Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) Review


Starring- Tobe Hooper, Dolph Lundgren, Richard Chamberlain, Franco Nero, Bo Derek, Pete Walker, Alex Winter.

Cast your mind back to the 80’s and in some way or form you may remember Cannon Films. I specifically recall them from my childhood, as they used to be the owners or rather the name of our local two screen cinema, in my hometown in Southport, where I saw many films, particularly MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (which was made by Cannon and is featured in this documentary). If it wasn’t cinema chains that they were owning, or studios that they were buying, Cannon were one of the strongest and most recognisable film companies in the 80’s and their mere name or mention of it does bring up images of 80’s cinema. Going forward and after already doing two superb documentary’s on genre cinema from around the world, NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, which focused on Australian exploitation cinema, and MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASED, which looked at the burgeoning genre film making in the Philippines in the 70’s, Mark Hartley is back with a new documentary looking at Cannon films.

Following the similar format of his previous documentary’s, Hartley focuses on talking head interviews interspersed with archive behind the scenes footage and clips from some of the outlandish and often crazed Cannon back catalogue, that provides a fast paced but none the less thrilling and ultimately entertaining portrayal of the two men behind Cannon films. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, where two film loving cousins from Israel, who had a passion for cinema for an early age and already established themselves as successful producers in their native country, making the critical lauded but commercially successful teen sex comedy LEMON POPSICLE, which they would later produce an American remake under Cannon films as THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN.

cannon pic 1Golan and Globus eventually went over to America, where they brought up grindhouse exploitation outfit Cannon films and set about an almost factory esque production line method of making films that where mostly trash and forgettable b-movie fodder. Yet there market for making movie upon movie would sometimes yield success with such a film like BREAKIN, which brought break dancing to the screen for the first time and made them a ton of money, eventually leading to the inevitable BREAKIN sequels. It also led to insane genre mish mash films such as NINJA 3: THE DOMINATION a film that combines a ninja film, possession horror and Flashdance-esque aerobic dance scenes.

Cannon also provided a place for stars both old and new to be discovered such as Charles Bronson, who starred in the DEATH WISH films and Chuck Norris, who became Cannon’s first action star through films such as MISSING IN ACTION and INVASION USA. Though with a constant output of product, and buying up Elstree Studios and the ABC cinema chain in the UK, Cannon started upping their game and wanted to make bigger budgeted films and to gain more respect. Yet this was to prove their downfall with films such as the Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling movie OVER THE TOP, Superman sequel SUPERMAN 4: THE QUEST FOR PEACE and kids cartoon live action version MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, eventually having larger budgets but bad special effects meant not recouping their costs back. Eventually Cannon would call it a day and Golan and Globus went their separate ways. Though as Hartley argues, convincingly, they left their mark on cinema and popular culture.

cannon pic 3Hartley and his interviewees obviously show fondness for Cannon and enthusiasm, which comes over so well throughout the documentary. Yes they where ‘schlock meisters’ but Golan and Globus’s production ethic produced outlandish work, but sometimes great work. There’s even a respect for the superb RUNAWAY TRAIN, which is a brilliant action film, though with the Cannon label it sadly didn’t get the respect it deserved at the time, but it’s a film that has gained praise and is worth checking out. Though as the documentary points out Cannon also allowed critically praised independent directors such as John Cassavetes, Franco Zeffirelli and French bore Jean Luc Godard, to create their work, when no other American studio would do so. An elderly Zeffirelli pops up to comment on his respect for Golan and Globus, who produced his opera version of OTHELLO. Hartley does allow some of the critics of Cannon films to have their say and yes their views on some of the output of the two Israel’s are certainly funny, delivered in a mocking, sardonic tone.

It’s the balance of self referential humour along with the recognition of the importance of Cannon that makes the documentary highly watchable, on repeat viewings. That said Hartley, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to get Chuck Norris to contribute (though that could be due to Norris, wanting to distance himself from his violent output from the 80’s) and this would have been an excellent addition. But this is a small criticism for what is a superb documentary, that shows a constant enthusiasm for its subject matter that’s both a fun, wild ride and makes you want to root for Golan and Globus in a way (even though the outcome of the story is already set), and there workman like attitude, even if it did produce trash and some of it pretty embarrassing (a sentiment shared by MGM who handled distribution for Cannon for a period). Yes Cannon did leave there mark on cinema and pop culture.

Films such as BREAKIN exposed the world too urban music and hip hop and a new dance craze. DELTA FORCE is pretty much THE EXPENDABLES of its time (further emphasised as Boaz Davidson, who appears in this documentary, was executive producer on EXPENDABLES), Chuck Norris is still a popular action star icon and had a famous internet meme created, and films such as RUNAWAY TRAIN and even the crazy sci-fi horror mash up of LIFEFORCE have gotten the respect they deserve from both critics and genre fans alike.

cannon pic 4If you’re a fan of genre cinema, this is a highly recommended watch and a superb addition to Hartley’s previous two film documentary’s that again show his love and recognition of some of the world’s most outlandish, often crazy but undeniably entertaining pictures. And in an ironic turn of events, as it’s mentioned at the end credits, Menahem Golan (who sadly passed away this year) and Yoram Globus beat Hartley to the post with their own documentary on Cannon films, showing that their work ethic still lives on.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 40th Anniversary Restoration – Review

texas_STEELBOOK_3DhighresThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre 40th Anniversary Restoration

Dir: Tobe Hooper

Starring – Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Gunnar Hansen.

Release date: 17/11/2014 from Second Sight Films – HERE

It is 40 years ago this year since Tobe Hooper’s seminal Texas Chainsaw Massacre first traumatised audiences across the world, and to mark the occasion Second Sight are releasing a special restoration edition of the film on Blu-ray later this month.

What can be said about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that hasn’t already been said in the four decades since its original release? It’s extremely hard to pay justice to the importance of the film, not just in the horror genre, but as a footnote in cinema. “Masterpiece” is a term that gets slung about far too easily in horror these days, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Initially banned in several countries, stories abounded of its legendary brutality, urban legends sprang up, telling tales of tramps paid thousands of dollars by the film’s producers to have their limbs amputated live on camera. All nonsense, of course; the film is virtually bloodless. But it is a brutal viewing experience, relentless in its delivery of discomfort.

It is not just the violent scenes which are uncomfortable, it was a famously hot shoot and the heat seems to radiate from the screen as you watch. And the film offers no sanctuary, there is no comic relief, no abatement. There is nowhere for the characters or audience to hide under the constant glare of the merciless Texas sun, no dark corners, no shade to shelter in and certainly no light to escape to, because you’re already in it, obvious and vulnerable. Hooper doesn’t even let us have the luxury of incidental music, an absence which suddenly becomes obvious when the audience are allowed one solitary, doom laden note as Leatherface slams the gliding metal door after dispatching Kirk with a hammer. Despite the lack of gore, Daniel Pearl’s camera never flinches from the grim realities of murder; the agony and the spastic death twitches are all there in their unedifying glory.

tcmss1With 40 years of reviews, revisits and nostalgia to delve into, there seems little point in writing any further about the content the movie. So let’s turn our attention to Second Sight’s 40th anniversary restoration. The film has received a 4K restoration and a 7.1 audio mix. If that means anything to you, then congratulations. But in all seriousness, the movie does look and sound fantastic. Essentially, the restoration has kept the sun-bleached, washed out ambience that adds so much to the film and which would have been a huge loss. The restoration was supervised by Tobe Hooper, so obviously was never going to jeopardise the essence of the film.

However, it is with the bonus features that Second Sight have really excelled themselves. DVD extras are so often lazy, throw away scraps (what’s the attraction with watching an entire movie with the guy who played “second body on the left” doing a crap voice over?), but the second disc of this 40th anniversary restoration is loaded with gems. There are features which have been available before, coupled with those which are brand new for this release.

Notable inclusions are the “Shocking Truth” film, documenting the making of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a new audio commentary with Tobe Hooper, “Grandpa’s Tales”, in which actor John Duggan recalls his experience of playing the murderous clan’s patriarch, “Off the Hook”, an interview with Terri McMinn, who played Pam, interviews with Tobe Hooper, writer Kim Henkel and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), a tour of the TCM House with Hansen and “Flesh Wounds – Seven Stories of the Saw”, a documentary focusing on seven facets of the film, most notably the recollections of Ed Neal (The Hitchhiker) and Gunnar Hansen.

There is also a collection of previously unseen outtakes, deleted scenes and bloopers. These serve as testament to the power of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; it is so incongruous and so strangely reassuring to see the occupants of that green van laughing and joking out of character, it’s as though a spell’s been broken. Similarly, seeing Gunnar Hansen stacking it when chasing Burns (or failing to get his chainsaw to start up at critical moments) elicits a feeling which can only be described as some kind of relief that it’s all actually only make believe.

tcmss2Some of the bonus features do overlap in content (we get three separate visits to the site of the house, for instance), but this is a minor complaint.

The 40th anniversary restoration will be released in two Blu-ray formats, a limited edition two disc steel book with new art work and a standard two disc Blu-ray with a reversible sleeve. If you’re a die hard Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan, you really need to own a copy. If you’re a horror fan and you don’t own a copy of TCM, you should probably buy one. If, like me, you’re a person who fails to see the point in bonus features, you should also probably get a copy of this restoration, just to help you see the light.

TCM – 10/10

Restoration / bonus features – 09/10

UKHS Does the Nasty! DEATH TRAP (1977)

DT 1UKHS Does the Nasty!

In today’s bonkers instalment in our gruesome Video Nasty week, Joey Keogh turns her attentions to horror master Tobe Hooper’s naff redneck crocodile curio DEATH TRAP…

Also known as: Eaten Alive, Horror Hotel, Starlight Slaughter, Murder on the Bayou

The name Tobe Hooper has become synonymous with blood-curdling shocks and gut-wrenching gore, so it’s easy to forget that his first feature – the inimitable Texas Chain Saw Massacre – was a largely bloodless affair. Not so with his sophomore offering, Death Trap AKA Eaten Alive AKA Horror Hotel AKA Starlight Slaughter AKA Crocodile Conundrum (at least one of those is made up).

As so-called video nasties go – a term infamously coined by someone who’d never watched one – Death Trap is pretty rough. Adapting a grainy, lurid quality akin to Texas Chain Saw, the film takes place in a dilapidated motel in the middle of nowhere, which is operated by the clearly mental Judd (played with wild-eyed abandon by Neville Brand). Of course, why anyone would want to stay there is beyond comprehension, especially as there is a giant crocodile lurking in the adjoining swamp.

Currently holding an 18% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.4/10 on IMDb, Death Trap wasn’t received particularly well upon its release and has since faded into obscurity (aside from a particular group of cult followers). It’s easy to understand why. A nasty, relentlessly loud, very tough watch, in spite of its relatively short running time, the film features a shitload of violence towards its female characters, litres of joke-shop blood and some seriously dodgy wigs.

DT 1Arguably the biggest talking point nowadays is the addition of one Robert Englund, in one of his earliest roles. He stars as a horny young buck named, er, Buck, who as Tarantino “paid homage to” in Kill Bill, really likes to fuck. Funnily enough, Buck is the most likeable character and his death – also the most lengthy and gruesome – is the only one that elicits any kind of sympathy. Go figure.

Texas Chain Saw alum Marilyn Burns returns as a girl who, once again, runs around screaming a lot, but considering she doesn’t have woodland to get lost in this time around, she mostly goes around in circles. Halloween’s Kyle Richards – currently a Real Housewife and perpetuator of too-long hair – features as a resourceful little girl who cries too much and sadly does not perish when really she should.

The croc itself doesn’t get much of a starring role, popping its unconvincing head in and out of the frame here and there, before slinking back under the murky surface. Hooper may have been trying to recreate the Jaws effect but an abundance of dry ice, some screeching violins and a clearly intentional lack of lighting do not an ambience make – nor do they compensate for a lack of believable creature SFX.

Hooper takes part credit for the intrusive, headache-inducing score, alongside William Bell who was also responsible for that of Texas Chain Saw 1 and 2. Here, Bell throws caution to the wind, undercutting every attempt at tension. It almost sounds like the score to a low-budget sci-fi flick, with a weird organ pummelling away underneath everything. Brand’s performance as Judd caters to this quite well, even though his hair does most of the acting. Constantly muttering to himself, with his face shrouded in darkness throughout, the hotel owner/operator is the definition of a creepy old man – he even has a big ol’ swastika draped over his favourite chair, just to drive the point home.

DT 2He has a gumball machine on his reception desk though, so he can’t be all bad. Also, he seems shocked by his own murders so perhaps there were originally layers to the character that were left on the cutting room floor in favour of more scythe-swinging action. The farming tool is his weapon of choice, because this is Texas. The entire film is set at night, but the hotel is bathed in an eerie, red glow which only further serves to highlight the fact that nobody would stay there. Characters go missing for long periods of time, but nobody worries until it’s too late. Women are consistently left alone, before being revealed as utterly unable to take care of themselves when things go to hell.

Although everyone screams themselves hoarse throughout – aside from when delivering the painfully bad dialogue – nobody makes a noise while being, as the title suggests, eaten alive apart from Buck. Constant radio noise in the background alludes to Texas Chain Saw, but here it’s more jarring than creepy. Suffice to say, there isn’t much atmosphere, and the “scares” are created mostly by the unconvincing croc, whose appetite is damn near insatiable, or Judd being, well, Judd.

Death Trap wasn’t prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, but it didn’t receive an uncut release until 2000 (it was originally released with 25 seconds cut in 1992). Considering the film utilises, among other things, drug use, nudity, attempted anal rape, a significant amount of violence against women, swearing, and a shit tonne of bloody violence, it’s bizarre that it was considered tamer than almost forty other films.

DT 3This is especially interesting given that The Funhouse, also by Hooper, was wrongfully prosecuted as a video nasty a few years after its release. Most claim that the film was mistaken for The Last House On Dead End Street, which also went by the title The Fun House, while The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was itself banned from theatrical release in 1975, in spite of the fact it contains very little gore.

Considering that, nowadays, films such as Hostel and the stomach-churning Saw series have passed through the BBFC’s filter to enjoy massive box office success, it’s almost unthinkable that something as tame as Death Trap could be regarded as having the potential to “deprave and corrupt” an unsuspecting audience.

In fact, the only recent horror films to have fallen foul of modern “censorship”, for want of a better word, are those that really straddle the exploitation line. For example, the often unfairly derided A Serbian Film – widely denounced because of one, particularly gruesome sequence – or The Human Centipede 2, which is laughably rubbish and not nearly as clever or as disturbing as its predecessor, and which found its audience in the home viewing market (it had two minutes and thirty-seven seconds cut by order of the BBFC).

Similarly, and somewhat bizarrely, Hostel Part II was once cited in the House Of Commons as an example of a film where screenshots could become illegal to possess. This was in reference to a recently-passed law criminalising possession of extreme pornography – what this has to do with Eli Roth’s gory, yet otherwise restrained, sequel to his hit torture porn flick is unclear. Surely a screenshot of three people attached mouth-to-anus is more demoralising and offensive, not to mention arguably more pornographic?

DT 6Although the legacy of video nasties is evident, Death Trap is one of the least noteworthy of its kind, and for good reason. In a modern context, the most obvious comparisons could be made to big budget creature features such as the Lake Placid series – which thankfully utilised a more authentic-looking croc, at least at first – or Adam Green’s Hatchet trilogy, which set the action in a swamp that looked, somewhat purposefully, like a set.

It’s easy to speculate as to why the idea of video nasties, and their impact on an easily-compromised youth, became such a cause for concern when it did. The video market was still an unregulated, burgeoning, area and one which the powers that be didn’t quite understand yet. The so-called nasties were also an easy target. The press noticed early on that the growth of such features, and the independent market which catered to, and often created, them, could have a negative impact on mainstream establishments, such as Sky, which was still in its infancy. Whatever the reasoning behind it, in most cases – particularly with the most famous video nasty, The Evil Dead – the level of scorn aimed at these features was utterly unjustified.

More often than not, the films were being judged almost as propaganda, meant to incite hatred and violence. At one point, the infamous Mary Whitehouse even described video as the “biggest threat” to life in the UK, which is ludicrous even considering how many terrible things have happened in the wake of such protestations, many of which are unfairly attributed to video games/horror movies/Marilyn Manson. Death Trap is perhaps one of the best examples of this misunderstanding as, although it’s a nasty film and it looks like shit, it isn’t particularly gruesome or disturbing. It’s also unlikely that it’ll encourage anyone to pick up a scythe and lay waste to those around them, before feeding victims to a giant crocodile.

DT 8The majority of cuts were made to video nasties because of real-life animal cruelty or excessive violence to women – Death Trap boasts plenty of the latter, but the term “excessive” is of course open to interpretation. Nasty, rough and very odd, Death Trap is a schlocky affair, which tries desperately to pass itself off as a Southern Gothic nightmare. It thinks of itself as far worse than it actually is, and in a lot of ways, that’s why it was considered to be part of this most illustrious group. Nasty it most definitely is, but as video nasties go, Death Trap is probably lucky to even get a mention alongside so much other “filth”. If it wasn’t on the infamous List, or if Hooper and Englund’s names weren’t stamped on it, it’s doubtful we’d even still discuss it nowadays.

Follow Joey on twitter @JoeyLDG


Remakes vs Originals – The Remake Rumble: Round 2 by Joey Keogh

Remake Rumble: Round 2

        The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)tcmrr1tcmrr2                                           -V-

        The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Not all remakes are created equal, but sometimes the battle lines between the original film and the so-called “re-imagining” aren’t as clear as they may first appear. In this new, regular feature Joey Keogh pitches a chosen horror film against its remade counterpart, to answer that oft-debated question – is there ever any justification for “rebooting” a horror movie? And, dare we even suggest it, can a remake ever surpass the original?

Leatherface is one of the most iconic and terrifying villains in film history. Not only does he wear the faces of his victims, but his weapon of choice is a goddamn chainsaw, and somehow, hearing him coming makes it even scarier. Back in 1974, his first cinematic outing in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ensured no amount of “Visit Texas” marketing campaigns would get anyone near that state again for quite some time. However, although he’s been haunting nightmares and keeping everyone out of the gun-toting Dirty South for what feels like forever, it wasn’t until 2003 that Leatherface was given the remake treatment, and by Michael Bay’s now-infamous Platinum Dunes, no less.


Leatherface circa 2003

The most striking difference between the two films, and what’s immediately obvious in the first moments of the remake, is the tone. In 1974, nothing needed to be shown in order for audiences to be freaked out. The score is virtually non-existent. The actors scream and shout and run like hell. Leatherface grunts and fumbles about. In 2003, it wasn’t enough to pick up a hitchhiker and have her sit there looking dishevelled and nuts, we had to see her blow her brains out and then keep the camera focused on the bloody hole in the van throughout the next few scenes. At one stage, a police officer actually feels up the dead girl, just to drive the point home that this is a sick flick, populated by bloodthirsty freaks.

The modern retelling is much more heavy-handed, from the score, to the gore to the direction. Everything is more obvious, everything is shown, everything is hammered (or rather, sawed) home, which makes sense because the whole point of remakes is to outdo the original. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to Leatherface who, though tougher, meaner and bigger than his 1974 self, seems to be suffering something of an identity crisis. One of the sickest moments of the remake is when Leatherface turns around to Jessica Biel’s (pre-Timberlake) Final Girl to reveal he’s wearing her boyfriend’s face.


And Leatherface 1974 just *hanging*

However, it is later explained to her, by loopy local sympathisers, that poor ol’ Leatherface was bullied as a child because of his skin condition. Are we then supposed to feel sorry for someone who, just moments earlier, was wearing the face of one of his victims? This is something that is echoed in both 2009’s Friday The 13th – where those damn kids stole Jason’s pot – and 2010’s A Nightmare On Elm Street – Freddy might not have actually done all of those horrible things, you guys – and it makes no sense, because these three reboots are all otherwise rougher, gorier and weirder than their source material.

Texas Chainsaw 2003 may be slicker, and better made thanks to the technology available, but it’s also all over the place, and not just tonally. Far too many locations are used, none of which even seem to be in the same town, and the local characters are all toothless, crazy, downright perverted weirdo caricatures whom nobody with half a brain would go near, let alone antagonise. The reason Texas Chain Saw is so frightening is because the characters don’t realise anything is wrong until it’s too late, because everyone is so helpful and friendly, but in the remake it’s so utterly obvious that we might as well be beaten over the head with it (and, at one point, someone is).


It can get hot in Texas so vests are a must

There are some decent jump scares in the 2003 version, in particular during a crime scene walk-through, but none of them compare to the iconic three from the original – the meat-hook, the chase in the forest and the body in the freezer. It’s fun to see Leatherface put glass into someone’s wound, before wrapping it up like one would a new slab of meat, but it isn’t scary, just gory. Cleverly, the iconic dinner sequence is not re-imagined, but the opening narration from John Larroquette – who does the honours this time around, too – is retained. Of course, back in 1974, the “true story” angle actually meant something. In 2003, and even more so in 2014, it makes no sense thanks to a slew of found footage nonsense.

It’s worth noting, too, that Texas Chain Saw told its story (and scared the shit out of everyone) in less than ninety minutes. The reboot isn’t much longer, but it feels bloated and the scares don’t come quite as hard and fast, in spite of the gore. There’s no attempt to build tension either, as the hitchhiker shows up, kills herself, and then Leatherface is introduced about ten minutes later. The first buzz of the chainsaw is just as stomach-dropping as always, but Leatherface’s reveal, and indeed his first kill, isn’t nearly as shocking – utilising actual pigs, instead of having him squeal like Gunnar Hansen did in the original, was an odd choice also. The first death is brutal, vicious and drawn out, but it feels sanitised, almost as though showing it robs it of its impact. After all, what is imagined is often far worse than what is shown onscreen.


Meet the original family

In a lot of ways, Texas Chainsaw 2003 is emblematic of the key issue with modern horror remakes – just because everything is bigger, darker and gorier doesn’t necessarily mean it’s scarier. Most of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre takes place in daylight, which is unheard of in modern horror, but it makes it absolutely terrifying because there’s nowhere to hide. The remake is scary, but it doesn’t hold up nearly as well because so much of its appeal is based off our own perception of Leatherface, and his iconic status within the genre. It isn’t really its own film, as much as it desperately wants to be.

In this battle between a twisted, cannibalistic Texan family and their slick, modern counterparts, the original holds up much better, proving it will stand the test of time no matter how gory and over-the-top the horror landscape becomes. He may be old and a bit bumbling at times, but Leatherface is at his scariest when squealing like a pig and brandishing a beaten up old chainsaw.


The Winner is – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

                                     Winner: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (original)



The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Arrow BluRay Review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – Arrow films bluray release.

BEWARE! This blog comes with a Fifth Dimension health warning: Franchise – the word that should not be mentioned in my presence otherwise painful consequences may occur.
Let me be honest with you straight away on two separate points. The first thing that I need to mention is simply this – When I went to see this movie on its initial release at the cinema way back in those heady days of 1986….. I didn’t like it. No, I did’nt like it one little bit. I felt disappointed and almost cheated because it was so unlike the masterpiece that was its 1974 predecessor in both style and content. In fact that disappointment was so intense that  I have never watched it since. “So this isn’t exactly going to be a favourable review is it?”, I hear you say. Well don’t be so quick to judge, I’m always willing to give a movie a second chance – well, that is except for Gus Van Zant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho in 1998. Nothing, I repeatNOTHING will ever make me watch that pathetic pile of pointless remake nonsense again. So watching the digitally remastered preview disc sent by Arrow films last week was the very first time in 27 years that I have seenThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I was fascinated to see if my attitude had changed in all that time.
My second point of honesty is that when it comes to horror movies, I despise the word ‘franchise’, I truly do. No, actually let me clarify that. I have no problem with a seminal movie becoming part of a renowned franchise, together with all the highs and lows that becoming a series of films can bring with it. Indeed, long-running movie franchises have frequented the business since the early Hollywood era – The MGM produced Tarzan films, The Sherlock Holmes series of films, James Bond et al have all been notable inclusions under the banner of the word that shall not be mentioned. Add to that some notable series of films from my beloved genres of science fiction,fantasy and horror have all notable franchise inclusions – in fact I would go as far as saying that contemporary horror is arguably more known for it’s various collections of the word that should not be mentioned than for individual works in their own right.
So no, I don’t have a problem with the concept of developing one film into a series per se. I do however have a problem with filmmakers who decide at the outset to develop a new Franchise even before the release of the first production. It seems that the desire, or ability to make an individual piece of work in it’s own right which will stand on it’s own two feet as a piece of art has become a rare concept for some horror producers. Instead, the preferred option in the past few years has seemed to be a conscious act to pursue the franchise option, after all, it is an easy way to ensure that the captive SAW/ELM STREET/FINAL DESTINATION audience will provide a truckload of money. I can fully understand the need to make make money, but it feels to me that there may lots of money to be made from purposely developing a franchise – but there ain’t much soul in them.
I suppose that the point I am trying to make is that time and time again I have witnessed a seminal piece of horror and it’s cinematic legacy being diluted by a series of increasingly  insipid follow-ups in the franchise series. It was my firm view for quite some time that the Texas Chainsaw movies had fallen into the trap of ‘lets make money from the Franchise and screw the notion of making something original and innovative. Indeed, this was confirmed to an extent on the recent documentary accompanying the latest ‘reimagining’ of the Chainsaw films this year when the producers explicitly stated a desire to produce a new TCM franchise…… my heart dropped. The bottom line is that for many years, for me TCM2 was merely one of another tired franchise.
So, it could well be possible that my initial dislike of TCM2 and and a seemingly pathological dislike of the concept of the franchise might go some way to explaining my avoidance of this movie for so long. So this for me was the perfect chance to test whether or not my avoidance had been justified – because at the time, I wasn’t the only one to find this follow-up a bit of a let down.
Family of the year – 1986
So what is the plot of the movie that galvanised views back then, and still stimulates argument amongst horror fans to this day? Well let’s start with a brief synopsis shall we, in the words of Arrow films themselves………
Relocating the cannibalistic Sawyer clan to a cavernous, labyrinthine dwelling beneath an amusement park, Hooper’s deliciously demented sequel sees Leatherface and Co. continue their murderous exploits afresh. This time around, local DJ Stretch runs afoul of the Sawyers when she gets mixed up in the brutal slaying of two youngsters. Meanwhile Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright is hell-bent on avenging the murder of his nephew Franklin who perished in the original massacre.”
A cult classic in its own right, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 serves up a heady blend of gratuitous gore, socio-political critique and jet-black humour – whilst Dennis Hopper’s unhinged turn as Lefty needs to be seen to be believed! Whichever way you skin it, Leatherface’s second cinematic outing is an uncompromisingly delirious vision from one of the masters of horror.”
Hey there, sexy.
The word that stands out in that synopsis is the word, humour – this is a far more in-your-face mix of gruesome and black humour which is in sharp contrast to the original film which had a far more black, claustrophobic and almost snuff-like quality to it. Because lets face it, 12 years earlier the director Tobe Hooper had almost single-handed altered the face of horror with his seminal movie. He had a lot to live up to – and he knew it. From all accounts he was steadfastly reluctant for sometime to direct a follow up to his 1974 classic, instead wanting simply to produce it. However Hooper was unable to find a director firstly who he could trust and secondly someone who would work for the budget that was available and in the end he had little choice but to direct it himself.
As a consequence he found himself in the unique situation (for him) in having a reasonably good amount of money to spend and in the process once again surprise the audience – and surprise the audience he did. For it seems that he almost went out of his way to upset the general audience who (like me) were expecting something that was essentially more of the same. It would have been all too easy for Hooper to simply repeat the process and style of the regional in an effort to replicate its success, instead he wanted to do something different. For that he should be applauded.

And do you know something? After finally seeing TCM2 again after all this time…… I loved it, I absolutely loved it.

Hang on Tobe, don’t say cut…I’m acting here
I loved the morbid comedic stylisation and plot narrative that is quite clearly a product of its time with its explicit themes of 1980’s politics, capitalism and greed. I love the incredible over the top performances by Dennis Hopper as Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright and Bill Moseley as Chop Top. Whilst Moseley is suitably excellent as he brings his entertaining repertoire of manic insanity to his role, it is essentially the often maligned Hopper who holds the movie together as he declares war against the insane Sawyers with a little chainsaw-play of his own. I say ‘often maligned’ because Hopper in his later career was never afraid to go into ‘manic acting mode’, there are many examples of this. However, we often forget that he was amongst a whole glut of 1960’s wunderkind actors who radicalised the whole approach to their acting craft. I never realised it the first time around when watching this film, but Hopper’s performance despite, or possibly because of the somewhat cheesy dialogue is simply mesmerising. He simply owns this movie, chewing up and stealing every scene he is in  – sometimes with just a delicious glint in his eye.
The mistake I and many others have made over the years is that we refused to accept that TCM2 should be treated as a movie in its own right and in no way should be compared to its predecessor. The bottom line is that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and TCM2 are two entirely separate styles of film which was a purposeful intention from the director from the very start. I made the mistake the first time around of simply not enjoying TCM2 for what is really is – a funny, gory, slasher movie that’s only real intention was to entertain – and it does that in spades. Is this the Citizen Kane of horror? No it isn’t. Is this the Texas Chainsaw massacre of horror? No it isn’t. What it is is 100 minutes of pure unadulterated joy.

This experience of revisiting a film that I once despised has been an interesting one. The dislike for TCM2 has been replaced by a positive glow of appreciation for what the filmmaker intended it to be, and what is is now. Has it changed my mind about the devil within the franchise as a concept? No it hasn’t. One small step at a time you know.

Once again, the bluray package that Arrow films have put together is excellent. The treatment given to the visual restoration is beautiful as the original grainy quality that added to the quality isn’t completely lost thereby meaning the original atmosphere isn’t lost.Overall, the improvements to the look and sound beautifully enhance the overall effect with a lovely crisp quality and clarity. The extra goodies come in a 3-Disc Limited Edition Set which include:
• High Definition digital transfers of three Tobe Hooper films
• Original uncompressed audio tracks for all films
• Limited Edition Packaging, newly illustrated by Justin Erickson
• Individually Numbered #/10,000 Certificate
• Exclusive Limited Edition Extras
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a digital transfer supervised by Director of Photography Richard Kooris
• Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with director and co-writer Tobe Hooper, moderated by David Gregory • Audio commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special-effects legend Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher
• “It Runs in the Family” – A 6-part documentary looking at the genesis, making-of and enduring appeal of Hooper’s film, with interviews including star Bill Johnson, co-writer L. M. Kit Carson, Richard Kooris, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Tom Savini, production designer Cary White and more!
• Alternate Opening sequence with different musical score
• Deleted scenes
• “Still Feelin’ the Buzz” – Interview with horror expert Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
• Cutting Moments with Bob Elmore – Interview with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s stuntman
• Gallery featuring never-before-published behind-the-scenes images
• Original Trailer
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition (DVD) presentation of two of Tobe Hooper’s early works restored by Watchmaker Films with Tobe Hooper, available on home video for the first time in the world
• The Heisters (1965) – Tobe Hooper’s early short film restored in HD from original elements [10 mins]
• Eggshells (1970) – Tobe Hooper’s debut feature restored in HD from original elements [90 mins]
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio Commentary on Eggshells by Tobe Hooper
• In Conversation with Tobe Hooper – the legendary horror director speaks about his career from Eggshells to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
• Trailer Reel of all the major works by Tobe Hooper

Exclusive perfect-bound book covering everything you wanted to know about Tobe Hooper, chainsaws and more! Featuring new writing on the director’s early works by Brad Stevens, an investigation of Tobe Hooper’s three-picture Cannon deal by Calum Waddell, new writing on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 by John Kenneth Muir, a look at the film’s long battle with the BBFC and an exclusive interview with Hooper by Stefan Jaworzyn, author of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Companion, rounded off with an appraisal of the highs and lows of the Texas Chainsaw franchise by Joel Harley, all illustrated with archive stills.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is out on general release on November 11th 2013.

Tobe Hooper and Spontaneous Combustion by Matty Budrewicz

Spontaneous Combustion video advertTOBE HOOPER AND SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

Tobe Hooper.
I’ll say it again: Tobe. Hooper.


It’s a name that demands your respect, yet all too often results in cries of unimaginable agony as people attempt to recall a single worthwhile film he’s made in the last thirty years. Whilst his peers Craven, Carpenter, Romero and Cronenberg all enjoy a legendary status both in and out of the horror genre, ol’ Tobe remains adrift in a near obscure wilderness, the general consensus being the stogie smokin’, Dr Pepper swillin’ Texas Chain Saw Massacre helmer has been on one long downward slide since his sweaty 1974 classic. Indeed, for the casual terror fan Hooper’s latter career is the stuff that brain aneurysms are made of if one were to think about it too hard.

To call the man a one hit wonder, however, would be completely unfair; he is after all responsible for two more recognised masterworks, Salem’s Lot (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), even if his contribution to the latter is too often overlooked in favour of the films co-writer and producer Steven Spielberg who was famously, erm, “hands on”. Then , of course,there’s The Funhouse (1981), Lifeforce (1985) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), three once polarising offerings that are currently under re-evaluation thanks to shiny bells and whistles blu-ray editions from Scream Factory and Arrow (the two companies who’re the reason I never seem to have any bastard money lately…).


It’s just a bloody shame that the rest of Hooper’s ouvere remains either disgustingly underseen or consigned wrongly into bad movie oblivion. And yes- I’m being deadly fucking serious!

Spontaneous Combustion 1From his Robert Englund starring one-two punch Night Terrors (1993) and The Mangler (1995), to his millenial creature feature Crocodile and 2003 reinvention of the grubby exploiter Toolbox Murders- well, look, I’ll admit they aren’t good conventionally. They’re wildly uneven (to put it mildly) and guilty of what is arguably the cardinal sin of Hooper’s entire career: his almost self destructive attraction to truly outré material. De Sade worshipping cults? A killer laundry press?! A vengeance seeking croc?! A remake of the fucking Toolbox Murders?!! Good lord!


However, in putting this ten year strip of truly deranged output in context with the rest of the genre at the time they suddenly emerge as a bold and distinctive body of fantastic schlock: whilst mainstream frights were either all too happy trying to pass themselves off as classy ‘thrillers’ (Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, The Sixth Sense) or piling on the self referencial post Scream arsery, Hooper’s lively hokum was a throwback to the heady days of glorious grindhouse excess. I firmly believe that had these films have been made in the eighties, they’d have been applauded or at least cult’d a la Basket Case and From Beyond.
Which brings us, albeit tenuously I’ll admit, to Spontaneous Combustion…

Now, to say Spontaneous Combustion, Hooper’s 1989 effort, has a cult following would be generous at best and an outright lie at worst- it’s more of a handful of people on internet message boards who saw it and don’t seem to hate it as much as everyone else does. In it, genre stalwart Brad Dourif plays Sam, a college professor who learns his real parents were part of an atomic weapons testing plan in the fifties. Because of this, Sam has the power of pyrokinesis and can cause others to violently burst into flames when he’s pissed off, sort of like a fiery Incredible Hulk. The only problem is, it causes great damage to his body in the process and some shady types now want to use him as a new super weapon (“The cleanest kill on Earth”, apparently. I can only assume they don’t regard leftover piles of human ash as a mess…).
Spontaneous Combustion 2Playing like a cross between Firestarter and Ken Russell’s Altered States, with a dash of abstract surrealism thrown in for the hell of it, Spontaneous Combustion is complete unashamed lunacy and, frankly, a huge terrible fuck up of a feature. It’s badly written (by Hooper and Howard Goldberg) and confusing beyond words, weirdly depressing in tone and amazingly cheap to look at… Yet I can’t quite shake off the feeling that it’s a work of some minor kind of brilliance. And yes, I’m being deadly fucking serious. Again!

A sensory blitz of all kinds of batshit, Spontaneous Combustion is chock full of enough of Hooper’s trademark bollock splitting gusto to allow it to fly by on energy alone. The performances are pleasingly histrionic and the effects are (for the period and budget anyway) admittedly quite impressive, with Dourif’s last third burn make up looking wonderfully nasty. Greatest of all, however, are the moments of true potential genius. The first ten minutes, for example, are exquisite and rival, in my honest to God opinion, the intense opening strokes of Suspiria and The Exorcist (albeit with a more science fiction slant).

It’s just a crying shame then that this potential wasn’t fully realised, not by Hooper’s choice anyway. Supposedly the film, which was designed as a low-budget return to Hooper’s independent roots after his tenure at Cannon Films proved unsuccessful, thanks to the disastrous box office of Lifeforce, Chainsaw 2 and his Invaders From Mars (1986) redux, was taken out of Hooper’s hands in post production. This editorial tinkering resulted in the directors carefully constructed balance of body horror, conspiracy thriller and human drama being ripped apart and reassembled into the films resulting mess, as frequent Hooper collaborator Eric Lasher can attest:
“…[it] Would have been as big as Poltergeist had they [the producers] not ruined it. It’s a shame… It makes Brad [Dourif] look like a bad actor, and he’s not, he’s a brilliant actor- they cut the wrong takes, if take two was the best, they’d use take one. And Tobe lost control again…”
(taken from Stefan Jaworzyn’s excellent book The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Companion, 2003, Titan Books).

Spontaneous Combustion 3Sadly, producer interference is something that has effectively hammered poor Tobe’s career since year dot. As far back as 1976’s Eaten Alive, Hooper was butting heads with the money men and its continued to get worse and worse with each successive film: fired from The Dark (1979) and Venom (1981), the aforementioned overbearing Spielberg influence on Poltergeist… Hell, even Hooper’s most recent project- the United Arab Emirates set Djinn- remains in some kind of release limbo thanks to the higher ups getting cold feet. But I digress…

Make no mistake: Spontaneous Combustion is a clanker, a clanker the kind of which used to haunt late night television. You know- the mindless guff padding out the programming just before the channel would shut down for the evening. In that respect, and when watched in the right mindset, it’s the sort of crack pot film type that almost becomes a transcendental experience. A guilty pleasure? Maybe, but not for me- I assure you I feel no shame in my love for it, or anything else Hooper has made for that matter. I’d say seek it out- you just might like it…

Interview with Marilyn Burns (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) by Dean Sills

MB-1Interview with Marilyn Burns (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) by Dean Sills

UKHS – It’s a great honour and privilege for me to be here today to talk to such a legendary scream queen,the lovely Marilyn Burns, star of such horror films as Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Helter Skelter (1976).

Welcome Marilyn and thank you for giving UKHS this wonderful opportunity to speak to you. I would also like to thank Shawn Ewert for making this possible.



UKHS – The ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ remains one of the most terrifying and disturbing horror movies ever made, the pure tension this movie generates is overwhelming at times, I love the fact the gore is left to our imaginations. Your performance was outstanding, a great piece of Cinematic history which makes the viewer feel the madness and terror your character goes through, along with your awesome scream.
Marilyn, we can’t even tell you are acting because you look so terrified especially during the dinner scene. Well done.

MB – Thank you for all the lovely words!


MB2UKHS – It’s hard to believe the movie is almost 40 years old. How did you land the part of Sally Hardesty and did you stay in character during the shoot, making the intensity come to life?

MB – Auditions were held in Austin, Texas. Sally was always in flight or fight mode so it wasn’t hard to stay in the moment.



UKHS – Is it true you hurt your ankle when you jumped out of the window to the ground and your limping away from Leatherface was totally real?

MB – The crew built a special platform 6 or 7 feet above the ground for my final jump from the window. I injured my right ankle and we had the ending to finish. Tobe Hooper, the director told Ed and Gunnar to chase me willy-nilly down the road, it created a surreal and humorous end.



UKHS – What was your favourite moment during the filming?

MB – My favorite moment was the ending in the truck! Something went wrong in the lab the first time we shot it so I was called back again to reshoot. I was getting a bit hysterical toward the end of that day.



MB3UKHS – Today horror movies are much more gory but most lack the terror, what would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror movie like ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’?

MB – For Texas Chainsaw, it took lots of blood, plenty of sweat, and lots of tears!!!



UKHS – Finally, can you please tell us a little about your new movies ‘Sacrament’ and ‘In a Madman’s World’ ?

MB – ‘Sacrament’ opens some dark doors that will put you on the edge of your seats. Shawn Ewert made sure it won’t disappoint, it is packed with twists and turns along with deadly surprises. Shawn and his crew were a delight to work with.

After ‘Helter Skelter’ it is only fitting that I was in the movie ‘In a Madman’s World’, serial killers are always fascinating!



sacrament1UKHS – It’s been a true pleasure talking to you Marilyn, thank you!


Well done on your amazing career and good luck with ‘Sacrament’ and ‘In a Madman’s World’



The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Review



Dir. Tobe Hooper   –  88 Minutes

Starring – Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A Partain, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal.

Picture the scene – it’s the early 1980’s in a small Yorkshire town in
England. A young man who has more than a few dreams in his head, stars in
his eyes, and a growing obsession with all things Science fiction and
horror, hears something startling and wondrous on a national news bulletin.
Namely, a that particular movie which had over the years gained
a reputation of controversial and mythical proportions, arguably as no
other has in the history of movies, was finally to be released on video.

Amazingly after some 7 years after its initial production the seminal
horror movie *The Texas Chain Saw Massacre* was finally going to see the
light of day over here in the UK. Believe me, this was big news. Since its
release in the UK in early 1975 the availability in cinema’s had been
withheld by the British Board of film classification who
believed vehemently that the magnitude of violence, particularly in two
noted scenes and the feeling of claustrophobic terror in the last 3rd of
the film, was far too much for the sensibilities of a British audience.
Therefore deeming that it was therefore unsuitable for a BBFC X certificate
to be issued. Ah bless the BBFC for protecting us from making up
our own minds.

Franklin and Co in the Camper

So it finally seemed in those dark and distant days of 1981 that the
British Board of film classification had finally seen sense it seems and
permitted the movie’s release – though as it shortly turned out, the video
was soon to be removed from the video stores after new video classification
rules came in (‘Thank you’ Margaret Thatcher…). Indeed, no theatrical or
video release was going to take place for another 18 years, thanks to the
backward and miss-placed ‘protection’ of the the public sensibilities.

However, before it was unceremoniously pulled from the shelves, a lucky few
of us had managed to get our hands on the film, and it’s iconic horror
bad-guy, that had by now achieved cult status of fabled proportions.

The plot is cunningly simple. It is 1974 and a group of teenage friends are
travelling through the back roads of Texas on their way to their
grandfather’s apparently vandalised grave.

Among them are Sally Hardesty,
and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin. At one point they pick up
the hitchhiker from hell, who they quickly realise is a little unstable as
he slashes both himself & Franklin with a knife. The others manage to eject
the hitchhiker from the vehicle, but shortly after wards, they are forced
to stop for petrol at an old property that they’ve stumbled upon. What none
of them realise is that this house is the home of the knife
wielding hitchhiker together with his evil and quite frankly not very nice
family of cannibalistic psychopaths. This is not going to end well for the
group of friends as they are picked off one by one.


Forget the basic storyline. Put aside opinions on the quite frankly ropey
and amateurish acting (the cast taken mostly from Hooper’s teaching friends
and students). While you’re at it, if you haven’t ever seen the film,
ignore the rather miss-placed and over sensationalised claims that the film
is nothing more than pure violence and nothing else. No, this is a movie
purely for the emotional and sensory experience of the viewer. Indeed,
there are times, particularly in the last act of the film when that
the experience becomes more of a sensory and emotional overload – such is
it’s intense and unsettling power.

There are scenes and images within this
film that burn themselves onto your consciousness for a variety of reasons.
Yes there are scenes of unyielding violence which will shock, even
on repeated viewing, particularly from one of the true iconic horror
characters, Leatherface.

The cinematography is frankly stunning, originally shot on poor quality
16mm film, this seems if anything to add to the overall atmospheric
ambiance, partly in the external country scenes but particularly in the
internal terror scenes.

As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t until 1999 that the BBFC realised that
years of complete miss-interpretation of the movie had taken place.
Contrary to popular misconception, there is no over-reliance on explicit
violence ( in fact there is a distinct lack of blood and gore throughout).
Rather it is the often implied threat of violence and atmosphere that
creates the power to shock and discomfort the viewer.

I could also talk at length about Leatherface and his family’s treatment of
the teenagers being an evocation and allegory of America in the 1970’s with
such things as the Watergate scandal and Vietnam making it it quite
clear that the modern world world was cruel and nothing
like your childhood memories said it was. No one is safe, no-one can be
trusted. The hippy peace loving days of the 1960’s were long gone.  But
I’ll leave that sort of discussion for those far more qualified and able
than I.

In my humble opinion, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is perhaps the single
most powerful example of horror movie making that I have ever experienced,
either now or for that young man in the early 1980’s………

A genuine, unaldulterated classic   10/10

Texas Chainsaw (2012) DVD Review


Dir. John Luessenhop         92 mins
UK Release: 27th May 2013

While I hold Tobe Hooper’s 1974 ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ in the highest possible regard, I must admit I overlooked the sequels a little, and totally rejected (perhaps unfairly) the Michael Bay produced reboots. Now, having been released from the evil clutches of Platinum Dunes it’s found a new home at Millennium Films.

My ears pricked up in the first minute as we begin with a recap of the original movie. I thought this is either a very bold move, or a very stupid one. When you begin your sequel by reminding everybody just how phenomenal the first one was, you’re setting your own bar very high indeed. As the first original scene opens we find both Bill Moseley and Gunnar Hansen (another deep nod of respect to the filmmakers) as members of the Sawyer clan who just after Sally has escaped are holed up in their house, surrounded by Texas lawmen and town locals hell bent on becoming vigilantes. A firefight ensues and every member of the Sawyer family is gunned down – except that is for a baby…

Fast forward to present day and we find Heather (Alexandria Daddario), the said baby, who we discover is 1) working in the butchery department of her local supermarket, 2) being told she is adopted and 3) is for some reason not forty years of age. Gaping plot holes aside, Heather discovers she has inherited an estate in the middle of Texas. Before you have time to oil your chainsaw she’s heading south in a VW camper van with a motley crew of phenomenally good looking friends. Along the way the ubiquitous hitchhiker is picked up, and the mansion that Heather is due to inherit is arrived upon.

As the friends note the absence of supplies they head into town to acquire some consumables, leaving the stranger they picked up alone in the multi-million dollar mansion that’s filled with priceless antiques. Predictably he begins to fill his bags with all the silver candlesticks he can find, and searching deeper into the house he stumbles across the cellar where surely there couldn’t be a stocky, human-skin faced member of the Sawyer family left alive – could there ?

High hopes for this new TCM disintegrated to ashes barely ten minutes in. It attempts to pitch itself as the first true sequel to Hooper’s original, which is just fine if it seamlessly continues from the first in both style and substance. It doesn’t though, and instead just becomes another crappy reboot that serves only to pander to the airbrushed artificial needs of the target ADHD demographic.

3 out of 10