IMDB Entry – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
I generally try to wrap up each year’s festival with a true classic. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my favorite movies and yet I haven’t watched in a while. We don’t have a better film handy for the big night so The Texas Chain Saw Massacre it is! I first saw this film at the South Park drive-in theater when it came out. In 1974. At the time I was a swinging single and I liked to go to the drive-in on a first date. It was the perfect way to get to know each other while providing an excuse for going out. Unfortunately The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was so scary that my date practically jumped out of the car every time I tried to make a move.
It’s 1974, a mere 5 years after Captain America and Billy were gunned down while driving through the south in Easy Rider. Long haired teens were making an effort to avoid going to redneck areas. Then along comes The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and a van load of sweaty hippies are driving around a remote part of Texas. They encounter a really weird looking hitchhiker who totally freaks them out. The teens stop at a gas station that is “out of gas”. The owner is shifty looking and advises them not to go where they are headed. Eventually they find the abandoned farm house they were looking for. Unfortunately, it’s located right next door to a house full of bizarre looking ghouls.
There’s a lot to like about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It definitely fed on the fears of city dwellers toward creepy looking backwoods types living in cluttered run down houses. After a slow up suspenseful buildup, Leatherface jumps out, hits a guy with a hammer, pulls the body in and slams the door shut. Talk about making an entrance! After that the action is nonstop, gross and scary. None of the hippies are particularly likable and I practically cheered when the guy in the wheel chair got it. He complained too much so it was kind of a relief.
The original Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are the two scariest low budget movies ever made. Neither featured any big name actors yet the performances in both films were unforgettable. Both films seemed really gory yet had very cheap special effects that could easily be replicated. There’s just a certain outlandish factor that gets lost when the same filmmakers are given a big budget. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is proof that the KISS principal of software development also applies to films, if you want scary … Keep It Simple Stupid.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
IMDB Entry – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
As I’ve said before when the biggest names in Hollywood decide to make a horror film it’s usually pretty good. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is way better than pretty good. It features 2 of the most successful actresses from the glory days of old Hollywood in their only film together. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford really did dislike each other, so it was only natural to pair them up in a movie that pitted them against one another. The Black Cat was the movie that best paired the two biggest classic horror actors, Lugosi and Karloff. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is the equivalent movie for actresses.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is the story of sisters. The older sister Jane, was a huge stage star as a child but then her career fizzled out as she became an adult. Meanwhile the younger sister Blanche became a famous movie star. An accident leave Blanche a cripple and the sisters retreat to the privacy of their home for the next 20 years. Eventually Jane gets tired of taking care of Blanche and starts torturing her.
Bette Davis landed the role of the aging, psychotic, alcoholic, Jane and she plays it to perfection. Her makeup as a rundown old lady trying to pass for a preteen was a good as Karloff’s makeup for Frankenstein. She’s the ultimate bitch except for when she’s reenacting her glory days as a 10 year old. Joan Crawford plays the wheelchair bound and sympathetic Blanche. She does a great job winning over the audience as her sister abuses her but ultimately Davis had the juicier role.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford feuded with each other before What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. During the filming and as a result of working together they learned to like each other even less. But the shit really hit the fan when Bette Davis was nominated for best actress and Joan Crawford was not. Anyway What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a great movie that hasn’t been available for years. I found a recent Blue-Ray on eBay and the picture is flawless. This is a must see film for anyone who thinks they are an expert on horror movies.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
IMDB Entry – Creepshow
I hope everyone has enjoyed the House of Stuff Anthology mini festival, I know I have. I’m going to close out the festival with my favorite anthology film Creepshow. The film features an all star cast both in front and behind the camera and that’s clearly part of it’s appeal. Creepshow is a tribute to the EC comics that were produced in the 50’s, Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. The filmmakers went that extra mile to achieve the comic book experience and it made the movie even more fun.
Stephen King wrote the screenplay and true to form, it’s his take on the EC stories. None of the stories are great but they are all pretty good. George Romero directed and it’s one of his best efforts. The transitions between live action, comic book style enhanced live action and pure drawings is excellent and really adds to the experience. Tom Savini does the special effects makeup and it’s effective. Creepshow contains 5 very different stories plus a wrap around bit and Savini adds a nice bit of gore to each of segments.
Creepshow features plenty of established and up and coming stars. Legendary actor E.G. Marshall pretty much steals the film as a heartless millionaire with a germ phobia. The guy had an amazing career that started in the 40’s. It’s pretty cool to have an actor of his stature appear in a horror comic book movie. Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau team up in a delightful segment about a henpecked husband with an obnoxious wife. Comic actors Leslie Neilsen and Ted Danson pop up in a sequence that is anything but funny. Last but not least, Stephen King himself stars in one of the stories.
The tagline for Creepshow was “The most fun you’ll ever have being scared” and it was correct. I could easily assign the perfect EC artist to draw each of the bits from the movie. The movie works because it was a labor of love. EC comics were amazing in their day and they still are. They not only did horror, they also produced comics that dealt with science fiction, social issues, humor and war. Unfortunately the U.S. government felt EC was contributing to the rise in pain in the ass type teenagers. Congress managed to put them out of business with the only surviving publication being Mad Magazine. Of course pain in the ass teenagers continue to exist, thanks to Mad Magazine and Creepshow.
IMDB Entry – Candyman
If I had to chose between Steven King and Clive Barker, I’d go with Barker … definitely Barker. Candyman showcases Barker’s originality. King typically does his take on every existing genre while Barker comes up with off the wall stuff no one else has already done. Candyman is one of the more original monster films and monsters to come out of Hollywood since the glory days. He’s not a vampire, not a werewolf, not a giant anything, he not just a killer who can’t be killed. He’s not exactly a ghost, he’s more of a demon or is he something else?
Viginia Madsen stars as a university graduate student doing research into urban legends. She hears a story about a woman who was murdered in a nearby housing project and decides to do some first hand research. Ms Madsen and her associate visit the site of the murder and find something like a shrine. She learns that if you look in a mirror and say “Candyman” 5 times he will appear. Guess what the ladies do. Don’t these people ever learn?
Tony Todd steals the spotlight as the title character. He mostly stands there waiving his hook and speaking without moving his lips. Oh that’s right, he’s speaking telepathically. Whatever he’s doing … it’s effective. Anyway he shows up and things get bloody. A dog get’s it’s head cut off and a baby is abducted. Someone gets a hook to the throat. Then Candyman releases his bees. It’s a good story told in a manner sure to keep you hooked right up until the ending.
Candyman is both original and clever. The story moves along at a brisk pace with a satisfying finish. The ending was a bit of a twist, even though it was the clear cut direction the film was heading. It was just hard to believe that Hollywood wouldn’t chicken out and come up with some type of lame alternative to the demanded ending. Candyman may not be a perfect film, but it scores high marks in areas most films only manage to get a passing grade on. In summary … Candyman is a semi modern classic.
IMDB Entry – The Exorcist
There aren’t many horror films that have earned as much acclaim as The Exorcist. Among it’s many honors is the fact that The Exorcist was the first horror film ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Both the film and the novel were phenomenal successes. The movie still routinely finishes at or near the top in polls to determine the scariest films ever made. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Extended Directors Cut from Netflix for this years festival. I have to confess, I really didn’t notice any extension.
The plot of The Exorcist is really simple. The daughter of a movie star starts acting strange. Her mother takes her to see a Dr. The medical community does it’s thing and comes up empty. Meanwhile the girl is getting violent. The Mother asks a priest for help. The priest puts her it touch with a psychiatrist priest. The psychiatrist priest meets the girl and decides to ask the church for permission to perform an Exorcism. The church leaders want someone with more experience so they send the expert. Then things get lively.
When I first saw The Exorcist at the theater, I was under whelmed by the story. After all, I had been reading about people being possessed by demons or just plain bad guys in comic books for years. The possession part usually took up 1 maybe 2 panels. After that the villain had the possessed person perform some dastardly act. When The Exorcist ended I remember thinking “That it? Satan went to all that trouble just to make the bed bounce?” I was expecting the girl to go on some type of a city destroying rampage.
It was a few years later that I learned to appreciate The Exorcist for it simplicity and it’s technical excellence. The special effects were leading edge in 1973 and they are still effective. The direction and camera work are flawless. The film takes it’s time introducing the characters but once the possession is underway the movie goes into high gear. Then there’s the theme song! It’s hardly used in the film until the end but once you hear the haunting melody it lingers on endlessly. The Theme from The Exorcist by Mike Oldfield is the best horror movie song ever written. You couldn’t drive around the block in the mid 70’s without hearing that song on your AM radio. In fact I’m going to listen to it now.