The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre (2013) review

spanish chainsaw massacre posterDirector: Manolito Motosierra

Starring: Pedro García Oliva, Óscar Gisbert, Nereida López

Also known as: Carnívoros

OSCAR – “Before we have sex, I need to know your name.”

YOLANDA – “They call me… Spain’s bitch.”

OSCAR – “Oh! Yeah! That’s right. Ole to your father. Not Maria, or Theresa, but Spain’s bitch. Direct and patriotic, I like it.”

In my view, it’s all well and good making a gore movie as long as there’s a half-decent plot to back it up. The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre sticks two fingers up to this notion, before presumably chopping them off.

When the story’s so basic that the entire film can be summed up with a single sentence that speaks volumes, so here goes:

A band called The Metal Dicks have problems with their van while on the road, so they head to the nearest village, which is populated by cannibals who set about eating them.

That’s really all there is to it. There are no twists and – unless you count the ones an unwitting viewer’s stomach will take while watching – no turns. Continue reading “The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre (2013) review”

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Cannibal Holocaust (1980) (Video Nasty review #8)

Cannibal Holocaust posterDirector: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Gabriel Yorke, Luca Barbareschi

TV EXECUTIVE – “Today people want sensationalism. The more you rape their senses the happier they are.”

PROFESSOR MONROE – “Ah, yes, that’s typical western thought. Civilised, isn’t it? That’s what Alan thought and that’s why he’s dead. The Yacumo Indian is a primitive and he has to be respected as such. You know, did you ever think of the Yacumo point of view? That we might be the savages?”

Note: Other then the official film poster above, the rest of the images in this review have deliberately been chosen to hide some of the film’s gorier, more offensive scenes. Despite this, the review still features descriptions of these scenes and as such those with a weak stomach may wish to just give this film their own score of zero and move on.

The story goes that when Sergio Leone – the legendary Italian director of Once Upon A Time In The West and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – first saw Cannibal Holocaust, he felt compelled to write a letter to his friend Ruggero Deodato, the film’s director.

It read: “Dear Ruggero, what a movie! The second part is a masterpiece of cinematographic realism, but everything seems so real that I think you will get in trouble with all the world.”

He was right. Cannibal Holocaust was eventually banned in numerous countries (the unofficial estimate is around 50, including the UK and its native Italy), and such was the realistic nature of the on-screen deaths that Deodato was actually arrested and held on trial under suspicion of murder of the four main actors – a charge he was only able to drop after getting all four actors to appear at the courtroom. Continue reading “Cannibal Holocaust (1980) (Video Nasty review #8)”

Beware: Children At Play (1989)

Director: Mik Cribben

Starring: Michael Robertson, Rich Hamilton, Robin Lilly, Lori Tirgrath

“Tear her to pieces! Bite through the bone! Gulp the blood! Gobble the flesh!” (Glen Randall, Beware: Children At Play)

The fine people at Troma specialise in making and distributing incredibly low-budget films that, while lacking in spectacle, certainly aren’t lacking in ambition and sheer balls. Beware: Children At Play is one such movie, one with a plot so taboo there’s no way it’d be distributed by a big studio.

It tells the story of John DeWolfe, an author who specialises in crime and the paranormal. He travels to the countryside with his wife and daughter to visit his friend Ross, who’s a sheriff in a tiny country town. Ross’s daughter has been missing for weeks, as have many of the other children in the area, and he wants to know if John has any ideas on how to find them.

It's so much like Children Of The Corn they've even got a corpse up on a cross

What they don’t realise is that all the missing kids – Ross’s daughter included – have formed an odd group of feral children who, under the leadership of an older, manipulative teenager, roam the woods killing and eating anyone who steps onto their turf. Sometimes one of them will head back to the town to lure adults into following them into the woods and to their death, or at times if it’s a woman who’s been trapped the older teen will rape her to try and keep the evil seed going. Or something, I dunno. It’s just an excuse to get some baps on the screen, though it’s pretty dodgy.  Continue reading “Beware: Children At Play (1989)”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Paul Partain

“I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.” (The Cook, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Though it was never technically a video nasty, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was refused a certificate for a theatrical release by the BBFC and as such remained banned for an astonishing 25 years in the UK. It actually wasn’t until 1999 that the film was finally given an 18 certificate and finally got a British cinema run. Quite a result for a film whose director was initially aiming for a PG rating.

This lengthy ban is particularly interesting when you consider that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is actually fairly tame by today’s standards, at least in terms of graphic content. Indeed, there’s actually very little on-screen violence at all – instead the film relies on the power of suggestion to terrify audiences. In a way its real downfall was that it worked too well.

Say what you will about Leatherface, he could give Gok Wan a run for his money with a sewing machine

The film tells the story of Sally, her brother and their three friends who are taking a trip to Texas to stay at Sally’s grandfather’s house out in the countryside. There have been reports that some ne’er-do-wells have been robbing graves, so after a brief stop at the graveyard to check her granddad’s grave is still intact, Sally and chums head on down the road. They pick up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be a bit mental, but it soon turns out that’s just the start of their problems when they happen upon the Sawyer house.

You see, it soon emerges that all the graverobbings have been committed by a weird, possibly in-bred family who live together in a huge country house decorated with their own macabre creations. There are lamps made with human skin, chandeliers made out of bones and armchairs that quite literally have arms on them. That’s what happens when you live too far from an Ikea.

She couldn't believe how bad The X Factor was this year

One by one Sally’s friends discover the Sawyer house while out wandering, and one by one they encounter Leatherface, the huge mentally troubled son of the household who’s taken on the “mother” role. Being the “mother”, Leatherface is in charge of preparing the dinner, and being that the family are a bunch of cannibals, that means capturing his new guests and turning them into that night’s dinner.

This leads to some of the more infamous scenes in ’70s horror, including one in which a young chap is smacked in the head with a mallet, his legs convulsing as the skull fragments enter his brain. Then there’s the notorious ‘meathook scene’ in which a girl is dragged into the kitchen and literally hoisted up and onto a meathook through her bare back, then writhes around screaming while Leatherface cuts her boyfriend’s head off with a chainsaw.

Bob's Princess Diana joke didn't go down all that well

Incredibly, despite the gruesome descriptions there is very little blood spilled in these scenes. You never see the hammer hit the head, you never see the meathook going in the back, you never see the chainsaw actually touching anyone. Using the same principle that The Human Centipede would copy 35 years later, the film relies on the audience’s ability to fill in the gaps themselves. Whereas actually seeing a meathook pierce the victim may not have worked out so well because the effect could have been hokey and unrealistic (especially given the film’s shoestring budget), by cutting away just before impact the viewer imagines the worst possible outcome in their head and it becomes far more powerful than it ever could have had it been shown.

The final scene is almost hypnotic to watch. It's both terrifying and oddly beautiful at the same time

Despite its incredibly low budget (the whole film cost around $83,500 to make) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an impressive looking movie at times. It’s clear that director Tobe Hooper (who would go on to do Poltergeist) had a good eye for effective shots at this early stage in his career, and some – such as the van picking up the hitch-hiker and Leatherface’s frustrated tantrum at the end of the movie – are breathtaking.

The cast are also believable too. The five teens each have their own distinct personalities and although it’s clear that Sally and her brother are the main characters and given more opportunity for character development, you can ultimately relate to all five. Meanwhile, the Sawyer family are all as mental as a washing machine filled with bacon and this really comes across well in their performances, particularly Gunnar Hansen as the neglected, scared and yet terrifying Leatherface.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic in the horror genre. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, and while it’s tame by today’s standards some many still not like the unrelenting nature of the horror (the final 30 minutes in particular are essentially non-stop screaming, mental torture and noise). If you can stomach the insanity though you’ll find yourself stunned at how such a low budget could produce such an effective film. Essential.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
British would-be Texas Chainsaw viewers with a Blu-ray player can get the stunning “Seriously Ultimate” edition for less than a tenner by clicking here, otherwise you can get the three-disc DVD by clicking here. Both have the same features (hours upon hours of great documentaries), but the Blu-ray fits it all on a single disc and naturally looks a lot better too.
American peeps, meanwhile, can get the Blu-ray here and the DVD here.

Cannibal (2010)

Director: Benjamin Viré

Starring: Nicolas Gob, Helena Coppejans, Eric Godon, Philippe Nahon

“You want to change things? To alter nature? Nobody changes. A prat stays a prat, fat guys stay fat. A whore is a whore, a monster is a monster, whatever the clothes they’re wearing.” (criminal, Cannibal)

Spare a thought for Max (Nicolas Gob). After a nasty past he doesn’t want to think about – but one you can bet will be brought up later in the movie – he’s become an agoraphobic, scared of unfamiliar environments or those where he has no control. Living a loner’s life in a cabin in the woods, Max only rarely leaves, usually to practice his golf. It’s a bit like how Tiger Woods must have been living in the days following the old ‘sinking the ball in two’ scandal.

"Shit. Better check for golf ball marks then get the hell out of here"

One day during his practice Max comes across the body of a young woman (Coppejans) lying in the grass, covered in blood. He takes her home and washes her off, but notices she has no wounds – either someone’s got the painters in or that’s not her blood. Naming the girl Bianca (she doesn’t give her own name), Max develops an odd relationship with her, one in which he falls in love but has issues with her touching him because of his condition.

"Oh dear, it would appear you've caught me with my pants down. And my gums round some poor bugger's neck"

Things get significantly less normal one night when Bianca leaves the house. Upon realising she’s gone missing Max gives chase and finds her having sex with some random bloke shortly before munching into him like he was a big human-shaped apple. Yes, Bianca is a cannibal, and she gets her rocks off by shagging blokes then eating them. Not my cup of tea but then, who am I to judge – I like listening to Cyndi Lauper and watching films about midget spies.

Disgusted but intrigued, Max realises he still loves Bianca, and so the two form an odd unspoken agreement that they’ll have a relationship while she continues to eat people. There are people looking for Bianca though, people who want to bring her back to the life she was running from.

Bianca's suggestion that she pop out for a bite to eat was met with negativity

Despite its name, premise and gory DVD cover, Cannibal isn’t actually the madcap gorefest you may be expecting. It’s actually a very artistically shot French movie that shares far more with the likes of the fantastic Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance) than it does with Zombie Flesh Eaters, Cannibal Holocaust et al.

There are some interesting stylistic choices made throughout the film, in particular with regards to colour. The forest scenes are moody and washed out, the colours deliberately muddy and the film quality deliberately gritty, grainy and decidedly low-budget arthouse. When Max travels to the city later in the movie however everything is shot in black-and-white, causing the once drab colour scheme of the forest to suddenly seem vibrant and full of life when Max has flashbacks.

Max submits his entry for the 2011 Understatement Of The Year contest

If you’re expecting gore by the bucketload here, you’re going to be disappointed. There are only one or two scenes of actual cannibalism in this film and only one of these is grimace-inducing. It’s just not that sort of film, instead focusing on the relationship between Max and Bianca and his search for her after she goes missing in the second act.

Cannibal is a slow-paced, artistic film with curious cinematography and an interesting overall feel to it. As long as you’re not expecting Dawn Of The Dead and are willing to try to click with something less visceral, you may find it to be one of the most rewarding horror films this year. Its ambiguous ending will split opinion when the film is released in late September, but it’s well worth a watch.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Cannibal will be out on DVD in the UK on 26 September. If you like the sound of it you can pre-order it for £8.99 by clicking here. If you live in the US, there are no plans to release it there yet so you might have to bite the bullet and order it from the UK store too using the same link.