classic creepout: the texas chainsaw massacre

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Just look at the title card above for the late, great Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This not-so-fresh frightshow from 1974 has spent every year since rotting in the sun, ensuring that it maintains as much of its original grime as possible. In that and pretty much every other regard, Massacre is a huge success, and remains an impressively effective horror film and one hell of a way to put one’s name on the map as a director.

For those who have somehow evaded this one in the 45 years since its debut, it’s a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sally (Marilyn Burns) suspects that her grandfather’s grave may have been impacted in a recent string of vandalisms, so she sets out with a group of friends and Franklin (Paul A. Partain), her paraplegic brother, to check on it for themselves. What would otherwise be a quick stop at their family’s old farmhouse on the way ends up being a one-way ticket on the terror train (no, not that one), destination: A Nasty-Ass Fate.

It’s there that they run into a psychotic family of murderers, including the Leatherface we all know and adore, as lovingly depicted by Gunner Hansen. From the moment they set foot on their property, the audience is already completely strapped in and helpless to do anything but watch as the worst case scenario unfolds.

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The rest is, ya gotta admit it, history. TCM endures because it’s grody. Even the otherwise uneventful credits sequence manages to be eerily grotesque, and you can practically smell the gory flashbulb snapshots that precede it. The same can be said for the rest of the movie. You can even smell the sun-bleached concrete roads that lead our hapless friends to their final resting place. You can definitely smell grandpa.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far from a treat,
But this Halloween would be lacking.
If we all neglected to pull up a seat,
For a meal full of barfing and yacking.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic

second-rate summons: satanic panic

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We’re starting off this week with a little game of catchup, because I’ve continued to watch a movie a day but haven’t gotten around to writing them all up! I’ll make this one a quickie, because 2019’s Satanic Panic is neither good enough to rave about nor bad enough to bag on endlessly.

This production from the resurrected Fangoria has a lot going for it, from an (underused) appearance by Jerry O’Connell to a confident enough lead performance by Hayley Griffith and a script by author Grady Hendrix (HorrorstörMy Best Friend’s Exorcism). It tells the tale of a perpetually broke girl named Sam who takes on a delivery gig at a local pizza place. Her very first job takes her out to a rich area notorious for stiffing delivery drivers, and sure enough, she walks away from her inaugural delivery with zero dollars in tips.

Or, rather, she should have walked away, but Sam has already had a bad enough day as it is. She’s not going to take this from these mansion-dwelling cheapskates—and she’s also out of gas—so she marches back to the house to demand the tip she deserves. What she finds within is a satanic cult led by Rebecca Romijn, and they just so happen to need a virgin for their big sacrifice to the mighty Baphomet.

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Unfortunately, the events that follow aren’t nearly as exciting or pulse-pounding as they would clearly like to be, and there isn’t enough memorable comedy to push this into a more forgivable hybrid genre. I also think it would be too easy to criticize Satanic Panic as the victim of budgetary constraints. There’s plenty you can do on a basic story level to make up for a distinct lack of funds, and if money really is an issue then you could probably go ahead and ditch Romijn for almost any other actress. Jerry O’Connell and his late ’90s soul patch stay, though, okay?

There simply isn’t enough panic to warrant the title, which should just be chopped down to Satanic. I dig what I’ve read of Hendrix’s work otherwise, and I like the character of Sam here, so there’s something more special bubbling underneath an otherwise unremarkable movie.

If you want to check it out and judge for yourself, Satanic Panic is available to rent via Amazon and a bunch of other sites.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II

radical rats: ghoulies ii

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There’s a great story about the first Ghoulies in an interview with producer Charles Band, who recalls how the original tagline and poster came to be. Once the infamous photo of the Ghoulie popping up out of a toilet—which convinced me it must be the scariest movie of all time when I saw the box at a video store as a kid—was taken, it was such an effective image they realized they needed to go back and shoot a similar scene to go along with it. Without that, surely, audience members would feel ripped off; who wouldn’t?!

Like many of the horror section staples of the ’80s, though, Ghoulies never quite lived up to its box art. If the toilet shot was an attempt to make it the movie it should have been all along, then 1987’s Ghoulies II is, from beginning to end, the full realization of that attempt. It’s more raucous and ridiculous, and the Ghoulies get to shine as the casually murdering miscreants they were meant to be. And yes, there’s a toilet.

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Since they’ve already been summoned into this world, all director Albert Band and his cast and crew have to do is get them to the setting of this sequel: a down-on-its-luck carnival. No attraction is closer to the chopping block than the haunted house, Satan’s Den, and if it doesn’t turn a profit soon it’s going to be replaced by an all-ladies mud wrestling showcase. Thankfully, the Ghoulies show up just in time to turn things around for Larry (Damon Martin) and good ol’ drunk Uncle Ned (Royal Dano). Once a couple bratty kids find them kicking around in Satan’s Den—and quickly refer to them as cool “rats,” which seems like a total insult to the Ghoulie species—they spread the word and ticket sales go through the roof.

Before you know it, visitors are standing around chanting “RATS! RATS! RATS!” and the Ghoulies are high fiving each other in between murders. That’s the kind of movie this is, and it’s the kind of movie every Ghoulies installment should be.

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The Ghoulies eventually break out of this rinky dinky spookhouse and run amok through the whole carnival. Believe it or not, this full-scale carnival, working rides and all, was entirely built on a massive soundstage. One would have to assume this is the only way to truly contain Ghoulies and keep them from going on a rampage in the real world. Or, in this case, at least through Italy.

As I watched the Ghoulies tie people down, bite them, charge at them and knock them over, and generally physically dominate everyone that got in their way, I had to wonder just how strong these little freaks are. Let’s take the Gremlins and Muppets genera as counter-examples. Both seem to be pretty lightweight, such that your average human can toss them clear across a large room. Ghoulies, on the other hand, are made of sterner stuff. They have real heft and can exert an impressive amount of force. This is worthy of further exploration; I’d love to see their stats.

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And then there’s The Big Ghoulie at the end, who is so strong he can pick up and eat other Ghoulies like they’re little more than bugs or small rodents (rats, perhaps). I shudder to think of this monstrosity’s god-tier stats.

The bottom line: Ghoulies II should be called Ghoulies, and Ghoulies should be considered a lore-centric prequel called Ghoulies: Origins. There’s two more of these, by the way.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

Sequence Break
Deadtime Stories
Hell House LLC
Body Bags
Pumpkinhead

Friday the 13th Part III
Child’s Play 2019

bad buddi: child’s play 2019

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Don’t let that headline fool ya, I liked the new Child’s Play movie! It’s a pretty fun spin on the 1988 classic, even if it’s completely apparent which aspects of the story belong to Don Mancini, who wasn’t involved in the remake. Without the Charles Lee Ray storyline or a reasonable knockoff, this isn’t a traditional Chucky movie, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining or worth watching.

What we get with this one is a tight 90 or so minutes of sinister, murderous Buddi horrors, and what more does one really need out of a Child’s Play movie? Mark Hamill doesn’t bring the same gleeful cruelty to the role as Brad Dourif, but I enjoyed his take on a slightly more modern, smart-home-enabled Chucky that just wants to be best buddies forever with Andy Barclay.

I recently watched all 7 Chucky movies in a row, so this is the 8th one I’ve seen in 2019. Amazingly, I’m not sick of this little monster yet. With that in mind, now is the perfect time to formally present the ranking I tweeted out immediately after shotgun blasting the entire series into my tired old face.

7. Seed of Chucky (2004)
This one is hard to watch now, it’s very bad and the design for Glen is awful.

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6. Bride of Chucky (1998)
I used to think Ronny Yu’s movie was good and funny, but it turns out they made the second worst Chucky movie 10 years after the original.

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5. Child’s Play 3 (1991)
This one concludes the marathon OG trilogy; it’s simply the worst of the three, which isn’t even that much of a knock. They don’t take great advantage of the military setting, and it doesn’t have the same energy established in the second movie.

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4. Cult of Chucky (2017)
If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have imagined just how well Don Mancini would right the ship after Bride and Seed. This isn’t as strong as Curse, in my opinion, but I love what it sets up near the end.

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3. Curse of Chucky (2013)
This is the real return to form here. A straightforward, mean Chucky movie that gets back to the spirit of it all. Fiona Dourif is great in both this and Cult.

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Child’s Play 2 (1990)
This one got dangerously close to taking the top spot. It’s even meaner than the original, and the glee Chucky gets from his kills is at its absolute peak. One of the best slashers of the ’80s/’90s.

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Child’s Play (1988) 
You could argue with this, but you shouldn’t. The way Chucky manipulates Andy in silence for the first half is brilliant, and when it’s time for Dourif to really explode in anger and show the world what Chucky has to offer to the genre, it remains hair-raising to this day. An absolute classic.

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How’s that for a little Halloween treat!

Halloween 2019 Movies:

Sequence Break
Deadtime Stories
Hell House LLC
Body Bags
Pumpkinhead

Friday the 13th Part III

 

deadly dimensions: friday the 13th part iii

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The only thing scarier than watching 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III is watching it with 3D glasses.  Alas, I am a coward who doesn’t own any 3D glasses. What kind of movie fan am I? Thankfully, Steve Miner shot Part III in such a way that the 3D gags are so overt that you barely need the glasses to imagine a broomstick in your face, or a yo-yo dippin’ down within inches of your noggin.

Beyond being a 3D movie that put a brand new camera to use at the time—one Miner didn’t want to stop moving for even a moment throughout the shoot to great effect—Part III is notable for supplying Jason with his iconic mask. There’s something amazing about the source of his mask being the goofy-looking, perpetually single Shelly Finkelstein (Larry Zerner), who just wanted to spend his time at the cabin pranking everyone around him because he’s too awkward to socialize in any other way.

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Part III is a step down from Part II for the most part, from characters to kills, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely without its highlights. Jason seems a little wobbly—like he’s still reeling with embarrassment from the time he fell off that chair in Part II—but it’s cool to finally see him with his mask on, no matter how ill-fitting it may be at this point.

Even when this one leans on its 3D innovations, it’s still a stupid and fun Friday the 13th movie with another frantic score from Henry Manfredini. Honestly, 3D movies haven’t changed a whole lot in the past 37 years. You can still tell when they’re going for the in-your-face wow factor, even in 2D; Friday the 13th Part III is just way more honest about it.

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If you plan on popping this into your Halloween 2019 rotation, take this beleaguered blogger’s advice: Score a pair of 3D glasses first. You might want to keep a weapon handy, though, because Jason’s comin’ at ya in this one!

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

Sequence Break
Deadtime Stories
Hell House LLC
Body Bags
Pumpkinhead