Stacie Passon adapts Shirley Jackson with a faithful, powerful retelling that continues to resonate with the social climate of today.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Locked Room”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “Seeing Things” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Who Goes There” – click here
With new leads in 1995, Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) have gotten themselves to a travelling preacher named Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham). The church they tracked down at the end of last episode had the mysterious antlered woman painted inside on one of its walls. More than we’ve seen already Cohle lets us into his anti-religious worldview. Not that he’s wrong, but part of what Cohle represents is the complete parallel of the people who are on their high horse of religion; same condescending way he stands above the religious, judging everyone who worships. Part of him is incredibly right, he just dives too deep into his own head sometimes. But indeed, his lament for the “fairy tales” of the supposed greater good is one many of us harbour in ourselves. I do.
Cohle and Hart talk with Theriot, whose fan club includes a man named Burt (Douglas M. Griffin) that seems a bit suspicious to some. At least until they figure out, all but surely, they’re looking in the wrong direction; he can’t even come close to another person without defecating all over himself, plus he had his balls cut off in prison. This only leads them further down the rabbit hole. In 2012, Cohle ominously confirms: “Nothing is ever over.”
One interesting bit from ’95 – Dora Lange was seen with a “tall man” who had a “strange face… shiny around his jaw” sort of like someone who survived a fire.
The further divide between Rust and Marty opens with every episode. What’s interesting is the exemplification of the series’ title, True Detective: despite any and all of their faults as men, Rust and Marty are incredible detectives. Although the serial killer they chased in ’95 eluded them, even up to the point where Dts. Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Tory Kittles) interviewed them in 2012, they are true detectives. Our first inkling of what truly tore these guys apart down the line starts in ’95, as Marty comes home to his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) chatting with ole Rust. Turns out the trusty partner came over to mow his buddy’s lawn. And Marty does not like that, nor does he appreciate any of the effort. It’s ironic because there’s nothing to suggest Cohle is trying to do anything untoward here. Yet the way his partner acts might have put that whole situation on an entirely different trajectory; check back on that once you’ve seen the whole first season, as it’s intriguing to watch these episodes over with the knowledge of what happens later.
At the Hart house Papa Marty has to talk with his girls about something difficult. Young Audrey’s been drawing things – sexual things – that got her in trouble. Where did she learn that? Perhaps it’s harmless. This is just one of the red herrings we find amongst the first season. The dolls, the drawings – little pieces of character which come in later episodes, set in 2012 – these lead many to believe there’s something else going on other than the crimes. Like Marty should be paying more attention to what’s going on within his own family. You might start wondering if there’s a culture of abuse happening in their city.
Maggie: “Girls always know before boys”
Marty: “Why is that?”
Maggie: “Because they have to”
I dig the title of this episode, “The Locked Room”, as it takes on a few meanings. For one, you’ve got the idea of a locked-room mystery, a sub-genre of detective fiction. Then we’ve also got the idea of the detectives themselves, in that they spend much of their time in locked rooms interrogating suspects. In particular, Cohle is a great “box man” who knows all about the locked room – another usage being the mind, itself a room locked away from everyone else except the person with the key.
Searching out more about the scars and the tall man, Cohle and Hart find a lot of dead ends. Mostly, they get deeper and deeper into the case. For Marty, it’s easy to shake off, though he uses it as an excuse to cheat on his wife, to skip out on his family when he wants. For Rust, it weighs on him. He finds it hard to live life, unlike his partner. He can’t be normal like everyone else, it actually affects him. Because ultimately he feels too much. He knows the pain of being human – the existential one – better than most. While Maggie tries setting Cohle up with a woman, Marty’s busy still flirting around Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario). Marty is jealous; out with his wife, Cohle and his blind date, he sees Lisa with another man and that violently enrages him. Oh, the hypocrisy. It’s deafening. We also discover more of Maggie and Cohle talking, subtly, innocently leading either towards more trouble or towards a resolution for the Hart family troubles. You’ll have to let that play out and see.
Also something worth noticing is that in 2012, while talking away endlessly to the detectives, Cohle starts carving up his Lone Star beer cans into men. In the following episodes you’ll notice it’s very similar to the circle of men surrounding a young Dora in the picture at Mrs. Kelly’s place in “Seeing Things” where they’re on horseback, sporting odd costumes. Keep that in mind, these five men. It’s a reoccurring symbol.
Marty: “You ever wonder if you’re a bad man?”
Rust: “No, I don‘t wonder. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.”
In ’95, Cohle eventually stumbles across another possible victim of their serial killer – Rianne Olivier. She was found washed up onshore by a river, deemed accidental death. Except she has a spiral tattoo, same as Dora. The connections slowly fall into place, but there’s still so much ground to cover, both figuratively and literally. When Rust and Marty start figuring out more about this latest victim, they find out she was with a man named Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford), a real piece of work, a bad seed. They also make the connection of Rianne going to Light of the Way; another way to piece this all together, as it links into the Tuttle family.
At the Light of the Way school, a gardener cuts the lawn. Cohle asks him a few questions, seeing as how he covers a few of the properties belonging to the church. He doesn’t have much to say to Rust, other than the basics. Marty gets a call about Ledoux; his cellmate in jail as of late is Charlie Lange (Brad Carter). More of a bridge to all the other avenues in play. Well, there’s more to it than that. Out in the fields somewhere, cooking meth, Ledoux wanders with a gas mask on, machete in hand, and in 2012 Marty mentions a “gunfight” to the eager detectives interviewing him. Lots of things to come. Lots of dangerous, interesting, terrifying things: “Like a lot of dreams there‘s a monster at the end of it.”
Another solid episode. The final shot is one of intense magnitude. I remember when it first aired I was dying to see the next chapter, so perfect to end on.
The whole season is spectacular. Next up is “Who Goes There” – one of the best episodes of all containing the single greatest tracking shot in television history. Thank you, HBO! And thank you Fukunaga/Pizzolatto; a fantastic collaboration.
Texas Chainsaw 3D. 2013. Directed by John Luessenhop. Screenplay by Adam Marcus, Kirsten Elms, & Debra Sullivan.
Starring Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley, & Gunnar Hansen. Lionsgate/Millenium Films/Mainline Pictures/Leatherface Productions/Nu Image/Twisted Chainsaw Pictures.
Rated 18A. 92 minutes.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, or hasn’t read many of my reviews, I’m a huge fan of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The original film is still, and always will be, one of the scariest movies to me. Always. Sheer terror and absolute chaos that rarely, if ever, lets up until the end of the last reel. It was a movie my mother even told me about before I’d seen it, likewise frightening her when she was young. So despite the varying quality of the series, I’m always interested in seeing any films bearing this title. Just to see.
Texas Chainsaw 3D begins with a great premise – to start with the events after the original film, then hop ahead a couple decades. But it’s the execution of the film that really draws my ire, and that of many other hardcore franchise fans. No longer is the horrific nature of Leatherface and his clan built on anything the first two original films had going for them. In this one, it’s all about sexy young bodies, a screenplay that doesn’t think hard enough to justify its aims, and above all else a plot that goes to a ridiculous extreme, so much so it destroys any of my interest in what might happen next. Because that’s the other thing – this semi-sequel to the original still can’t cut off and cauterize the Leatherface wound. It leaves things on a note that could quite possibly spawn a sequel, y’know, later on down the road when they need a quick buck.
Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) was taken as a baby from the Sawyer home, after Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) and a crew o men disobeyed the orders of Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) and laid siege to the infamous house of horrors.
A couple decades later, Heather’s grandmother Sawyer dies. She leaves an old Texas plantation-style house to Heather, on the strict orders she will not sell the place.
Well after Heather and some of her friends head down there for a housewarming expedition, she starts to understand why the house ought not be sold. That’s because down in the basement there’s a special room. And inside that special room there’s a really, really special person.
So put a smile on your face: the saw is back, and the saw is most definitely family.
This semi-sequel follows a Michael Bay-ish trend of making horror try to look sexy. Don’t get me wrong, there is a nice dose of blood and gore in this one. They didn’t sanitize anything particularly. But they did load the cast down with a bunch of late-20s-looking young men and women, the kind who wear tight and revealing clothes, the sort who look good from behind in a close-up, and so on. Some of the shots in the movie defy logic, as I don’t understand why they’re included, other than to make things tantalizing for dreary, mopey moviegoers who require ‘eye candy’. And then there’s the typical writing of boyfriends cheating with the best friend, just so Trey Songz and Tania Raymonde can get half naked, greased up with Crisco so all of their curves and creases show off well under the lighting. So I’m not knocking the main cast. In fact, Daddario particularly is a talent, she was good in her tiny role on True Detective (when she didn’t have to take clothes off). Even Songz isn’t that bad for the role he plays. There’s just a bunch of character fodder sitting around Daddario’s Heather; I can even let slide some of the nonsense shots of her here because she actually plays the character nicely. The only other person in the film that doesn’t come off as overacted, hammy, or downright stupid, is Thom Barry. His Sheriff Hooper is good, conflicted, and Barry gives us a nice performance for what little time he’s really in there. Mostly, though, the blame is on the writing. This is another Texas Chainsaw movie rushed into production, using the same formula, doing the same things, repeating history. Yes, there is a little twist to the story, and I dig the family angle. But so many things could be done better.
Let’s talk about the 3D. Totally unnecessary. Some shots really play up the whole format, such as the chainsaw getting tossed and moments similar to that. I’ve always hated 3D in horror. It’s gimmicky anyways, but even worse in the horror genre. Practical effects are always the last bastion of any mediocre to crappy horror flick. Even some of the worst written screenplays can come across as decent if practical makeup effects help the horrific elements look properly scary. There are scenes in this one where practical effects make the blood and the nastiness look rightfully gross, disturbing even now and then. But relying on ways to push the 3D, the filmmakers ignore the good effects. The worst part is that Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, masterminds of horror for the past few decades with their shop KNB, do the special effects here, and they’re totally underused. They don’t get to really pull out all the stops. Some of the best stuff is when Heather flicks through old crime scene photos and we get a couple burned bodies, et cetera. Berger and Nicotero shine in these pieces. On the contrary, so many other moments are marred by the ugliness of CGI rearing its head and this does nothing to help the film overall.
For the blood and gore we do get, and the terrifying savagery of Leatherface (he’s still got it even in this turd of a film), Texas Chainsaw 3D gets a 1&1/2-star rating. There isn’t a whole lot of anything to enjoy here. The unnecessary dialogue at many points, the dumb script and its many holes, the ridiculous need to try and flash Alexandra Daddario’s body (and others, too) – all this adds up to a movie that just can’t hold its own in a franchise that already has some stinkers. While it’s not the absolute worst of the whole series – that honour is saved for the entry graced by the presence of Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger – this is one modern horror that can’t possibly cut the mustard. Not even with Leatherface’s big, bad chainsaw.