Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obscure Beauty: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)



Something Rank (#1)

With this series I'll be counting down (rather counting up) the franchise fare of the four major celluloid boogeymen: Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and everyone's favorite transvestite country bumpkin, Leatherface. From worst to best, a grand total of 36 films -- there's so much pleasure to be found in absolute disgust! Brace yourselves, it gets BAD before it gets sublime.

The countdown concludes. Phew...

Previous Entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29) (#28-25)
(#24-21) (#20-17) (#16-15)
(#14-13) (#12-11) (#10-9)
(#8-7) (#6-5) (#4)
(#3) (#2)

(#1) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

"Who will survive? And what will be left of them?"

On August 18, 1973, John Laroquette narrated what could easily be the makings for the most somber episode of Night Court...

"The film which you are about to see is an account of a tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much as the mad and macabre as they were to see that night. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

Sunbaked, moonlit macabre swirling about a chaotic Texas wasteland, Tobe Hooper's classic tale of, "An idyllic summer afternoon drive," remains just as nerve-jangling, frenzied and fantastic as the day of its release. No matter the countless times teens have run out of gas in remote backwoods locales, the seminal film loses none of its visionary grit and bloodcurdling cosmic cruelty.

A spider's web of calculated madness unmatched in its subtle artistry and ferociously grim worldview, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's horoscopes, hitchhikers and highway roadkill all prophesize of overpowering cinematic doom. Pro-vegetarian postulating, post-Vietnam visionary, a satire of the American family, or exercise in unfiltered fear... It's all there in this deceptively simple slice-and-dice masterpiece. No house of horrors tale has felt as disturbingly realistic or easily grasping of such bone-dried dread. The elegant atmospheric build, manic sound design, fly-infested imagery, Marilyn Burns' hysteric screams from the very bowels of hell, and Leatherface's saw buzzing through to another sunrise... There are few films as harrowing, historic and utterly untouchable.

Both cinematic and documentary-like as we enter a crime scene just as it becomes one. Grating Franklin as he wheels, squeals, and finds permanent handicapped parking. Epic Final Girl, Sally Hardesty (Burns), as she screams and runs and screams and runs and screams and screams and screams... The score composed of eerie flash bulbs, crackling branches, scraping bone and scratched metal. The deep rumbles of percussion accompanying the impossibly scorching sunlight or the oppressive full moon. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre builds to a crescendo of hopeless hysteria that leaves one buzzing with enough doom and adrenaline to far outlast Leatherface's chainsaw. Decades later it's still a terrifying family portrait that leaves viewers traumatized, tenderized, and hung out to dry.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Leatherface "Daywear"

2) Leatherface, Ladykiller

3) Another day at the office

4) The Cook
Mean BBQ... And just plain mean.

5) The Hitchhiker

"My family's always been in meat."

6) Grandpa
Alive and (involuntarily) kicking

7) Grandma
She never did talk much...

8) The Sawyer Family Pooch
"Dog will hunt." Unless, of course, he's hollow.

My Thoughts Exactly...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Something Rank (#2)

The countdown continues...

Previous Entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29) (#28-25)
(#24-21) (#20-17) (#16-15)
(#14-13) (#12-11) (#10-9)
(#8-7) (#6-5) (#4) (#3)

(#2) Halloween (1978)

"The Night HE Came Home..."

"The blackest eyes... The devil's eyes..." The eyes of an eight-year-old boy who saw to turning a holiday not for making profits but for making cuts. Who saw something more than pumpkins in need of being carved. A seasonal icon whose face is memorialized in shops across the country, in window displays, on mannequins, and under the heading "True Crime." How did Michael Myers have the foresight behind those alternatingly shallow and endless black eye sockets? To know he would become as crucial to seasonal carnage as the urban myth of the razor blade in the candy apple?

More of a "suburban" legend, Michael Myers' legacy has lingered like a madman in the shrubs. Simple family homicide that continues to tear his hometown to shreds. What began with a boy playing butcher knife in his sister's bedroom has evolved to Michael's "boogeyman"-level infamy. Was he ever really just a child or was it a mask all along?

John Carpenter's consummate chiller tingles with its equally iconic score, settling on a serene Americana as it settles into night. A surreal anniversary on neighborhood streets on the eve when, "Everyone's entitled to one good scare." Giggles of sugar-strung children streak through the Autumnal hues as a mental patient watches and waits, planning his trick. This time it's the horror genre's treat.

Like the holiday itself, John Carpenter's Halloween is all about the simple thrills. It's dressed up just enough to score all the goods. The seminal film uniquely pulses with tension as it leisurely stalks and stings its audience with a paranoia of the unknown in our own backyard. Atmosphere is essential to this otherwise simple story of stalk-and-slash, orchestrating what would become a terrifying brand name for suspense. Brainy/chaste babysitter Laurie Strode (the essential Jamie Lee Curtis) tends to the tots as they watch monster movies, unable to see the one building around her. Halloween effortlessly captures the palpable fear of shapes moving in the shadows, the raspy, heavy breaths on a telephone line, and the mysterious macabre of Midwest streets. With patience, persistence, and a passionate hatred for adolescents, Michael Myers transcended being just another small town horror story and became a historical horror icon. A face for the genre with simple, terrifying features.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Michael Audrey Myers:
Haddonfield's own pride and killjoy

2) "Can't I get your ghost, Bob?"

3) William Shatner in the house

4) Face to... Face?

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: (#1)

Catch "the buzz"...

Obscure Beauty: Walkabout (1971)

"Please try. It's silly to give in now. It can't be much further."