builder finally snap? Some kids wandering into his house? Maybe, but the dude doesn't live there, he lives underground. Damian Shannon, one of the scriptwriters, has said that he thinks of Jason as territorial. Granted, but how the fuck did this kid manages to grow the weed then? Fuck you guys and your bullshit. And what are the odds that a kid in a town that dollars to donuts doesn't even have a roller rink has a fucking goalie mask laying around his barn? It's not like he's got any place to practice his skating. Or come to think of it, that's not even his barn, is it? What the fuck does the old codger who owns the place need with a goalie mask. And where the shit does a loner get a bow-and-arrow or even know what one is? He was fuckin' six when his mom died! FUCK YOU!!! Digression over. The kids immediately start earning their deaths by waterskiing topless, smoking weed, drinking and stripping and then Jason starts killing them in the most disgusting ways possible. At the same time Clay and Jenna go looking for clues as to where Clay's sister Whitney might be and slowly become aware that they're all being hunted by the lug in the hockey mask and he's using a series of tunnels to do it. But what Clay doesn't realize is that Whitney is being held captive in these tunnels and the only reason she's still alive is that she looks like his mother when she was a young woman, so young that there's simply no fucking way that Jason would remember her looking like that, so fuck you, screenwriters!

When my dad and I walked out of that abortion of a Fog remake, he said something that I think about all the time. It really takes a shitty fucking movie to make The Fog look like the vastly superior film. I like The Fog, but it's tone is so light and dreamlike that it doesn't scare so much as just sort of pleases but next to the piece of shit remake it was slapped with, all of a sudden it seemed like a masterpiece. Similarly, I hate the first Friday the 13th so much that I haven't been able to force myself to watch it again to review it despite its undeniable cultural importance. I like 9 out of 10 slasher also-rans more than I like the original Friday the 13th yet next to this fucking remake it looks like The Thing. Say what you will about the original (and believe me when I say that I sympathize with any gripe you have with it) it was made on the cheap and is now thought of as a classic. This movie drips with money and doesn't manage a fraction of that movie's questionable integrity. This is a movie that the dickweed who ruined A Nightmare on Elm Street with his horrid remake turned down the chance to direct. This is a movie that Michael Bay, the movie's fucking producer, walked out of. This is a movie so fucking bad it's almost unreal. First of all the tone is impossible to nail down. What to make of the first stoner singing aloud to Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" moments before his death? Or of Aaron Yoo's character's underdog chances at sleeping with one of the girls being thwarted by Trent, his rich asshole friend? He goes to an old shed and complains about how Trent is rich and an asshole, which is true, and we side with him and feel bad for him, and then he's fucking dead twelve seconds later? Same goes his friend Lawrence who is a genuinely interesting and sympathetic presence for all the ten seconds we spend with him, yet he gets punished for being selfless. This whole movie is a parade of people being really militantly hacked to pieces by a throbbing surrogate phallus.
The pace and intensity is relentless and once they've worked through all the horrible dickbags, all they have left to kill are nice people and fuck a movie that exists to kill nice people. Seriously. We spend half of the second act with Danielle Panabaker's Jenna, for instance and she's killed almost completely unceremoniously. I fucking hate it when movie's do that. I get that you're trying to be dangerous, but you're hiring actors. Twenty years ago you were hiring bathing suits, today you have actors and actresses who are really trying to do good enough work that they don't have to stock third tier horror remakes with bodies. So when you kill them, all you're doing is ensuring that not only is your movie not very good, it's also not fun to watch. This does at least answer my question about the death of minor characters in Texas Chainsaw. Chances are if they had really shown the characters in that film getting fucking destroyed by a chainsaw, it would have been unwatchable. I'm glad they pussied out. Because here it's fucking heinous and the impression I get is that Nispel left on his own might be a more vicious director but this movie couldn't be less personal or interesting. It's just slick and even when remaking something as cold and calculating as Friday the 13th, you need more than that to ensure that it escapes the stigma of the 10 sequels the movie fostered and how truly soulless the franchise had become. All this ensures is that its the cleanest and nastiest cash-in yet. Bay paid for the extra gloss and if he didn't like the sex, just what the fuck was he looking for? The movie has his name written all over it, yet even he was dissatisfied, turned off by how fierce and explicit and pointless it all was. Maybe he saw too much of himself in the character of Trent. I've been on a bad remake bender lately and while it's not the worst (that'd be The Hitcher) it comes very close to being the most perfunctory. There ain't nothing to see here, it's all been done.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Come hungry, leave happy (My Favourite Films Volume 19)

Think for a second about iconic filmic imagery. What comes to mind? I don't mean to push you one way or another, but if you feel so inclined, tell me what the first images that come into your head are down below in the comment section. I'll go ahead and wait here a second. Back? Splendid. I ask because I was watching Turner Classic Movies and they had a sampling of tableaux from iconic films as an interlude between movies and of the six or seven they showed, most were horror or sci-fi films. In fact with the exception of Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, The Godfather, From Here to Eternity and in the case of the TCM Montage The Graduate, most of the instantly recognizable cinematic symbols come from horror films. The Birds, Psycho, King Kong, Night of the Living Dead, Dracula or The Horror of Dracula and Frankenstein come immediately to mind, but then there's Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, The Phantom of the Opera or any number of the films Lon Chaney earned his nickname making. Stack that against other genres and what do you get? So why did horror become the deformed kid living the cellar? Why is it that some kind with a camera and a couple hundred bucks to blow's first instinct is to make a zombie film? Or a slasher film? Or a house full of freaks film? Horror films didn't start to become the exclusive domain of the maligned and misunderstood until the middle sixties; before then they were all business. Experimental films took care of the inside-of-the-subconscious movies well into the sixties (imagine what a Maya Deren-directed horror film would have looked like? Or Man Ray? Or Stan Brakhage?) but when people figured out you could make something as good as Night of the Living Dead as cheaply as George A. Romero and Image Ten did it, then why not give it a shot? I bring this up because the best horror films, even ones that have a reputation for being cheap and squalid, are solidly made. I like Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and The Messiah of Evil, but I understand that the reason they're not regarded as classics is because they aren't quite as well-made as their influences. I may hate Carrie for being stupid and witless but I understand that it caught on because it's very old-fashioned/conventional in its editing and art-direction. Which brings us to today's film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If the backwoods and desert are where horror's reputation retreated to in the 70s, it's tough not to think of Texas Chainsaw as a big step in that direction. And yet, there's a reason it caught on. If it were as deranged as its name and reputation suggest it'd be unwatchable but Tobe Hooper was a lot more talented than people tend to give him credit for. If just being scary or gross were enough Guinea Pig and Toe-Tag would be household names. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre managed to become one of the most iconic horror films of all time. You don't wind up as recognizable as something by Hitchcock unless you're doing something right. And you don't wind up something little kids brag about to scare their friends unless you're doing something really right.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
by Tobe Hooper
As much as I appreciate the creepiness of John Larroquette's narration (I had the thing memorized by the sixth grade) I feel now it does too much to prepare you for the movie it precedes. The credit sequence is more than enough; it's one of the best ever conceived. Picking up where Night of the Living Dead's end credits left off, we're shown bits of corpses by the light of a camera flash as one of the most instantly recognizable scraping sounds slowly plays behind a radio announcer describing just what the hell's going on. Someone has broken into the Muerto County (Texas, obviously) cemetery, dug up some corpses and posed them like dolls. The next day every family with relatives buried there comes by to make sure it wasn't their aunt or uncle who wound up an undead marionette. That includes Franklin and Sally Hardesty who roped Sally's boyfriend Jerry and their two friends Kirk and Pam into coming with them to check on their grandfather's grave. After determining that the old man is still underground they set off in the direction of home. The sweltering heat and the smell of the slaughterhouse nearby where their granddad used to work make them pity the hitch-hiker they spot by the side of the road enough to pick him up. Big mistake. The man's creepy enough to look at, what with the big red birthmark on his face, but when he opens his mouth he instantly makes the whole van regret picking him up. Franklin, being the kind of attention-deprived fat kid you all went to high school with, asks him all manner of baiting questions until the crazed little man puts an end to the interview by first cutting his own hand with Franklin's knife (smiling all the while) and then pulling a straight-razor and cutting Franklin's arm. Kirk gets the knife away from him and throws him out of the van.

Having had more than enough excitement for one day, they decide to make a pit-stop at Sally and Franklin's granddad's place to swim and carry-on for a bit to defuse the tension. They stop for gas and directions but only find one of those things, half-unwillingly, from the guy who runs a barbecue stand. He warns the kids to just drive home but only succeeds in selling them some barbecue (Hooper maintains that this movie is really just about a bad day). They're at grandpa's house a few minutes later. It's at this point that the film starts fucking with your sense of pathos. I guess I should point out that on top of being girlfriendless, Franklin is also in a wheel chair and feels incredibly left out when the others start exploring the house. Hooper's sense of the character and Paul Partain's performance is so fucking spot-on, you hate and pity him in equal measure. But I digress. Pam and Kirk decide to go for a dip but the swimming hole's gone and dried up in the years since Sally and Franklin were kids. Walking further along the path, they hear the sound of what turns out to be a generator in front of a house teeming with old cars and shit tucked away under tarps and behind fences. When Kirk goes inside to find the master of the house hoping to buy some gas from him, he instead finds a tall, stocky man in an apron whose face is hidden behind a mask of human skin. In a heartbeat the man lifts a giant fucking hammer and beats Kirk to death with it. When Pam comes in after him, we get a good look at how this man lives. The room she stumbles into is full of furniture made of human bones and skin, feathers litter the floor and bones hang from strings like mobiles. The man in the mask gets her soon enough, too. Jerry goes looking for the pair of them and doesn't come back by nightfall, leaving Sally and Franklin to go looking for them. They don't get very far between Franklin's wheelchair preventing them from getting through the thick brush and the fact that it's now pitch-dark, but the man in the mask knows the area well enough that he stalks them in the dark and gets the jump on them, sticking Franklin full in the chest with a chainsaw and then chasing after Sally through the woods, through his house and back out to the barbecue stand. Strangely he seems to stop chasing her immediately after she gets there. He promises to get help but when he comes back, it's clear the night has only just started for poor Sally.
In the Fall of 2010, I interviewed David Gedge from the band The Wedding Present. I was really interested in talking to Gedge because he's a notorious cinephile and I wanted to know what his relation to film was. He liked keeping his distance from the mechanics of filmmaking because as someone whose spent his life in recording studios he can't listen to music without picking it apart in his head. He can watch movies and it's still magic to him; he doesn't want to know how they get made because they wouldn't be escapism anymore. I can sympathize with him to a degree because the more time I spend behind a camera, the less I can just watch movies. It's not impossible to watch movies and buy what's happening on screen as simply what it is, but if I'm not careful the movie's over and I've spent the whole running time paying attention to where the camera was put or mistakes in the sound edit. Sometimes this ruins films I love dearly, but just as often your assumptions about a director's intent are proved right and you feel a swell of pride in your heroes. When watching Tim Kincaid's Kansas City Trucking Company aroused my hunger for creepy goings-on in the South, I decided to revisit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time in what was easily three years. In the interim I'd seen everyone of director Tobe Hooper's films right up until the 1990s. And unlike Wes Craven or John Carpenter, Hooper's style remained pretty consistent. After The Hills Have Eyes, Craven very quickly figured out conventional filmmaking and by 1984 had left his peers in the dust. Carpenter's minimalism never went anywhere, but his personal stamp faded somewhere in the 90s and his movies stopped being scary. Hooper was someone who made an honest stamp at domestication but he was too wild to be tamed by an audience of all ages. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not only his wildest, but his best film. I'm not the most polished or accomplished director, but thanks to years of watching movies and at least two making them, I know assured direction when I see it. Eaten Alive, Salem's Lot, The Funhouse and Poltergeist all show a progression, a mastery of technique, a cohesive style and a set of round characters who remained believable within the confines of the studio system that ended with the grandiose Lifeforce and the delightful throwback Invaders from Mars. He kept taking risks and even if people weren't always interested, he never stopped evolving, so long as the budget allowed for him to take chances. Funnily enough, Craven and Hooper found themselves in the same financial predicament that caused them to make sequels to their best movies within a year of each other. Both are slightly easier to sit through than the death of a relative.

Texas Chainsaw was Hooper's second film but from the masterful tracking shots to the truly stunning production design, Hooper's hand is steady throughout, a professional through and through. Which is amazing considering how truly off the rails the film goes, especially in the last third when Sally is at the mercy of the cannibals. Paying attention to mechanics pays off in a big way when you watch the climactic dinner scene. The things Hooper does with editing and particularly sound is so assaultive and disorienting that you wind up feeling like something a lot worse than three maniacs laughing is happening. I guess it's fitting that Texas Chainsaw is as recognizable a name as Psycho because there are plays taken right from Hitchcock's book. There are shades of Marion Crane's shower in the way Jerry, Pam and Kirk are yanked from the narrative (their deaths are also far less gruesome than people remember). Both films lift liberally from the story of Ed Gein - though neither gets the details right - but only Hooper's film manages to recreate the nauseating environs that such a character would live in. The lengths the production designers went to to make every inch of the house look not only creepy as shit but also lived in are remarkable.
Then there are minor but important touches like the house that Sally's grandfather used to live in. It's rundown, that's nothing new, but Hooper captured an orgy of daddy long-legs in the top floor that Kirk stumbles upon. Hooper makes the entire property seem to actively eject normal people. Everything single thing they encounter screams "Leave!" but the kids are too good-natured to see it. In fact Texas Chainsaw is one among thousands of films that people say is about Vietnam that I can actually see working as a metaphor for Vietnam. Until Leatherface shows up, the movie works as a pretty marvelous time capsule, and Hooper's camera work and sound makes it look like he intended the movie to remain a period piece long after its premiere screening. The kids are dressed like...well, let's just say that with the van, they're a talking dog away from solving mysteries. I love their clothes and hair and their attitude is so perfectly 70s that it seems to both make perfect sense and really catch you off guard when these poor kids start getting killed. When squaring off against an indigenous crazy like Leatherface, all they could hope to do is escape with their lives, forever scarred by what they've seen. When they find out that the only reasonable adult for miles is pulling the strings, that's where I see the Vietnam comparison. You escape and the man puts you in a straight jacket and sends you right back into the shit.

Naturalistic to the point of vérité and still terrifying, Texas Chainsaw has outgrown its humble origins and become a cultural phenomenon. Two sequels, two remakes and a prequel later and Leatherface is now one of the most recognizable boogeyman in the annals of horror history, but no one (not even Hooper) has managed to make a better film using its most iconic creation. Leatherface is an action figure these days, so I could see some people assuming he can't be scary anymore (the fucking remakes and sequels sure did their best to neuter him) but when I watched this last, my dad (who's seen it at least as many times as I have) jumped when Leatherface comes running out of the darkness for the first time. So much of the success of the film rests on Gunnar Hansen's Leatherface. The costume design is killer, for sure, but Hansen plays him like a child, something the other films completely ignore. He appears to be running the show until the man from the barbecue joint shows up, then its abundantly clear that he's just a child afraid of his older brother(? The man could be his dad, but that's never quite straightened out). But his treatment of the dead bodies of his victims reminds me a lot of King Kong working the mouth of the dead Tyrannosaurus. And just look at him! What I've long loved about this movie is all you have to do is hear its name or see the man with the saw and you've crated a whole movie around them. Before I'd seen Texas Chainsaw I'd come up with what I thought Leatherface's voice would sound like in my head. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the film has more nuance than it ever gets credit for.
As I put the finishing touches on this I'm reminded how important skill like Hooper's is in the crafting of a horror film. Watching Carl Lindbergh's Bunnyman, an obvious disciple, and seeing how half-assed the editing is, how poorly the sound is mixed, how completely free of tension it remains nearly half way through its running time, how the characters lack even the most basic motivation makes me so fucking mad that horror films aren't given credit for being as well crafted as the best of them are. The sound design on Texas Chainsaw should by rights have earned as oscar, the performances are perfect which makes them invisible so don't ever get praised (the characters are three dimensional and prove it within minutes of simply existing on screen), and Hooper's direction was at least as good as Fellini's for Amarcord or Milos Forman's for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, considering he had a 16th of the budget and yet he lingers on in the basement, untouched by accolade except by nerds like me. I could only hope to ever make a film this good, horror or not.