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“This Was Supposed to Be a Spiritual Experience”: The Mid-Nineties Ennui of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation”…

This Saturday, I’ll be discussing Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first.

I’ve never been able to watch it with any kind of perspective. To me it just looks like some crude backyard movie a bunch of kids slapped together. There seems to me to be, on one hand, a group of people who were strictly horror fans who venerated it. Only over time has it come to occupy a very peculiar position, and I still don’t have any concept of what that is. I think we just wanted to hang a bunch of people on meat hooks, chop ’em up, and sell tickets at the theatre.

– Kim Henkel discusses The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is a very nineties film, speaking to a very unique set of nineties anxieties.

There is something very revealing and candid about certain kinds of bad movies. Of course, many bad movies are just bad, hacky executions of well-worn concepts without any insight or skill to anchor them. However, there are some bad movies that seem driven by a strange source of passion and energy, which makes them bizarre snapshots of a particular time and place. It is almost a sort of candour, an unguarded bluntness, that allows them to articulate their perspective without any of the consideration or care of a better film.

The Next Generation is one of those films. It is, to be entirely clear, a terrible film. It is sloppily constructed. It is terribly framed. It is incoherently plotted. Its characters are drawn in the crudest of terms. Most damningly, it combines two particularly awful subgenres of the “bad movie” archetype. It is both a horror movie that is not scary and a black comedy that is not funny. It is, by all accounts, a disaster. Watching the film, the question isn’t how the release was delayed for three years. Instead, the question becomes how the film was ever released at all.

However, whether in spite of because of all of this, The Next Generation feels like a weird snapshot of a particular mid-nineties mood. Somehow, while groping around in the darkness, it accidentally puts its finger on the pulse.

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Non-Review Review: The Curse of La Llorona

The Curse of La Llorona is fairly solid as contemporary studio horrors go.

Although the arrival of Avengers: Endgame has a lot of attention focused on the largest and most successful shared cinematic universe of the twenty-first century, there is a lot to be said for the strange horror universe that has been built outwards from The Conjuring. Although this trend is most overt in The Conjuring 2, the rare horror movie to also feature a car chase sequence, there is something fascinating in how these films have transformed studio horror into a blockbuster concern.

Mother have mercy.

There is a reason that these films are released during the summer months, as counter-intuitive as that might seem. Again, discussing The Curse of La Llorona in such terms might seem cynical, but it is genuinely striking. It takes a lot of work to satisfy the competing demands of the two genres; the shock of horror with the familiarity of blockbuster storytelling. The challenge with The Curse of La Llorona lies in offering audiences something that satisfies all their expectations of a film like this, while still offering a few shocks and starts along the way. It is a remarkable accomplishment.

The Curse of La Llorona strikes that balance relatively well. The film knows the formats and rhythms of a horror film, and director Michael Chaves knows both what the audience expects and how to work within that format to build a genuine and compelling sense of dread. The Curse of La Llorona is well-made, efficient, and delivers what the audience anticipates from a Conjuring spin-off. There’s something endearing in the reliability, in the care with which the film strikes these sorts of balances.

Scream queen.

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The X-Files – Oubliette (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

There’s a plausible argument to be made a large part of The X-Files‘ third season is doing what worked in the first and second seasons, only better.

The Walk feels very similar to a less racist and sexist version of Excelsis Dei. 2Shy decides to split the difference between Tooms and Irresistible, with David Nutter directing. The show keeps the mythology two-parters during sweeps, and David Duchovny gets to contribute to two key stories over the course of the season. It’s not a bad approach, and it pays dividends. There is a reason that the third season of The X-Files works as well as it does. It’s a ruthlessly efficient television production machine.

Drowning his sorrows...

Drowning his sorrows…

If that argument holds water, then perhaps Oubliette can be seen as an update to Aubrey. Both stories build on the idea that horrific crimes leave very lasting consequences, and that women often have to live with the scars inflicted by men. More broadly, they are shows about our relationship with history – the idea that the past cannot ever be escaped, and that violence and pain tend to linger on years after they are initially inflicted.

Given the broader themes of the mythology in the third season, about the secret shameful legacy of America’s conduct in the aftermath of the Second World War, Oubliette plays like a thematic prelude to Nisei and 731. However, that doesn’t do the episode justice. Oubliette is a thoughtful, moving and sentimental episode that tempers its darkness with the very faintest traces of optimism. While it is a story about abuse and exploitation and neglect and failure, it is also a story about empathy.

Shining some light on the issue...

Shining some light on the issue…

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Are Zombies the Monster of the 21st Century?

They say that horror movies and (before that) ghost stories reflect the unconscious fears of the time. So, for example, vampires allayed the fear of burying members of the community alive – if there were scratch marks on the inside of their coffins, it was because they were monsters, not because your doctor made a mistake. Or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a cautionary tale for a society just on the cusp of the age of reason – a warning not to dive too far into that pool labelled ‘scientific progress’. Monster stories and ghost stories allow us to put aside our fears even for a moment by expressing them in their most ridiculous forms – I don’t think that facet of human nature has disappeared over the past century or so. If we accept this line of reasoning, are zombies the current expression of our deeply buried fears? And, if so, of what?

At least they are taking good care of their teeth...

At least they are taking good care of their teeth...

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