Yes, I know it's Friday--humor us, will ya? Missy Yearian of Chickapin Parish and myself are back in your face with movies we're ashamed to admit we actually love. I dig deep into the mists of time for a movie that proves not all horror films of the '30s are classics, while Ms. Yearian defends one of those notorious Platinum Dunes remakes...
I'm fully convinced that Ed Wood must have traveled 20 years into the past, changed his name to Dwain Esper, and brought this film into being. There's really no other way to explain how a motion picture that so smacks of the King of Bad Cinema could have emerged during the golden age of classic horror.
The tale of a mad scientist and his vaudevillian comedian accomplice on a mission to reanimate corpses, it's really just about as bad as you'd think it would be. OK, well, it's actually a whole lot worse. The actors seem to have been people just pulled in off the street and told to make random gestures and exclamations, the production value is on a par with the local high school's presentation of Brigadoon, and best of all, the whole thing is punctuated by an unbearably overwrought narration about the dangers of the criminal mind or some such nonsense.
And yet, despite all this--or perhaps because of it--I couldn't take my eyes off this flick when I first watched it as part of one of those 80,000-horror-movies-for-50-cents collections which I picked up a while back at my nearest soulless big box outlet. What's interesting to me, is that when you think of bad movies of this caliber, you're usually not going back any further than the 1950s. If you want to be extra thorough, you can find some real clunkers from Monogram and their ilk from the '40s. But the '30s? For some reason, most people only think of the likes of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Dracula, etc. when discussing that era. Well folks, allow me to present you with a glaring exception to the rule.
Maniac is a kind of torture, but a sublime kind. It's the same kind of experience one gets watching Bride of the Monster or Plan 9 from Outer Space only, for whatever reason, far less infamous. Watch it for one of the most overacted death scenes in history. Watch it because its original pre-Hays Code title was Sex Maniac. Watch it because it features an actress named Phyllis Diller, who isn't the one we all know. For all these reasons and more, watch Maniac.
And when you do, you'll discover the wonderful, unifying truth that I did: Really bad movies have been around as long as there have been movies.
And now, gather round as Missy extols the virtues of the TCM remake...
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
This one is sure to get me kicked out of the Cool Kids Club, for I love the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I know it’s like a rule for all of us to have a hate on for Platinum Dunes, and I do. I swear I do. When they made that Amityville Horror remake, I held up my middle finger. When they remade Friday the 13th, I held up my other middle finger. And when they trotted out A Nightmare on Elm Street, I turned around, pulled my pants down, and mooned a metaphorical Michael Bay.
But I can’t help it. I love a movie that begins with a traumatized victim whipping a gun out of her vagina. Could she walk so well with a gun in her spam purse? Probably not! But who cares? Wouldn’t gravity sort of make it fall out from between her meat curtains since she was clearly wearing no underwear? Most likely! But what difference does this really make? I’ll tell you. It makes no difference… none at all. The moment is sheer absurdity, and that is what makes it so awesome.
You see, the original is clearly like the best horror movie in the history of history. (Yes, I know that’s debatable, but just give me some leeway, will you?) And it was so frightening because it was so simple. The idea that something so macabre, something so grisly, could exist behind the front door of a simple farmhouse is a terrifying one (and one that kept me up nights as I grew up in a house just like it). And this remake all but obliterates that notion.
Our baddies live in some dilapidated manor—a home anyone would be stupid to enter. But stupid is exactly what they are. And if you’re looking for a film wherein people you kind of can’t stand (especially Morgan who must be an intentionally irritating character who does almost as a good as job of pissing you off as Franklin) get picked off, this is the movie for you. Gone are the days when you want to see people live. Gone are the days when you don’t know what’s going to happen. This movie is an exercise in predictability.
I realize that makes it sound just awful, and you know, it really is. But there’s something oh-so-comforting in that predictability that just draws me in. This movie is like a sweater you keep in the bottom drawer of your dresser and only trot out when you’re feeling lonely. It’s just a comforting piece of shit, my friends. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
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