Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s double-shot features two families of psychopathic, flesh-wearin’ rednecks with Tobe Hooper‘s 1974 film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Rob Zombie‘s 2003 cult classic, House of 1000 Corpses.
When Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) finds out the Texas cemetery where her grandfather is buried has been vandalized by grave robbers, she gathers her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and a gang of friends to see if grandpa’s remains are still intact.
While in the rural Texas town, Sally and her friends decide to visit grandfather’s old farmhouse. Unfortunately, a family of homicidal, cannibalistic slaughterhouse workers who take their work home with them live in the house next door. Included amongst the brood is Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), a chainsaw-wielding human horror show who wears a mask made out of human skin.
That Creepy Scene:
When the gang arrives at the old homestead, Franklin tells Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn) about a local swimming hole and the couple head off to find it. Instead, they stumble upon the neighbors’s house. Kurt knocks on the screen door but doesn’t get an answer, so he (like an idiot) enters the seemingly empty house while Pam waits on the front steps. Kirk notices a bizarre sliding metal door in the foyer.
Before Kirk can fully inspect the door, Leatherface — the skin-suit wearing, meat-loving cannibal killer — flings the door back and smashes his skull with a hammer, dispatching the hapless young man like one of the many livestock he sends to slaughter. Leatherface quickly drags the body in and slams the metal door shut – the camera lingers as the door reverberates, leaving you to wonder (in horrific detail) what will happen to Kirk’s unconscious body.
Tobe Hooper‘s cult classic continues the subgenre of horror movies based on the life of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, which began with Alfred Hitchcock’s own influential classic Psycho. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a cult classic in low-budget exploitation cinema – a film that went on to inspire John Carpenter’s Halloween and Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Cinematographer Daniel Pearl‘s documentary-style camera work, as well as a smart script by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper make Massacre an endearing horror classic. While the acting is less-than-stellar (Paul A. Partain’s Franklin is a laugh-out-loud caricature who may have started the “This person is so annoying, I can’t wait for him to die” meme of Slasher films), Massacre succeeds by disturbing you by tricking you into watching something you perceive as real – as snuff – something you shouldn’t be watching but can’t take your eyes off of.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has been hailed as one of the most terrifying, horrific films in the annals of shock cinema, though perhaps my favorite quote comes from Stephen King, who declared, “I would happily testify to its redeeming social merit in any court in the country.” Massacre was a product of the Vietnam War era, a film that depicts senseless, appalling violence in a very realistic way – without specters, demons or monsters. The inbred cannibals that make up Leatherface’s family are so terrifying because they could be real – and yet nothing the skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding psycho has committed on film skims the surface on the true crimes of Ed Gein.
If there was ever a modern equivalent of Hooper’s 1974 film, it would be Rob Zombie‘s 2003 cult film, House of 1000 Corpses. The film focuses on a gang of kids who are held hostage by a sadistic backwoods family on Halloween. Corpses is heavily inspired by grindhouse exploitation cinema of the ’70s, films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
The film features an impressive cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Karen Black, Chris Hardwick, Rainn Wilson, Tom Towles, and Walter Goggins. Many of the character names in Zombie’s film were taken from Groucho Marx characters (Animal Crackers‘ “Captain Spaulding”, A Night at the Opera‘s “Otis B. Driftwood”, Duck Soup‘s “Rufus T. Firefly”, and A Day at the Races‘ “Hugo Z. Hackenbush”). House of the 1000 Corpses is an underrated modern horror flick that captures the spirit of its ’70s roots and becomes the cinematic equivalent to a House of Horrors dark ride – demented, twisted, and gorgeously gory.
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