Friday, October 17, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Meet Leatherface

Our newest horror-themed FSF is by none other than the horror-averse Nick from French Toast Sunday! Yes, one of Nick's favorite genres is "not horror". When not watching scary movies, you can find Nick on the FTS podcast or reviewing new flicks over on their site. You can check out all of Nick's FTS posts here. Follow him on twitter - @therehak.

French Toast Sunday

To be honest, I don’t know why I asked to participate in this series. If you know me, I’m very vocal about my fear of horror films. I just can’t do it. I even hide my face during horror movie trailers (ask any member of FTS, they’ll tell you). My problem is, when I watch something, my brain holds onto those images, and then I can’t fall asleep at night without my brain showing me those images every time I close my eyes. The only way to combat that is to stay up all night until it’s daytime OR I turn all the lights on in the house. Why all the lights? Well, as we all know, monsters don’t come out in the light, they only come out when it’s dark. I whole-heartedly believed that until I saw Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This film was a terrifying exclamation that horror doesn’t happen at night, it can happen anytime.

Vogler Art via JoBlo

About 32 or so minutes into the film, Kirk and Pam set off to find a local swimming hole, as you do in the middle of nowhere Texas. They discover that the swimming hole is all dried up, but they see a generator running, maybe someone nearby can point them in the direction of a proper swimming hole? Wrong. Absolutely wrong. They come across a generic non-descript looking house. Kirk knocks a few times and finds himself inside, leaving Pam outside. He hears some squeals coming from the back of the house. Probably a pig right? I mean, they did drive past a slaughterhouse earlier. Kirk explores the hallway and attempts to walk through a doorway. All of a sudden, Leatherface. The scare causes Kirk to trip and fall, and while on the ground, Leatherface bashes Kirk’s head in with a hammer. It’s a soft, almost mute thud sound as Kirk is struck not once, but several times. It’s not this over the top crunch or smack effect sound, it’s natural and real. You can feel the bones in his skull breaking with every hammer hit. Kirk's body goes into shock and he spasms and bleeds like a slaughtered pig. Leatherface drags him away and slams a metal door behind him, cue music.

Let that set in a second. In the middle of the day, in broad fucking daylight, inside a normal-seeming home, a man’s skull is brutally bashed in with a hammer and is dragged away, THEN the music happens. There is nothing to prepare you for the kill. No build-up. It attacks you and catches you off guard much like Leatherface catches Kirk. Wham! It happens, you accept it, then realize Leatherface, and this film, are not fucking around. You are not going to make it out alive.

So you’d think the scene would be over, right? WRONG! Pam, sitting on a swing outside, calls to Kirk. No answer. She enters the home and all we hear is the generator outside running. Pam walks around the home and falls into a room filled with chicken feathers and bones. The music kicks in, a low dull humbuzz rattle that builds. She screams and is immediately greeted by Leatherface who runs after her and catches her just as she makes it out the door. He RUNS. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t say something funny or campy. He bolts after, catches her, and laughs, LAUGHS, as he carries her into the kitchen and hangs her from a meat hook. Did I mention Leatherface is laughing? All of this is accentuated by the humbuzz rattle that builds, a semitone at a time, twisting and turning your stomach at the unknown horror still to come.

Scene’s over, right? NOPE. Like any sundae, it’s not complete without the cherry. And the cherry on top of this psycho-nightmare is Pam, hanging from a meat hook, watching and screaming in horror as Leatherface revs up his chainsaw and begins to dismember Kirk right in front of her. Cut to weather vane.

What's your favorite scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Unseen Halloween: Carrie (1976)

Unseen Halloween is an October feature where we watch and review older horror films that we'd never seen before. Enjoy!

Carrie is a 1976 horror film directed by Brian De Palma and adapted from the novel by Stephen King. It's about the titular Carrie (Sissy Spacek), who discovers that she has telekinetic abilities and uses them to get revenge on her classmates when they pull a cruel prank on her at prom. Meanwhile, Carrie's mom (Piper Laurie) is batshit crazy.

malikafavre via joblo

The highlight of the film for me was Spacek as Carrie. There's a theme of growth and self-discovery throughout the film and Spacek really nails it. Carrie goes from being a shy, near-mute girl to a happy person to a chilling murderer in the space of a week or so. The famous shower scene at the beginning of the movie marks Carrie's first period, and it's as awkward as it sounds. That scene also perfectly demonstrates how cruel Carrie's classmates are. Seriously, these women behave like animals.

Carrie's gym teacher Miss Collins is one of the only nice people in Carrie's life. Betty Buckley did a really great job in the role. Nancy Allen and John Travolta play a couple of assholes, one of your standard high school couples named Chris and Billy, the ones that dump all the pig's blood on Carrie at the prom. They were pretty good in their roles, although Travolta for some reason can't drink a beer to save his life - he's constantly got a beer mustache/beard on his face.

One of the more interesting parts of the film concerned the characters of Tommy (William Katt) and Sue (Amy Irving). I was never really sure what their intentions with Carrie were (although maybe I just didn't pay close enough attention). They cooked up a plan to have Tommy take Carrie to the prom (despite the fact that Tommy and Sue are dating), but I didn't know if that was part of Chris and Billy's plan to humiliate Carrie. Tommy seems to genuinely like Carrie, however. One of the movie's more memorable scenes involves Tommy and Carrie dancing. As they spin, the camera rotates around them in the opposite direction. It's all rather dizzying, and it kind of makes you feel like you're dancing with them, their giddy mood almost rubbing off on you.

In the end, it turns out that Tommy and Sue were genuinely just trying to help Carrie, so it makes it all the worse when we discover that Tommy is killed in Carrie's massacre. Sue survived however, and one of the final scenes shows Carrie reaching up from the remains of her house to grab her. Turns out this was all a dream, however.

Wait...let me back up. Carrie and her crazy mother got sucked under the Earth  - along with their entire house - after Carrie's mother tried to murder her for showing her "dirty pillows" at the prom. Carrie ended up having to kill her mother with her telekinesis, slinging a bunch of knives into her and crucifying her (the religious imagery in the film isn't very subtle). And while we're on the subject of Carrie's mother, Piper Laurie was definitely a standout. She apparently thought she was filming a "black comedy" and not a horror film. I don't really know what that says about her performance, although her "dirty pillows" and "They're all gonna laugh at you," lines are pretty funny (now I appreciate that Adam Sandler bit even more).

So as someone who has now seen Carrie, I would recommend it. It's got some great central performances and it's a pretty unique horror story to boot.

3 Out of 5 Stars

Friday, October 10, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! The Cabin in the Woods: The Elevator Doors (to Hell) Open

This week's horror-themed FSF was written by Sara from A Redhead at the Movies! Sara is a movie fiend (who isn't, but seriously, she's got a degree in film studies and writes papers on horror flicks like Saw and Hostel). She's also a fellow member of the illustrious French Toast Sunday B-Squad. So if you're not checking out Sara's site for movie reviews, The Walking Dead recaps, and more, you're missing out! You can also follow Sara on Twitter - @RedheadAtMovies.


When it came down to choosing my favorite scene from a horror movie, I just knew I had to go with this scene from The Cabin in the Woods (2012). This moment, no matter how many times I watch it, fills me with glee, terror and awe. Directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods pays hilarious homage to the horror genre by presenting us with every trope and creature, and they simultaneously honor and satirize horror narrative conventions. This scene is an encapsulation— or rather, an explosion— of all that this movie is and wants to be: a horror nerd’s outrageous fever dream, a hodgepodge whose reverence for its contents verges on absurd zealotry at times.


In the lead-up to this scene, two of our protagonists— attempted horror archetypes Dana (the virginal, would-be final girl played by Kristen Connolly) and Marty (the silly, slacker-stoner played by Fran Kranz) — have just discovered a network of futuristic, glass elevators. These elevators take them on an underground journey through neat compartments containing the stuff of nightmares.

Upon realizing they are in more danger off the elevator than on though, they decide what better way of fighting their unidentified, unexplained human captors than by unleashing upon them the very hell they just toured? And that is what this scene is - a comical but disturbing look at what would happen if every horror creature were truly let loose at once.

At first, we see a group of bewildered soldier-types as they listen to the churning sounds of elevators in motion. The elevators eventually grow silent, which is very much a harbinger of doom (to which one of the solider-types even says, “Oh shit.”), and then we hear a classic, seemingly innocuous “ding” noise.

The following shot is framed perfectly, with soldiers in the middle of two rows of elevator doors, on the right and left of the frame. So everything meets in the middle in a loud, bloody mess, and it is glorious. The suspense turns to utter chaos, so much so that it’s hard to necessarily take it all in at first: a giant snake (cobra?), a pterodactyl (maybe?), a kind of evil chainsaw robot thing (think Wall-E gone wrong), a triumphant-looking werewolf, and lots and lots of blood, in case I didn’t mention that already. The soldiers are being torn to shreds, more or less literally, and the screen goes dark with what we can assume is either a blood splatter or perhaps a thrown limb.

In darkness, we hear a siren or an alarm of some sort. We then start to follow a new group of guards who stumble upon the same area we just witnessed, and it looks as messy as you’d expect - blood everywhere and some happy zombies partaking in the feast. The rest of the sequence features more ding-noises indicating more elevator doors opening, more blood, more chaos, and more creatures - creepy masks, giant insects, ghosts, you name it. I especially love when it shifts to security camera footage of the many varied horror-movie scenarios now being enacted in various parts of the facility. What I love about it is that even if it seems like we’ve seen them all before, you’ve never seen them quite like this - all together, all happening at the same time, and all being monitored. The camera pulls back to show the many screens depicting the numerous horrific situations taking place, and once again, it becomes a chilling, daunting task to understand and keep track of all of them.

This minute-and-a-half or so of filmmaking is flawless. It’s fun and terrifying in equal measure. Goddard and Whedon know how to use sound, music, editing and off-screen space to utter perfection, and there are so many resulting nuances in this short sequence alone. It becomes quite clear who this film is ultimately meant for: horror fanatics who would gladly wade through the blood, sift through the severed limbs, brave the monsters and organize the chaos all in order to recognize the references and celebrate the only genre that could yield such a cacophonous concoction in the first place.

What's your favorite scene from The Cabin in the Woods?