Tagged Ed Gein

Prequel to Cannibalism in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. 2006. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Screenplay by Sheldon Turner; from a story by Sheldon Turner & David J. Schow.
Starring Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Kathy Lamkin, Mariette Marich, and Lew Temple.
Platinum Dunes.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
Horror

★★★1/2
TCMB1Sht_rgb3000pxAs I’ve mentioned time and time again, I will always consider The Texas Chain Saw Massacre one of the scariest films of all time. That original Tobe Hooper movie is just terrifying to me. It’s fine if others don’t agree, but something about that horror movie absolutely gets to me right at my core. The whole family and Leatherface himself, they’re creepy. Almost the definition of macabre. Plus, there’s the fact Leatherface is VERY loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein, whom I’ve read a ton about. So I think my own interests play into part of why the movie scares me so deeply.
I’m not a fan of the 2003 remake, but honestly I do dig Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. It is nowhere near being a perfect movie, however, I found it a hell of a lot scarier than the remake to which this is a prequel. While there’s still a little of that flashiness from the 2003 film which I complained of in my recent review. Luckily for this movie, it doesn’t try to focus too much on the sexualized females as that one, either. I’m not saying there isn’t any seemingly obligatory sexualization from serial culprits Platinum Dunes – there are bits of half nudity and such, focus on the gleaming wet bodies of young people – but compared to the remake in 2003 it is nowhere near as foolish in that sense.
What I do like is a peek into the history of Leatherface, here named Thomas “Tommy” Hewitt, and his adopted family. This is a nasty bit of horror, that’s for sure. While there are some problems, I think it’s a more interesting movie than the one to which this acts as a prequel, and the script is much better, as well.
01I found the whole Vietnam War angle pretty intriguing. Brothers Eric (Matt Bomer) and Dean (Taylor Handley) have an intense dynamic, as the former – the oldest – clearly cares about his country, in the sense he’s willing to go back over after already clearly experiencing horrors his first time. On the other hand, younger brother Dean burns up his draft card, knowing the post traumatic stress his brother suffers having already served in the army over in Vietnam. So I like how they clash, as well as the fact the climax of their situation comes right at the biggest moment of tension when a biker is chasing them down, gun drawn, and they end up smashing into a cow crossing over the road.
Furthermore, it plays a bit into the brothers’ confrontation with Charlie Hewitt (R. Lee Ermey), a.k.a Sheriff Hoyt after he killed the last bit of law enforcement in their tiny, dying Texas town. When he finds the burned draft card, things get super intense.
the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_the_beginning_01What I love about this one, as opposed to the 2003 remake, is that the four main characters on the road trip kicking everything into gear feel genuine and real. There’s still a bit of that ‘sex sells’ nonsense here like the previous movie, a couple beer ad-like moments. But overall I feel we get to know and care for these characters, as opposed to the 2003 film where it’s just a bunch of sweat glistened young people who have little to no personality, and the whole tired pot angle played into things making it worse. Here, I honestly feel – for all its flawed bits – Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning gave us a nice dose of character, both in terms of the victims and the Hewitt family themselves, a.k.a the bad guys.
Almost more than Leatherface, I really wanted to see more about Sheriff Hoyt after the first remake in 2003. Most of that movie is pretty mediocre to crap, but R. Lee Ermey does such a terrifyingly fantastic job playing the character he drew me in. Then, of course, with this sequel to the remake we’re finding out deeper, even darker secrets about Hoyt. So while I love Leatherface, Hoyt – or Charlie, whatever you want to call him – is a huge part of the interest I have here. To my mind, things get way more disturbing after the opening events of this film, once we find out what Hoyt is really all about. Watching his mental state sort of go from ‘dealing with things’ to ‘scorched earth’ is pretty chilling.
the-texas-chainsaw-massacre-the-beginning-2006-1080p-largescreenshot2Several parts of the screenplay make this Texas Chainsaw entry better than others. First, I like how there’s an inclusion of different themes from war – what people will do in one while they’re fighting, or what they’ll resort to in situations simply to survive (which further leads into the cannibalism aspect of the story) – to staying true to one’s roots and holding on to one’s culture, to the bonds people people whether blood and family or not. Between all those elements there are so many things happening. Not a groundbreaking work of art, this screenplay, but I think compared to its predecessor this movie has great stuff going on. Because ultimately, we know what’s going to happen – this is a prequel, we get that part. So the writers did a few neat things in order to make the journey more exciting.
Secondly, most of the Texas Chainsaw films – good or not – tend to see one group of people fall into the trap, ending up at Chez Leatherface and then they’re killed. Part of why I enjoy this movie as much as I do is because we see the brother duo and their girlfriends have an altercation with bikers, leading to a crash and that leads into the meeting with Sheriff Hoyt. All the while, this allows for the story to flesh out the backstory of Tommy Hewitt and his adopted family. I’ve always found there was a fun mixture in the plot, which allows for interesting developments – leading to prequel bits filling up/bridging the gaps to the previous remake – and some wild characters + situations.
chainsaw 07This is a 3.5 out of 5 star horror film, for me. It could’ve definitely improved on a few things, mainly losing the glossy 21st century remake look so apparent in many Platinum Dunes productions. However, I can honestly say this is much better and more worthy of your time than the 2003 remake. The acting is better, the characters are more developed and less hateable, as well as the fact you’ll find it cool to watch how things evolved from Leatherface’s meager beginnings to where he horrifically stands now. You can do far worse in terms of remakes, though, it still could’ve done Leatherface and the legacy of Tobe Hooper more justice. But I’ll take what I can when it comes to prequels. I love them, they just don’t turn out the best all the time. This one is good enough to make me recommend it to those wanting more TCM.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown)
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
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At the top of this episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) meets with a man named Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) – he is a Nazi hunter, a Jew who was in the camps during the Holocaust of World War II. She’s finally caved and believed what might be the truth: Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) could possibly have been a Nazi. They talk, and Goodman warns not to do anything to make the man run.
This also brings in the real life fascinatingly disturbing Operation Paperclip – look it up.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-02-03-pmFurthermore, the supposed Anne Frank (Franka Potente) busts in on Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) with Arden at gunpoint. Luckily for all, mostly Arden, guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) saves the day. Or does he?
Probably so, once Sister Jude is met at the asylum by Anne’s husband – or that is, Charlotte Brown’s husband. Jim Brown (David Chisum) shows up to tell Jude all about how Charlotte became delusional after reading Anne Frank’s diary while she was pregnant, then went to see a play adaptation and fell into a deep spiral; even going so far as to tattoo a death camp tattoo on her arm.
What I love most about this whole section of the episode is how we get these truly creepy, eerily shot pieces of flashback like they’re being done on an old 1950s/60s era camera – scenes of the Browns at home, documenting Charlotte’s madness and her husband Jim becoming more and more frustrated trying to care for their child with an insane wife at home, raving constantly about the Holocaust and the Jewish peoples experiences during World War II and how they need her, the baby doesn’t need her like they do. It’s amazingly effective, this whole bit. Very cool and so creepy.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are awaiting sterilization now at the hands of Briarcliff Asylum and Sister Jude Martin. It’s a sick, true to life reality of many in the system during this era. Sad yet wildly true.
The twist comes as Kit is told, by the now very devilish Sister Mary Eunice, he won’t be sterilised. Good news, right? Not so much for Grace, who is likewise informed by Mary Eunice, but informed instead she’ll still be going ahead for the procedure.
Afterwards, while alone in her cell, Grace appears to see a rattling, shaky light coming in at her through the door. Could it be the aliens are about to visit Grace? Will she have some proof then to help Kit? Or do they… need her, for some reason?


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) still has a plan for Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). He tells her, off to the side, they’re leaving at the end of his day. She’s obviously extremely happy and there’s finally some end to the cruel tunnel through which she has been crawling at Briarcliff, a light approaches.
Thredson is also attempting to help Kit with his troubles. However, suspiciously Thredson has Kit confess to his crimes on tape, in order to hear how it sounds to him – to try and learn something about what he may have done to his wife. While Kit seems to trust him, there’s something not quite right about the doctor’s theories here, his methods. But then again, neither were his intentions with the aversion therapy he conducted on Alana in order to misguidedly cure her lesbianism; oh, the tragic state of “mental health” in the 1960s. Still not even that long ago, scarily enough. I love how this fictional show takes on very real issues such as mental health and those of the LGBTQ community.
Grace has indeed been visited by the aliens Kit saw. She’s taken – somewhere – she is greeted by Alma Walker (Britne Oldford) in a blank, vacant white space where the aliens once took Kit. Who knows what their plans for Grace are now.
She shows up later, bleeding and confused. Kit finds her in the recreation room sitting in a chair, dazed. At the same time, cops show up to arrest Kit for his supposed crimes; coincidence? Hmm. And Grace starts screaming she’s seen everything – the aliens, Alma – they’re all real, she’s alive. An INTENSE moment between these two, especially for Kit himself.
Jude calls off Mr. Goodman after discovering Anne Frank is actually Charlotte Brown.
Best of all now – for Dr. Arden – is that she’s off his case a good bit with all this fracas. Furthermore, he’s got Sister Mary Eunice, possessed and loving it, on his side. She helped dispose of Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), the now mutated beast, which Charlotte had seen in the last episode in Arden’s lab.
CRAZY SCENE as a bunch of school children and their teacher discover the deformed and ragged Shelley, a virtual monster, crawling up a stairwell. Awesome, awesome shocker scene. Loved this quick and nasty moment!
Charlotte gets tossed back into the asylum by her husband, after she tries to smother their baby at home. An amazing sequence is enacted when Jim Brown asks Sister Jude to take Charlotte back, but he wants Dr. Thredson – who was understanding of her beforehand – to treat her.
This is right as Thredson is leaving with Alan in tow. Jude sends Frank off to find the doctor, and there’s this incredibly tense, suspenseful sequence where they sort of barely slip through the fingers of Briarcliff. Really excellent writing, as well as the fact it’s directed expertly.
Instead, Charlotte is trusted to the care of Dr. Arden who plans on giving her a pre-frontal lobotomy. Y’know, to calm her down.


Sister Jude has a disappointed conversation with Frank, retelling a story of when she was a young and took in a baby squirrel, keeping him in a shoe box. She says one day she came home, realising she forgot to feed him, and he was dead. Jude, as a small girl, prayed for hours over the squirrel, but her mother came home and lost her mind, throwing it in the trash.
In the end, the rest of her story stands to show how Jude is disappointed with God. Even as a nun, even as someone who wants SO BAD to be pious and holy and wants to be a good nun, she has those doubts about God.
Frank makes a terribly poignant remark about how she “never really had a chance” because she’s a strong woman and men don’t like that. While you get the sense Frank probably isn’t, for all his faults, one of those men, it’s a big stinger for Jude to hear; even if painfully obvious anyways.
So as Charlotte is being lobotomised, just a little, Jude puts on her bright red lipstick, heads to a bar for a drink and a smoke, then picks up a man.
Back at the home of Oliver Thredson, the doctor brings Lana inside to a comfortable, safe environment for the first time in so very long for her. His house is quite the chic-looking abode, nice modern type furniture and layout.
But as the minutes wear on, Lana realizes something is not right with Oliver. He flicks on a light – you can clearly see the lampshade has nipples. When he offers up some mints, they’re sitting in a skull-shaped bowl; no, damn it if the thing ain’t an ACTUAL SKULL.
What I love about this section is not so much the surprise that Thredson is Bloody Face, it’s the fact Bloody Face takes a good deal of bits and pieces (get it?) from Leatherface, as well as the real life inspiration mostly from serial killer Ed Gein. There’s a ton of macabre stuff to mine out of Gein and I find Ryan Murphy & Co. do an excellent job starting out with doing a few things we’ve not yet seen from the serial killer’s real story.


The end of “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” hits hard like a weight in the guts.
We watch as Charlotte Brown has become the perfect little housewife for Jim. He takes most of her research on World War II, Anne Frank, et cetera, and goes for the trash. While the episode closes out with Leon Bibb, Ronnie Gilbert, and Robert De Cormier singing “It Could Be a Wonderful World”, we also zoom in on a picture of Nazi officers saluting together, and one of them we end on is ABSOLUTELY MOST POSITIVELY DR. ARTHUR FUCKING ARDEN!
Love it. No better way to close off a two-parter episode.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-08-31-pmCan’t wait to review the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” directed by David Semel (HannibalThe StrainHomeland). Stay tuned, horror hounds!

Psycho: Alfred Hitchcock & the Birth of the Slasher

Psycho. 1960. Dir.  Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Joseph Stefano; based on the novel by Robert Bloch.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, and John McIntire. Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Rated PG. 109 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)

For my review of the sequel, Psycho II, click here.
For my review of the third installment in the franchise, Psycho III, click here.

For those who don’t know, Psycho tells the tale of Marion Crane who decides to take off on a whim with $40,000 trusted to her by her boss. While tired on the road, Maron stops off at the Bates Motel to get a room for the night. There, she meets a young man named Norman Bates; he lives up on the hill in the big house next to the motel. Norman seems fine, albeit a bit quirky, so Marion even has a low key supper with him at the motel.
However, Norman isn’t quite fine. See, Norman lives with his mother, just the two of them, and their relationship is, well – a bit odd to say the least. Once Marion goes missing, her sister, lover, and the police start sniffing around, and Norman starts to see a little more traffic at the Bates Motel – much to his dismay.

4714189672_84517b7ab2_o1-450x876This was my first introduction to Alfred Hitchcock. It’s funny – the movie is rated PG, directed by one of the most famous (arguably the most famous) filmmakers of all-time, contains definitely the most famous murder scene ever filmed if not the most famous scene period, and it’s classified as a horror.
In fact, a lot of people would say Psycho is the most influential horror film of all time, giving rise to the modern slasher in some respects (you can’t totally give this film all the credit because other films like Peeping Tom, and much later John Carpenter’s Halloween, really were a large part of that as well).

I just find it amazing how Hitchcock was able to put such a disturbing story on film, including the infamous shower scene (though the scene itself really isn’t graphic especially in terms of modern audiences and how desensitized we all are from not only film but the barrage of insane videos we now see on everything from CNN to YouTube), and yet still keep the rating PG. Of course, the ratings system has changed a little between now and then. It’s still rather amazing.
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The story of Psycho itself is incredible. I continually find it exciting even though I’ve seen it dozens of times, I know how things will play out, and yet viewing after viewing it holds up. I still feel a rush of panic for Norman (even though I clearly shouldn’t – a testament to both Bloch’s novel and Hitchcock’s filmmaking) as he tries to clean up Marion Crane’s room after Mother has had her fun. Just the way Perkins rushes around and frantically tries to cover things up. Just thinking about the time it was written, the time it was set, I love to imagine what it must’ve been like for serial killers pre-media frenzy surrounding people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer, et cetera. Poor Norman was ahead of his time. He didn’t know how these things were supposed to go. Watching him try to navigate the rough terrain of being a killer while still obviously being a fragile boy, almost a man-child, is really good stuff. It’s a disturbing tale, but Norman really does elicit both fear in us, as well as some form of pity; even on the most base of levels. And just the way in which Marion and Norman end up meeting, a real chance moment in time, is brilliant. The first time I saw the film, I was really surprised at how their two storylines converged, and suddenly it all became about Norman. Wonderful storytelling. No wonder Hitchcock was drawn to Bloch’s novel. Stefano really took the novel and turned into something his own, which Hitchcock in turn worked very well with; their picture of Norman Bates, as opposed to Bloch’s, turned the character into a much more sympathetic type person, and this really worked for the film’s plot quite well.

The entire film is one of those truly beautiful collaborative efforts. Everything here comes together to make a perfect movie. The cinematography, the sound, the script – I love it. Hitchcock weaved an intricate film here out of what could’ve been a simple effort from another lesser filmmaker.
For instance, on the Blu ray release from Universal there is a feature which looks at the infamous shower scene how it is presented in the finished film, and also a look at the scene without its music. Right there, it is so perfectly evident Psycho could not have been what it was if it hadn’t used all of its elements together to create the fear, shock, and tension. While the shower scene is still very disturbing without the score over top, there’s something extra that comes along with the score. In the quiet, you can hear Janet Leigh breathing, you hear the water falling from the shower head, all of it. With the score, you watch everything happen while the orchestral score behind the scene pounds out, creepy and loud, reinforcing all the stabs, the gasps, everything. Works so god damn well it’s fiendish.
4021As a film, Psycho is a perfect, flawless work of art. It isn’t hype. This is not a film you hear about all the time, being raved about and drooled over, just because it’s by Alfred Hitchcock, or just because it is considered classic. This is a magnificent piece of work, all around. There is no hype – what you see is what you get. Hitchcock was a master, no doubt. This film, while influential and all that, is just a cracking good piece of movie history. Full stop.

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One of the most famous dissolve shots in the history of film

The Blu ray release from Universal Studios Home Entertainment is one of the better titles sitting on my shelf. It is packed to the brim with extras. Though I don’t care for the Truffaut interview (I think his films are wonderful but his opinions are often divisive in a negative way and, in my humble opinion, sort of bullshit at least when it comes to the original novel Psycho by Bloch), the rest of the features here are just so sweet.
There are the typical Making Of featurettes, however, the major one here goes through everything from the story, how it was adapted and found, et cetera, to pre-production, production, and post – the whole nine yards; it’s a 90-minutes documentary that is totally worth the time to watch. There’s a nice feature about the sound of the film, including how they restored everything for the Blu ray. My favourite, though, is the Shower Scene breakdown I mentioned before – you get to see the scene back-to-back in its finished form with the scene having the score taken out, as well as great little storyboards by Saul Bass. These are absolutely brilliant pieces of extras to include. Fascinating stuff. The commentary is done by Stephen Rebello, author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho’.
All in all, this release deserves every single bit of 5 out of 5 stars. There’s no way it deserves any less; it needs more. There are enough features here to keep you long busy after purchasing Psycho. On top of that, the transfer is pristine, and you’ll marvel at how beautiful it looks in glorious black and white.

I recommend every fan of this movie, every Hitchcock fan, go get this Blu ray now, sit down, and love every last single solitary, picturesque moment of it. There is nothing like this film, even today, even when so many other great films are made. Psycho itself is a classic, and always will be. It deserves to be remembered until the end of human existence – it’s one of those films.

Read my review for the second sequel to the original, the underrated Psycho III.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is Celluloid Terror

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  1974.  Dir.  Tobe Hooper.  Starring Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, Wiliam Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, and Gunnar Hansen.  Vortex.  18+.  83 minutes.

★★★★★

Between a mix of Tobe Hooper’s raw filmmaking style, and my ability to empathize fairly well, I was absolutely shaken when I first saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s the reason why horror filmmakers are perpetually fascinated by that same recurring plot of “murderous cannibal family lives in the woods and kills people off who wander into their home”. It’s one of the reasons I love horror films in general.  It influenced, and continues to influence, a number of generations of horror fans and filmmakers alike.texas1z.png I remember my mother, who isn’t a stranger to horror (she read most of Stephen King’s work when I was growing up and passed all the books of his she owned onto me), telling me about the first time she watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and said it’d terrified her; quote unquote, the scariest thing ever. Of course, being a young male and thinking my mom couldn’t possibly offer me any insight on the horror genre, I went ahead and watched it anyways.
Needless to say, my mom has a fairly accurate opinion about what a scary film is. The first time I saw the movie is forever imprinted in my brain.

There’s something never right even from the very start of TCM, as we get the cringe-worthy sound accompanying the camera flashes while viewing macabre images. Then of course it kicks up a notch after the gang we’re going on a trip with along the Texas highway picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be far beyond stable. Hooper works in a lot of suspense, and an absolutely unparalleled air of dread before finally letting Leatherface loose for the first time. I remember first watching this when I was 12 years old (I was only born in 1985, so it would have been around ’97 somewhere), surely not supposed to be according to my parents. When Leatherface first blows through that door with that shriek of his, attacking the unsuspecting victim, I was absolutely terrified.
The-Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-75Even 20 years or so after first scaring audiences in the mid-seventies, it was still working its magical horror on people on my sorry ass. Today, I can still throw it on and be shocked when first meeting Grandpa; the scene where they try to get him to take some of her blood is at once horrifying, and also darkly comic. After all the years of desensitizing myself with horror of all kinds, I can still find a creepy thrill from TCM.
I put myself in the shoes of these people- imagine encountering something like Leatherface. You’d be petrified. The whole family are disturbing characters in their own right, and they bring some black comedy to such a wild horror film. Hooper’s raw way of filming TCM brought a whole new element to the idea of horror, and people for years to come (and still continuing on into the foreseeable future) would try emulating its feel, but nothing can ever top it for the gritty terror it induces.
You can pretend all you want, but if Leatherface burst out from some shut-up door in an old house where you were looking around, you’d not only be terrified, you would most likely die. Along with letting loose most bodily functions. Isn’t that terrifying enough? Hooper didn’t have to add much to make this terrifying for me except the script itself, and the performances that came out of it. I feel a lot of it, if not all, was very natural, and very much how I would imagine people might really react.
THE-TEXAS-CHAIN-SAW-MASSACRE-1974-450x252All in all, this movie gets a full 5-star rating. Hands down. One of the best, and continually most frightening horror films I have yet to see. It always makes me wonder when I am deep in the woods camping somewhere, or hiking, if there really may be people out there living in a big creepy house, killing whoever they can manage to get through their doors. Any film that lingers in your mind, making you wonder the impossible is a solid film to me.
I also love how Hooper was partly inspired by the tales he heard of the infamous Ed Gein, whom always played Muse to some of other very famous horror icons including Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, as well as the iconic mommy’s boy Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho; Gein used to make things out of skin, including a ‘woman suit’ he apparently used to put on and howl at the moon. You can clearly see where the inspiration for dear ole Leatherface came from while peering into the dark world of Gein. Not that he was like Leatherface much more than at face value (get it – face?), or any of the other characters, but there are bits and pieces of Gein littered throughout them. The most outrageous, of course, are here in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and I love every last second of it.