14 October 2014

October 14th

Texas Chainsaw (2013) directed by John Luessenhop
Better than the overly dark remake series. This one feels more like an '80s slasher to me. It's sort of a gorier Halloween 4 in a way. The film goes back to the original movie, picking up right where the first left off. Fun! TCM vet Bill Moseley takes on the roll of Drayton in the prologue, with a maskless Gunnar Hansen playing another Sawyer who's come with rest of the clan to defend the family after Sally's wild tale draws both the police and a bunch of townsfolk to the house.

Past the prologue, the film starts out in typical TCM style. There's a group of friends driving in a van in Texas -- as always, 3 boys and 2 girls -- and they end up at Leatherface's house. He doesn't take kindly to strangers wandering in and starts chopping people up. Normally, this is the entire film, with the final girl escaping with her life but not her sanity. She does escape, but it's at the midpoint of the movie. From here, the movie takes a left turn. I'm guessing this is where it probably lost a lot fans.

Me, I liked the direction it went. The film declares early on "ain't nothing thicker than blood," and, by gum, it sticks to that philosophy. Heather finds out that the town slaughtered nearly her entire family and burned their house to the ground. This revelation kicks in a clannish reaction in her: she starts to see the townsfolk as the other and the Sawyers, even brutish Leatherface, as her own. The film argues that her lineage makes her a Sawyer in temperament and preference, overruling any influence from her adoptive parents. Not exactly in line with the tabula rasa idealism of today's culture.

Sure, it's hard to swallow why she would ever end up taking care of the man who chopped up her friends, but I'm willing to go with it for the sake of something different in TCM storytelling. If a crazy mayor of small town was trying to kill me, I'd probably look to my deranged cousin/uncle for help. too. And, in the real world, nearly every killer's mother is always declaring: "he's a good boy!", so perhaps this is not as big of a jump as it may seem.

I have to say I had a little trouble with the timeline. Just a baby in 1973, 26-year-old Alexandra Daddario plays the grown up Heather. She doesn't look anywhere near 39. Sheriff Hooper is still sheriff 39 years later. Leatherface is awfully spry for a man in his 60s. The movie goes to great pains to not associate "1973" with "August 19th" -- hiding the year on tombstones with grass, for example -- but they do slip up. Ah, whatever. They wanted a pretty twenty-something to star in the show and too much real world time had passed from the first film to make this possible. This is not important. I had fun with film and that's all that really matters with these types of films.

I Spit on Your Grave (2010) directed by Steven R. Monroe
It's sometimes a little hard to justify wanting to watch something like this. Rape-revenge films have exactly two extremely violent parts, with the first intending to horrify and the second intending to satisfy. These films force us to face that reptile part of the brain that we like to pretend we have under control. The worse Jennifer's experience in the first part of the film is, the more we enjoy the second part. We want see Jennifer destroy her tormentors. It makes us feel good to see her torture them to death. That's not something we're supposed to take pleasure in in polite society, but it's a darkness we all have buried in us. Bringing this to the surface for us to examine is a part of the considerable power of horror films.

It's been quite a while since I've seen the original, but I believe this is the superior version of the story. I like that the remake cut our Jennifer's recuperation. Instead, she begins to torment her rapists like a female Michael Myers, invisibly freaking them out with noises in the dark and dead birds and missing camcorder tapes. This allows us to see the rapists' anxiety as reminders of their crime intrude into their normal life. I also liked the Saw-inspired traps Jennifer devises for the men. In a post-Saw world, I don't think audiences would be impressed with the deaths in the 1978 version, and, honestly, the new deaths are more satisfying as a method of revenge. And, clever at times: I can't say I've ever seen someone's eyelids held open with fishhooks so that crows could feast.

If I had an quibbles with the production, it's that the rapists are a little too stereotypically rednecky. They're living in trailers in the woods, constantly wearing camo, one has a Confederate flag on his head, and they use the phrase "city folk" an awful lot. These guys are about two inches away from playing a banjo on porch. It's makes them a little cartoony and lessens the impact of the events somewhat.

1 comment:

  1. Texas Chainsaw 3D received a pretty brutal reception but I liked it too. I liked that it basically made Leatherface the hero, since everyone coming to a franchise slasher movie at this point is rooting for the slasher. I liked that it attempted some sort of thematic point, about family. Sure, it was jumbled but the attempt was appreciated. I liked that it tried something different then the grimy redneck horror of the remakes. Also, I liked Alexandra Daddario's mid-drift barring top. I'd be receptive to the sequel/prequel they keep discussing making.