The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


Viewed – 13 January 2018  Blu-ray

I’ve always been a casual fan of director Tobe Hooper’s notorious 1974 vision of terror… it’s a very raw and unrelenting experience that certainly leaves a mark.  This 1986 follow up, further more unavailable for years in the UK reunites us with the cannibalistic Sawyer family as a Texas Marshall (Dennis Hopper) tries to track them down, thirsty it seems for revenge.  Meanwhile a plucky radio DJ becomes embroiled in the hunt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

There’s certainly a more tongue-in-cheek tone to this and it only marginally works.  It gives an already crazy concept an even nuttier vibe which came off for me more annoying than scary or disturbing.  The Sawyer family this time around are given a little more character, thanks mostly to Bill Moseley’s deranged ‘chop-top’ and we also see a side to Leatherface I wasn’t expecting.  Add to this a volatile, unhinged turn from Hopper who’s character is rather cartoonish but still entertaining.  The big let down acting wise is Caroline Williams as radio DJ ‘Stretch’ Initially she seems interesting, spunky and a good heroine … but then becomes scream-queen and oh boy, was she annoying!  I’ve watched my fair share of scream queens and this one, was so over the top I was quickly hoping the Sawyer family would just end her. 

Gore hounds are only slightly catered for, despite the presence of effects artist Tom Savini… so we get a skinned face and some chainsaw meets guts stuff, but not much else.  Overall the movie isn’t as visceral or effectively disturbing as either the original or the remake … but as a frantic, crazy ride this still entertained.  Considering this sequel’s reputation though, I was expecting … more.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video boasts a detailed, clean and vibrant picture and even though the soundtrack is only the original 2.0 stereo it’s sharp and very effective.  The disk itself is packed with extras, with ‘It Runs At Night’ a six part documentary, and we also get several interviews with cast, crew and horror critics.  Add to this two commentaries (one with director Tobe Hooper and another with Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini) making this deluxe treatment for what is otherwise a fun if forgettable entry in the franchise.

Verdict: 

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Poltergeist


Viewed – 25 June 2016  Netflix

I approached this fairly open minded despite my general dislike of remakes to classic horrors.  However my memory of the original Steven Spielberg penned / Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist is cloudy at best.  A family move into a house in a nice neighbourhood and soon find themselves troubled by weird goings on.  Yes, it’s nothing at all new and is pretty much following the blue-print of a wealth of other horror movies such as The Conjuring or anything with restless spirits in it.

Poltergeist

However with a likeable cast headed by Sam Rockwell (Moon, The Green Mile) and decent production values I still found myself entertained.  In an attempt to bring the idea into the modern era we get ghostly apparitions tinkering with cell phones and flat screen TVs as well as electricity and lighting to interesting effect.    There’s even a sequence with a drone robot going into a portal that proves pretty creepy.  Yet the movie’s key failing is not having any genuine scares (sorry, but clown dolls…again?) and apart from an alarming scene with a drill…it stays decidedly family-friendly throughout.  Good use of CGI and a fun if clichéd appearance by Jared Harris (Mad Men) kept me intrigued and some fun ghost pranks like kids being dragged up a staircase or a muddy puddle with a hand coming out of it made this a fun if uninspired evening’s viewing.  Characterisation was particularly lacking however (the parents are unemployed…but can still afford a swanky house!!?), the little girl as the focus of the movie just basically said her lines (with the blandest ‘they’re here’ ever delivered) and some better atmosphere wouldn’t have gone amiss instead of a reliance on effects and action.

I’m an old-school horror devotee and yes this left me wanting, but if you’re not as fussy as me or that keen on more hard-core frights … this was a competent if unimaginative remake that may still be worth your time.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Life Force


Viewed – 18 October 2013  Blu-ray

International Version

I have fond, if cloudy memories of this 1985 science fiction horror.  I’ll admit straight up that as a hormonal boy, the site of French actress Mathilda May walking around naked certainly stayed with me.  But thankfully with more mature eyes, I can appreciate this hoky but fun movie on more than purely teenage fantasy levels.

A group of Astronauts investigating the arrival of Haley’s Comet over Earth, discover a space craft hidden within the tail.  On-board they stumble upon three pods containing three human-like bodies … two males and a female, and subsequently decide to take the bodies back to their own space shuttle.  Cut to London thirty days later and the bodies have been recovered from  the shuttle following an unexplained fire, and before long there’s a beautiful, naked female wrecking havoc and sucking the Life Force out of anyone she meets.

lifeforce6

Directed by Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) this is an energetic crowd-pleaser of a movie, with that 80s lack of restraint and bags of personality.  Effects work is decent with some quite cool make up effects and production values throughout are impressive.  Acting honours, it’s a mixed back with a stand-out Steve Rallsback as a disturbed Astronaut and even Patrick Stewart turns up not looking a great deal different than he does now (?). It has an alarming tendency to jump around from quiet talking scenes to all out chaos, surreal dream-sequences and horror – but makes for an experience that is never dull.  Performances are basically adequate, sometimes over-acted but stylistically this looks great and with a thunderous score by Henry Mancini it’s very hard not to get caught up in the sheer enthusiasm of it all.

Yes its a bit silly in places, the story is nonsense, but honesty in this particular movie – it doesn’t matter.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is impressive.  Two cuts of the movie, the slightly trimmed ‘Theatrical Version’ and the director-preferred ‘International Version’, two commentaries, an engrossing documentary called ‘cannon fodder’, interviews, trailers, and a collectable booklet.  The movie itself is in great shape.  A very clear, often sharp HD transfer and a decent 5.1 DTS Master Audio soundtrack (or uncompressed 2.0 stereo) both impress.  This is a surprising but welcome treatment for one of the more obscure movies of the 80s, but as a fan I couldn’t be happier.

Verdict:

(the movie):  4 /5

(the Blu-ray):  5 /5

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


Viewed – 04 November 2008  DVD

After getting a kick out of the recent big-budget remakes of this once forgotten horror franchise, it was well overdue for me to sit down and check out the one that started it all.  Tobe Hooper’s 1974 gritty horror is both still as effective as it undoubtedly was way back when, and stands alone as one of the most truly unnerving movies ever made.  Often when looking back on old horrors of the 70s / eighties, time can leave a bit of a dent in their impact, yet this very realistic, and harrowingly believable film still holds a lot of power.  Following what has now become a clichéd plot about a group of twenty-somethings travelling through America’s deep south countryside in a camper van, they stumble upon a house after an encounter with a weird hitchhiker.  Of course you can imagine what happens next (the story is not really the point here), as said house is inhabited by a family of crazy, hillbilly nut cases!  Step forward horror icon Leatherface in all his chainsaw wielding skin-masked glory!!

Now this is not a gore movie – far from it, as 95% of the nasty stuff is suggested or off screen (mostly due to the low budget), and much is left up to your own imagination.  It helps too that the ultra-gritty look of the film adds to the atmosphere and with a very scary soundtrack of weird sound effects and music, it is clear the whole point of this film is to leave you trembling and begging for mommy.  A deserved classic in the genre.

The DVD I checked out is the newly released ‘Seriously Ultimate Edition’ and is spread across three discs.  The first holds the feature in very crisp anamorphic wide screen, with the choices of 1.0 mono, 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround soundtracks.  Add to this two commentaries, one with the director and the other with the cast…both well worth listening to.  The other two discs hold a wealth of documentaries, interviews and galleries.  Stellar stuff.  All presented in a fab steelbook.

Verdict:  5 /5