Stuff I’ve Been Watching (chainsaw edition)

home sick alone this weekend with my two schnauzers, i had a lot of time to watch horrors films — some good and some bad. as it turns out, sick or not, i usually watch a lot of horror films during the average week, so i thought i’d turn my obsessive viewing habits into a new recurring feature, which i’ve oh-so-cleverly titled “stuff i’ve been watching”…

the texas chainsaw massacre (2003)
platinum dunes gets an unfair shake from many hardcore horror fans, i think. i was a big fan of friday the 13th and the trailer for their upcoming elm street re-imagining also looks interesting, but it all started with 2003’s remake of the texas chainsaw massacre, my favorite of their releases thus far. director marcus nispel seems to have an odd fascination with teens journeying far from home in search of bushels of marijuana, given that both texas chainsaw (2003) and the new friday the 13th open with that setup, but that storyline works far better in 1970s texas than it does in modern-day crystal lake. this remake abandons the camp of the original series’ sequels, and instead focuses on being as vicious and brutal as the original film, a goal which it largely succeeds in reaching. oh, and kudos to platinum dunes for opening the film with narration voiced by john laroquette (just as in the original) which perfectly sets the tone of the film.

the texas chainsaw massacre: the beginning
in what may be a first, the texas chainsaw massacre: the beginning is technically a sequel which is a prequel to a remake. it actually makes sense though given that the remake had introduced us to a host of bizarre characters, the next logical step was to explain how these characters came to be. the plot line is basically the same (kids run afoul of leatherface’s family and hijinks ensue), but that’s fine because this film has the same gritty tone, mood and visual feel of the remake, which was its biggest asset. as in the first film, r. lee ermey steals the show, in many ways eclipsing leatherface himself as the series’ prime villain, which is no small feat. i think there was even less enthusiasm for this film than the first from horror fans at large, but i personally love them both.

the texas chainsaw massacre 2
two chainsaw films in, i decided to just go ahead and officially make it a southern perennial-unfriendly marathon by throwing in tcm part 2. now maybe it was the fact that i was mainlining nyquil at the time, but i’d completely forgotten how f’ing weird this film is. the whole thing feels like a comedic torture-porn directed by david lynch, which i can’t honestly say is necessarily a bad thing. it would be a bizarre dark comedy all on its own, but tcm 2 is just so different from the original film that i can’t imagine what audiences must have thought back in 1986. while it may lack the scares and visual style of the original, it more than makes up for it in blood-crazed whimsy, gore and wacky dialogue (e.g., “oh, my achin’ banana!”, “leatherface, you bitch! look what you did to my sonny bono wig!”, “dog will hunt!”, and “it’s like super-feedback. just put the underwoofer across the overflapper”).

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