Video Night came out on New Year’s Day, which is a surreal, exhilarating and joyous experience for me. This is my first novel and I’m humbled by the response so far (it even got a shout out from Stephen Graham Jones in this interview).
I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of it. Please consider buying a copy and helping to spread the word. A few amazon reviews and blog posts go a long way.
I waited to write a post until I had something to talk about other than “Buy my Book!”
Today I saw Texas Chainsaw 3D (which, although it bills itself as a direct sequel to the original TCM, drops both “Massacre” and the space between “Chain” and “Saw” from the title). I can’t say that I loved the film, but there is so much here that I respect.
There’s also a lot of things that made me shake my head, but let’s not focus on that, let’s be positive first.
It’s a crappy corollary, but the only point of comparison I was left with as the credits rolled on TCM3D was the most recent Bond flick, Skyfall.
While Chainsaw 3D deviates from slasher precepts slightly in its last third, what it spends the entirety of its runtime doing is trying its darnedest to convince us how in love it is with Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original. So much so that Leatherface’s tie has a guest spot.
The general arc of Skyfall is aligning Daniel Craig’s rougher, tougher, more Batman-y Bond with the classic continuity. The film used bits of Bond iconography to wink and nudge audiences just enough to make them feel like they were still getting a classical cinematic Bond while still feeling new.
TCM 3D does the same trick on a somewhat (okay, very) diminished scale. The opening credits sequence is footage of the original film post-converted to 3D. This both sets the mood and effectively ruins all the kills for the teeny-boppers in the audience who haven’t seen the original classic.
After this trip down memory lane, we’re presented with a heretofore unseen coda to the original film in which the cannibalistic Sawyer clan faces off with an angry mob.
On paper this sounds great, but the botched execution makes it the weakest sequence in the film. Starting off promising we have Bill Mosley and Gunner Hansan playing members of the Sawyer family. They live in the house from the original film (along with about 36 other Sawyers that we didn’t see in Hooper’s film), but the reconstructed set looks cheap and the layout is all messed up.
The Sawyers go out in a blaze of glory protecting Leatherface (who’s called Jeb here) from the townspeople, but this standoff is filled with the worst CGI in a wide release film this side of 1998. It’s terrible and made even more noticeable by the 3D (which is fairly great in the rest of the movie).
The movie begins in earnest when we skip to present day and meet our final girl, Heather, and her absolutely atrocious friends. The grandmother she never knew is dead and Heather’s just inherited a new house in Texas (three bedrooms, two baths, one Leatherface). The band of superhumanly attractive youths load up their van and begin their roadtrip to Texas.
Okay. I know it doesn’t sound like I enjoyed this movie, but I did. Discussing what I liked specifically would probably constitute a huge spoiler.
To put it vaguely: despite its flaws (leaden dialogue, a protagonist that can never find a shirt that fits, and too many anachronisms to list), Texas Chainsaw 3D is TRYING. There’s a dogged determination palpable in the last half of the film that’s admirable. We get a final girl that upsets the archetype and a slasher that’s matured beyond the self-awareness of Scream and back into his primal form.
To demonstrate this let’s look at one small moment that happens halfway through the film. Leatherface (no, movie, I will not call him Jed or Jeb or whatever) is chasing Heather through a crowded carnival fairway. Out from the fair’s haunted house comes a performer wielding a tiny fake chainsaw and wearing the pig mask featured in the Saw films. The haunted house employee, not realizing Leatherface is for real, taunts him, asking him if he would like to “play a game” to which our slasher replies with a rev of his (much bigger) chainsaw.
It’s a small moment, probably about 20 seconds end-to-end, but it tells you so much about what the film is and what it strives to be. We’re rooting for Leatherface when that ineffectual Jigsaw wannabe pissant jumps in his way. For the audience ol’ BBQ-Breath represents what horror cinema used to be: blue collar, threadbare and dangerous ( maybe even full of ideas if you take a longer look at Hooper and his contemporaries, all smart guys and gals).
The movie pivots into an interesting trajectory from there, because now Leatherface is part of the home team. TCM3D is rough around the edges and it bears one-too-many of the codifiers of modern lackluster horror, but its heart is in the right place:
Still warm and beating, at the bottom of a slop bucket.
I’ll leave you with this advertisement found in the pages of this month’s Fangoria:
Side note: There’s a few minute span near the climax that is absolutely begging to be turned into a youtube sensation. The first person to intercut footage of the Texas Chainsaw characters (the sheriff, the disgruntled locals, Leatherface himself) prepping for the final showdown to the tune of “One Day More” from Les Miserables is going to have comedy gold.