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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The (Unrated DVD)

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Unrated DVD (click for larger image)Starring R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich, Kathy Lamkin, Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matthew Bomer, Lee Tergesen, Lew Temple

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Distributed by New Line Home Entertainment


“… the most physically draining movie I have ever seen …”

“… graphic violence and uncompromising cruelty …”

“… the best horror film of the year …”

The above quotes were pulled from reviews for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on various websites, including our very own. How I wish I agreed with any of them. To those I would like to add my own:

“… formulaic slasher fare without even a hint of originality …”

Being the huge Chainsaw fan that I am, when the early buzz for this film ended up being overwhelmingly positive, I was uber-jazzed. Another good flick with Leatherface causing some seriously vicious carnage? I was so there.

Upon arriving at the theatre, I was beyond excited. Upon exiting, I was shocked. Not by how good the movie was, but by how average the experience turned out to be. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning just feels like one big missed opportunity. However, before I get into all of that, let’s start with the story …

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Unrated DVD (click for larger image)The year is 1969. Eric and his brother Dean (Bomer and Handley) are driving cross-country with their girlfriends (Brewster and Baird) in tow before they both leave for Vietnam. Or so Eric thinks. Much to his chagrin, little brother has other plans. Dean wants to give the government the finger and head straight to Mexico. Of course this bombshell of information comes while the group is driving. Nothing like some road rage to get the blood pumping. The situation becomes heated and quickly ends in a horrible car wreck thanks to the assistance of a marauding biker who has strayed from her — previously introduced — gang in hopes of making a score (I’ll get to those pesky bikers in just a little bit) and a well placed cow. Luckily for everyone (except for the cow), the good Sheriff Hoyt (Ermey) is there to ummm… save the day. Who wouldn’t want to see him and his tobacco stained, profanity spewing mouth right after a near death experience?!? Through a series of foreseeable twists and turns, everyone ends up at the Hewitt house where Leatherface (an ever-menacing Bryniarski) is working hard honing his power tool wielding skills.

Truth be told, The Beginning does a lot of things right. It’s what it doesn’t do that comes back to bite it on the ass. Its main sin is that the film never makes any attempt to deviate from the formula established by Marcus Nispel’s remake. We get a couple of girls and a couple of guys. The guys end up dead, and one strong chick makes it to the end. Sound familiar? Come on! Couldn’t things get shaken up just a bit? How about the war vet being the last to get slaughtered? He’s had combat training! Or even letting the weak chick make it to the end credits! Please, anything but the same old, same old.

There is one wild card — the introduction of the aforementioned biker gang. Who reading this wouldn’t like to see the Hewitt home get raided by a gang of angry bikers looking for revenge? Oh, the possibilities! Imagine if you will Leatherface going saw-crazy, thereby creating an orgy of violence while defending his home and family. What do we get instead? Nothing anywhere near that cool.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Unrated DVD (click for larger image)Then there are our protagonists — the victims. Without question it is these uninspired drones that are holding this film back. They could not possibly be more cookie-cutter. All four kids were so mundane that it was impossible to feel for any of them. Everything they do, everything they say, everything that happens to them seems to have come right out of the old Chainsaw textbook. They are there solely to be meat, and each actor played his or her part as such. Truly sad.

And how about that ending? **Skip this paragraph if you don’t want it spoiled for you.** The film ends with a backseat kill. Are you friggin’ kidding me? Could we possibly get any more cliche? Holy shit! I’m sorry, but the killer in the backseat angle is ludicrous at best. Leatherface is way over six feet tall and is carrying a near three-foot long chainsaw that needs to be revved in order to work. Are we to believe that this chick was so dumb and blind that she didn’t notice this hulk when she got into the car? Way to insult the intelligence of the audience.

All of these shortcomings would normally add up to a truly average film, but despite them this saw does have some teeth. The good stuff comes in the form of the family themselves. Everyone from Leatherface to the Tea Lady (and her Fatticade™ scene) make The Beginning shine a lot more than it should. While they all get their due, without question this is Ermey’s movie. His portrayal of Hoyt is horror movie fried gold. And let’s not forget about Bryniarski. I’m not even sure if the word “intense” cuts it. His vision of Leatherface is quite possibly the scariest and most brutal ever. When he’s onscreen, all the air is sucked out of the room. Something fucking bad is going to happen every time that he is around, and all you can do is watch in horror. There’s no doubt about it; this family knows how to bring the darkness. I just wish that they had more to do.

I could easily sit here and prattle on and on about the rights and wrongs of The Beginning, but that’s not what we’re here for. Let’s talk about the DVD itself. First and foremost, we’ll tackle the word Unrated. While this flick was pretty brutal in its R-rated form, it’s utterly ferocious uncut. The newly added scenes mostly consist of a bit more biker exposition and of course gore. Eric’s torture scene is now a lot more graphic as is every other instance of violence in the film. From what I gather, about five minutes of footage has been restored. Not too shabby.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Unrated DVD (click for larger image)From there we get a bunch of deleted and extended scenes along with not one, not two, but four alternate endings. Don’t get too excited though. The majority of these scenes were a lot better off left on the cutting room floor, and the alternate endings range anywhere from silly to senseless. One must wonder … Did they ever really have an ending planned? Considering how the last kill plays out, I’d have to say no. *shakes head*

The forty-five minute featurette entitled Down to the Bone is your standard behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie and includes various cast and crew interviews. Much like the rest of the film, it’s the family that shines here as well.

Things are capped off with a commentary from director Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our why-this-movie-wasn’t-as-good-as-it-could have-been culprit. Form and Fuller discuss their vision for the movie pretty much the entire time with Liebesman chiming in every now and again with a bit of insight. They almost seem as if they’re co-directors and not producers. Guys, I appreciate your attention to detail and am truly grateful for your shepherding to make sure the TCM franchise remains dark, gritty, and violent. But I also can’t help but wonder what things would have been like if Liebesman had been left to his own devices. Too many cooks can spoil the pot, ya know.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is an anomaly of sorts. It goes in the right direction despite taking a step backwards. Liebesman and company basically made the same movie as the remake, just with more violence and less talent. Daniel Pearl and Scott Kosar — you are missed. Either way, no matter how you … umm … slice it, this flick is still better than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Then again, what isn’t?

Special Features
Audio commentary with director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller
Deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary
Down to the Bone behind-the-scenes featurette
Theatrical trailer

Film

3 out of 5

Special Features

2 1/2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.14 (7 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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