Unlike some of my colleagues, and much to my dismay, I have a day job. This forces me to balance my passion for waxing philosophical about films of all makes and models with my unshakable desire to make rent and eat. So whenever I find myself with a day off, luckily quite a few times during the course of the year, it should surprise no one that I spend that day doing nothing but gorging myself on shock and schlock. On this particular Veteran's Day, I honored my military ancestry by watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Cemetery Man, and The Strangers. For America!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
If you're anything like me, you don't perceive the phrase "dude, that movie is so bad" as a deterrent. For me, the relationship between these words and my desire to see said film is inversely proportional. I'm someone who loves garbage cinema, and the horror genre is gloriously full of it. That being said, even I have my limits. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is easily one of the worst horror films I have ever seen, and I have seen some stinkers. Part of the problem is that Tobe Hooper, the man responsible for the original and thus everything we love about it, returns amnesic of his own talent. The film is not just silly, it's downright Loony Tune-y. In any other 80's horror film, this is not only forgivable but certified criterion, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a trivial horror film and should not be treated with such blasphemous irreverence; especially from its creator.
The story makes zero logical sense, the characters are more goofy than anything resembling scary, and the editing is among the worst I have ever witnessed. Don't think editing makes a difference in a horror film? How about when a character that is already getting on your nerves stands as the only thing in the shot and spurts nonsense lines 10, 20, 700 times?!! The movie wouldn't have felt nearly as unwatchable if we were only subjected to gonzo stupidity for ten seconds instead of 10 minutes each time. I keep hearing that this film is a dark comedy and should be viewed as such. But there is a fundamental problem with that arguement: the movie is in no way funny at any given point. Even black comedy still has to be comedic folks. This really feels like a portent against letting Rob Zombie ever remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
So the day started off on a decidedly sour note, but movie day has a short memory. Next up was a movie I had been dying to see for ages: Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man to us 'mericans). I was fortunate enough to know absolutely nothing about this film going into it, because the experience of unearthing layer after layer of madness as you dig into the runtime is exuberant. It's the story of a graveyard caretaker whose job could be more accurately categorized as zombopacalypse prevention. Turns out dead bodies have a nasty habit of getting up and walking around after their seventh day buried in this particular cemetery. What's a regular Joe to do except keep a trusty .45 on hand to "rekill" them.
What I love about Cemetery Man is how it gets exponentially weirder as it goes along, but in the absolute best of ways. By the time the insane ending rolls around, you have no problem accepting it within the absurdly brilliant framework of the rest of the film. It was like somebody decided to let David Lynch make an Argento film (not surprising as director Michele Soavi was a protegee of the Italian horror master). Cemetery Man is a bizarre story that actually has a great message about the relationship between life, death, and love. And the fact that Anna Falchi is gorgeous and very, very nude throughout the course of the film cannot be ignored. Watch the zombie motorcycle scene and tell me you don't love this film.
Not too long ago, I watched a French horror film called Ils (Them to us 'mericans). I really dug Ils and thought it was among the best home invasion horror films out there. When I found out they were remaking it with Liv Tyler, I was less than ecstatic. But the magic of Blu-ray is that it prods me to give films a chance that I would normally dismiss; they look pretty even when they suck! The Strangers is surprisingly solid. It has a competent grasp of tension and builds suspense quite nicely. The film also features some gorgeously creepy shots that employ a subtlety seemingly inspired by early Carpenter. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are legitimately sympathetic which is way more than I could have hoped for and the costume design (or the mask choices I guess I should say) are perfect.
I was really enjoying the taut, terrifying nightmare of taking the illusion of safety out of a person's home...until the ending. Not to be Captain Spoilerpants but the ending of Ils has, not so much a twist, but a healthy punch to it. It's kind of the driving force behind the film and I was interested to see how it would be handled by the remake. But while The Strangers technically includes the same concept as Ils, it completely glosses over its impact. The audience is never given the opportunity to sit in the moment and digest the implications. I don't understand the choice, and I find it to be the film's one big problem.