Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Horror: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist

Honestly, this month has gone on forever. It seems like years ago that I saw The Cabin in the Woods and The Evil Dead, and a whole lot of the other horror films I caught up with this October. I'm finishing the month off with an unintentional Tobe Hooper double-feature: his 1974 gorefest The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his 1982 ghost story Poltergeist. Then we'll get to my overview of the month, and what's in store for next month. (just a note: my monthly review will be up tomorrow because, come on, I had to do a horror film post on Halloween!)

I have filed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre away into the pile of films that I don't ever want to think about again. And hey, that's a pretty select few. Maybe that's because I watched it late on a Friday night, when I was practically drunk from sleep-deprivation (yes, I'm a teenager). Or maybe because wholey mother of crap, what the hell was going on in this movie.

Chainsaws terrify me.

I mean, I know that I've been spending this entire series going on about how witches terrify me, and black-and-white terrifies me, and pumpkins terrify me...well, I gotta say, chainsaws take the cake. Honestly, I was terrified of getting my two arm casts off because of the chainsaw they use. And then I saw this movie, and now I can't listen to that grating sound without hearing "death death death".

Honestly, I don't even know what to say about this movie. To be honest, everything in the movie has been clouded over by that end scene. All the screaming. All the blood. All the creepy Leatherface going wild over his chainsaw. 

That's how you do a horror movie. Seriously.

I'm not saying that this is my favourite horror, but I can see where all of today's horrors get their influence from, and how they can't really imitate it all that well. The graininess does it. Everything is low-fi and grainy, which adds this weird kind of atmosphere to it. A sickening kind of atmosphere to it. Oh, and by the way, Tyler, you berated me on Letterboxd for giving it a 7/10 (Seriously? That's a high rating in my scheme of things). It has kinda upped since then as I've had time to have nightmares and moments to be scared of chainsaws and such. And yeah, I can't even put this movie into words so I suppose this wasn't a very fruitful review for any first-timers looking to get scared.

Poltergeist is less gory than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there may be a reason for that: even though the two were directed by Tobe Hooper, apparently Steven Spielberg (the producer) had a huge influence on the making of Poltergeist. I don't know if that's the plain reason we don't get to see much blood, but you'd never be able to tell that they were made by the same person. Poltergeist kinda tells a pretty tame story, of how a families house is haunted and it sucks up their young daughter (Heather O'Rourke), which means they have to stay in the house until they can get her out. At face value, it isn't all that exciting, but I really enjoyed it. There was just some sort of energy about it, which is a little hard to explain. It all seemed very real, while seeming very unreal at the same time. To be honest, the film kinda lost me when they were trying to "clean" the house and all of this light was flashing around and stuff. It struck me as a little over the top when the rest of the movie was kinda 'homespun', but then again, I've never been a fan of these paranormal kinds of offerings.

I think what scared me a little more, though, was this whole Poltergeist curse business. I was pretty shocked to see that Heather O'Rourke died at such a young age, and to die that way would have been terrible. And then I heard that Dominique Dunne (who played the eldest daughter) was killed by her boyfriend just after she made this movie. Gosh, that is just awful. And then there were some more untimely deaths surrounding the cast of the Yeah, I don't really like reading into those theories. And guess what? I'm terrified of ghosts, too.

Anyway, what did I think about my experience with horror as a whole?
Just to clear things up, I wasn't exactly a newbie to horror. It had just been a while since I'd bothered to see any horrors. My Mum literally forced me into watching a whole lot when I was younger (she denies this, but she really was so irresponsible, haha). This time around, I found myself quite disappointed with a few, or unable to really connect with others. But most of the time, I'd forget that I was watching horror movies and I'd get really surprised when someone died. Oh, and I made a pretty sizeable list of everything I'm terrified of.

How would I rank the films I've seen, from least favourite to favourite?
10. Suspiria (1977) Dir. Dario Argento
9. The Evil Dead (1981) Dir. Sam Raimi
8. Halloween (1978) Dir. John Carpenter
7. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) Dir. Tim Burton
6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Dir. Robert Weine
5. Poltergeist (1982) Dir. Tobe Hooper
4. The Cabin in the Woods (2011) Dir. Drew Godard
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Dir. Tobe Hooper
2. Scream (1996) Dir. Wes Craven
1. The Blair Witch Project (1999) Dir. Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

What will I be "Dipping My Toes" in next month?
I won't be doing any 'toe-dipping' per se, but I will be doing another two-a-week marathon challenge. Every Wednesday next month, I will be bringing you Nic November. Yes, I will be wading through eight Nicolas Cage films just for fun, and I will bring you my coverage of them. As you may know, I love to make fun of the guy, but maybe I should watch a few more of his films. Be ready with some recommendations next week! For now, what do you think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and/or Poltergeist, and horror in general?


  1. I've tried to like TCM, and I just can't do it. I just don't think it's a particularly good or well-made film, and I don't see whatever it is other people see in it; I appreciate that it has historical importance, and that's as far as I go with it. The interesting thing about it is how *little* blood there actually is in it, it's not really half as overtly nasty as people think it is; Tobe Hooper actually thought the film would get a PG rating. Which was ludicrous, but no more so than the X rating it was initially given.

    Haven't seen Poltergeist, but have always been under the impression it was more a Spielberg film than anything else although Hooper retained the credit if not the actual job. Hooper's career has, in the eyes of quite a few folk, never really lived up to the promise and success of TCM, he got fired from a couple of other films he made before Poltergeist, and a lot of his later work has been limited to TV.

    1. Yes, TCM did have very little blood, but it did seem very gory. And yeah...Tobe Hooper was dreaming with the PG rating, haha.

      No, I was looking at his IMDb page and nothing (apart from Poltergeist) seemed to stand out. Poltergeist was pretty much a Steven Spielberg movie - you can't really tell that Hooper had anything to do with it.

  2. Good luck with the Nicolas Cage, haha (I've always had a soft spot for National Treasure).
    My Dad hates Poltergeist with a passion, so I made him watch it with me one night, as you do. He used to baby sit my cousin a lot, and Jaz would always play Poltergeist - hence why my Dad got to hate it and finds it a bit creepy, especially the 'They're heeeeere' scene!

    1. Nic November is going to be so fun!

      That scene especially creeped me out. No wonder your Dad hates it!

  3. What always gave me the creeps about TEXAS, was the way it seemed so plausible. I mean, for starters, it's loosely based on actual events...but the low-grade, grimy quality of the film makes it feel in many moments like you're watching actual footage of these kids stuck in the middle of nowhere.

    It gives the whole thing a "snuff film" quality, making it amazingly unsettling.

    Hopefully you can cleanse the palette with a few viewings of INCEPTION and the like.

    1. Yes, it is based on true events - that end scene seemed so real. It was horrible.

      Actually, I followed this up with Blue Velvet. Not the best idea.

  4. Ha Nic November!!

    I love Poltergeist. Rourke is so creepy innocent.
    I've seen one of the sequels of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the one with Renee Zelweger in it. I did get scared but I was quite little.

    1. Looking forward to it!

      Wait...Renee Zellweger was in a sequel to it? Wow.

  5. The thing that always shocked me the most about TCM was Leatherface attacking the kid in the wheelchair. That seemed so taboo to me at the time.

    1. I knew it was inevitable, but it still was really shocking. Wow.

  6. Glad Texas Chainsaw had the desired effect! That is how horror should be done! And what a great month of horror movies! Your top 10 are to die for (haha)

  7. Interesting rankings. I love Poltergeist, but I still haven't seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its entirety yet. Will do soon though.

  8. I love Texas Chainsaw but I also love Evil Dead a great deal.But still, to this day, the original Night of the Living Dead is my favorite horror movie of all time.

  9. james already said what I was going to. I love how you went on about how TCM was so bloody/gory, when it's not. At all. There's only about 2 ounces of blood (literally--even quoted by Tobe Hooper himself) in the entire movie. But everything offscreen is so extremely implied that everybody is under the impression it's one of the goriest movies ever made... when, in fact, you see almost nothing.

    1. It is very clever...Hooper is quite genius, in that regard.

  10. Haha apologies for berating you, now that I have read your TCM review I understand properly how you feel about it, and I am glad. It is my absolute favourite horror movie for so many reasons. It really unnerved and terrified me in a way no film has been able to come close to.

    1. Ha, it didn't have quite the same effect on me, but I can see why it is your favourite.


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