Not quite Star Trek, is it?

texas chainsaw massacre the next generation

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION

1.5 Stars  1994/18/84m

“Still buzzin’ after all these years.”

A.k.a. Return of the Texas Chainsaw MassacreTexas Chainsaw Massacre 4

Director/Writer: Kim Henkel / Cast: Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perenski, Joe Stevens, Lisa Newmyer, Tyler Cone, John Harrison, James Gale.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “What if we get into a wreck and crash the car and we all died? They could write a song about it.”


Of the main body count franchises, Texas Chainsaw Massacre likely ranks my least favourite, aided to no end by this much despised fourth outing, which was intended by Kim Henkel as the ‘true sequel’ to the 1974 original.

Things start out okay with four high schoolers crashing their car on a back road on the night of their prom and end up as spare meat for a psychotic family who dwell deep in the woods. The clan is led by unhinged truck driver Vilmer (McConaughey) and his trashy girlfriend, Darla, while Leatherface spends most of the film in drag, like a bad cabaret show at a provincial gay bar. I’ve seen a few of these and can attest the likeness.

There are plenty of harks back to the original, which serve only to remind us how much more raw it was, as the junky action clunks along with horrendous continuity problems, and portrayals of psychosis that rival the drag angle in terms of high camp.

The quartet of teens are allotted little in terms of characterisation, bar dowdy final girl Jenny (Zellweger). Both actors ascended to levels of stardom far removed from this low-end flick, which was later recalled by Zellweger as being so cheaply made the actors shared a single trailer that belonged to a member of the crew. However, there’s no escaping your humble beginnings, and the fact that agencies attempted to sue the production company for reissuing this with the stars as the focus probably only brought more attention to it in the long run. Though without their subsequent good fortune, would it be remembered at all?

Obligatory Before-They-Were-Famous Post

We all know Johnny Depp made his debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street, that Kevin Bacon was skewered with a spike in Friday the 13th, and Brad Pitt avoided a blade to the face in Cutting Class, but budding thespians are still paying their dues in B (and C!) movies before the big time calls… Spoilers follow.

 

Amy Adams in Psycho Beach Party

amy adams psycho beach party

Legit Hollywood royalty Amy Adams had already been in the awesome Drop Dead Gorgeous before playing bitchy Marvel Ann in obscurely amazing stage-adaptation Psycho Beach Party, where she gets to take part in the best dance-off this side of Grease. And way more enjoyable than either of the recent Superman movies.

Fate: Despite her love rival role, Marvel Ann does not the business end of a knife, as the killer in this one only goes after those with physical imperfections.

*

James McAvoy & Isla Fisher in The Pool

james mcavoy isla fisher the pool

Playing a couple in the 2001 Prague-set actually quite fun slasher-in-a-swimming-pool, McAvoy would later play Professor X and land lead roles all over the show (including the objectively shit Wanted) and Fisher starred in Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Now You See Me.

Fates: She runs straight into a machete, which is later used again to skewer him as he’s crawling through an air duct in hope of escape.

*

Finn Jones in Wrong Turn 5

finn jones wrong turn 5

Future star of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Loris Tyrell in Games of Thrones, the British actor was one of many countrymen shipped off to Bulgaria to fill out one of the straight-to-DVD Wrong Turn sequels.

Fate: I can’t remember, but apparently he doesn’t croak.

*

Anna Faris in Lovers Lane

lovers lane 1999 anna faris

Shortly before she headlined the Scary Movie franchise, led The House Bunny with a pre-stardom Emma Stone, and married Chris Pratt, Anna had a rare straight role as nice cheerleader Janelle in the straight-to-video flick that came at the height of the genre resurgence.

Fate: Gutted with a hook.

*

Kaley Cuoco in The Hollow

kaley cuoco the hollow

Before she was Penny in The Big Bang Theory, Kaley was Kevin Zegers’ object-of-lust in low-end, but kinda fun, The Hollow, also with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Stacy Keach, and Judge Reinhold. She later also appeared as a ditzy actress in Killer Movie, dying in neither.

Fate: Survives to fall in love with Zegers.

*

Rebecca Ferguson in Drowning Ghost

rebecca furguson drowning ghost

Still on the rise in Hollywood thanks to her recurring role opposite Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible movies, Rebecca started out in dull killer-at-a-posh-school chiller from Sweden, Drowning Ghost as a bitchy rich kid.

Fate: Dies, but I can’t remember how.

*

Olly Alexander in Tormented

olly alexander tormented

Olly may have played geeky Jason Banks in the British 2009 revenge-from-beyond slasher, but he went on to front BBC Sound of 2015 winners Years & Years, scoring a string of chart hits in the ensuing years.

Fate: Pencils placed up nostrils and head pushed down on to desk. Ouch.

*

Kate Mara in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

kate mara urban legends

Before landing big roles in House of Cards and as Sue Storm in the 27th attempt at a Fantastic Four movie franchise, Kate Mara – sister of Rooney, who went from the Elm Street remake to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake – was cast as the plucky heroine in made-for-DVD Urban Legend threequel Bloody Mary.

Fate: Final Girl! Saves the day!

*

Bradley Cooper in My Little Eye

bradley cooper my little eye

I can’t remember much of My Little Eye because it was boring as fuck. Bradley Cooper, not one of the main five protagonists, went on to find major Hollywood success with LimitlessThe Hangover trilogy, and, uh, that A-Team movie. And let’s not ever discuss that woeful Limitless TV series.

Fate: I think he’s one of the bad guys in on the conspiracy?

*

Naomi Watts in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

naomi watts children of the corn iv

Mrs Liev Schreiber and star of a gazillion hit movies, Watts played the heroine – and Karen Black’s daughter – in the barely-related-to-the-others sequel, as big sister to disgraced (and now dead) Glee star Mark Salling.

Fate: Final Girl! Saves the day!

*

Eva Mendes in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

eva mendes children of the corn 5

From model to actress, Mendes was packed off for the straight-to-video fourth sequel to the Stephen King adaptation. She thinks it’s a load of crap, but as far as this series goes, it’s at least gruesomely fun, and she got to star opposite the late Alexis Arquette.

Fate: Reads a thousand-page book in one night and voluntarily jumps into a silo!?

*

Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

paul rudd in halloween 6

We all know this one. On the brink of his big break in Clueless, Rudd played a grown-up (and slightly unhinged) Tommy Doyle. The Judd Apatow staple reportedly doesn’t think much of the movie, but he’s effective in the role, giving Tommy a can-he-be-trusted edginess lacking in most final boys.

Fate: Final Boy! Saves the day… with help from Dr Loomis, and Laurie’s cousin.

*

Clark Gregg in When A Stranger Calls

clark gregg when a stranger calls

The leader of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all round zaddy Clark Gregg played Camilla Belle’s dad in the 2006 remake of When A Stranger Calls, which mainly just entailed telling her she’d gone over her allotted minutes on her cellphone.

Fate: N/A – supporting role. Zzzz.

*

Billy Nighy in Phantom of the Opera

bill nighy phantom of the opera

The Freddy Krueger-inspired remake of the horror classic featured a young(er) Bill Nighy, later staple of British comedies, including Love ActuallyThe Boat That Rocked, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Fate: I saw this 20 years ago. Once. I remember nothing.

“I’m beginning to suspect foreplay.”

psycho cop returns 1992

PSYCHO COP RETURNS

2 Stars  1993/18/82m

“He’s the life and death of any party.”

A.k.a. Psycho Cop 2

Director: Rif Coogan [Adam Rifkin] / Writer: Dan Povenmire / Cast: Bobby Ray Shafer, Barbara Lee Alexander, Roderick Darin, Miles David Dougal, Nick Vallelonga, Dave Bean, Julie Strain, Alexandria Lakewood, Priscilla Huckleberry, John Paxton, Justin Carroll, Kimberly Speiss, Al Schuermann.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “Anything you say can and will be considered extremely strange because… you’re dead.”


It’s like twenty years since I picked this up on VHS at a time when the first film hadn’t even been released here. Not that you need it to follow the relatively simple opus of big dude kills office bods at an after hours party.

Hulking Satanic officer of the law Joe Vickers overhears plans for a bachelor party at an office block and decides to crash, hunting down the horny young execs, the strippers they invite, the nightwatchman, a couple who stuck around to have sex in the copy room… He’s not short on fodder. Victims are stabbed in the eye with pencils, thrown down elevator shafts, impaled to the wall, and photocopied to death.

With each demise, Shafer has a Krueger-esque quip to add, many of which are groan worthy, and the film can’t help itself from leaving the door open for the sadly never realised opportunity that would’ve been Psycho Cop vs. Maniac Cop vs. RoboCop. Amusing in a ten-years-too-late kinda way, but viewing the trailer earlier I wasn’t tempted to watch the whole thing again. Curiously, it took one week to film in 1992 but remained unreleased until mid-1994.

Blurbs-of-interest: Shafer had a small part (as a cop!) in Monster Man; Director Rifkin acted in Bikini Island and Last Dance, the latter also featuring Kimberly Speiss; Julie Strain was later in Bleed.

 

The title and tagline are referring to the hair

grotesque 1988

GROTESQUE

2 Stars  1988/18/89m

“There is a fate worse than death.”

Director/Writer: Joe Tornatore / Writer: Mikel Angel / Cast: Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes, Guy Stockwell, Luana Patten, Brad Wilson, Michelle Bensoussan, Nels Van Patten, Sharon Hughes, Charles Dierkop, Billy Frank, Robert Z’Dar, Bunky Jones [as Bunki Z], Robert Apisa.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “My ass doesn’t get cold” / “I don’t doubt it, that’s because you think with your ass and not your brain.”


For a few years, when people said ‘I cannot even’ to express their speechlessness over trivial things, I was confused. ‘Can’t even what?’ I thought. But then came Grotesque into my life, sent by my good friend Ross, who was having a DVD clear out (I tried to palm off 12 Deaths of Christmas on him but he’d already read what I had to say about it and dodged a bullet).

Seriously, what the fuck happened here? This entire project appears to be some sort of exercise in LSD experimentation while writing a film script. Read on, but beware necessary spoilers so that I can stress the bizarre experience of watching it.

grotesque 1988

Long boring credits take us into a film-within-a-film intro, where some old lady is brushing her hair while some dude in a cloak approaches. Then suddenly she’s a young chick. Then old again. Ugh. Turns out it’s a screening of a new film, where the FX work has been done by wonderous artist Orville Kruger, who blabs some exposition that he’s having a little family reunion at the cabin in the mountains this weekend…

Next we meet his daughter Lisa and her friend Kathy as they grab dinner before driving up there. Kathy (Donna Wilkes, most famous for her non-stop shrieking in Jaws 2) is sad over man trouble, while Lisa (Blair) is rocking the first of many hair-don’ts Grotesque will spring on us:

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

The girls are warned by the local shopkeep that some ‘freaks’ happened by earlier, and we meet them in a scene: Eight punk-rock youths looking like they teleported from 1977, led by the very unstable Scratch, who looks a cross between Billy Idol and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is seemingly modelled on Zed from the Police Academy movies. Their VW bus has run into trouble and they flag down Lisa and Kathy on the road, basically threaten them, and reveal to the audience they’re planning to invade the cabin, that they killed ‘the entire family’ last time, and Scratch yells a lot.

Orville plays some cruddy pranks on Kathy; Lisa asks her mom how Patrick is. Who is Patrick? Hmm… best wait and see. Night falls soon after the ‘punkers’ break in and haul everyone inside to the den, where they assault and kill Orville, shrieking about where the money/jewellery/dope is stashed. The posturing is dementedly bad, with acting so terrible I dread to think what the other takes looked like if they chose this.

grotesque 1988

Anyway, the ‘punkers’ kill Mom and Kathy, while Lisa dives out of a window and runs off up the mountain in her PJ’s, chased by one of the gang. The others split up to look for things and find a secret room behind a bookcase where Patrick resides. Patrick is your off-the-shelf movie mongoloid: Hunched back, moans to communicate, and hideously deformed features. He’s also super strong of course, and wastes no time offing a few of the intruders and chasing the others into the night.

Morning comes and the shopkeeper from earlier drops by to go fishing with Orville and finds several bodies. Patrick kills off all but the two lead ‘punkers’, and Lisa has been strangled into a coma. Now, up rocks Tab Hunter as Uncle Rod, who is a surgeon. He, shopkeeper dude, and some cops head up the mountain and shoot Patrick dead before he can kill Scratch and Shelly, who are arrested, but swear they just stopped by for help with their van and Patrick killed everybody.

grotesque 1988 patrick

There was still about 30 minutes left at this point, so I was clueless as to what the fuck was going to happen: Patrick has gone from gross-face to no-face, Lisa is in a coma, and there are two ‘punkers’ left. The most nasty two. A very long good-cop/bad-cop sequence unrolls, all the time I was watching the clock and it was still telling me there’s 30 minutes left. HOW, universe?

Lisa dies in surgery; Scratch and Shelly are released; Tab Hunter comes back and manages to kidnap them at gunpoint and take them back to the cabin where he straps them to gurneys, reveals he is Patrick’s father and pulls of a latex mask made for him by his late bro. and then operates on their faces, locking them in Patrick’s secret room. This, apparently, is the fate worse than death the tagline alludes to.

grotesque 1988

Wait, there’s still several minutes left??? So, the film melts – it’s all been a screening! And fucking Frankenstein and the Wolfman are in the projection room, bickering about it. They go into the theater and ‘scare’ everyone (they stand there slowly swaying back and forth with their arms out) and we see several of the actors – Blair, Wilkes, Stockwell – run away screaming. Credits.

Well, what the fucking fuck, Grotesque? What are you? How did you happen? Why are there several big names in you? I cannot answer. Perhaps Blair, who served as associate producer, had the dirt of some of them? Who the fuck knows. I’m tripped out though.

Grotesque is crap, but at least funny in that it’s really a series of ‘eh!?’ moments sewed together, maybe it was supposed to be an anthology and suffered too many script changes? I’d recommend it just for the LOLs: The hair, Blair’s natural charm, her amazing sarcastic response to the child who calls to her outside the store, the hair, the diabolical overacting of most of the ‘punkers’, the makeup the girl members of the gang sport, the hair, good-cop/bad-cop 101, fucking bizarre dialogue exchanges, and the hair.

grotesque 1988

Blurbs-of-interest: Linda was, of course, the lead in Hell Night (and thus also Hellego Night) – co-star Nels Van Patten is the brother of her co-star from Hell Night, Vincent Van Patten; Tab Hunter played Blue Grange in Pandemonium; Donna Wilkes was earlier in Schizoid and Blood Song; Bunky Jones was in Hide and Go Shriek; Robert Z’Dar had the title role in the Maniac Cop movies.

Girl Power

Feels recently that we’ve really entered a phase of Final Girl appreciation. On screen we’ve seen Final GirlThe Final Girls, and Last Girl Standing, and in print The Last Final Girl and now Final Girls. A lot of finality in all those.

final girls riley sager

Riley Sager was reportedly renamed more gender neutrally in order to ship more copies of Final Girls. Weirdly, despite the first person narrator being female, I assumed the writer was male from the get-go.

The story concerns Quincy, the sole survivor of a cabin-in-the-woods massacre, ten years after the event, one of two other infamous ‘final girls’ takes her own life, leading the third survivor into Quincy’s life – and subsequently upending it and shaking it until everything tumbles out.

In spite of the slasher backstory requisite, Final Girls has more in common – as Stephen King’s recommendation states – with Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Paranoid mysteries with recurrent themes of the ‘unreliable narrator’ – the book merrily makes suggestions that almost any of the characters could know more about “what really happened that night” than they’re letting on.

Ultimately, it’s a book about the aftermath of a slasher event, rather than a recreation of. Intermittent flashback chapters back-fill the events of ten years earlier, but the formula is not dwelt upon, it only serves as a plot device. I didn’t guess the outcome, which is always a plus, and it should make a good film when it’s inevitably made into one.

Sager’s writing is dripping in rich wordplay, occasionally over-extending the scenes about baking and Quincy’s Xanax dependency and not exactly making her quite likeable enough to root for, but the locomotive need to put the pieces together results in the kind of jigsaw you hurry to complete.

there's someone inside your house stephanie perkins

On to There’s Someone Inside Your House, which I actually read first and at the same can’t-put-it-down speed.

This is far more of a teen-slasher affair, a kind of post-Scream millennial dead-teenager story. In a small Nebraskan town surrounded by cornfields, the high school drama queen is murdered in her home.

Exiled teen Makani, completing her senior year here after her involvement in ‘something terrible’ in Hawaii, is primarily more concerned with her budding romance with pink-haired misfit Ollie, but as the murders continue and she finds herself on the killer’s list, Makani and her friends decide to play detective.

Interestingly, the identity of the killer in TSIYH is revealed fairly early on, but that doesn’t deflate the tension from the situation. In fact, Stephanie Perkins wisely uses it as a tool of fear – the town knows who is doing it, but they don’t know where the assailant is or when they will return.

The best facet in the book is the killer’s penchant for toying with victims before attacking: Moving items around, leaving drawers open that were closed before, unsettling the mouse before the cat strikes. While the writing is in a different league to Riley Sager’s, for the intended demographic this addresses some social issues regarding the role technology plays in the lives of high schoolers, the interconnectivity of people who have never spoken a word to one another drawing them together. Some of the murders are pretty gruesome too!

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