Chainsawnukah Holiday Wrap-Up
CHAINSAWNUKAH 2013 CHECKLIST!
It's been a wild Chainsawnukah that took
more than a month til the end of the goddam year to wind down. What have we learned? Let's break down the numbers!
LITERARY ADAPTATION: 12. I’m Not counting EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, since it’s just “characters created by” and is in fact a sequel to another movie, not directly to the book. No Lovecraft adaptations and only one (incredibly shitty) Poe adaptation this year, a big shift from last year. Robert Bloch got the double-dip this time, with both THE SKULL and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, plus we got some oddness from Edogawa Ranpo (WATCHER IN THE ATTIC) M. R. James (NIGHT OF THE DEMON) Marc Randall (THE HAND) and of course Shirley “The Lottery” Jackson (THE HAUNTING). But the big winner this year was classic horror stories: Dracula (adapted into NOSFERATU and to a somewhat, ahem, looser extent LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES) and Frankenstein (CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN).
It was not just the stories, though, but rather their authors who took center stage here: Edgar Allen Poe shows up in TWIXT to help Hall Baltimore solve a vampiric mystery, as well as going on a claymation epic in ANNABELLE LEE (too bad I watched THE RAVEN already, huh? Coulda gone for the hattrick). Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Piladori turn up to sex it up in GOTHIC. The Marquis de Sade shows up (in skull form) to torment Peter Cushing in THE SKULL. And in a more modern twist on the same thing, John Carpenter shows up as the Crypt Keeper/narrator in BODY BAGS and Carol Clover, author of the seminal slasher study Men, Women and Chainsaws, shows up in the semi-fictional S&MAN. So all in all it was a year of artists getting involved in the action. The final word on the dangers of being a storyteller in your own story, though, has to belong to the childhood fibbers in POISON FOR THE FAERIES.
Has a Sequel: 3 (ANNABELLE LEE, CHILD’S PLAY, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN)
IS a sequel: 1 (VHS 2)
Is a Sequel AND has a sequel: 7
*WATCHER IN THE ATTIC, CHILDS PLAY II-IV, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD and EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES are all in the middle of a series.
Biggest Sequel Surprise: that SOCIETY doesn’t have like 19 DTV sequels.
Has a Remake: 6 (APRIL FOOL'S DAY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, WATCHER IN THE ATTIC, GOTHIC, THE SHINING, THE HAUNTING)
Most Surprising lack of a remake? PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. You just know there’s gotta be some jackass at Platinum Dunes devoting every waking moment to thinking about how to ruin that one with a grim, shiny remake that negates everything good about the original. But as of now, it ain’t happened.
HAMMER STUDIOS: 4. Didn’t get to as many Hammer films as I thought I would, but if you include the two Amicus entries (THE SKULL and HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD) it comes out to a more reasonable 6. Blame the fact that I didn't get to all the FRANKENSTEINs that I expected.
SPAGHETTI NOCTURNE: 4. Did I really only watch four Italian horror films? Weird. I guess with the Spanish RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD, Mexican POISON FOR THE FAERIES and American Giallo ALICE, SWEET ALICE it ended up feeling like more. But not to worry, AUTOPSY and EYEBALL are really, really Italian.
FOUND FOOTAGE CLUSTERFUCK? 4. Not an official category, but since I spent so much time talking about it in THE BAY I thought I’d run the numbers anyway. Can’t believe I watched the same number of Hammer, Italian, and Found Footage films. That’s gotta mean something, right? I suppose THE BAY is probably the best consistent example of this medium that I saw, but the highest point is Gareth Evan’s segment from V/H/S 2. I gotta admit I enjoyed the heroic idiocy of Renny Harlin’s DEVIL’S PASS, too, even if it’s a long way from being even mildly tolerable as a movie.
MORE (PETER) CUSHING FOR THE PUSHING? 5. Again, I was expecting to get at least one more Frankenstein film in there, oh well. Next year we’ll get more.
SLUMMING A-LISTER: Geez, I don’t even know who counts anymore. Wes Craven? Brian Cox? Barry Levinson? Jared Harris (who appear twice!)? Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick featuring Matisyahu? Michael Caine? Ving Rhames? Gabriel Byrne and Natasha Richardson? Dana Andrews and Niall MacGinnis? The cast of TWIXT? Telly Savalas? Elijah Wood? Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani? Koji Yakusho? Carol Clover? Jack Nicholson? Mark Hamill, Debbie Harry, David Warner and Twiggy? I’m always happy to see all those folks in horror movies, but I mean, it’s not exactly surprising to see Michael Caine in some chintzy genre flick. Once you’ve done THE SWARM you pretty much don’t get to claim to be slumming in anything. Doesn’t make him less awesome, just not quite a slumming A-lister. I dunno, I guess only Elijah Wood and Jack Nicholson would really count at the point of their careers they starred in the movie in question. And they were both in really good ones so it doesn’t really count as slumming. So I guess I just have to salute all those excellent actors for representing the genre I love.
BOOBIES: 14 (this number represents the total number of movies featuring boobies, not the total number of observed boobies. That would be way higher, presumably at least twice as high if we’re counting boob by boob.)
DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: 20
eyeball loss: 4
Head Loss: 11
Head loss was the most common dismemberment, but I think the eyeball punishment ended up being more memorable and a more distinct theme. Heck, EYEBALL pretty much sells itself on that concept alone.
ENTRAILS? 10. Mostly Zombie-related, but occasionally you get an oddball like the exploding Hobo in STREET TRASH.
CULTISTS: 5. This is always a hard category to pin down, I thought I made it easier for myself by downgrading from the more specific “Satanists” last year to the more inclusive “cultists” this year. But it didn’t really help; still a lot of gray area (and not enough gray matter). I decided it is a vampire cult in LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, but ended up not counting the nutty evangelicals in FROM WITHIN or the nutty cannibal family in WE ARE WHAT WE ARE.
ZOMBIES: 10, if you include Zombie Poe from ANNABELLE LEE, which I do. Zombie movies started out a little weak this year with the lamest section of V/H/S 2, the incidental (and sometimes cartoon) zombies in EXIT HUMANITY, the coy ZEDER (good movie, not much Zombie action) and the grating CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. They finished strong with PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, though, ending up the single most common antagonists I counted. The 10 counted include two counts of Frankenstein’s Monster, which I decided after much soul-searching does indeed count as a zombie.
VAMPIRES: 5. Obviously Klaus Kinski is gonna win this category.
SLASHERS: 9 This fuckin category is again causing problems, because serial killers, psycho killers, and slashers are not the same but have a lot of crossover. To me, a “Slasher” represents a very specific type of killer-on-the-loose movie, nearly always a whodunit, with a specific style of murder scene that frequently places emphasis on creative gore. So something like ALICE, SWEET ALICE or EYEBALL seem obvious, but man, what about THE SHINING? I mean, he slashes, right? Or WATCHER IN THE ATTIC, which would probably count if it wasn’t from the perspective of the killer (but is is, so it doesn’t. Also there’s no slashing)? Still, I thought there were enough solid, clear examples to feel confident about these 9.
CURSES: 5. Ugh, another vague one. I gotta get a more specific term. These five count only cases where a curse is specifically mentioned. And exclude CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN since despite the title, no curse is evident.
(UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? 12. This is a category I had to add along the way, as I noticed a disturbing trend developing. Between the Chuckys and the unnerving mannequins in TOURIST TRAP and MANIAC, this category started to fill out pretty quick. And then I started seeing dolls just fuckin’ everywhere. I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to count the doll-faced killer in ALICE, SWEET ALICE, but then the problem got solved anyway because there’s a completely inexplicable three-faced doll in there apart from the killer. That’s when I knew I was onto something, that this was the year of the doll. And I did it all without a single “Hello Dolly” pun.
OBSCURITY LEVEL: ( Chart based on my own subjective interpretation)
High Medium Low
IIIIIIIIIIII IIIIIII II III I I IIIIII II IIIII I I IIIIIIIIIIIII
ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE: After an incredibly strong start, sleepiness began to take over by the end of Chainsawnukah, maybe around movie 35 or so. I have no explanation as to why that might be; as a scientist, I’m merely reporting what I see. Although, now that I look at it, it’s virtually identical to last year’s 14/10 spread.
Yes: IIIIIIIIIIIIIII 15
No: IIIIIIIIII 10*
N/A: IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 28
*Plus one we’re not gonna talk about.
TRASHIEST: STREET TRASH, and proudly so.
CLASSIEST: THE HAUNTING, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, maybe WE ARE WHAT WE ARE.
BIGGEST SURPRISE(s): The surprising greatness of TWIXT, SOCIETY, and MANIAC (REMAKE). Other big surprise? Who knew the original CHILD'S PLAY was actually pretty good?
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT(s): The much-vaunted but kinda lame HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. That John Carpenter's THE WARD is only OK. And that somehow they failed to make a killer baboon movie funny in SHAKMA.
MOST INEXPLICABLE: WATCHER IN THE ATTIC by about a mile, although MY SOUL TO TAKE is pretty high up there, too.
SPECIAL AWARD FOR BRAVERY IN THE FACE OF STRAIGHT UP STUPIDITY: DEVIL'S PASS, THE CAR
Final Thoughts: Well, so far this was the most successful Chainsawnukah ever, topping my previous high (last year’s 43) with a remarkable 54 movies! I don’t know if I’ll be able to go any higher than that and retain whatever fleeting bits of sanity remain, so enjoy it while it lasts. I think overall this year ended up producing more genuine treasures than last year, although I have to admit I held off on a couple classics to save ‘em for next time. Actually the real disappointments came with the lower tier stuff; there was nothing as interestingly awful as EXORCIST II this year, most of the real low scores were thoroughly earned by boring, unimaginative crap (though admittedly nothing offended my delicate sensibilities as much as the repugnant OPEN HOUSE from last year, either). If I had to pick an unexpected favorite (leaving aside known classics like THE SHINING and THE HAUNTING) it would probably have to go to either the socially-conscious nightmarish thrill ride of PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS or the inexplicable arty beauty of TWIXT. But TWIXT stars Hall Baltimore, so that automatically circumvents the usual rating process, putting it in a different category of godlike glory and solidifying the 2000s as the Hall Baltimore millenium. Which I guess makes it the winner by a nose. So I say unto you all, go out there and live as Hall Baltimore would: get wasted, pass out, and have the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe solve all your problems. And watch out for, I guess, vampires?
Thanks for the best Chainsawnukah ever, everyone. And if you enjoyed going on this journey with me and would like more, check out my buddy Dan P’s own Halloween odyssey.
Rankings! Pinhead Sez:
Transcendent Greatness (1 puzzlebox)
Genuinely Fuckin’ Terrific. (5 hooks)
Plague of the Zombies
Nosferatu: The Vampyre
Twixt (The Hall Baltimore Story)
Night of the Demon
People Under the Stairs
Enjoyable but Flawed (4 hooks)
John Carpenter’s Body Bags
The Curse of Frankenstein
Bride of Chucky
Alice, Sweet Alice
Poison for the Faeries
We are What We Are
Lisa and the Devil
April Fool’s Day
The Possession (barely)
The American Scream
Serviceable Genre Crap (3 hooks)
The House That Dripped Blood
Child’s Play 3
Child’s Play 2
Watcher in the Attic
House on Haunted Hill
V/H/S 2 (but the Gareth Evans segment by itself is a five-hooker)
The Sleeping Car
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
Barely tolerable, possibly salvageable through copious consumption of mind-altering substances. (2 hooks)
The Evil of Frankenstein
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
My Soul To Take
Unwatchable Garbage. (1 hook)
Return of the Blind Dead
Edgar Allan Poe Volume 1: Annabelle Lee
*Somehow this is both a 4-hook and a 2-hook effort. Live with it.
HAPPY CHAINSAWNUKAH everyone! See ya next year!