Friday, March 23, 2007

Camera Obscura - 'The Massacre' Massacre; Beatles v. Zombies

I'm pretty sure I haven't ranted much of late about a really crappy movie. Today will change that. Also ahead today, what happens when the Beatles battle Zombies?

But first, a rant.

Even a most casual reader here will know (and close friends will also vow) that I am a bona-fide fan of horror movies. One movie in particular has always been a favorite, even one or two of the sequels were watchable. The original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" earned it's status on many levels - first on sheer suspense. Made on an ultra-low budget and containing a pure sonic attack on the senses with the blood-curdling sound of a raggedy chainsaw, too many myths of the movie claim how bloody and gory it is. But the fact is - the only time the saw cuts the flesh is when the grim character of Leatherface accidentally touches his thigh with the blade. It's always been the viewer's imagination that filled in the rest. Just watch it and see.

More on the sequels that followed in a moment, but first I have to dismember the worthless and tepid remake recently added to the endless volumes of weekly (weakly?) DVD releases, this one titled "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning."

I was reluctant to even watch it, after the likewise tepid and boring "remake" of the original with Jessica Biel from a few years back. Even that movie, as rancid as rotting flesh, stands as a genius-effort compared to the pure awful crap of "The Beginning."

How about some basics - this "beginning" is set in the year 1969, and yet every character, from vile Saw-family folk to the witless victims to even the sets in the movie are all clothed in the trappings of 2007. I halfway expected someone to dig out a cell phone during the movie.

Also, just who the heck are these Saw-family folk in this movie? Grandpa, from the original, is nowhere to be seen. Likewise Leatherface's brother is absent and his uncle too. Actor R. Lee Ermey, who can scare just about anyone and has one or two mildly funny lines, often looks at the camera as if he is considering taking a chainsaw to the filmmakers. I wish he had and stopped the whole deal.

There's not one moment of suspense in the movie - though the makers hurl tubs of blood and body parts across the characters and sets with the talentless glee of those who have never made or even watched a horror movie. And let me be clear - Main Problem Numero Uno is producer Michael Bay. Unless someone has a smoke-spewing, roaring ten-foot chainsaw at my neck, I will never, ever watch another of his movies.

One 1969-era sub-plot offered up is that two of the victims-to-be are arguing over the Vietnam War (at least for perhaps a half-a-dozen lines). One brother is jonesing to go back and the other is about to dodge the draft and burns his draft card. Here, I thought, is a chance to exploit and/or test his war views. Nope. Nothing is made of it. So it isn't really a sub-plot. It's just more sub-par writing.

The original has a mega-creepy and suspenseful scene of madness with a victim sitting at the "dinner table" with the Saw-crazy kin. This "prequel" does have a scene with a victim at the table and NOTHING happens. And of course, she escapes and runs in the dark to flee the scene (or perhaps hopes to flee the movie) and ol' Leatherface goes in chase. In the original, this was a harrowing chase - here, it amounts to nothing, zip, nada, zilch.

Early in the movie, the victims-to-be, get road-riled by a gang of bikers. Later on, the fleeing character contacts one of the bikers, and for a minute, I thought "here's a great chance for a scene!!" Tougher-than-leather bikers riding en masse to challenge the Saw-folk. Could have been the defining moment of the movie. What happens instead? One lone idiot biker guy walks into the Saw-folk house and basically says, "Hey! Anybody home?" and gets chopped up and, in short, NOTHING happens.

This idiotic mess of a movie is, at best, yet more evidence that filmmakers are replacing suspense, terror, and horror with endless scenes of gory torture whose outcome is as predictable as the eventual Beaver-Gets-A-Lecture-And-Learns-A-Lesson from 1950s tv and is ultimately as boring as that show. The episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" where Howard Sprague gets his own apartment has more terror and suspense than this dreck.

If you wish to see a sequel to the excellent original, the check out "TCM Part 2", which is a very underrated bit of madness, a Saw massacre imagined as a Looney Tunes cartoon. It is both suspenseful and very funny, and that opening scene on the bridge where the tune "No One Lives Forever" by Oingo Boingo is featured will (literally) take off the top of your head. Avoid all other TCM-titled movies.

OK, some movie goodness.

First I loved "300" though I find it endlessly amusing that some critics consider all the he-men dudes in the movie walking around in "man-thongs and red cloaks" is homo-erotic. People - the images were all taken from the drawings of Lynn Varley --- and she's female! So maybe she likes looking at he-men in man-thongs and cloaks.


The not-such-a-secret news was made much of this week that Stephen King's son is Joe Hill, an award-winning writer. His recently published novel, "Heart Shaped Box" is now on sale and film rights have already been purchased. The story concerns a fellow who discovers a ghost is for sale on the internets and he wants to buy it. A link to the novel's website is here. And you can read Joe Hill's bio here. (Great picture, by the way!)


Speaking of biographies, a new look at the life of Bela Lugosi is on sale, which includes information from the files compiled on the actor by the OSS and J.Edgar Hoover and his G-Men. More details here.


Wonder Triplet and fellow blogger Newscoma has a post worth noting, Proof That Vampires Don't Exist. She reports that some scientists use some rather dubious math to prove that if Vamps did exist, they would have long-ago depopulated the planet. All I can say to that notion is - human body farms. But, she also writes that some folks of the vampiric type can sure suck all the fun out of a room and that is indeed one sure way to depopulate a party!


And, as promised at the beginning ... what happens when you mix together The Beatles and Zombies? You get "Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead":


  1. I couldn't agree with you more about TCM, I heart the new header, and I miss you.


  2. Tiiiiittttttttttttts!
    The other wonder triplet.
    We are back.

    BTW, the video is wonderful and I agree about the remake.
    Blech. And I think I might like the Joe Hill King Book.

  3. I will bet cash money that the Wonder Triplets can write a better Saw movie in like two days. Hell, we could write a Night of the Living Dead Howard Sprague that would scare the bejesus out of everyone.

    And much of the success for the header goes to The Editor, as I mentioned on Thursday's post. I had the idea, she has the tech skill to make it real.

    And yeah, the Joe Hill book looks good. The link to his page features info on many of his published short stories, too ... i is now on the lookout for them. I also bet whenever he said to a bully in school, "Oh Yeah? Well my dad is Stephen King!" that he never had bully trouble again!