Hairy Macho Bullshit

tenebrae 1982

TENEBRAE

3.5 Stars  1982/18/107m

“…Terror beyond belief.”

A.k.a. Unsane

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Cast: Anthony Franciosa, Dario Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma, John Saxon, John Steiner, Veronica Lario, Carola Stagnaro, Marino Mase, Lara Wendel.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Male heroes… with their hairy, macho bullshit.”


My favourite of Argento’s more slasher-tilted films, reportedly written on the back of his own experience with a stalker.

Franciosa is famed American writer, Peter Neal, who is promoting his latest novel, Tenebrae, in Rome, with help from his kitschy agent Saxon, his personal assistant Anne, and a young intern.

No sooner does he step off the plane than a series gruesome razorblade murders commences, each one based on incidents from the titular book. Peter takes along his young protege to investigate and potential suspect and the mystery thickens to the point where it’s entirely possible that there are several independent killers at work.

The giallo touches are played to the hilt, with archetypal Argento camera work, and the black-gloved maniac creeping around off camera. Memorable moments include a sticky severing of an arm via axe blow, and a gory end to the eventual killer thanks to a pointy piece of modern art.

tenebrae 1982

As usual, beautiful young women are the primary targets for the razor-flashing loon, who cuts and slashes his way through several semi-clad babes, one of whom is a journalist known to Peter, who states that his work is sexist and that women are portrayed only as victims. Her murder, therefore, seems more than a little mean-spirited and a possible dig at feminists who have voiced concerns over Argento’s earlier output.

The slight distractions swept aside, this one is up there.

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other slashy exploits include Deep Red, PhenomenaSleeplessTrauma, and Opera. Of these, his one-time wife Daria is in Phenomena and Opera; John Saxon was in A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s and 3, plus Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and also Black ChristmasWelcome to Spring BreakThe Baby Doll Murders; John Steiner was later in Camping Del Terrore.

We don’t need another hero

brightburn 2019

BRIGHTBURN

3.5 Stars  2019/18/87m

“He’s not here to save the world.”

Director: David Yarovesky / Writers: Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn / Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Gregory Alan Williams, Becky Wahlstrom, Emmie Hunter, Annie Humphrey.

Body Count: 6 (+268)


I was over superhero movies about twelve minutes into the first Avengers film. Overwrought FX-dependant three-hour epics; all this DC vs Marvel bollocks; online cry babies whining about liberal agendas every time a female character isn’t a cowering wreck; reboot after reboot after reboot; TV spin-offs; “we’re going darker”; a gazillion heroes nobody outside of the comic book store ever heard of… JUST. FUCK. OFF.

…Except X-Men. You can stay.

The news that Brightburn would be an anti-hero flick barely registered with me (I mean, how many times have various directors declared they’re making ‘more than just another superhero movie’?), until my good pal Ross caught the international cut in Amsterdam and informed me it was pretty much a slasher flick. Yes. Finally.

brightburn 2019 jackson a. dunn

International cut, you say? Why, yes. The BBFC indicated the original version would warrant an 18 certificate, so the distributor pre-cut some of the grue and language to snag a more audience friendly 15. And on DVD? The cut version, unless you have 4K SuperMegaDVD, the only place the original has been made available.

Never fear, it’s still quite grisly as we enter the world of the Breyer family: Dad Kyle, Mom Tori, and 12-year-old Brandon, who fell to earth inside a spaceship a decade earlier and was taken in by the childless couple and raised as any other regular human kid on their farm in the town of Brightburn. Around his birthday, the ship, secured in a locked section of the barn, begins glowing and calling out to Brandon, telling him to do things. Baaaad things.

brightburn 2019 eye glass

And so, as Kyle and Tori mistake his sudden mood changes for the dreaded onset of puberty, Brandon discovers his powers by killing a lawnmower, breaking the hand of the only girl who (up until then) was nice to him, and then going after her mom after he’s suspended from school over the incident. So it goes, anyone who doesn’t fold to Brandon’s will finds themselves on the lethal end of his significant superhero abilities. There’s a particularly effective scene with his uncle in his truck, which results in a sticky lost mandible. Ouch. This scene, and the shard of glass in the eye, were trimmed for the UK cut.

Eventually, Kyle and Tori begin to suspect their lil baby is the one responsible, after all he pretty much leaves his initials at every kill scene. But how do you kill Superman? They know virtually nothing of where he came from and it’s not like Brandon’s been clued in. This question kind of hangs over Brightburn in a difficult way: Whereas the tiresome opus of the standard superhero flick has the gifted one up against a villain until one of them is defeated and the humans saved, here there is no other super to pit Brandon against, it’s one big pre-teen tantrum that a time-out won’t solve.

brightburn 2019 matt jones

Harking back to the not-dissimilar Chronicle, it works fine as an – ugh – ‘origin story’ and had the film done better at the box office, a sequel or two would be guaranteed. As it stands, producer James Gunn has said it’s ‘been discussed’, but this seems like a niche within a juggernaut of a genre where anything less than world dominating success is seen as a failure, so who knows?

As a standalone, it feels a little short, and like a couple of scenes have been missed: Brandon is hinted at as being a victim of bullies in school, but this is never again touched upon. Some more low-level vengeance incidents building his sinister silhouette might well have done the trick, rather than his pretty much overnight transformation from good kid to little super-psycho.

brightburn 2019

A good film, not boring, but maybe just a little lacking in depth in places, and still way better than the prospect of the probable Infinity War reboot we’re getting in 2028.

Halloween related thought-of-the-day

halloween laurie lynda annie devon graham

It occurred to me that when Lynda says: “Hey isn’t that Devon Graham?” for years, I thought she was saying “D’vaughn Gram” due to Carpenter and Hill picking maybe the only two names in our shared language that are pronounced entirely differently in American English than they are in UK English, where we would’ve said it as: “Isn’t that Devvon Gray’um?”

Hmm, maybe Craig: “Cregg” vs. “Crayyg”

The one where Hud doesn’t like the film everyone else does

the texas chain saw massacre 1974

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE

2.5 Stars  1974/18/80m

“Who will survive and what will be left of them?”

Director/Writer: Tobe Hooper / Writer: Kim Henkel / Cast: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, Teri McMinn, William Vail, Gunnar Hansen, Him Siedow, Edwin Neil.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “My family’s always been in meat.”


I just don’t like it, okay?

The idea of what The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was permeated playground chatter and jokes about extreme violence for much of the 1980s, as it was pretty much a banned property, one that sounded like it would be the most grisly and gory thing ever to be known to man – and it’s all true!!! I remember a late-night film review show covering it shortly before it got its late-90s release, where they debated what, if any, contribution it made to film.

The local cinema in my college town screened it as a one off late some weeknight and pretty much all of the horror geeks from my film course turned up. Expecting little more than an early slasher film with tsunamis of gore, instead we got what my friend described to me as the credits rolled: “The most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen.”

texas chain saw massacre 1974

For all its ‘based on true events’ proclamation, no group of teens were systematically dispatched by a power-tool wielding killer. With little desire to experience the film for a third time, my memory of the precise ins-and-outs is unreliable, but a camper van full of young people picks up a deranged hitchhiker, who cuts wheelchair-bound Franklin’s arm with a razor, and is summarily kicked out.

The group reach their destination – Franklin and his sister Sally’s childhood home – and explore for a bit while they wait for the gas station to receive a delivery so they can fill up and go. One couple breaks off to go look for a swimming hole, end up at a house where they decide to enquire about gas, and get themselves bopped on the head with a sledgehammer and hung on a meathook respectively. While there’s nary an ounce of blood in this double murder scene, it’s fucking shocking. Forty-plus years of slasher movies have numbed us to such shocks, with musical cues or fragmented photography preparing us.

As became the usual sequence of events, the next guy goes to look for the missing ones and also ends up dead, leaving just Sally and Franklin. She ends up pushing his chair across unwelcoming terrain, that allows a fatal attack from our looney toon Leatherface, who uses his chainsaw to disembowel Franklin, the chase Sally for what seems like forever.

texas chain saw massacre 1974

She is eventually captured and held captive by the deranged family, in a house full of decaying bones, while the sons attempt to get their almost mummified grandfather to club her on the head so they can cannibalize her remains. She eventually frees herself and escapes, chased down by the overbearing rusty buzz of the chainsaw all the way.

This is horror incarnate: A brutal, unrelenting experience, an assault on almost all of the senses that, even at a scant 80 minutes, leaves you drained. But was this the intention? I can’t help but take the film as a bit of a fluke. Pieced together on a miniscule budget of $140k, it’s clunky and amateur looking, and if someone told you it was a snuff film, I don’t see why you wouldn’t believe them.

texas chain saw massacre 1974 sally

Why don’t I like it? The main attraction to slasher films for me has always been someone coded as ‘weak’ rising up against their aggressor. While Sally certainly goes through the grinder up until her escape, there’s not a whole lot of vengeance on her part – she survives by the skin of her teeth and there’s no real feeling of victory for her.

I also don’t like to feel depressed by horror, which is why I generally avoid zombie movies, so I have little motivation to see it again. If we were making a musical analogy, I’d say I like rock music but with a discernible melody, rather than just noise, which is how I view The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I’ve honestly no real opinion on whether it’s the most important horror film in history, or an exploitative piece of crap that wouldn’t have a fraction of its notoriety if it the title didn’t contain the terms ‘chainsaw’ and ‘massacre’. I just don’t ever want to see it again.

texas chain saw massacre 1974 leatherface gunnar hansen

Blurbs-of-interest: Hooper later directed the first sequel, plus The Funhouse, and the remake of the Toolbox Murders; Marilyn Burns made a cameo appearance in Texas Chainsaw 3D; Gunnar Hansen was in Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre; Jim Seidow returned for the first sequel.

Pant-Soiling Scenes #27: The Woman in Black (2012)

We had the 1989 version of The Woman in Black a few PSS’s ago, but I re-spun the 2012 remake last week and was far more into it than when I saw it (twice) at the movies. It’s still about as subtle as a bazooka to the balls, but some of it is legitimately creeeepy, such as this moment, where the imposing dark passage at the end of the corridor is finally filled with the outline of THE WOMAN!!!

the woman in black 2012

Keeping her in the distance adds to the fear factor here. While part of me is like “just stride towards her and punch her in the gob” by this point it’s clear she’s otherworldly and probably shouldn’t be fucked with.

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