Chainsawnukah Holiday Wrap-Up
CHAINSAWNUKAH 2014 CHECKLIST!
It's been a wild Chainsawnukah that took
more than a month til literally the end of time to wind down. What have we learned? Let's break down the numbers!
LITERARY ADAPTATION: IIIII IIIII IIIII II
HORNS, DRACULA 3D, BLEEDERS, REFLECTION OF FEAR, DEVIL DOLL, THE UNSEEABLE, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, HOUSE OF WAX, THE AWAKENING, MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (claimed), BANSHEE CHAPTER, VAULT OF HORROR, THE DEVIL COMMANDS, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, BOOK OF BLOOD, DEAD OF NIGHT
Plenty of beloved horror authors represented, including the always reliable Lovecraft (BLEEDERS and BANSHEE CHAPTER) and Clive Barker (BOOK OF BLOOD). But also a few more classic takes, including Bram Stoker (DRACULA and THE AWAKENING) Victor Hugo (THE MAN WHO LAUGHS) and a pile of various reworkings of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (the Hammer Frankenstein cycle, FRANKENSTEIN THEORY, and BLOOD BEAST TERROR in which entomology students stage an uncredited stage version of the book). We also have our first ever apparently fictional credit, with MILL OF THE STONE WOMAN’s inexplicable claim to having been adapted from the (as near as I can tell) nonexistent Flemish Tales by “Pieter van Weigen.”
Notable Absence: Not a single Poe adaptation even claimed this year. And significantly less authors who show up in stories. The only one I recall this year is Ernest Hemingway, who shows up in TUSK. And I suppose arguably Ted Levine’s thinly disguised take on Hunter Thompson in BANSHEE CHAPTER.
SEQUEL: IIII IIIII IIII
Is Sequel: THE WOMAN, THE PURGE 2, arguably VAULT OF HORROR (sequel to TALES FROM THE CRYPT, based on the same material), FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, CANDYMAN 2, V/H/S/ VIRAL
Has Sequel: ROCK N ROLL NIGHTMARE, TUSK (claimed to be part 1 of a not-yet-released trilogy) arguably TALES FROM THE CRYPT (VAULT OF HORROR follows, based on the same material)
Has a Sequel AND is a sequel: THE GHOST GALLEON, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Biggest sequel missed opportunity: SUNDOWN: A VAMPIRE IN RETREAT, THE REPTILE, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Biggest sequel surprise: they seriously made a sequel to ROCK N ROLL NIGHTMARE 20 years later?!
Is a Remake: CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE
Has a Remake: THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, TALES FROM THE CRYPT
Is AND has a Remake: HOUSE OF WAX 3D
Most Surprising Lack of Remake: Surely we're due for a better version of THE AWAKENING by now?
FOREIGNER: IIIII IIIII IIIII III
Lots of English films this year, mostly I suppose because of the abundance of Hammer I indulged in. Only one Japanese film, though? What the hell is wrong with me? How did Canada nearly do better than Italy?
Spain: I (+2 arguable, ED GEIN was a Spanish/Portuguese co-production, shot in America, and Nacho Vigalondo's segment from V/H/S VIRAL is Spanish and filmed in Spain as near as I can tell)
Italy: IIIII I (+3 arguable, MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN was an Italian/French Co-production, THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE was an Italian/Australian co-production, and WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK was an American/Italian co-production)
England: IIIII IIIII II
France: (arguably one, the French/Italian Co-production on MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN)
Australian: I (+1 arguable, THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE was an Italian/Australian co-production)
FOUND-FOOTAGE CLUSTERFUCK: IIIII
(this counts stuff like THE CANAL and LOVELY MOLLY which only have elements of found footage and are not entirely unwatchable. Even so, it was an inspiringly low count this year)
SLUMMING A-LISTER: Some good ones this year, including a raft of down-on-their-luck Academy-Award winners or nominees. We got: Daniel Radcliffe, Koji Yakusho, Emilio Estevez, Viggo Mortensen, Haley Joel Osment, Joan Collins, and Charleton Heston for sure, as well as a pre-fame Charles Bronson.
Then you’ve also got maybe-not-quite A-list but still impressive names like Thomas Kretschmann, Rutger Hauer (twice!), Kelly McGinnis, Peter Stormare, Rupert Evans, Justin Long, AA winner Ben Johnson, AA winner Catalina Sandino Moreno, AA nominated James Earl Jones, AA nominees Mary Ure and Sondra Locke, AA nominee Lynn Carlin, AA-nominee Susannah York, AA nominated John Ireland, AA-nominated Valentina Cortese, AA-nominated Abigail Breslin, AA winner Ray Milland, Ralph Richardson, Ted Levine, Warner Oland, Robert Shaw. M. Emmet Walsh and Michael Redgrave
Directors of note: Mike Newell, Bill Condon
And did we ever decide if Edgar Winter counted?
BELOVED HORROR ICON: Lots of great ones this year, but two names stand out: Peter Cushing (in some of his strongest roles) and Larry Fessenden, who not only appeared in two films this year but produced them as well, and directed one of the year’s most pleasurable surprises.
In total we got: Rutger Hauer (twice!), Asia Argento, Lance Henriksen, Veronica Cartwright, Larry Fessenden (twice!), Danielle Harris, Angela Bettis, Brad Dourif, Tony Todd, Bruce Campbell, Christopher Lee (three times!) Peter Cushing (an unprecedented seven times!) Vincent Price (twice!), Michael Parks (twice!), Boris Karloff (twice!), Peter Lorre, John Saxon (twice!) and Doug Bradley in a <5 second wordless cameo in BOOK OF BLOOD.
Others of note include, Andrew Prine (TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, LORDS OF SALEM, AMITYVILLE 2, GRIZZLY), Dagmar Lassander (HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, WEREWOLF WOMAN) Steve Railsback (LIFEFORCE, X-Files) Wolfgang Preiss (the later Dr. Mabuse films) Conrad Veidt (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) Andre Morrell (PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES), David Carradine (Q THE WINGED SERPENT, TRICK OR TREAT), Denholm Elliott (TO THE DEVIL, A DAUGHTER), Stephen McHattie (HAUNTER, EXIT HUMANITY, PONTYPOOL)
Directors of note: David Schmoeller, Lucky McKee, Dario Argento, Mario Bava (twice!), Larry Fessenden, Renny Harlin, Jim Mickle, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Terence Fisher (five times!), Bob Clark, Umberto Lenzi (maybe), Vincenzo Natali, Jacques Tourneur, Paul Leni, Freddie Francis, Lucio Fulci, Eduardo Sanchez, Nacho Vigalondo.
BOOBIES: IIIII IIIII III (full disclosure: I genuinely do not remember if they were in CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE or THE WOMAN, there sure could have been but I’m not certain)
(obviously this counts "movies with boobs in them" and does not represent a boob-by-boob total, in which case the number would obviously be at least twice as high.
(obviously this counts "movies with boobs in them" and does not represent a boob-by-boob total, in which case the number would obviously be at least twice as high.
SEXUAL ASSAULT: IIIII IIIII III (I believe there’s one in REFLECTION OF FEAR, too, but its a little too vague to be sure. Several reviews noted it, but I must have missed it both times I watched). Most uncomfortable: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED. Most harmless: V/H/S VIRAL.
DISMEMBERMENT PLAN: IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII I
Head: IIIII IIIII IIIII I
Limb: IIIIII IIIII I
Totally fucking obliterated: II
Skin removed: III
Tail removed: I
Turned into Walrus: I
Lots of violence this year, plenty of head choppin’ and limb-severing, plus a few...ah, more creative efforts. TUSK may well be the most gruesome. There are some brutal death scenes in PRISON, ALYCE KILLS, and THE AWAKENING, and even the nearly-unwatchable BOOK OF BLOOD has one awesome bit of gore at the beginning where a chick gets her face ripped off. But the most satisfying gorehound prize must be awarded immediately to THE WOMAN, which also has the most satisfying targets for that violence.
HAUNTED HOUSE: IIIII IIII
Haunted by Demons: III
Haunted by Ghosts/miscellaneous: IIIII
Haunted Galleon: I
Haunted Motorcycle: I
Haunted Prison: I
Lots of good hauntings this year, standouts probably being LOVELY MOLLY and AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR. Interestingly, Demonic hauntings nearly caught up with ghostly ones this year.
MONSTER: IIIII IIIII IIIII IIII
No shortage of monsters here, but not really a whole lot of great ones. The Babadook is far and away my favorite design; you don’t really get to see the Lovecraftian horrors in V/H/S VIRAL or BANSHEE CHAPTER, and when we did get to see them in BLEEDERS they were infuriating dray dollops of off-brand muppet. You got some demons around, but they don’t offer much fun from a design perspective. The BLOOD BEAST TERROR offers an amusing daffy monster, and the sasquatch-man from FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL is good for a few chuckles, but neither is anywhere near good in the traditional sense of the word. Aside from the Babadook, the year’s most loveable critter is probably the reptile from THE REPTILE, which looks ridiculous but at least sports a nice design with wacky bug eyes. In terms of winning effort, though, nothing tops the scrappy charm of the muppet menagerie in ROCK N’ ROLL NIGHTMARE.
NOTE: Despite the characteristic use of the word in describing Frankenstein’s “monster,” I did not count any of the Frankenstein sequels except MONSTER FROM HELL, because most just feature various humans with their brains switched around.
THE UNDEAD: IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII I
Ghost: IIIII IIIII IIIII III
Non-Zombie Revived Corpse: IIIII IIII
Zombies really took a backseat this year, I suppose because I didn’t feel legit categorizing the many versions of Frankenstein’s “monster” as zombies. That’s a change from last year, when I DID include the “monsters” in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN in the zombies category, but oddly both those movies have a different flavor than the ones I watched this year, which trended away from lumbering, inarticulate killing machines and towards normal humans who ended up with their brains (or, in the case of FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, souls) swapped into another body.
POSSESSION: IIIII IIIII IIIII III
Still a somewhat nebulous category, but I feel confident in these 17.
SLASHER/GIALLO: IIIII IIIII
Unusually high number of slashers this year, considering they’re probably my least-favorite horror trope. HOUSE OF WAX was really the only one that was anywhere near decent, though BODY PUZZLE and WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK have a few decent gimmicky kills between them. I appreciate THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN more for its folksy amateur enthusiasm than I do for its masked killer, but it’s still probably one of the most effective uses of this particular subgenre I watched this year.
PSYCHO KILLERS (Non-slasher variety): IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII
Now this is more my scene, obviously. The Woman from THE WOMAN and Andy from DEATHDREAM are probably the best characters in this category, creating seriously unique and even iconic characterizations. But fair’s fair, I have to admit I sort of loved Steve Railsback’s giggly, pathetic take on Ed Gein, too, which just shows you don’t need a good movie to have a good psycho.
EVIL CULT: IIIII IIII
Got some strong contenders with the evil yellow-robed vampire-worshippers in STAKE LAND, the skeleton cult in VHS VIRAL, the backwoods mud-worshippers in JUG FACE and, of course, whatever the fuck was going on in EYES OF FIRE. But the most important lesson about dealing with cults comes from THE REPTILE: NEVER FUCK WITH THE SNAKE PEOPLE OF BORNEO, THEY WILL FUCK YOUR SHIT RIGHT BACK UP.
(UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS: IIIII IIII
Even somehow missing any Chuckys this year, still managed more movies with an evil doll aspect than I did Italian films. I’m just a magnate for these things, I guess. DEAD OF NIGHT probably introduced the world to the evil doll trope, and is almost certainly its highest aspiration. This year did add one clever twist to the formula: for the first time ever, there’s a killer doll movie (I won’t say which one) where the doll actually turns out to be the good guy! Way to break the stereotype, unnamed movie!
TRANSMOGRIFICATION: IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII II
I had a feeling about this topic when the year started off with the body-dysmorphic nightmare of TUSK, and lo and behold, the year delivered the most prolific category. We got people turning into zombies, vampires, werewolves, were-reptiles, demons, bullets. We got gender swaps, body swaps, brain swaps, soul swaps, we got multiple people turning into wax dummies, and one reanimated zombie corpse that turns into some sort of weird mutated zombie bird, I guess? We got physical disfigurement (the many FRANKENSTEINS, TUSK, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, ED GEIN) and psychological transfigurement (ALYCE KILLS, LOVELY MOLLY, THE CANAL), and of course, we, the viewers, had our own lives changed forever due to the power of Rock n’ Roll evidenced in ROCK N ROLL NIGHTMARE. That’s more transformations than the transformingest transformer on on a drunken transformer New Years, and I’d wager the entire run of 64 movies here cost less than the four Michael Bay variations on that theme.
OBSCURITY LEVEL: (subjectively rated, with the far end of “low” being TITANIC and the far end of “high” being that movie you and your friends made on VHS in middle school). Of the 64 films here, I rated PURGE 2 the lowest, since it had a reasonably successful run recently in mainstream theaters, and EYES OF FIRE the highest, since it never even had a proper theatrical release and has never even been available on DVD.
low mid high
I III I I I IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII I II I I IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Every year I worry that I’ve just watched all the good horror movies that exist, and that next year I won’t have any more. But frankly as the years go by I’m getting less and less worried about that. There are always more horror movies.
TITLE ACCURACY:: Average 80%
(possibly too confusing to judge:)
At the Devil’s Door
A Reflection of Fear
ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE:
Awake: IIIII IIIII III
N/A: IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII IIIII I
The good news is: she’s staying awake through more movies. The ratio was about 50:50 last year, so this year's 13:3 is a marked improvement. The bad new is: she’s taking a miss on more, too.
Every year we try to be on the lookout to see where the whims of fate take us. This year the focus shifted to women, with THE WOMAN, WEREWOLF WOMAN, and even FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, (not to mention girls in GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and THE PYJAMA CASE GIRL) and a nice compliment of female protagonists, from the put-upon single mom of THE BABADOOK to the feisty young sleuth in GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH to the tormented THALE to the frustrated Alyce in ALYCE KILLS to the resourceful underwear-bound (just like DIE HARD!) protective older sister fighting a tiger (like ya do) in BURNING BRIGHT. Even a few stodgy old classics got a female makeover, especially Dario Argento's surprisingly woman-centric take on DRACULA 3D and the all-female real-estate ensemble in AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR.
The other unexpected theme was mad science, as we rode the rollercoaster of moral ambiguity that was Hammer's Frankenstein series with Peter Cushing, suffered tragic madness with Boris Karloff in THE DEVIL COMMANDS, and listened to the moronic brain-killing pseudoscientific claptrap in FRANKENSTEIN THEORY, WEREWOLF WOMAN, and GHOST GALLEON.
And of course, this year turned out to be a relative job fair of unusual professions which can be counted on to turn sinister. We learned that botanists are selfish, murderous dickholes in WEREWOLF OF LONDON, entomologists are shifty, vampire-moth-harboring villains in THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, and Egyptologists are cold, unfeeling sociopaths in THE AWAKENING. But it didn't stop there, we find Jesters menacing people in THE MAN WHO LAUGHED, meteorologists and fashion magnates teaming up in a kidnapping plot in THE GHOST GALLEON, Zookeepers unleashing evil tigers on autistic children in BURNING BRIGHT, another fashion magnate turning to murder in HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON, innkeepers siding with the forces of evil in THE UNSEEABLE and HORROR HOTEL, and major religious figures causing trouble all over the place, in EYES OF FIRE, STAKE LAND, CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE, and JUG FACE, (though to be fair, Lance Henriksen plays a monster-truck-fighting priest in NIGHTMARES, and a drunken local vicar aids Sherlock Holmes in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. But then it turns out that same vicar moonlights as a shifty entomologist, so that probably evens him out to neutral).
Really, the only profession we learned we could trust this year would be bartenders, one of whom really goes above and beyond the call of duty in THE REPTILE. Stay thirsty, my friends.
TRASHIEST: Though WEREWOLF WOMAN is certainly the sleaziest, WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK probably takes the trash crown, skating past possible contender THE GHOST GALLEON on the strength of multiple leering wet T-shirt contest sequences which involve literally no one in the large cast.
CLASSIEST: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS has a pretty impressive pedigree, but from a horror standpoint it’s hard to top COMEDY OF TERRORS, with its all-star cast and crew. THE BABADOOK was on NPR film critic David Edelstein’s top 10 list this year so it probably counts too.
BIGGEST SURPRISE(s): THE WHIP AND THE BODY came very near the “classiest” list. That THE BABADOOK came out of nowhere and really blew me away, and so did BENEATH, which I wasn't expecting much from.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT(s): The Renny Harlin/ Viggo Mortensen team-up PRISON has its moments but is mostly disappointingly forgettable. The Clive Barker Book of Blood adaptation BOOK OF BLOOD contains no actual stories from Book of Blood and also wastes Doug Bradley.
MOST INEXPLICABLE: TUSK, of course.
SPECIAL AWARD FOR BRAVERY IN THE FACE OF STRAIGHT UP STUPIDITY: ROCK N’ ROLL NIGHTMARE, what else could it possibly be? Runner up: BURNING BRIGHT.
Thanks for the best Chainsawnukah ever, again, everyone. And if you enjoyed going on this journey with me and would like more, check out my buddy Dan P's twitter summation of a whole lot of the same thing. It's most of the same movies, and you only have to read a witty sentence instead of an average of 687,000 words like you do here!
Fookin’ Classic, man:
Genuinely great, any problems far outweighed by pleasures:
Interesting but flawed / Strong but short of true greatness:
* Somehow this is simultaneously a four-thumb AND a two-thumb effort, that is how powerful their love of rock is.
Serviceable genre crap / Seriously flawed but with a few saving graces:
Barely tolerable but possibly improved with booze and bitchiness:
*simultaneously a four-thumb AND a two-thumb effort, that is how powerful their love of rock is.