A Look Back At: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 poster

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 poster

Did you know? In the poster above, which was used for the promotional purposes of the film, the group shot of the family are in the exact same positions of the poster for the film The Breakfast Club.

When the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre released back in 1974 it was a cult hit, and it gained die hard fans. Fast forward twelve years later and its sequel releases. It would always be hard to outdo the original, and even more so with comedy elements added to the film. Would this turn out to be one of the best horror sequels of all time? Lets find out, as we a take a look back!

In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the plot centres around a young radio host (named ‘Stretch’) who ends up hearing Leatherface (and co.) murdering two guys in their early twenties as they called into her show. She then teams up with Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright, (played by Dennis Hooper) who is trying to figure out who murdered the two guys. After Stretch plays the recording of the two males dying all day on her show, Leatherface and co. show up at her radio station to make her their next victim while Lieutenant Enright hunts the family down.

Though that is the plot for TCM2, director Tobe Hooper and co-writer of the original TCM Kim Henkel had thought up a plot for the sequel which involved a town of cannibals instead of just the family we got in the first film. It was also known that it would be a satire of film Motel Hell which itself was a satire of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A name was even given to the sequel, “Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre“. But the studio Cannon Films Inc. disliked the screenplay so much that a new screenwriter was hired. They then ended up with the plot for the film we have now.

Actor Jim Siedow welding a chainsaw.

Actor Jim Siedow welding a chainsaw.

Did you know? Not only is Jim Siedow the only actor that was in the original film that returned, but TCM2 was his very last film.

Though The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has a totally different direction from the original, at the heart of the film, it is still very entertaining. And it is certainly better than the other sequels that were made later on down the line. When you think about it, with Hooper leading the film it couldn’t be actually that bad. The man has done so many incredible films, that he can even turn a classic slasher movie into a comedy movie, and still managing to keep the most important character, Leatherface, true to his roots but giving him a little bit more soul.

One of my minor problems with the film is that it gets very cheesy at the end, and I felt that it was kind of dragging out. Even with a running time of 101 minutes (note: the original was only 83 minutes) it felt like it was being dragged out, and some shots like the very last shot with Stretch, it could of been done better or even just cut altogether.

Even with my problem with the film going on a little bit too long, it is filled with goodness. There is many laughs to be had, and a great chainsaw battle in the movie too. But one of my favorite things about this movie would have to be Leatherface, I believe he is a better and even more of a ‘person’ but yet is forced to do things by his very sick family. It’s very clear in multiple (two in particular) scenes that he has some sort of feelings for Stretch, may they be sexually urges, or that that he actually cares for her. I think this makes him much more of a likeable character than the Leatherface we saw in the original who has basically no lines of dialogue at all and is just out to kill people. You get nothing more there and I can see why he was that way in a slasher film, but I do think he portrayed better in the sequel. I liked him way more, even with the few hundred (thousand) people he murdered.

Our favorite chainsaw wielding killer, Leatherface!

Bill Johnson as Leatherface!

Did you know? Tobe Hooper wanted Gunnar Hansen who played Leatherface in the original film, to comeback in the sequel to play him again. Hansen was up for playing the part, but he wouldn’t play him unless he was payed more. It was then decided to not bring him back and get Bill Johnson to play Leatherface.

At the end of the day, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 isn’t a sequel that just copies the original and lives off its glory. It’s a film where chances were taken and they paid off very well. It’s not the best sequel in the world, but it is one that any fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series should see, or just a horror fan in general.

Questions you may ask:

Should I watch this?
If you’re a fan of the horror genre in any way, or even just saw one of the TCM films and liked it, this sequel is definitely worth a look. I know when people hear about the comedy elements it kind of scares them away because the original film was (and still is) a landmark for the slasher genre, and now that comedy was incorporated into the sequel they automatically think it will be bad. But it’s not! Trust me, it’s a film that is very entertaining and fun to watch!

Is the rest of the franchise worth watching?
This is a tough question, because this franchise is very…mixed and matched. The original film is brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it already, that is the one you should start with. The second (which I discussed here) is also very good. The third film is…okay at the most. Even in the unrated version it is scared to show deaths, you always get that crappy ‘you can see the death!…in the shadow’. As for Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation? It’s a very, very bad film that you can totally miss out on. Even though the cast is impressive with Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey starring in it, it doesn’t make up for how overall poor the film is. The remake and prequel to the remake are both good films that can be enjoyed.

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A Look Back At: Psycho IV: The Beginning

"You've met Norman...now meet mother!"

“You’ve met Norman…now meet mother!”

The fourth film in a franchise, that is when people begin thinking the series, characters, and stories are all getting old and most of all, milked. But is that true with Psycho IV: The Beginning ? Lets find out, as we take a look back at it.

Psycho IV is the Psycho film that takes the bravest risks in the entirety of the series, it takes its lead Anthony Perkins as Norman and casts him in a sub-role, making him the narrator of the story we will be seeing. The story behind the main flashbacks to Norman’s childhood is that Norman has finally been let back out into society and now has a wife and lives with her. He hears the topic of a radio show being about matricide, and calls to give his opinion on it. This is where the real story starts.

The story focuses on Norman’s childhood and teenage years with his mother, with Henry Thomas playing young Norman Bates. And Henry really does a stellar job of being a young Norman, he has that ‘weird crazy’ vibe that Perkins brought into the role with earlier Psycho’s. The story starts just as Norman’s father dies, and goes up to where Norman kills both his mother and her new boyfriend. The story is very interesting, and we get to know how Norman became the killer that he did.

We also get to know Norman’s mother, “Norma” who is played by Olivia Hussey and does an outstanding job. She is a believable person, and you can begin to see where Norman gets this sick and twisted way of life from. It’s brilliant seeing her on screen. But Olivia didn’t even have to audition for the part as Norman’s mother, she was directly offered the role and accepted it immediately.

Though Psycho IV’s plot focuses on Norman’s early life, it wasn’t always planned to be about that. Anthony Perkins and the screenwriter for Psycho III Charles Edward Pogue, had originally pitched a plot that had Norman escape from a mental asylum with a ‘mute patient’. When Norman gets back to the Bates Motel, it has been changed into a tourist attraction for horror weekends. Then the actor that is suppose to play Norman Bates at the attraction ends up quitting, and actual Norman Bates gets the job and plays himself. Psycho III writer Pogue, said before that it was planned to be a black comedy but Universal didn’t like the idea.

[Norman was asked what is his name] Fran Ambrose (Radio host): "Well, we have to call you something..." Norman Bates: "You can call me Ed."

[Norman is asked what is his name]                        Fran Ambrose (Radio host): “Well, we have to call you something…”
Norman Bates: “You can call me Ed.”

At the beginning of the movie where Norman phones into the radio show and says his name is ‘Ed’, it is widely known that the original book ‘Psycho’ written by Robert Bloch, based the character Norman Bates on the real life serial killer ‘Ed Gein’.

One of the many things that is noticed in Psycho IV is that the film doesn’t follow the story from the second or third movie which involves Mrs. Spool. Joseph Stefano who you may have heard of before, was the writer for Psycho IV. But Stefano was also the writer for the original Psycho as well, and this is why he ignores the two other sequels. He wanted to use the original film as the source material and make Psycho IV: The Beginning a sort of ‘direct sequel’.

Something that both the original Psycho and Psycho IV have in common is that they both wanted to have the ending as a secret. With the original film, Hitchcock had all of Bloch’s Psycho books bought so that people couldn’t read the book and figure out what the ending was (hence one of the taglines for the film “Don’t give away the ending – it’s the only one we have!”).

But Psycho IV took the same care for the ending as Hitchcock did with the original. In the first broadcast of the film, Janet Leigh explained that several different endings were shot so that if one of the endings were spoiled and it was released to the public, they could scrap that one and use a different (already shot) one.

After Psycho IV did first air, rumors started going around of a fifth film. One of the biggest rumors was that in the next film Anthony Perkins would be absent and that his new born son would be the ‘star’ of the film. And it was even said that the film was already in development. But this turned out  false and the next film to release would be Gus Van Sant’s remake that cast Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.

Though Psycho IV: The Beginning isn’t the best of the sequels, it still brings in a original and interesting plot by taking us back in time to when Norman wasn’t like any other teenager. Though at points it relives some of its past films glory and plays it safe in areas, it is still a good film to be seen and there’s worse Psycho films you could see (the remake).

Questions you may ask:

Should you watch this?
It really depends, if you have a fondness for the franchise then I’d say yes you should see the fourth film as it still is a good sequel and holds up to the name. But if you dislike the sequels and like the original film, I’d say give it a chance to be honest since the writer of the original wrote this. Anthony Perkins also said when he first saw the film that it was “the best out of all the Psycho sequels”. If you never liked any of the movies, then no, don’t waste your time on this.

Is the rest of the franchise worth watching?
Without a doubt I think it is. For me, it is one of the best horror franchises that has actually stayed true to its original and told interesting tales. Of course the original is normally known as the best film of the lot, but I do think Psycho II is up there with it. It focuses a whole lot more on Norman as an actual person and you get to know him more. Psycho III is a direct sequel to II and is also good, but unfortunately not as good as it could of been. But yes, the whole franchise is worth a watch and it holds up unlike many other old horror franchises wouldn’t.

Is there any other movies like this I may like, that are similar to this?
Yes, and there is such a wide range of options too that I possibly couldn’t even begin to list. You have your classic slasher horror movies that all took influence from Psycho in one way or another. You have your Friday the 13th’s, Halloween’s, Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s (which are also loosely based on Ed Gein like Psycho) and such. There is no shortage of slasher films out there.

 

Still if you have any questions, comments, or opinions, please leave a comment below or contact me directly at ‘andyaylesbury@hotmail.co.uk’.

Thank you for reading!

A Look Back At: Man Bites Dog

“Once I buried two Arabs in a wall over there… Facing Mecca, of course.”  – Benoit Poelvoorde

Ben, in between thoughts.

Ben, in between thoughts.

The serial killer we follow (Benoit Poelvoorde, aka. Ben) in Man Bites Dog isn’t our everyday normal serial killer, he is a very funny and at moments, a light hearted fellow. One word that describes the movie well is ‘bizarre’, because it truly is. The movie will quickly shoot from Ben joking around, to him suffocating a child with a pillow. Some people see it as a black comedy, but there is much more here than just jokes.
The plot in Man Bites Dog is as simple as you will get, we (us the viewers) follow Ben, a man who kills people for a living and also for pleasure. Rémy and André are filming Ben, and that’s the view point we get, so before you ask, yes, it’s a ‘found footage’ type of film. But the film doesn’t ever use camera tricks that found footage movies now would, instead, it focuses on the most important person which is Ben. At first Rémy and André are just shooting what Ben does, but as the film goes on, the line between shooting what he is doing and actually helping him in his killings becomes blurred.
The actual film makers who are Rémy Belvaux and André Bonzel (who play themselves in the movie) at the time the movie was shot, were relativity new to the movie industry. They had little money and limited resources, so they shot with what they could. In actual fact, the movie took over a year to make due to how little budget they had. Both Rémy and André ran out of money several times during the shooting and had to postpone it until they got some more. But a lot of friends and family of the two did contribute to the film so it could be made.

The main star of the show here is obviously, Ben. The man is so…weird. At times in the movie you can genuinely like him, as he shows a nice and loving side. In one scene he is playing with two small children and joking around with them, and you can’t help but smile at how nice he is. In other scenes, he is with his family and laughing, joking, hugging others, and just seeming a very nice person. So yes, he is a hard person to dislike at times.

In fact, in one essay André wrote that had information about Man Bites Dog, he said that Ben’s family did not have one clue about the actual plot of the movie. His family believed that him (André) and Rémy were just shooting footage of Ben that would be used elsewhere, but didn’t know it would be used in a film which Ben was a serial killer. Supposedly Ben’s mother was shocked after finding out.

But then we have the other side of Ben, this cold-hearted killer who doesn’t have any limits. He doesn’t have or show any sympathy to any of his victims. He just does what he has to, and it is crazy to think this is the same man who can play with children and be so nice. It’s almost like he is two different people. But deep down, he has no remorse for anything he does.
Ben clearly knows what he is doing too, at many different points in the film he teaches Rémy and André how to hide a body in a river by weighing it down, and by how much. And then quizzes them on it later in the movie. So, you can see that he is crafting them into the people he wants. Not just guys who are filming him, but people to actually help him. But even in the most tense moments, either when Ben is chasing someone down or killing someone, he continues to crack jokes.

[Ben is currently looking for a man that is hiding]
Ben: Remy, do you smell that?
Remy: No, what is it?
Ben: Chickenshit.

One scene in particular is a gang rape scene. After a night out at a local pub, Ben, Rémy and André all are walking around the city/town they live in, and Ben walks into an apartment complex and kicks down a random door to find a couple having sex. Ben holds a gun to the mans head, while Rémy and André take turns raping the woman.
This scene tends to be one of the most conversational of the movie, and in actual fact, it was a hard scene for the film makers (Rémy and André) to shoot. Both were very nervous about shooting the scene, more so Rémy. But Sylviane Godé who supported the movie let both film makers shoot the rape scene involving her. This comforted Rémy, as he was very shy about being nude in the scene.

In hindsight, Man Bites Dog such an original movie and shows that twisted people such as Ben can quietly fit into society and be himself, but then at times, lose his mind almost and do unspeakable things. I would delve deeper into the movie but I don’t discuss spoilers in these ‘A Look Back at:’ as that would take away things from people who have yet to see the movie and will do at some point. Man Bites Dog is a brilliant movie that had basically no budget and no big stars, but proved you can still do great things without both of them.

Ben, giving Remy some vital advice.

Ben, giving Remy some vital advice.

Questions you may ask:
Should you watch this?
Yes, if you haven’t seen Man Bites Dog yet and find it the slight bit interesting, then it is a must-see. It is hard to watch at times because of some killings, but its dark humor and fantastic life of Ben is enough of a reason to watch.

Does it hold up to this day?
It’s not all that old anyway, the movie was released in 1992 so it’s not that much of a problem to begin with. But yes, it does hold up to this day and like I said above, it’s worth your time if you find it interesting.

Is there any other movies like this I may like?
There isn’t a whole lot of movies like Man Bites Dog, but you could like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer which is kind of like it but I’d still call Man Bites Dog a much better movie. Another movie you may like is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon which released in 2006 and follows Man Bites Dog heavily. It obviously got a lot of influence from it, so it is like it but is a bit more light hearted and cheesy all around. Nonetheless, still a movie you may enjoy.

Still if you have any questions, comments, or opinions, please leave a comment below or contact me directly at ‘andyaylesbury@hotmail.co.uk’.

Thank you for reading!

A look back at: Eraserhead

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David Lynch, mostly known for his films that lack any sense and challenge the viewer to put the puzzle back together to discover what the movie was actually about. And his debut film Eraserhead is no different. But does it still hold up to this day?

Eraserhead is a movie that doesn’t rely on its plot really, in fact, it barely has a plot. But it gives you just the bare minimum to have some sort of understanding to what is happening. Our main character is Henry Spencer, and he is currently taking time off from work (a holiday as it is put in the movie). His girlfriend called Mary, and they are just after having a child together. But their child isn’t any ordinary child, the child is some sort of deformed, mutant child. We follow Henry as he struggles through this time.

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One thing to note about Eraserhead is, it is a very quiet movie. In fact, David Lynch had a lot of trouble getting financial help from the AFI (American Film Institute) because the script for the movie was only twenty pages long. Lynch did end up receiving a grant from the AFI after about three years of production when he eventually ran out of money. Terrence Malick (director/writer) screened Eraserhead for a “potential financial backer” at one point, and he walked out calling the movie, “bullsh*t”. But what the movie does do is, it focuses on sound, imagery and mood instead an deep plot. In lots of scenes in Eraserhead there is very little dialogue between anyone, let alone Henry and Mary (who are the focus points, Henry more so than Mary). Even for the first ten and half minutes of the movie, there is no talking at all.

But what Lynch loves to do in his movies is blur the line between reality and dreams/nightmares. And this is where it all started, at sections of this movie it is near impossible to tell whether or not something happening is real. And it is a recurring theme throughout, if you don’t like confusing movies, you won’t only not like Eraserhead, but you’ll most likely dislike the majority of Lynch’s work (apart from some).

One scene in-particular where you (the viewer) can’t really tell what is reality and what is dream is, when Henry opens up his mutant child and stabs him/her/it. This makes the child grow huge in size, its head becoming bigger and bigger and bigger were it is nearly the same size of Henry’s room.

Which leads to another point which is, many of the dream/nightmare (type of) sequences do not have any sort of narrative. You aren’t sure on how these sequences impact the overall story, or how they will later on in the film. Nothing is explained for you in Eraserhead and that is the way Lynch wants it.

The film is very confusing and has lead to tons of discussions on different internet forums, with people throwing in their own interruption of the movie and hopefully having it somewhat correct. A lot of people think the first section of the movie is suppose to mean how tough parenting a child can be, and how much time and effort goes into it. But in the second half of the film is where people tend to get lost along with the meaning.

But since 1977 when the film first released, not once has Lynch said what the meaning of the film actually is. Only in the 2000 release of the film on DVD, Lynch said that “no one has come close to the true meaning of the film.”

But just because Eraserhead lacks a script and a meaning (until Lynch, if ever, tells us) it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It’s filled with terrific sound design, directing and writing. For its time it also has unbelievable special effects. And Lynch done all these duties himself, which tells you something about how great he is.

I have seen tons of horror movies, I have seen tons of torture porn movies and most of all, I have just seen a lot of messed up stuff in movies. But Eraserhead is one of the few that really made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Everything about it is creepy, and even a bit scary at times. From Henry’s mutant baby to his horrid nightmares, it really got me on edge for the majority of the movie.

Questions:

*Should you watch this? If you haven’t seen Eraserhead yet and find it somewhat interesting, then yes, it a must see. If you like David Lynch’s previous work and think you could like this, then yes it is at least a watch. If you don’t like confusing, very weird and David Lynch type of movies then no, you are better not wasting your time on it. I’ve seen a lot of people just think it is a bunch of random shots strung together with a very basic plot and they think it was an utter waste of time (which is fine, mind you). So, find out what group you are in and then choose to watch or not!

*Does it hold up to this day?
Yes, Eraserhead does indeed hold up to this day and still remains as one of the most disturbing, weird movies ever made. And there has been a lot since 1977 too, which says something.

*If I liked this, what other movies from the director would I possibly like?
Lynch has a lot of messed up, confusing films that are all great. Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Inland Empire and Mullholland Drive are all great movies that you could possibly enjoy. Lynch also done a short called Rabbits too which clocks in around 40 minutes long and too is very confusing, and still has that Lynch feel with the short runtime.

If you have any questions, comments, or opinions, please leave a comment below or contact me at ‘andyaylesbury@hotmail.co.uk’.

Thank you for reading!