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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Gruesome Edition (DVD)

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 DVD (click for larger image)Starring Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Nubbins

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment


The original landmark film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is considered by most to be a horror masterpiece. It spawned an entire series of films including a horribly butchered third sequel, a ludicrous fourth entry, a remake, and most recently a prequel. But there is one film in this franchise which undoubtedly stands out amongst the pack. The cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Upon its initial release fans of the first were a bit befuddled. The original Chain Saw was a dark, realistic, and visceral experience whereas the sequel was an uber-gory black comedy. I remember back in 1986 folks were crying foul and complaining because they wanted this movie to be as nightmarish and gritty as its predecessor. But director Tobe Hooper had other plans.

We’re officially introduced to the Sawyers after Drayton “The Cook” (an unforgettable Jim Siedow) wins a chili making contest. Yep, the old family is still in the meat business, and they’re busy turning the rest of the world on to their secret recipes. A couple of hard shell peppercorns later, we find Drayton’s boys, Chop Top (Moseley) and Leatherface (Johnson), in pursuit of a local radio DJ (Williams) who has come into possession of a recording of one of their killings. Having an audio record of their exploits doesn’t sit well with the killer clan, so before you know it the blood splattering and power tool wielding are in full killer swing.

That’s the story in a nutshell. Tobe stated many times that he wanted to do something different with this telling of the tale. And different it was. Chainsaw 2 may not have been what people were initially expecting it to be, but it has stood the test of time and is probably more loved now than it ever was then. After a couple of decades it is clear that Hooper’s (then) newly chosen path was right on the money.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 DVD (click for larger image)The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has been floating around the home video circuit in various forms for many years. There are hundreds of bootlegs for sale that had the fabled Joe Bob Briggs scene and the parking garage slaughter. As fans, we’re blood hungry. We want to see the missing bits we’ve all heard or read about. The trouble was that the only way to do so was by hunting down said blurry poor quality boots. Things looked even more dismal after Chainsaw 2 hit DVD a few years back with barely a single extra on it. Fans were pissed. Would we ever get the goods? It seemed as if there would never be an official definitive edition. Until now.

Fox’s Gruesome Edition is a fan’s wet dream. We get the unrated cut of the film along with several deleted scenes including the ones mentioned above. On top of that, we’re treated to not one but two feature length commentary tracks. The first is an interesting listen as Tobe Hooper chats it up with filmmaker David Gregory. There’s a lot of Chainsaw history spoken about here, and fans won’t want to miss a single moment. And while that track may be good, the second one featuring Michael Felsher, Tom Savini, Caroline Williams, and Bill Moseley is the money shot. Holy shit, what a good time! Moseley shines here, slipping effortlessly in and out of his Chop Top character much to everyone’s delight. Again, this track is nowhere near as informative as the first, but it is twice as entertaining. If you’re going to watch the movie repeatedly (and I know you are), check out both of these commentaries. This, my friends, is DVD paydirt!

But wait! It gets better, and no, I’m not talking about the still galleries or the theatrical trailer. Wise ass.

Supplemental material producers Michael Felsher, David Gregory, and Chris Roe have given us yet another gift in the form of a ninety-two-minute making-of film entitled It Runs in the Family. Now we’re talking! Family features tons of behind-the-scenes footage as well as current interviews with the cast and crew. It’s impossible to watch this and not feel the fondness that everyone involved with both the movie and this making-of feel for the subject matter. You’ll be amazed by how much heart and warmth could go into a flick that’s so very evil. To quote old Lefty (Dennis Hopper) himself, “BRAZOS!”

If you were hungering for a be all, end all compendium for this movie, look no further. If it’s out there and it’s worthy of mention, it is on this DVD somewhere. Get rid of those old fourth generation bootlegs. Use that old MGM disc as a coaster. Go ahead, double dip fearlessly!

This is the cure for your aching banana!

Special Features
Audio commentary by director Tobe Hooper and David Gregory, the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth
Audio commentary by actors Bill Moseley and Caroline Williams and special effects creator Tom Savini
Deleted scenes
It Runs in the Family six-part featurette
Still galleries
Original theatrical trailer

5 out of 5

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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

Written and directed by David Freyne


Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

  • The Cured
3.5

Summary

The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

Directed by Brian Coyne


Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

  • Film
1.5

Summary

I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

Directed by Jeff Houkal


Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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