Tag Archives: Robert Englund

Tobe Hooper and the Aesthetics of Madness (Part 3) by Jonny Numb

<img src="Tobe.jpg" alt="Tobe Hooper and the Aesthetics of Madness">

Tobe Hooper and the Aesthetics of Madness (Part 3)

Tobe Hooper Keeps Dancing…

Jak and Boxx (Ryan McDonald) are post-apocalyptic rebels without causes, living the dropout life in a world that has given the cold shoulder to notions of civility, decency, and human survival. While Jak is a sincere foil to Peggy’s small-town-girl skepticism, his wide-eyed optimism is shrouded in a questionable, drug-propelled haze. In one sequence, bright-colored rear projection, quick cuts, and the roar of a car engine – while characters try to scream above the noise – effortlessly captures the dissociative feeling of a drug high. And it’s a great example of Tobe Hooper’s audio-visual madness.

The blood Jak and Boxx (ha-ha) siphon from the population’s remnants is sold to the MC and used to reanimate corpses (typically young women) who “dance” in a mix of epileptic seizure and electro-shock, for the entertainment of a salivating crowd of degenerates. The suggestion that hedonism is the opiate of the irradiated masses is strong, but Tobe Hooper isn’t just looking to tell a tale of debauchery and excess.

In a seemingly peripheral scene early on, the corpses of used-up dancers are presented with a crass “disposability” that resembles cruel pornography: topless, dead-eyed female bodies are unceremoniously tossed into a back-alley dumpster and set ablaze. An explicit statement is made: even the new lease on life that accompanies re-animation – however far-removed from actual notions of “humanity” – has a fleeting sell-by date.

Like Texas Chainsaw and Poltergeist, the buried core of “Dance” is its focus on family dynamics. Peggy has grown accustomed to her position as Mother’s Perfect Angel, but it raises questions as to why Kate is so overprotective. Conversely, what does Jak see in Peggy, besides an uncorrupted soul to – in his own naïve, uncomprehending way – bring down to his degraded level? Is the greatest gesture of “caring” to keep a person confined, or to set them loose in a world on fire?

As the story progresses, we see the truth of the matter is far more dire. Therein also lies the unfortunate position of being the coveted child when another goes missing or dies. I like how the grownups here convey authority, wisdom, and confidence – all in service to obscuring transgressions they’d rather forget. To that end, the MC – who’s as sleazy and morally bankrupt as they come – is ultimately a more honest character, as he never tries to justify or excuse the corruption of his trade. He knows he’s pandering to a bunch of drugged-out misfits – why belabor the fact? Near the end of “Dance,” he casually drops a revelation about the fate of Anna that is damning for all within earshot, and the irony of the closing images is in how each generation consumes and exploits the previous generation, whether for financial, political, or personal ends. There are notes of genuine tragedy and despair amid the incoherent club noise, stuttering imagery, and strobe-lit interiors of the episode’s final minutes, to the point where “Dance of the Dead” becomes the most emotionally resonant of all the Masters of Horror episodes.

A Distinct Experience

There are other, smaller tidbits that contribute to “Dance” being a distinct Tobe Hooper experience: the décor of the club, which has the same dumpster-dive aesthetic of the abandoned amusement part in Chainsaw 2; the halved water bottles the punks drink A Clockwork Orange-style drug enhancer from; feral performances from a cast let off the leash (McDonald – a dead ringer for Jack Black – embodies this particularly well); and the way the actors find a pathos amid the chaos. Jak may be “protecting” Peggy from the dangers of an unfamiliar world, but by the end, she has become her own person – something that was stifled for years. She may be going down a path of self-destruction, but imbued with a greater understanding of the harsh realities of the world, has become a stronger and more knowing individual.

Even in the opening moments, set against the over-saturated colors of the idyllic suburban birthday party, 7-year old Peggy exhibits the bud of a rebellious streak by correcting her mother when she calls her “Peg.” And if we want to further that notion (alongside the Jack-in-the-Box naming convention), it can be said that she’s a square “peg” in a round hole, left to “fit in” with a world that’s been decimated; where social contact – in addition to being greatly reduced – carries the risk of contagion.

Without fail, Tobe Hooper created worlds that were distortions and perversions of the one we know. His approach to cinema was unlike that of his horror peers – or any other director who came before. Imbued with an intuition toward what makes people get loopy under the all-encompassing light of a full moon, he forged one of the most distinctive filmographies in the history of motion pictures.

All the rest is cattle prods, screaming, and the compulsion to laugh hysterically in the face of inexplicable, mind-bending horror.

 

The Plot Sickens: Missed the initial installments? Then check out Part 1 and Part 2 – and don’t forget to catch THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast tribute to Tobe Hooper.

(Gif of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre via giphy.)

Crash Analysis Support Team

<img src="jonnynumb.jpg" alt="Jonny Numb">Jonny Numb

(Aka Jonathan Weidler), he only plays favorites when it comes to review sites like Crash Palace Productions and Loud Green Bird. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter and Letterboxd.

Tobe Hooper and the Aesthetics of Madness (Part 2) by Jonny Numb

<img src="Aesthetics.jpg" alt="Tobe Hooper’s Aesthetics of Madness">

The Aesthetics of Madness (Part 2): Tobe Hooper’s “Chainsaw” dinner scene.

The Aesthetics of Madness – Chainsaw Style

You need not look further than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for a full-bore taste of Tobe Hooper’s subversive aesthetics-infused spirit. The fact that some viewed the film as a kitchen-sink mess and others saw it as a cheeky, gory commentary on ‘80’s excess underlined the persistent divisiveness of his vision.

If anything, “Dance of the Dead” confirmed this notion. One of the keystones of Masters of Horror was putting each filmmaker on equal footing in terms of budget, shooting schedule, and casting considerations. With the exception of the censorship issues with Argento and Miike, the episodes would sink or swim based on the individual directorial approach.

“Dance” showed Hooper at his most defiantly stylish and rebellious. Richard Matheson’s short story – anarchic in a controlled sort of way (yes, I realize the paradox) – was a burst of apocalyptic brilliance, following a handful of post-nuke punks while intercutting the action with details on the escapist drug they gorge themselves on. In many ways, it was the ideal foundation for a Tobe Hooper film.

Looking at Eaten Alive, Chainsaw 1 and 2, and the remake of Mortuary, it’s apparent that Hooper had immense sympathy for the Outsider. While he never went so far as to condone the actions of the killers at the heart of those tales, he at least sought to understand their motives. “Madness” was not some pop-psychology catch-all to Hooper, but a fully-formed state of mind that permeated all aspects of his aesthetic, from sound design (the clanging pots and pans of Chainsaw) to visuals (the red-saturated exteriors of Eaten Alive). Dialog possessed an improvised feel, and the sound sync – particularly in Eaten Alive – bordered on the surreal, especially when Neville Brand chased his victims around with a scythe. Consider, also, the infamous “dinner scene” from Chainsaw, where the victim’s screams and the howling laughter of her tormentors commingled into a jarringly ethereal birdcall.

Corgan’s death-metal soundtrack to “Dance of the Dead” may be on the nose, but it’s consistent with the plot and visuals, and a complement to the nihilistic, dead-end characters that populate the story. It feels like an evolution of the experimental soundscape of Chainsaw, regressing into garbled noise in tandem with the dissonant characters – a group of delinquent drug addicts siphoning blood (referred to as “the red”) for the sleazy MC (Robert Englund) of a nightclub in the mysterious city of Muskeet.

Muskeet is a place of secrets and revelations for our lead character, Peggy (Jessica Lowndes), who, on her seventh birthday, witnessed her friends die due to a biological agent (dubbed “Blitz”) raining down from the sky. The images of skin dissolving from adult and child bodies alike is both shocking and impishly deceiving – Peggy’s mother, Kate (Marilyn Norry) corrals her and her older sister, Anna (Genevieve Buechner) into the family home, while friends and relatives perish outside. Years later, what remains of the United States is divided among those who managed to evade Blitz, and those who wander the ruined landscape, scavenging for drugs and other essentials.

Time to Dine

The dreary restaurant Kate runs isn’t altogether different from the roadside barbeque joint in Chainsaw, or the hotel in Eaten Alive; while located along what used to be a main drag, it bears the hallmarks of a neglected, long-forgotten place, clinging to the ways of a bygone era. Peggy, now 17, has lived under her mother’s watchful eye since Anna’s disappearance. When the drugged-up punks, led by Jak (Jonathan Tucker – The Ruins) stop in for coffee one day, Peggy is cautiously intrigued – she appraises them like some new life form spawned from a petri dish. Sensing danger, Kate quickly forces the punks out, but not before Peggy makes eyes with the blank yet seemingly benign Jak. That night, Peggy defies her mother and travels with Jak and company to Muskeet for a date with destiny.

As always, Tobe Hooper’s base intention was to beat the viewer silly with his blunt-force aesthetics; but for those able to abide that pummeling, the subtext is where the real meat of the story lies. The clashing of social and economic classes was always a huge part of his commentary (with The Mangler in particular underlining the thankless plight of factory workers in a dead-end town), and part of the perverse joy of a Hooper film was seeing the well-adjusted middle class (think Poltergeist) caught off guard when brought face-to-face with The Other.

To be continued…

The Plot Sickens: Missed the first installment? Then check out Part 1 – and don’t forget to catch THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast tribute to Tobe Hooper.

(Gif of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre via giphy.)

Crash Analysis Support Team

<img src="jonnynumb.jpg" alt="Jonny Numb">Jonny Numb

(Aka Jonathan Weidler), he only plays favorites when it comes to review sites like Crash Palace Productions and Loud Green Bird. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter and Letterboxd.

THE LAST KNOCK presents: IT

THE LAST KNOCK from Palko Designs.

Door opening to It and the dire realm of Pennywise…

IT: The post-summer blockbuster

Andy Muschietti’s film IT out-shined all comers for best opening on a Thursday and best opening on a September weekend – beating out the competition by $75 million. But that’s just the North American market. The film secured the largest opening for a horror film in Australia, Brazil, Netherlands, Russia, and the United Kingdom, among others. After the worst summer in twenty years for Hollywood, IT has blown away expectations, even from analysts – who are no doubt now floating in Pennywise’s lair.

Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema definitely created an excellent marketing campaign, red balloons and all, but seeing IT on the big screen has been a long time coming for many a horror fan.

Does IT live up to expectations?

Billy Crash and Jonny Numb take a look at the film from all angles – even sewer level – and see how IT holds up against Stephen King’s beloved novel as well as the original mini-series. We check out the narrative, the story behind the story, the directing and acting, and so much more because we don’t clown around.

A Pennywise for your thoughts: Did IT make you float, or did you want to move out of dear old Derry never to return? Leave a comment below and let us know!

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@hellhorror @MyLittleRascal1 @ScreamHorrorMag @Tammysdragonfly @dkarner @Israel_Finn @PromoteHorror @Scream_Factory @hiltonarielruiz @NYCHorrorFest @dixiefairy @RonGizmo @Shriekfest @AFiendOnFilm @LoudGreenBird @FriscoKidTX @FANGORIA @StephenKing @ITMovieOfficial @andymuschietti_ @jaedenlieberher @JeremyRayTaylor @FinnSkata  @jackgrazer4ya @Nic_Hamilton @imchosenjacobs @Cinemark @SMZofficial @RobZombie @RobertBEnglund @LisaWilcox1 @NewLine_Cinema @jes_chastain and Cheryl Betz

The plot sickens: Want more Stephen King? Don’t miss Jonny Numb’s reviews of The Dark Tower and Carrie!

THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast is a Crash Palace Productions featured show. Besides this site, you can find THE LAST KNOCK on iTunes with new shows posted every Sunday at 9 PM ET.

(THE LAST KNOCK art from Palko Designs.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Movies in the Morgue

<img src="thelastknock.jpg" alt="Door opening to the Morgue">

Door opening to the morgue…

Horror is best served on a cold slab in the morgue…

As odd as it sounds, Movies in the Morgue, rue or otherwise, is a rare thing in horror. Simply put, not many films in the genre have explored or exploited what one might think would be an overused setting, device, or gimmick.

Even so, when it comes to morgue movies, we take a look at some of the best – and some of the rest, which should remain rotting on a slab, in a drawer, and locked under heavy chain. And we’ll do an autopsy on: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Epitaph, Men Behind the Sun, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Mortuary, Return of the Living Dead, as well as others.

The morgue, or mortuary, is simply a place that stores bodies. Most morgues can handle our dead with ease, but in cases where human calamity takes its toll, many may find themselves at their peak of capacity. On August 31, 2017, the Harris County morgue in Houston found itself in a horrible situation. Due to the intense rains and subsequent flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the facility had 175 bodies in storage with room for 25 more. They called upon the state for help and have a refrigerated 18-wheeler on stand by if the death toll continues to rise.

Regardless of what horror writers dream up, there always seems to something far worse in reality, once again making the claim from Mark Twain that “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Now, snap on your gloves, grab a scalpel, and cut your way into the bowels of Movies in the Morgue

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@RealJillyG @GuyRicketts @dixiefairy @RSBrzoska @AnnThraxx @BleedingCritic @RonGizmo @d_m_elms @MachineMeanBlog @inthenightdoc @FriscoKidTX @TheDeniseCrosby @DonRiemer @tarah_paige @VicsMovieDen @StephenFolklore @palkodesigns @blunderground @IMDb @nikolajcw @RobertBEnglund @EmileHirsch @liamneson @justinlong @CultEpics

The plot sickens: Check out our podcast on Cemeteries!

(THE LAST KNOCK art from Palko Designs.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Remembering Tobe Hooper

THE LAST KNOCK artwork from Palko Designs

We salute independent horror director and writer, Tobe Hooper

Sad times as we say goodbye to independent filmmaker Tobe Hooper who left his mark by creating a new form of horror storytelling with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But he’s far from a one-hit movie wonder. The Texas born director went on to helm Eaten Alive, the successful Salem’s Lot mini-series, Lifeforce, Mortuary, Toolbox Murders, and many more projects for the big and small screens.

We’ll look at Tobe Hooper‘s life, why he’s right up there with George A. Romero and Wes Craven, how he changed the horror landscape – and we put the ludicrous Poltergeist directing controversy to rest.

If you’re a fan of the genre…

Hooper’s work serves as the foundation for slasher films in the 1980s, and contributed to the “hand held” aesthetic that keeps many horror fans on edge.

Listen in as Billy and Jonny explore their favorites from the horror master, and remember to leave your comments at Crash Palace about your favorite Hooper films!

Tobe Hooper image from Mirror

Crash Palace and THE LAST KNOCK extends its condolences and best wishes to Mr. Hooper’s family and friends.

Love space vampires? Then check out Billy Crash’s piece about Lifeforce!

(THE LAST KNOCK art from Palko Designs. Tobe Hooper image from Mirror.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Terror Technology

The Last KnockWithout technology, the western world would be living as if in the Dark Ages. To imagine life without a microwave, a personal computer, or a cell phone would make many souls break down in tears. However, if horror cinema has taught us anything, it’s that the things we love to cling to for ease or safety are illusions – and can be used against us at any time.

So join Billy and Jonny as they look at terror technology from Nightmare Weekend and Unfriended to Chopping Mall and Hardware – and other Frankensteinian like creations from metal, plastic, and such. Now, pat the top of your computer, treat your car to some air freshener, and don’t you dare turn your back on your wide screen television, and listen in…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@HORROREVERSION @TraCee_tr @damienleveck @RealJillyG @Gdl16 @OwenMcCuenQuest @KeyzKeyzworth @isaacrthorne @d_m_elms @TheFilmNoirGuy @rosebyanyother7 @RonGizmo @jacq0lantern @GuyRicketts @HellinspaceStor @cjzisi @LoudGreenBird @FriscoKidTX @dixiefairy @TheHorrorMaster @ImKeithDavid @RealMegFoster @BobbyBurke @GeorgeARomeros @billoberstjr @HeatherSossaman @JohnLeguizamo @barbaracrampton @RobertBEnglund @FrankTlevine @Kent_Harper @JuliaOrmond @ryan_the_ryan @DAVID_LYNCH @gordonkeith @StephenKing @RichardStanley7 @DylanMcDermott @StaceyTravis777 @MrJCLynch @IggyPop @RealCliveBarker @KristySwansonXO and Paul J. Williams