Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM) was never meant to be a horror movie. Director Tobe Hooper was actually aiming for it to be a dark comedy movie with very little elements of horror, as I stated in my review of the original. Keen eyes will spot humor in the original, albeit very dark, but still humor. Now, I've been known to give TCM's sequels a lot of slack, but I always maintained the fact that part 2 is very watchable. Released in 1986 under the direction of original director Tobe Hooper and starring Dennis Hopper (I know), as well Jim Siedow, who's the only returning character from the original; he reprised his role as Drayton Sawyer. Siedow excelled in this movie.

Reviewing this movie is an absolute nightmare, because its status changes depending on the perspective I approach it with. If I look at it as a sequel to the original, it's absolutely horrible, a true shitshow. But, if I look at it as a standalone movie, it's actually pretty fun to watch, but not worthy of the TCM title. So we're at a crossroad here, how would I approach it? Both ways, this is gonna be a first for this blog, I'll approach it first as a sequel, then as standalone film. 


If I could do a seven word review of this film, it'll look something like this: TOTAL PIECE OF SHIT DON'T WATCH IT. But I don't roll like that, we're not fucking animals, we live in a society. It's sad to think that Tobe Hooper's vision of the original looked something like what we got in this film, thank god for budget cuts. The silent, gritty, morbid feeling of the original is completely destroyed and replaced with dancing corpses, an actual soundtrack, and a total butchery of Leatherface's character. 

What were they thinking? TCM is not supposed to be bright lights and music, it's not supposed to be Leatherface doing that stupid dance of his and dry humping a disk jockey. Whatever happened to the seriousness of the previous film? They could've done so much with a budget of $5 million, but for some reason Hooper wanted to build up on his original concept of a dark comedy. Haven't you heard of happy accidents? Not the ones that come after 9 months, but like vulcanized rubber? Seriously, this guy had a powerhouse in his hands. It would've been nice to have seen a direct sequel to the movie, as the ending of the original was kinda vague. That would've been cool, only that came to us 39 years later in the form of Texas Chainsaw 3D. Serendipity dude, serendipity. 

The fact of the matter is, Hooper wanted to expanded on subtleties found in the first movie. Leatherface, who's mentally impaired in the first movie, went full retard in this one, and everyone knows you can never go full retard. The dark humor and uncomfortable setting were still present in part 2, but they were super evident and felt kinda forced down the viewers throat. Like "HEY YOU MISSED THIS IN THE FIRST FILM? WELL LET ME MAKE IT SUPER OBVIOUS FOR YOU BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I WAS AIMING FOR!". Subtlety was not so high on Hooper's list in this movie, it seemed like he was trying to change the idea that the viewers had of the original. A child can watch this movie, really, a child.

Finally, what was Dennis Hopper thinking? YOU WERE IN EASY RIDER, MAN, COME ON!!! 

In case you couldn't figure out that he was an
absolute idiot, we gave him a funny looking
face to help you.


I really appreciate dark comedy. It's bold, ballsy, and doesn't give a crap about anyone or anything. TCM 2 does not lack that, it is one of the best comedies I've ever seen. Once you get over the fact that it's categorized as a horror flick, and start accepting it for its comedic value, you'll be in for a treat. I used to loathe it, I was ashamed of owning it, but that all changed. It is hard to to have multiple mindsets when watching a movie, and usually first impression is the best impression, but of course that's not always the case. For a long time I've hated many movies (and bands), but in time I started appreciating them, a good example being Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. 

This film is somewhat a parody film, like scary movie. It was released in 1986, and it obviously parodies the excess that was associated with the 80's. The original poster of the film hilariously mocks The Breakfast Club's poster. The whole movie was the definition of excess, with over the top characters, stunts, music, and gore. I really enjoyed that because who doesn't love a good parody film.

The man who stole the show, without a doubt, was Bill Moseley as Leatherface's brother, Chop Top. That guy is one of my all time favorite characters in any movie, he did a great job carrying the film. A severely wounded Vietnam War veteran turned major hippie. We first see Chop Top at the radio station talking to Stretch, putting in a request for a song and talking about how he is a "far out fan". Moseley perfected the role, Chop Top (in this film) was more of an icon in that film than Leatherface. A maniac who gleefully murders his victims and listens to Iron Butterfly, far out man!

The final battle scene between Lefty and Leatherface was nothing short of epic. Two guys battling it out with chainsaws and grenades, how can anyone hate that? TCM 2 is a pure gore-fest, and although I've been known to have my reservations on gorey movies, it's good to appreciate a good gore-fest from time to time. I only hate gore-fests when they're used in a context to scare people, because it's really not creative and quite boring, but that wasn't the case with this movie.

To conclude, from whatever perspective you chose to watch this movie with, you will find a way to appreciate it. TCM 2 is a really good movie in it's own right, just don't put it side by side with the original. It is a classic midnight popcorn flick that's worth watching and won't really ruin your night, so long as you ignore Leatherface's stupid dance. But beware, I was a lenient on this film because it started to grow on me, the movies that came after it though, total fucking horseshit. I will not even attempt to review the atrocities that came after it, because they're exactly what I said they were, atrocities.

"Can you play Inna Gadda Da Vida?"

Ahmed J, Almatrook 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Let's talk horror shall we, or rather, let's discuss the declining history of horror movies in general. Back in the 1910's and 20's, the first horror flicks came from Germany. German expressionist films they were called and produced classics like F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu and Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Calagari. Not to mention The Phantom of the Opera, the silent classic. Then came the 30's and 40's, dominated by the Universal Studios monster films such as Dracula and Frankenstein. The 50's saw Christopher Lee command the screens in with his portrayal of Dracula in the Hammer Horror Films. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was synonymous with the 60's horror scene and it's often considered to be one of the first movies in the slasher genre. Let's not forget to mention Romero's Night of The Living Dead, the grandaddy of modern zombie movies.

The 70's was the best time for horror movies, the world saw a slew of fresh and frightening releases like The Exorcist, The Omen, Audrey Rose, and The Sentinel. Movies that dealt with the supernatural were a big hit in the 70's, which also seems to be the trend nowadays. The 80's of course produced some of the greatest slasher flicks out there like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare On Elm Street. This renewed interest in the slasher genre seeped into the 90's with sequels to the aforementioned movies. But they were nowhere near as good as the originals, the 90's and 2000's were dark days for horror genre. With the exception of Silence of the Lambs and The Blair Witch Project, every horror movie made in the last 20 years was pure butchery of the genre.

Horror movies have been reduced to nothing but gore fests, jump scares, and paranormal entities. The charm that classics like The Shining and Rosemary's Baby faded away. Horror movies aren't as well thought out as they used to be, and the biggest evidence of this is the amount of remakes and reboots being released. Horror movies are like Heavy Metal, not given nearly as much respect as they deserve, thrived in the 70's and 80's, but became a parody of what they used to be in recent days.

More often than not, whenever I mention The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM) to anyone, they always say they've watched the 2003 version, no one ever mentions the 1974 one, That's very sad, because to me, that movie is the quintessential horror flick, the movie that revitalized the slasher genre and never looked back. Released in 1974 and directed by Tobe Hooper, TCM is about a group of young adults travelling through Texas, when their van runs out of gas, they venture into the desert, not knowing what awaits them inside the lonesome house in the distance.

It's quite ironic that despite the name, the movie isn't a gore fest whatsoever, in fact there isn't much blood at all. Come to think of it, there isn't any music either, nothing to extenuate the fright factor in the movie. Nor was it as complex as other horror films at the time, quite hilariously, director Tobe Hooper was hoping to get a PG-13 rating because he approached it as a black comedy rather than a horror flick. But what really made TCM stand out were its shortcomings. The budget, the grainy camera work, and the difficulty during production all contributed to the charm this movie possessed. I mean how can you argue with a movie that starts off like this...

What makes TCM so special is the fact that it deals with the evil that dwells within the human mind, like Psycho, it is based on the story of the real life serial killer Ed Gein. It's frightening to know that the events in the movie could happen in real life, and they have happened. This is real, real life, not some Paranormal Activity moving chairs bullshit, people like this exist. Shot primarily in Texas, location played a huge role adding depth to the movie. Think about it, this arid landscape in the middle of Texas, with no one to help you and, dare I say, no one to hear you scream. The landscape adds a dryness to the whole experience, sort of like an itchy throat.  The location had me feeling uneasy and uncomfortable, not in a "oh this is disturbing" way, but rather like being in a sauna and wearing heavy winter gear. Location, location, location people.

The whole dryness of the movie is made more obvious by the raw and gritty camera work and use of very bright lights. The farmhouse in which the Sawyer family lived in was "decorated" with real animal bones and REAL blood. The chainsaw that Leatherface uses is real, and no special effects were applied when he moved it terrifyingly close to the face of one of the actors, it was all real. In the scene where Sally was "feeding" grandpa, they had to cut the actresses' index finger with a razor blade to get the blood flowing. The modest budget of the movie forced the production team to go to these extremes, and when production ended, most of the actors were physically injured.

Without an ounce of doubt, the star of TCM was, and always will be, Leatherface. The big baby, the retarded butcher, the pseudo cross-dresser. Leatherface, the man with a thousand faces (literally), is not only physically terrifying, but also an ambassador of sadism. He peels the skin off of his victims and uses it to make masks to cover his face with, if he only pursued a career in plastic surgery. His primary objective is to kill stranded victims who stumble into his house and slaughter them in order to feed his cannibalistic family. Leatherface is a true icon of horror, although he has appeared in all the sequels and remakes, none of the portrayals are anywhere near as good as Gunnar Hansen's "original" Leatherface.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exploded into a huge franchise, with comics, action figures, remakes, and sequels. None of the later films were even close to possessing the charm of the original. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, Leatherface has an entirely new family who's involved with aliens and the Illuminati, and they eat pizza instead of humans, WHAT THE FUCK. The original was raw, macabre, and bizarre, but the movies that followed were and absolute joke. It is a well known fact that horror movie sequels are almost never as good as the originals, but I have never seen a franchise so scarred by its sequels as much as TCM. The original is a masterpiece and a groundbreaking addition to the genre, it is my all time favorite horror movie, and for good reason. It took the low budget feel of B-Movies at the time and added some dark (very dark) humor, gritty realism, fucked up characters, and combined it all into one movie; a pure powerhouse combo.

To finish off, TCM is just fantastic, whether you're a horror movie fan or have a real fucked up sense of humor, this one's for you. To enhance your experience, try watching it in the hours of 1PM to 4PM, yeah it's not really a midnight movie in my opinion. Dark room in the afternoon is optimal. As for its sequels, the only "worthy" one would be TCM 2, although it was horrible by every meaning of the word, it did introduce us to one of the best characters ever shown in a movie, We will take an in depth look at TCM 2 soon enough, stick around for that.

"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Ahmed J. Almatrook 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Schindler's List (1993)

I have seen them all, the best and the worst. From Citizen Kane to Interstellar and from that god awful movie The Notebook to Batman and Robin, I've seen movies in their most alluring and most hideous forms. There's no denying how much of a role movies play in our everyday lives, like music, they appeal to our emotions and continue to dazzle us with visual (auditory in music's case) and artistic creativity. There's a certain rank of movies, a certain echelon, that will instill themselves into your mind forever. Sometimes, one movie can change the way you look at motion pictures as a whole, in my case, that movie was Schindler's List.

It was 12 AM, I was wide awake (as usual), bored out of my head. I looked over to my DVD shelf and started scanning for a movie to watch. I had already watched Apocalypse Now (again) the night before, so the standard had already been set. Would you really wanna follow up Apocalypse Now with 500 Days of Summer? I don't think so. So I looked into the third row of my shelf, there, to the far right (ironic?) I saw it, Schindler's List. I picked it up and looked at the run time, 197 minutes! But I said "What the hell, I'll watch half now and half later", boy was I wrong.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler), Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goth), and Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), the story is set in World War II Nazi Poland, it tells us about a time in the life of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi spy turned Businessman. He builds an enamelware factory in the recently invaded city of Krakow in Poland, hiring mainly Polish Jews in his factory, because they cost less, which meant more profit for him. However, it becomes increasingly difficult for Schindler to keep his workers due to the fact that the Nazis were getting murdering more and more Jews in their concentration camps.

Schindler's List was shot in black and white, along with Spielberg's documentary-esque style of shooting, it really gave an accurate and grim feeling of WWII Nazi controlled Poland. It gives you a real sense of how life was like back then, morbid and terrifying, no color whatsoever. The girl in the red coat was the only color that the viewer and Schindler could see, which, although minor, was a very significant element in the movie. At first she is seen by Schindler running during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto by the Nazis, she's then seen dead by Schindler again during the mass burning of the victims of the concentration camps (later in the movie). Let's explore that shall we? Everyone's interpretation of the color red is different, but here's mine. Red is the color of extremes, when Schindler first sees the girl, it shows that he's in awe, yet he doesn't comment and is unfazed by it. It is only when he sees her for the second time, dead in a wheelbarrow, he realizes that he should rethink his motives and his ideology.

Liam Neeson was nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal of Oskar Schindler. It might've been one of the best portrayals I've ever seen in a movie. We see Schindler grow from a party loving womanizer to a sympathetic soul in such great detail it blew me to next week. A charismatic man who influenced and charmed everyone around him, including the most ruthless of Nazi officers. At first, I saw a leech, motivated by profit. Little did I know that he would gradually develop into an exceptional individual who would go out of his way to save those less fortunate than him, a humanitarian by every meaning of the word.

Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Untersturmfuhrer Amon Goth was also quite exceptional. Fiennes did a really good job in helping the viewer explore the character of Goth, the ruthless Nazi officer in charge of the Plaszow concentration camp. A sadistic killer with no regard for human life. Goth, in my opinion, provided some form of comedic relief for me, I don't know whether it was because of the accent or the fact that he wanted to grow old with his domestic helper. For me, Goth personified the savage nature of human beings, he broke every boundary without any remorse. Goth was Nazi Germany.

Itzhak Stern was another admirable character, although at first he seems quite unpleased about working with Schindler, he becomes more and more determined to employ Jews into the factory. As the film progresses, Schindler starts to really care for Stern, and although Stern was cold at first, they eventually become friends. The on screen chemistry between Neeson and Kingsley was fantastic. The complex character development was a distinguishing factor, so many characters were well developed, and none of them felt insignificant. I greatly appreciated that.

The film was shot on location is Krakow, Poland and sets were built to depict the Plaszow and Auschwitz concentration camps. Again, Spielberg's documentary style filming contributed enormously to bringing the sets to life. The 15 minute sequence of the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto has to be one of the most terrifying and brutal action sequences ever seen on film. It felt real, almost like I was there, witnessing the whole event, it's like someone dug up some found footage and put it in the movie. The music was composed by John Williams and the main theme features violinist Itzhak Perlman, who did a great job in capturing the film's depressing undertone. One piece of music which I particularly appreciated in the film was Gloomy Sunday a.k.a The Hungarian Suicide Song, which is as murky as crows resting on a telephone pole, it really added depth to the atmosphere of the whole film.

Schindler's List is a film that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Once you start watching you cannot stop, it sucks you in and doesn't let go until the credits start rolling. I genuinely have nothing negative to say about it, it's as close to perfection as it gets. A modern masterpiece that reminded me why I loved movies in the first place. Culturally and historically significant, it not only taps into the horrors and atrocities of WWII, it shows us that determination, strength, and honor are all but lost. I wept at the end, it was that emotional for me. It was the most complete, most well directed and acted movie I've seen in a long time. I'm not even gonna complain about the run time (197 mins) because I was so absorbed into the movie that I forgot about time itself, it's that fucking good. Definitely one of the movies you have to watch right now, drop everything and watch it, I promise you nothing but severe emotions and warmth on the inside.

"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

Ahmed J. Almatrook