Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Cheapdate posts only when intoxicated.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Where was the cannibalism.
SPOILERS (not many)
Good news: The 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a chainsaw massacre, and yes, it is in Texas.
Bad news: It's boring.
Gore belongs in horror movies! But excessive gore? That is harder to pull off. Comically camp horrors such as, say, Braindead, The Evil Dead series, and the three TCM sequels get away with gore because theirs is so excessive as to be absurd. But for a serious horror, gore has to serve its story, not the other way round. Used excessively, played too fast and too loose, gore is exhibitionist, immature, and downright boring.
The story of TCM the Original (1974) is simple and straightforward: some dumb kids pick up a loony hitchhiker, visit his loony home, meet his loony family, and wind up at their loony dinner table--some of them as dinner. The violence of the story is mostly implied, occurring off-screen. There is no gore. Had there been gore, TCMtO would have been little more than a snuff film, its audience a passive witness. But horror thrives on an active, not a passive, imagination. By tickling our worst imaginations, the lack of gore only reinforces the horror of the film.
The problem with TCM the Remake is not that it is gory (and it is--far moreso than the original, if not the sequels), but that its gore does not serve the story, instead only underscoring its weaknesses, namely a meandering, cruelly confusing plot with characters and scenes that are at once too many and too similar. While the original is admittedly episodic, the remake is all over the place, rushing from scene to repetitive scene, bouncing from character to competing character.
Just try to digest this indigestible plot: A group of kids are rude to each other on a road trip; then they are rude to a girl they pick up from the side of the road. Moseying on over to a derelict barbecue joint, they are rude to a little old lady. Then it's off to a derelict mill/junkyard/installation art gallery-cum-sculpture garden to be rude to the banjo kid from Deliverance! They split up, rudely, and one group ends up at the derelict Family House (which, with its plantation architecture, is creepier than the original's), where they are rude to a little old man. After several more scene hops and some judicious dispatching of the cast courtesy our old pal Leatherface (who at 260-odd pounds should cut down on his red meats; I don't know how he keeps up with those kids), a lone survivor escapes into the woods to a derelict trailer, is restored to the derelict Family House, escapes again to a derelict shack, hides in a derelict (or at any rate USDA unapproved) slaughterhouse, and finally ends up back at the derelict barbecue joint. All this, while the white trash Family (here inexplicably surnamed Hewitt) behave very rudely to her indeed.
Meanwhile there are subplots afoot!--baby snatching, incest, genetic disease, police conspiracy. The only thing that's missing is the Illuminati. Oh, yeah, and the cannibalism. YES: IN THIS REMAKE OF TCM, THERE IS NO CANNIBALISM. (It's still implied, what with the meat hooks and the slaughterhouse (a nice touch, that, but unfortunately it just meshes together with the other innumerable hide-and-go-seek scenes), but without the original's critical barbecue pit and dinner table scenes the nastiest bit of the horror is lost.)
Confused yet? Bored, even?
I sure was. For as many changes of scenery as TCMtR has, all of them look the same. I understand how that might be intentional--that's part of the horror, right? that there's no escape?--but how many near-identical shots of Jessica Biel running and hiding and shivering and sucking in her breath in terror are necessary to tell the story?
Some of the plot is left unsatisfactorily unexplained, and even more is just plum illogical. For instance, immediately before pulling a gun from--of all places--her bloodied crotch and blowing her brains out in the van, the girl-from-the-roadside tells the kids they're all gonna die. This is what a plucky survivor does when she at long last has a shot to escape her tormentors? Okay, then why not do it earlier, or why not stop the van and do it outside, so she doesn't endanger the kids' lives? Yeah, I know she's supposed to be suffering a breakdown, but her prediction would not have come true had she, herself, not set up the domino effect that made it happen.
The rest of TCMtR is pure Hollywood contrivance. There is the requisite musical score overkill and the squelchy sound effects (remember the creepy, constant drill of the generator from the original? that was rad). There is the snappish MTV editing and direction (compare to the amateurish documentary look and feel of the original). There is the government anti-drug/anti-sex message, and good grief, it is set to "Sweet Home Alabama"!! There is also Jessica Biel in a cowboy hat. Jessica Biel in a wet tee-shirt. Jessica Biel with her head cradled in R. Lee Ermey's naked crotch. (Sheriff Ermey gets to play the best character, a Real Texan who yells and swears and scares the bejesus out of those of us terrified of the South and her reputation for vigilante 'justice' and lynching parties.)
Altogether TCMtR comes across as a well-above-average made-for-HBO movie--it's not bad, really, and often it's entertaining; ultimately, though, it sucks on account of sacrificing story to gore. After two solid hours of nonstop jump scenes and bloody murder, of heaping on the bodies and the body parts and the body fluids, we simply acclimate to the violence. The audience become passive witnesses, and the movie becomes predictable, unscary, and boring.
Also there's no cannibalism. AND DID I MENTION THERE'S NO CANNIBALISM?!
No sir, I don't like it
I'm one of those dissenters who loathes ALIENS, and pretty much everything else James Cameron has directed. Judging from his body of work, Cameron believes that if something is loud and showy and sentimental enough, then it's good. I disagree.
One of my bigger complaint about ALIENS is the characters. While the characters of the original ALIEN were flawed, they weren't unlikeable people, and their constant bickering worked for the movie, setting up tension long before the alien makes its debut. I believed in them, I cared about them, and I was sorry to see them die.
I admit to caring for Ripley and Newt in ALIENS--but that's because Ripley is already established from the first film, and Newt is A LITTLE GIRL, for cripe's sake. Too easy! The remaining characters, the Space Marines, are by contrast incredibly obnoxious and unprofessional in the extreme. (Here's hoping that the real US military is nothing like the way they are portrayed here.)
Their machismo dialogue is so dreadful, it's funny. Take for instance this line delivered to an hispanic Marine: "Somebody said 'alien'; and she thought they said 'illegal alien' and signed up." It took three people to write that?! Good grief. Little wonder that I root for the Space Marines to die. Anything to get them to shut up.
But my real beef with ALIENS is its utter lack of suspense. Ridley Scott's ALIEN was an elegant, Lovecraftian ghost story of a horror movie. ALIENS, of course, is an action movie instead, but that only makes it unscary and predictable. It's nothing but guns and ammo, and you know right off the bat who will live and who will die. Would it surprise anyone who hasn't seen it yet to hear that the protagonist, the adorable little girl, the hunky love interest, and the humble mechanoid are the only ones who make it out alive? Yeah, well, they are. (But here's some good news: they all die in ALIEN^3!)
Some other issues with the movie: the pacing that is too fast; THE LOUD NONSTOP ONLY-IN-HOLLYWOOD MUSIC THAT WILL MAKE YOUR EARS BLEED (compare to Jerry Goldsmith's spookily understated score for ALIEN); the lazy secondary special effects (my boyfriend points out that there is no way the dropship (?) would work, given that one of its wings unfolds before the other!!); and of course Paul Reiser.
Okay, if there is anything I do like, wholeheartedly, about ALIENS it is the aliens themselves. Giving them an insect-hive-like social structure was a masterstroke, and, although too gooey, the aliens--particularly their queen--are downright gorgeous to look at. (No surprise, with the brilliant Stan Winston adapting the designs from the brilliant H.R. Giger's original.)
Trouble is, there is so much of them TO look at! Cameron shows so much of the aliens that they are, ultimately, not scary. As every fan of the genre knows, the best monster is the monster that largely goes unseen.
And now there is ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, with Paul S. Anderson directing... Darn it.
Disappointment thanks to 'bookends'
A working-class single father (Bill Paxton) afflicted with religious visions instructs his two young sons (the excellent Matthew O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter) in how to kill people--or as he sees them, demons--in his blind obedience to God. But is dear old dad obeying God's will, the devil's, or his own? Is he a child abuser and a nut, or a good man and a loving father? If God asked you to kill, would you, and should you?
These are the soul-searching questions "Frailty" asks in its kernel story. Unfortunately, the 'bookends' device that the movie uses, with one of the now grown-up sons as narrator (Matthew McConaughey), manages to do a fine hatchet-job of its own by unambiguously answering these questions for us. (I just hate when movies don't trust their audiences to make up their own minds, don't you?)
More's the pity because the main story in "Frailty" is far more GENUINELY disturbing than the ridiculous, twist-a-minute mess that is the bookends.
Then again, perhaps the most disturbing thing about this movie is that there will be viewers who agree with its message (and its messengers)...! Creepy.
The Innocents (1961)
NOT a ghost story
Reading the comments here about "The Innocents", I'm surprised to see that so many users call it a ghost story. I don't think that it is.
Miss Giddens, the governess, is a sexually repressed young woman, the daughter of a minister, middle but working class, and terribly naive. Her "ghostly apparitions" are a result, in large part, of her repression. They are triggered by her impossible infatuation with the children's uncle (I think the suggestion is she harbors that Jane Eyre fantasy of the powerful Master falling in love with the prim, plain, poor governess). They are heightened and fine-tuned with the discovery of the good-looking, lascivious Quint and his affair with Miss Jessel (after all, the woman she replaced could've been her!).
Miss Giddens wants sex, or at least is curious about it, but she also fears it. She is astonishingly intolerant of the Quint-Jessel affair, believing without evidence the pair to be "evil" and "corruptive" (Quint may have been abusive, but in the Victorian age, what man wasn't a creep?). In her real and imagined encounters with the males of the story, she is submissive to the dominant Master, to the dominant Quint, even at times to the dominant Miles, with whom she shares a disturbingly sensual kiss.
But she is also sexually manipulative, for example using her "ghosts" and the children's "possession" as excuses to contact the Master even after he has explicitly told her that he doesn't want to be bothered. Afraid of sex, she still seeks sexual attention.
As for her charges' "evil" behavior--that is easily explained by privilege. Miles and Flora aren't exactly purposefully cruel, but like many privileged children they are rather blunt and self-centered, not terribly disciplined, and certainly bored from time to time by their provincial governess. In scene after scene they make fun of Miss Giddens for her simplicity and superstitions. The bright and well-educated Miles is particularly patronizing. When she spooks from a snuffed-out candle, he says, "It was only the wind, my dear". But this doesn't make Miles (or Flora) evil; merely precocious.
Of course, the children are also plagued by their own psychological dysfunctions: they feel unwanted by their uncle, who regards them as a nuisance; lonely and isolated from other children (one scene has Miles BEGGING to go back to school to be with other boys his age); traumatized by the sudden and violent deaths of their parents and parental figures. What normal, otherwise healthy child wouldn't be mischievous and misbehaved, given such a history?
Childish stuff, simple and complex, but Miss Giddens feels threatened by it, and increasingly rejected by Miles and Flora. She desperately WANTS to be a part of their lives of privilege, as she desperately wants their uncle or another Quint to be a part of hers. But try as she might, Miss Giddens is not even a surrogate mother, and is in fact regarded by the household as only the highest-ranking member of the servant class.
"The Innocents" is as much about class struggle as it is about sexual repression--and Miss Giddens owes much of her sexual repression to her class, middling and respectably conservative.
Well, I could go on, but this is too long already (ha)... The "ghosts" are Miss Giddens' and Miss Giddens' alone. Note that neither Mrs. Grose nor the children see the ghosts. Even in the closing "exorcism" scene, when Miss Giddens tells Miles, "Look! Peter Quint!", he only asks, frantically, "Where?" Miles is eager enough to make contact with his dead friend/father figure. So why doesn't he see Quint--unless Quint isn't there? His inability to see Quint even when he WANTS to invalidates Miss Giddens' claims that he is in constant contact with and being corrupted by "ghosts".
By the way, I agree that Kerr's performance is over-the-top, but I think there's a reason for it besides the simple fact that "The Innocents" was made in the early sixties when over-the-top acting was the norm: Kerr's character IS a melodramatic woman, so she plays her melodramatically!
Starring--the Sound Boom!
I loved the plot, acting and direction of this movie, so it pains me to say this but on a technical level ANGELA is subpar thanks to a starring role from--the sound boom! Yes, my friend and I counted no fewer than a dozen scenes in which the boom was clearly visible over the actors' heads. The worst of these is when Angela and her sister are walking along the railroad, approaching the boy's house; the mic bobs around like a fishing pole caught on a rubber boot. A pity, because given its other merits ANGELA should have been an intelligent, professional-looking film.