In a semi-sequel to last year’s Univeral Monsters series, this week I’ll be focusing on seven “horror icons” from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. I chose my picks based on a few criteria: the character had to be easily recognizable, something that every horror fan, and most casual moviegoers, would know or at least heard of; I also tended to stick with characters who’d had several sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, etc.; and mainly I picked them based on which films I enjoyed the most. (Sorry, “Leprechaun” series, but even though you fit several of those criteria, I think most of your movies are terrible.)
I’m going to go in chronological order, so that means we’re starting with 1974′s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” It’s been over thirty years since it’s initial release and it still holds up. Director Tobe Hooper seemed to take a page from other up-and-coming horror filmmakers, like Wes Craven with “Last House on the Left,” and uses his limited budget to wondrous effect, crafting a grimy, icky film that still shocks audiences, despite the notable lack of blood. I watched this with an audience a few years ago, and people still jumped and screamed at all the right parts, even after seeing the unnecessary remake and the doubly unnecessary prequel to the remake.
For those uninitiated, “Massacre” follows five teenagers on their way to visit their grandfather’s old house. Along the way, they run afoul of a nasty hitchhiker and then cross paths with a towering monster known as Leatherface. It’s a great movie and it still delivers. The sequels do a little less delivering, but they’re still relatively entertaining, even though there’s almost no continuity between films, unfortunately. The second film has Dennis Hopper as the family’s crazed patriarch and genre-staple Ken Foree shows up to kick some ass in part three. Part four boasts both Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger and it’s pretty awful. The remake wasn’t terrible, but was wholly unnecessary and the less said about the prequel the better. Supposedly there’s a planned 3-D version coming in 2012, but I’m not sure if that’s a remake, a sequel or some hybrid of the two.
Either way, Leatherface and the rest of his cannibal family still have what it takes to shock and scare. With the Halloween season quickly approaching, check out the “Massacre” series. I guarantee you’ll learn to appreciate the sweet sounds of a whirring chainsaw.
Join me tomorrow as I tackle a menacing, knife-wielding shape with the blackest eyes.