Friday, July 9, 2010

Ode to a Rainy Summer Night

I love summer storms.  They're violent and quick...rather like summer romances...and both can be exciting.  I just had a summer storm that got me all wet going to the mailbox and last week I ended a brief summer romance...both storms were exciting during and then a real let down by the end.  In the case of the rain, it got my feet and mail all wet...and in the case of the boy, it taught me that even the most 'with it' kind of person can be really nuts once the romance is over.  I won't go into too much detail on that.  Its not worth getting bent out of shape and besides, its way more fun to talk about movies than to date...does that sound like desperation?  Anyway, tonight's film is the perfect one to go with a summer storm and is considered a classic in the horror genre as well...if a decidedly grisly one.  It is the film that put a symbolic and bloody end to the hippie generation and ushered in a new era of mistrust, disillusionment, and violence.  Its also the film that made several film critics sick to their stomachs due to its gritty (yet surprisingly un-gory) atmosphere of dread and undiluted horror.  "What happened is true.." the ads shouted, but was it?  Lets find out as we cut into The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

"The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

This narration really says it all and no DVD or VHS cover has ever really said it better.  It gives Chain Saw a realistic quality that few horror films can ever capture...mainly because we horror fans like our horror outlandish and full of gore.  The film feels like a documentary as you watch it, with its poorly shot and grainy frames and its shoddy acting.  It was so effective that many people actually believed that the crime had taken place.  This was not the case however, and Chain Saw kept a lot of people out of the backwoods of Texas for a good long while (well, at least until those obsessed with the film started trying to find the locations).  And this was 25 years before The Blair Witch Project.  I suppose Blair Witch has one upper hand in that is was completely made up, where as Chain Saw took some of its inspiration from the true story of Ed Gein who was a grave robber and murderer who used skin and body parts to make clothing and furniture.  This gave director Tobe Hooper the idea to make a cannibalistic family who used the remains of their victims as furniture and decor...though one of them would make clothing from the skin.  Yes, the infamous Leatherface who chased his victims with a buzzing chainsaw and wore the faces of his past victims to show his feelings and personalities at the time.  Leatherface was so popular that he ended up being the only character who would appear in every single sequel and remake of this story...I guess we just love our masked baddies in the horror world, and he ushered in quite a few.  Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Ghostface, they all find their roots in Leatherface...interesting no?  Is this a film for everyone?  Certainly not.  To tell the truth, it took me years before I could ever say I liked it (to this day, I still prefer the remake...may I be struck down for saying so) but I can see its artistry much better now...having given it many looks through different lenses.  I can appreciate it for what it was trying to do at the time and for the terror it can still inspire.  To this day, when I'm alone in the sticks, I still try to drive through as quick as possible just in case there's a crazy hillbilly family out there waiting for me...who knows if they're out there?  BWA-HA-HA....(thunder crash).

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