Two Halloweens ago we discussed Tobe Hooper’s first masterpiece. This is his second. He didn’t even want to direct it at first, sort of got pushed into it, but damn did he rally. In many ways THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is the Tobe Hooperest movie ever made.
I don’t blame you if you’re skeptical during the opening scene where two obnoxious “senior boys at Wheeler High” calling themselves “Buzz and Rick the Prick” drunkenly drive a Porsche, fire guns, and harass the K-OKLA request line until they receive a drive-by chainsawing on a bridge that must’ve been built by the same people who made that endless runway from the climactic chase in FURIOUS 6. (read the rest of this shit…)
A rare movie-watching phenomenon that I love: rewatching one I saw decades ago, and have always believed sucked, but discovering that I really like it now. It happened with THE MANGLER, Tobe Hooper’s crazy adaptation of a Stephen King short story, and it’s happened again with SLEEPWALKERS, the first movie written by King that’s not based on a previously published work. Maybe it’s something about King’s stories, but more likely it’s that my tastes in horror have evolved since I was a teenager and saw this in the theater.
The mythological premise is established with a little text at the beginning: there are these fuckers called sleepwalkers, they are nomadic shapeshifters who are like vampires but instead of blood they suck the lifeforce of “virginal females,” and instead of sun or garlic or whatever they’re susceptible to cat scratches.
Happy Halloween, everybody! As is sometimes my tradition, I have managed to do a write-up of one of my all time favorite movies that I haven’t done an official piece on. In 2016 I finally got the balls to do THE THING, and in 2017 I did INFERNO. I guess when I did DAWN OF THE DEAD it was a month after Halloween, but that’s the type of review I’m going for here.
These reviews of the classics are intimidating because there’s such a risk of saying the same shit that’s already been said, but I’m tired of linking to my Ain’t It Cool News review of a DVD release every time I mention it, which is inconvenient when I seem to compare half the movies I watch to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I remember I even compared the Kathryn Bigelow racism drama DETROIT to it. Incidentally, even though I’ve been thinking about HALLOWEEN movies all month the world is feeling more TEXAS CHAIN SAW to me these days.
In other words, be warned: this is one of the ones where I relate the movie to the politics of today, so if you hate that, please don’t read, and go have a happy Halloween. If not, please do read, then have a happy Halloween.
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THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. One of the greatest horror movies since they started makin’ ’em. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s true.
It’s a movie that has grown on me and with me. When I first saw it I was probly 13 and I thought it was dumb. Just some crappy footage of a dude chasing people around in the dark. I was a Freddy guy. Saw it again in my twenties and it became pretty much my favorite movie. Back then it was VHS (not sure if it was even letterboxed) and I really believed that the raw quality of the footage was part of its magic. That it felt like a documentary, one made by crazy people.
After believing that for years I got that remastered edition that Dark Sky Films released, the one in the steel case (which I took these screengrabs from). It looked so much cleaner I wasn’t sure if I should accept it at first. Now I watch the way-more-pristine-than-that Blu-Ray and I love the movie even more as the controlled, artful craftsmanship it had always secretly been. For the moment, forget “drive-in” or “grindhouse” and think “great American film of the ’70s,” even if it’s all of those things. (read the rest of this shit…)
Dance of the Dead is Tobe Hooper’s first episode of the Masters of Horror anthology TV show – it was the third week of the series, November 2005, airing after episodes by Don Coscarelli and Stuart Gordon. Made in the throes of the Bush years, one could argue that the wars overseas and upheaval at home subconsciously gave it its apocalyptic flavor, much as TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE has been said to have been marinated in Vietnam era angst.
Not that it’s as good. Or even close. Like all Masters of Horror episodes, its TV budget, schedule, locations and crew dull the edge of any cinematic flair or authorial vision. That’s a bad mix with Hooper’s decision to go a little Tony Scott with the Avid farts and camera shakes. That style might’ve been intended as a translation of the showy writing style in the short story by Richard Matheson (whose son Richard Christian Matheson wrote the adaptation), but I found it cheesy and forced, with the exception of a long convertible joy ride sequence, where the camera movement effectively conveys the high speeds the characters are moving at both physically and mentally. (read the rest of this shit…)
After SALEM’S LOT but before POLTERGEIST, Tobe Hooper did a humble little teen horror movie that acts as a rickety jerry-rigged bridge between his nasty beginnings and his guy-who-works-with-Spielberg years. Filming in Florida, Hooper was able to create a vibe of sweaty southern depravity in the tradition of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and EATEN ALIVE, but bigger – THE FUNHOUSE is a $3 million Universal movie. I don’t know if it’s the sweeping aerial views from cinematographer Andrew Laszlo (THE WARRIORS, FIRST BLOOD, REMO WILLIAMS) or the ominous orchestral score by John Beal (primarily a composer for trailers), but I swear there’s a faintly classy polish on this trashy drive-in sideshow.
I suppose the influence of HALLOWEEN might’ve contributed. The opening is an obvious homage – maybe even straight up ripoff – a POV shot of what turns out to be a kid (Shawn Carson, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES) putting on a clown mask and creeping up on his naked sister (Elizabeth Berridge, AMADEUS, HIDALGO). The difference is that he’s not a psycho, just a little brat trying to scare her. This pranking and the horror movie memorabilia in his room don’t turn out to be relevant, other than that the real horror he encounters hides itself under a Frankenstein’s monster mask, and when he sees it he won’t be laughing, he’ll be crying like a baby. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE MANGLER (1995) is a potent mix of silly Stephen King short story premise and unhinged Tobe Hooper fever dream. That means it has killer inanimate objects, but with the late Texas horror master’s sweaty, depraved lunatic tormenters stirred in like a salted caramel swirl.
Yes, this is a movie about a possessed industrial laundry press that seems to fold more people than it does sheets. You got a problem with that? I sure did in the ’90s when I saw this on VHS and thought it was the dumbest shit I ever saw. This time I was not so closed-minded. In today’s world we need to have more empathy for everyone, including murderous haunted laundry machines.
You may be wondering how the hell this Mangler (actual tagline: “It has a crush on you!”) manages to rack up a body count since it’s not exactly Christine rolling around town listening to George Thorogood, it’s a big-ass metal machine at least the size of a half-length bus and looking three times the weight, with no wheels. Well, I’m happy to report that there’s a part where (SPOILER) the heroes are hauling ass down a mysterious subterranean staircase squealing “We’re fucked!” as the Mangler chases and snaps at them like an angry pitbull. (read the rest of this shit…)
TOBE HOOPER’S NIGHT TERRORS (or THE MARQUIS DE SADE’S NIGHT TERRORS according to the menu of the German DVD I watched – it’s VHS-only in the States) is a lesser known one from Hooper’s disreputable ’90s period. This was 1993, when he was doing alot of TV, but theatrical-movie-wise it came between SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION and THE MANGLER.
I’d actually never seen this one before and I’m glad I waited until now because I can at least respect its place in Hooper’s filmography and its rejection of normal horror ideas. Can’t really say I like it, though.
What is the premise? I’ve seen it, so I have a good guess. It’s about Genie (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), a young American woman played by Zoe Trilling (DR. GIGGLES, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2) who goes to Alexandria, Egypt to stay with her archaeologist father Dr. Matteson (William Finley, THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, EATEN ALIVE, THE FUNHOUSE), meets a few people, experiments with her sexual boundaries and then gets chained up by some sadists. (read the rest of this shit…)
In the ’80s, lots of people were trying to make Steven Spielberg movies. And obviously POLTERGEIST is Tobe Hooper’s Steven Spielberg movie. Or Steven Spielberg’s Tobe Hooper movie. These days it sounds like they should’ve just been credited as co-directors if it had been allowed. Accounts vary. So let’s forget all that and call INVADERS FROM MARS his version of a Spielberg movie, but not a regular Spielberg movie. It’s the type that the weirdo who directed LIFEFORCE would make. And that Golan and Globus would produce.
After two years I was finally starting to get used to a post-Wes Craven world – now all the sudden we Fangorians find ourselves heading into Fall minus George Romero and Tobe Hooper, two of the largest shadows in horror. Like Craven, both of them made an iconic horror classic early on, and remained primarily in the genre for their whole careers, delivering many other gems across multiple decades. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are two of my most obsessed upon horror films, the two that seem to take turns being my All Time Favorite on any particular day. Just as important, Romero and Hooper each maintained a distinct voice that made their weaker movies still interesting when taken in context with the larger body of work.
When I think of Romero I think of independence. He and his Pittsburgh based commercial company Latent Image made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to break into features, a recipe they may have gotten from Herk Harvey’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS. For them it worked, but instead of moving to Hollywood, Romero built his empire in Pennsylvania and filmed almost all of his movies there. That includes his first studio movies, MONKEY SHINES and THE DARK HALF, both of which I think are underrated. Since he later moved to Toronto, his last three films, LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, are filmed around there. (read the rest of this shit…)
LIFEFORCE is a crazy fuckin movie, my third or fourth favorite from director Tobe Hooper. Three years after POLTERGEIST and one before THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 he made this distinctly weird but effective sci-fi horror film, his first of three Golan and Globus productions.
Based on a 1976 novel called Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, it is about exactly that. Astronauts on a British space shuttle mission to study Halley’s Comet find themselves landing on a weird flower-shaped object and discovering hundreds (maybe thousands) of dessicated corpses of giant space bats. But also they find three naked humanoids hibernating in glass cases, much like the underwear girls behind the front desk at the Standard Hotel.
Most people, including myself, sometimes refer to this as NAKED SPACE VAMPIRES. But another good title would be DON’T BRING SHIT BACK FROM SPACE. But this is a momentous discovery, so understandably the astronauts want to get some samples, including all three of the humanoids. And I don’t want to give anything away so I will just say it is possible that they will come to Earth and scientists will have many great breakthroughs from studying them and there will be numerous benefits for mankind. That is one possibility. (read the rest of this shit…)