Halloween 2021 Movie Special, Day 2: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remakes and reboots

The terror of the Halloween movie special week continues with four new interpretations of the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie(s).

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
(USA 2003, director: Marcus Nispel)

Five friends pick up a young hitchhiker and are soon hunted by a family of psychopaths.

Anyone who hears the name Michael Bay will probably think he’s not the best man for a horror movie, as he’s usually involved with explosions and lots of gunfire. While he’s not the director and only the producer, one can’t overlook some stylish camera work and obviously MTV music video-like protagonists. However, this doesn’t mean that this remake fails to capture some of the original‘s terror. Sure, it’s never as terrifying or sick as Tobe Hooper’s version, as it doesn’t include the infamous final dinner scene and the whole cannibalism theme is less of a focal point.

Still, as far as tension and gory scenes go, it works quite well, although in the wake of many slasher movies, only the amount of blood and violence with Leatherface (whose face is also shown this time) makes it different. The family members aren’t particularly memorable and the victims are nothing more than slashing/hooking/chainsaw fodder. With fewer intense psychological horror and torture scenes (although there are a few), it’s much easier to digest and has a high entertainment value.

Score: 7/10

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
(USA 2006, director: Jonathan Liebesman)

Two brothers who are ready to serve in the Vietnam war and their girlfriends become involved in a car crash and end up with a family of cannibals and a chainsaw-wielding maniac.

It’s not easy to make a movie about a family one knows will survive and won’t get caught to still be suspenseful and surprising. But this is exactly what the movie delivers, and so much more, especially in the gore department. One could even go so far to say that it’s the better original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as it has all the ingredients of sick ideas and violence one can hope or fear for.

The first remake played it rather safe with its depiction of a sadistic family, but the prequel is so over-the-top gory and doesn’t shy away from cannibalism as well as all sorts of dismemberment scenes that it plays in a completely different league. Of course the victims aren’t particularly memorable, but they’re more likable, and the screentime for each family member makes them much more frightening, being almost on par with the original. All in all, it’s one of the best remakes/prequels one can think of, as it delivers non-stop horror and gore while staying true to its source material, despite the music video aesthetics of Michael Bay as a producer.

Score: 9/10

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Texas Chainsaw 3D
(USA 2013, director: John Luessenhop)

A young woman goes to Texas with her friends to find out who her real parents were and makes a surprising encounter with a chainsaw-wielding lunatic.

It’s never a good sign when a horror movie tries to be more intelligent than it needs to be while changing the general idea and tone of a series known for its maniacal violence and terror to something like a family story. Of course family has always played a part in the movies, but in a very sick way, usuallly associated with cannibalism. If one takes away the latter and makes the former a bunch of misunderstood people, there’s definitely something wrong.

Taking itself too seriously and also taking its time to introduce characters one doesn’t care much about, the movie can only redeem itself with some gory sequences, but even these aren’t particularly effective, despite the use of in-your-face-chainsaw 3D. There’s simply not a lot happening and making Leatherface and his family easier to relate to without actually telling the audience why makes this a very strange entry indeed, as it’s easily forgotten, even if it’s mildly entertaining and has some cool chase sequences.

Score: 6/10

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Leatherface
(USA 2017, directors: Alexandre Bustillo/Julien Maury)

Pulled away from the Sawyer family, a young man is put into a mental institution, but escapes with three other inmates and a kidnapped young nurse.

How many reboots, prequels, and retellings or rather reinterpretations does a franchise need to be relevant again or make sense? In the case of Leatherface, it all somehow falls apart like the stitches of the titular psychopath, although the director duo tries hard to somehow fit it all together into an origin story.

Staying true to the disturbing and sudden violent outbursts of the original movie and having no humor whatsover in it might be a good idea, but as the movie turns out to be more of a kidnapper drama/thriller, one wonders why one should even bother as a horror fan. Not exactly knowing who the man with the chainsaw becomes is probably the most intriguing aspect, but for a short runtime of roughly 90 minutes, there isn’t too much to remember, with all characters being difficult to relate to and only the beginning and ending having some noteworthy gory effects. It seems that the more drama is spent on storytelling, the more forgettable the Texas Chainsaw Massacre experience becomes.

Score: 6/10

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Disney+ watchlist: September 2021

Disney+ in September 2021 had another live-action interpretation of a classic Disney animated movie.

Movies:
Mulan (2020) [6/10]

What’s with Disney trying to give their old movies that are clearly steeped in often fantastical themes a more realistic angle? The new Mulan takes away the only distinctive supernatural element with Mushu the dragon, and what does it end up with? A martial arts adventure that has been seen so many times that one wonders where the special Disney magic went.

Of course the main idea of a young woman dressed up as a man to join an army and prove herself has been left intact, with the only difference that she now has supernatural powers in addition to her fighting skills. One of the villains, another woman, can do even more, like turning into a bird, and it’s clear that the movie somehow tries to discuss sexism and the oppression of women. But with an uninteresting plot and even more forgettable characters, one doesn’t care much for the themes. While the fighting sequences are quite good, it’s nothing one hasn’t experienced in any other Asian action movie before. This makes the whole movie a pretty pointless endeavor despite its good cinematography, soundtrack, and most acting.

Disney seems to be stuck between a complete overhaul of and look at known villains like Cruella (see Disney+ watchlist: August 2021) and retelling the same stories in a more realistic way. While Beauty and the Beast played it safe by not changing anything, Mulan could have used a bit more Mushu magic to make it stick out from the countless derivative martial arts movies Asian cinema is known for.

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Halloween 2021 Movie Special, Day 1: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1-4”

It’s almost Halloween, and this special movie week starts with a gory bang by courtesy of the original four The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
(USA 1974, director: Tobe Hooper)

Five young people make a road trip to visit the grave of a sibling’s grandfather in Texas and end up in the hands of a psychopathic family of cannibals.

It takes a special kind of director to create a movie that is still as disturbing and difficult to watch today as when it was released. Of course there have been many imitators and more violent ones, but the first The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is almost too much at times, especially with the finale that consists of constant screaming and sick laughter during physical and psychological torture. Add in a minimalist soundtrack and camera work that focuses on everyday details, e.g. spiders spinning their web or the retina of an eye turning red from strain, and one won’t be able to to call it entertainment anymore.

Obviously, it’s a movie not many people can sit through, as it shows sadism in its purest form, although it includes a memorably twisted cast with Leatherface wielding a chainsaw and an almost dead grandfather trying to hit his victims’ heads with a hammer. However, despite all the cruelty on display, it’s not a particularly inventive movie, as the annoying main characters (especially the invalid) make it hard to feel sympathy for them. There isn’t much of a plot to speak of, either, with the first 30 minutes that can mostly be skipped.

Score: 8/10

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
(USA 1986, director: Tobe Hooper)

A radio host is captured by the cannibal family, while a former Texas marshall tries to take revenge on them for the death of his brother.

After over a decade, it’s difficult to recapture the same sense of terror the first movie evoked, especially with so many slasher movies released in between. The sequel is less frightening and more entertaining to watch, but it’s also less intense and more forgettable. If it weren’t for Dennis Hopper’s and Bill Mosely’s maniacal performances (the former being more or less good and the latter a complete nutcase), one won’t have a reason to watch it again.

With more comedy elements, sometimes intentional and sometimes not, one never feels any true horror, which is all the more surprising with almost the same finale at the dinner table re-enacted. The main survivor girl swinging a chainsaw in the end almost looks silly, compared to the first movie’s iconic ending. This is probably the most problematic thing: It’s a sequel that tries too hard to be the same, but rarely steps out of its predecessor’s shadow with memorable scenes, e.g. a chainsaw fight. As it is, the cannibal family is much less frightening and the victims are just as forgettable as the plot that is also a bit too long for what little there is.

Score: 6/10

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Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
(USA 1990, director: Jeff Burr)

Two young Californians and a survivalist find themselves terrorized by Leatherface and his cannibal family.

What started out as a tale of terror with the first movie and then somehow introduced comedy elements in the second one, is now caught somewhere in the middle. The third instalment isn’t scary and not suspenseful, but just entertaining in a sick kind of way. One doesn’t care for any of the victims and for the first time one controversially finds the cannibal family less frightening and more like a dysfunctional group of individuals who simply love their traditions, even if it means the chainsaw and cutting people up.

Seeing Viggo Mortensen of The Lord of The Rings fame in his basket case role and a twisted little girl introduced into the family business is probably the most memorable thing. While it’s never really boring, one starts to wonder why 80ies heavy metal music accompanies some of the last fight scenes, as these don’t look any cooler and certainly don’t add anything to the tension.

Score: 6/10

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
(USA 1994, director: Kim Henkel)

A group of prom night teenagers experience a car crash and are soon picked up by Leatherface and his insane cannibalistic family.

After the former movies became less concerned with terror and torture and felt more like a teenage slasher flick with Leatherface being the only distinctive feature, the newest entry is certainly the logical conclusion. It again presents characters one couldn’t care less about and a dysfunctional family that might once have been scary but isn’t anymore. Leatherface becomes a transvestite, the top of the family food chain is a psychopath whose legs are held together by a contraption with remote controls, and the woman of the house is just as psychotic as her male counterpart, but somehow manages to evade the police with a body in her car’s trunk while picking up pizzas.

Add an ending with a sort of conspiracy and you have a travesty of the original, but strangely a very entertaining one. Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey have already expressed their grudge against being part of it and want to wipe it off their portfolio, but especially the latter’s performance is worth watching it alone. It’s a derivative, but also a very fun movie, even if its comedy elements don’t quite gel well together with the torture sequences.

Score: 7/10

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Game release: “Midnight Protocol” (PC)

LuGus Studios and Iceberg Interactive‘s tactical RPG Midnight Protocol is a hacker’s dream or nightmare.

While hacking has played a prominent role in all sorts of genres, usually in mini-games, making it the star of the show has been rather rare. Here one takes on the image of hacktivist Data whose private information has been leaked to the internet and who is chased by a shadow organization of the government for blackmail, but it’s up to the player how criminal the hacking activities will become or if they’re used for the common good.

Everything is played via one’s home computer, so one won’t see any characters moving around and interacting with others. The only form of communication is by keyboard, e.g. sending emails, using chatrooms or entering passwords as well as making decisions how to handle information. Being an RPG, one completes both main and side quests which usually mean breaking security protocols, with one’s actions changing the storyline and reputation. For example, one can help the police by finding another hacker, blackmail people or extract money from digital safes. This requires having the right tools in the form of programs and hardware which serve as skill sets that can be upgraded like in an RPG, although a very unusual one.

The game is out now on PC with a 10% launch discount that lasts until October 20, 2021, at 3 PM UTC.

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Amazon Prime Gaming free games in October 2021

Amazon Prime Gaming in October 2021 offers more free titles for adventure game fans, but also a AAA surprise plus other genres and even more digital platforms.

After the first game was given away for free in August 2021 and the sequel in September 2021, it’s only logical to have point-and-clicker Secret Files 3 (see review) this month. The Telltale Games party also continues with the whole Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures season which includes Fright of the Bumblebees, The Last Resort, Muzzled!, and The Bogey Man, all games that are true puzzle solving experiences and do the claymation source material justice in terms of presentation and storytelling.

Tiny Robots Recharged mixes 3D puzzles with escape room gameplay, Blue Fire (see GOG release news) offers both combat and platforming in a 3D world, while Red Wings: Aces of the Sky delivers WWII arcade flight action. It wouldn’t be October without a few horror-themed games, though, so comedy-adventure brawler/stealther Whiskey & Zombies: Great Southern Zombie Escape provides the laughs, while survival horror game Song of Horror Complete Edition creates the frights.

Three more titles can be unlocked for free, but on different platforms: epic space sim STAR WARS: Squadrons on Origin, first-person cyberpunk slasher Ghostrunner (see game release news) on GOG, and cinematic sci-fi survival horror title Alien: Isolation (see review) on the Epic Games Store (where it was already a giveaway in February 2021 and December 2020).

All games can be added to the Amazon Prime Gaming account for free until November 1, 2021. The same holds true for the other platforms as well.

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