Tag: Tobe Hooper

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

by on Oct.27, 2010, under Daily Review

Welcome to the new dawn of contemporary horror, a film which bridges the gap between the classic Universal & Hammer’s and today’s ultra gorenography. A film which feasts on the broth on horror’s past, but which seasons with a whole new flavor.

A group of friends are on a road trip in search of the American dream or maybe the last remains of the summer of love. They stop off in the middle of nowheresville to see Sally’s fathers grave, but before long encounter some weird country folk. A big old house is stumbled upon and from there on in, it gets a bit grizzly.

This is a stunning masterpiece by any standard. Dan Pearl was born to be a DP, Hooper shows what a brilliant director he will become: the performances he pushes for here and achieves are outstanding. Marilyn Burns (as Sally) really should have gained the 73 Oscar for this as her performance is as brutally real as it gets. Great roles, paired with great cinematography don’t equal a great film, but throw in a killer plot, a cooking script and some inventive score and you have a stunna on your hands. Given this was all back in 73, it must have blown people away. It holds up well though and by today’s standards still keeps the viewer gripped and a little unnerved, not to mention disgusted.

Hooper’s winning formula here is lifting from what has gone before. Maybe this was subliminal, but the basic premise is classic Universal. Haunted house, spooky woods, full moon, monster in the cellar. The spin comes with his choice of monster, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) who, rather than a bloke in makeup to create the beast, alla Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, we have a human character who strips the flesh from his victims faces to wear as his own mask: instant monster.

We also have a situation with innocent people brutally massacred and very little in the way of a comeuppance on behalf of the villains, original and unheard of in it’s day. And to suspect any kind of happy ending, I’d question anyone’s judgment over the positive final sequence as no-one sleeps tight after an ordeal like this.

So we have influences from the silverscreen, we also have an obvious reflection from Spider Baby, a film which is closest in spirit and story. Hooper takes this basic and turns it into a riot of anguish and despair. The finger licking scene with grandpa is hideous, the moment with the bone room full of feathers also has a read adverse effect on me, but there are things going on in this film that had never really been touched upon. Mental torture, brutal murder but shot with such a beautiful eye makes the whole thing that more disturbing. Those super close up scenes of Sally’s eye are outrageously good.

Let me mention the rest of the cast. Allen Danziger, Walliam Vail, Edwin Neal and Teri McMinn are outstanding and deserve the mention, high praise. Marilyn Burns takes the lead 100%, makes the film what it is but balances against the pure horror and brilliance of character from Hansen, Neal and Jim Siedow.

A final last note, one on a brighter subject. My favorite shot of the whole film has to be Pam (Teri McMinn) as she steps off the swing chair and approaches the house. Inferior camera pan with glorious blue skies, white clouds roll by with the doom of her demise soon approaching. (A scene beautifully recreated in the remake, once again by the brilliant Dan Pearl) This is the most glorious of scenes then Leatherface makes his move and treats Pam like a doll.

This film is a gem and rightly recognized as so. I have a very special place for this one which just gets better and better with each viewing.

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by on Oct.17, 2010, under Daily Review

Earlier on in the year, I had a whole week of haunted house films. One of my friends reminded me of Poltergeist after I’d stated there just aren’t many good films in the genre. I’d somehow forgotten all about Poltergeist!

Construction engineer Steve (Craig T Nelson) moves into his new home on the estate which he’d planned and worked on. A beautiful family home, his wife, Diane (Jobeth Williams) loves it, but the kids are a bit suspicious. Daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) starts taking calls on her toy telephone while the son Robbie (Oliver Robins) is spooked by the tree at his window. Then the chairs start moving on their own and Carol Anne gets dragged into the other side.

The film is so easy and enjoyable to watch. Directed by Tobe Hooper, I believe he barely added anything personally to this film and worked in Spielberg’s shadow as it looks and feels pure classic Spielberg, circa ET, Jaws & Close Encounters. In fact, is this the same house from ET? The characters are perfect, real, believable and likeable. The situation grows at a perfect pace allowing the characters the time to think about and deal with, first nervous, then excitement, some terror to pure despair as the daughter is lost although communicating via TV. The cast are excellent and work with a stunning natural script which allows the viewer access into their world.

Although I say Hooper plays second fiddle here, it’s beautifully shot with a key focus on the all American family, a reoccurring trait of Hooper. The film couldn’t be more American if it tried and it’s a desirable side of the USA, which looks so idyllic. To see this suburban, beautiful home torn apart by the supernatural forces is gripping. Also, I might add, when we see stuff moving around the house, it’s bloody terrifying. The first scene with the chairs when Diane finds them pulled away from the table is so creepy. To think, this kind of threat is all around, could happen in anyone’s home; this is real horror.

The film is groundbreaking in its use of a classic haunting plot in a contemporary staging. It’s accessible to all through situation horror, creating spooky environments but maintaining a level of respect to its audience to encourage viewings.

I’d forgotten about this one. I’d forgotten how amazing, enjoyable and easy it is to watch; I could hit the play button and watch it again.

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Salem’s Lot

by on Oct.13, 2010, under Daily Review

Some films have such a reputation, a pedestal so high, impossible to climb down from. Not only amongst vampire films, this Salem’s Lot is recognized as one of the creepiest and greatest horror films ever made. As a young lad, many of my friends would talk about this one, famous scenes but for some reason, I never got to see it as a kid and ever since, it’s just passed me by. So here we are and this is the primary reason for the project, to watch all the greats I never got around to and revisit those I remember being great.

Ben Mears (David Soul) a horror novelist seeks inspiration in a small New England town, he soon finds he’ll have more than enough material for his next release as it becomes more and more apparent that vampires have moved in to an old house on the outskirts. Slowly, the residents become victims.

Simple plot, based on the novel by Stephen King, this tale focus’ on the small American town and all the inhabitants, something Kings revisits over and over in his work. His eye for small detail and interesting quirky characters is exceptional and works on any level, be it Zombies in the town, Martians or Vampires. It’s always how these characters react to a threat of something different and how they learn to believe in the fantastical. So, what better a director to take on this movie than the king of small town America, Tobe Hooper. Once again, Hooper takes on a film with a small group of antisocial villains who prey out of sight on the locals of the town, same as Chainsaw, same as Fun House, same as Eaten Alive.

Does it work and does it deserve it’s reputation? I’m not convinced. Maybe it had a bigger impact back then, but watching it today is not an easy task. It’s long and steady and builds plenty of character; we get to know pretty much everyone in the town, but the scares are few and far between and the overall plot is pretty common. Maybe it’s just become common. I don’t know really.

Saying this, it’s not bad though. The cast are great. Soul is perfect in the lead. James Mason is a brilliant addition to any cast. Bonnie Bedelia is a great love interest and with George Dzundza and Ed Flanders in support. The script works well as expected, but the overall length could have done with cutting down slightly. Hooper adds some great direction, some classic camera work too. Highlights for me are Ben standing over the grave as the camera sits in low, POV; very nice. I love the vampire too, non of this beast inside business, here the vampire is a monster and very spooky looking. The legendary floating kid at the window is also genius and brilliantly done. One of my other fave moments is when Ben is staking the vamp, unstoppable, monstrous and crazy, questioning just what is going on inside the novelists mind. The scene goes on and on and he just keeps swinging that hammer, then it becomes apparent that more vamps, turned victims are crawling along the corridor in the distance. Very nice. Lastly, great ending.

So, overall, is this worth the reputation? I’m still not sure. Of cause it has some great scenes, great cast, great script and brilliant direction, but a great film should still stand up against today’s standards, should landmark and break barriers and have something to say. This one is entertaining, but feels dated and doesn’t really do anything different with the vampire genre. I know hundreds of vampire films never both with anything new, but this one is basically the same plot as Dracula but in America. Is it worth watching? I’d say yes, purely to make up your own decision and to experience the floating kid.

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