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Review

Harry says See Ya Later to Alamo Drafthouse South by watching the Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D & Tobe Hooper!!!

Wow – the last night of the old Alamo Drafthouse at South Lamar.   When the original ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE closed – it was an absolute end of an era.   The culture of that Drafthouse split up.  I know amongst my personal friends, it was never quite the same again – and when I say that, I mean it.

 

The original Alamo had a slight HAY smell, because behind the curtained walls were BAILS OF HAY.  The smell was sweet.  The theater had more awesome memories because everyone involved were all participating in something unlike anything they’d experienced in a movie theater before.   Essentially all of the ALAMO trappings were invented there.   The pre-shows before movies were wildly outrageous.  They felt dangerous & intense.   I still love the pre-shows, but they’re more cinema geek orientated usually.   Back then, you could see an old man drunk being tortured by assholes that happened to be family.   AH, the good ol days.

 

People often ask me what it is about the ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE on SOUTH LAMAR that makes it the “SPECIAL” Alamo in town.  I can’t answer that question for everybody, but I can answer it personally.

 

If I want to throw a special event in town, I always picked ALAMO SOUTH, unless it was booked.   Why?  Well, screen 2 at the Alamo South is the best sound I’ve ever heard in a movie theater.   It’s not just the quality, but the volume.   It makes the movie live through you.  It’s also the biggest non-IMAX screen in town.   AND the handicap seating area – Tim consulted me on, and yes – 3rd Row center is and always will be my favorite seat.  It was also the largest seating theater at the Drafthouse – and yet, I always screened BUTT-NUMB-A-THON in Theater 1.  The only flaw with Screen 2 is that it can’t play archive 35mm – something that BNAT requires.  My fondest wish, which has already been shot down, would be for the Alamo to move heaven and earth to allow Screen 2 in the refurbished Alamo South in 9 months to have the ability to do change-overs.  

 

Now about 90% of the events I’ve thrown at ALAMO SOUTH took place on Screen 2.  But the real reason that ALAMO SOUTH became the favorite Drafthouse in existence was quite simple.  FANTASTIC FEST took place there.   And FANTASTIC FEST changed film culture in Austin forever.  That week long insanity forged deep and permanent friendships.   It made faces familiar.   It made the environment come to life.   Those first few FANTASTIC FESTS – like the Karaoke til Dawn devastation.   Tim barely survived that.

 

But for me – the reason that ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE on South Lamar became my favorite Alamo…   EVER…   is because of what happened there on January 16th, 2006.  That was my second date with Yoko.   At the time I was writing reviews for Penthouse and seeing films quite early.   That day I had a screening of HARD CANDY, nobody anywhere had seen it yet, so I had little to no idea what to think.   The first date had gone very well.  So much so, that after Yoko pulled an all-nighter at her job, she went home, showered…  did her hair up beautiful…  really put her TIRED self together because she was going to meet my friends and father that morning.   It was Quint & Rav – and she was waiting inside the theater in the lobby and when I saw her…  sunlight streaming in…  I realized, Face it Tiger, you just hit the Jackpot!  HARD CANDY was awesome, but even funnier was when Yoko compared herself to the creepy dude and that I was the innocent schoolgirl (though obviously it was the reverse) – I realized, this Yoko is twisted enough to actually endure what I watch.

 

On a few perfect days in a year – we’d go and just watch 5 movies in a day there. 

 

THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE on South Lamar is temporarily closing for 9 months to birth a bigger version of itself with 3 additional screens.  Structurally, I’m told the part of the Alamo South that we know inside – isn’t actually changing that much.   3 Additional screens will be added, but not to the sacrifice of the existing screens.   ALSO – the Highball will become a part of the space – which is gonna make FANTASTIC FEST off the hook.   Seriously – this is going to rock.  I’m so excited for 9 months from now.

 

The Closing of the Alamo South also doesn’t mean I’m suspending having my fun gigs in town.   Hell, a week from today I’m hosting a Screening of THE LAST STAND with Arnold Schwarzeneggar in attendance at the ALAMO SLAUGHTER – where I will likely be making a whole host of new memories…  the sad part…  their biggest room has about 80 less seats than the biggest at ALAMO SOUTH, so tickets will be tough!

 

But tonight – the Alamo pulled out the stops – Had Don Coscarelli hosting a Fantastic Fest screening of JOHN DIES AT THE END, and I really wanted to be there for that one, but I was stuck at home getting my internet fixed so I could come home tonight to actually share this with you.     So I didn’t get to do that.  

 

Instead, I chose to celebrate the end of the ALAMO SOUTH with a double feature of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – the one from 1974 – this is one of my all time favorite movies.   I’ve told the story of the wrap party that took place at my Birthday and Tobe Hooper even mentioned that they had several wrap parties tonight while looking at my Dad & myself.   Dad went to film school with Tobe Hooper at the University of Texas – so I’ve known Tobe forever.     SO as soon as I heard he was going to be there, that sealed my choice.   THEN they were going to be screening TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D with it.  I wasn’t real sure how that’d turn out as I genuinely feel that very few films can follow the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – and although this new film was attempting to be a DIRECT SEQUEL to the original – and even though Tobe gave it his endorsement and was quite nice about it…   WELL…  it’s pretty goddamn stupid.

 

Now – before I cleave into TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, I want to talk a bit about the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – and why you should see TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, even if it does kind of suck shit straight out of your ass.

 

Watching this 35mm blow up of the 16mm shot THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE tonight was bliss.  Scott Weinberg had apparently never been given a chance to see the film on the big screen before – so I can only imagine how euphoric his experience must have been. 

 

There was this Alamo Programmer that went up before  the film to introduce it – and I’ll be honest – he kind of annoyed the living hell out of me.   He talked about Robert Burns’ production design as being little more than essentially throwing a few animal bones around – and well.   If you can’t see the brilliance of Bob’s production design – to hell with ya.   What makes it so fucking brilliant isn’t it isn’t OVER DESIGNED like EVERYTHING we see today.   It feels like the nightmare you could find in a farmhouse off a dirt road in Texas by a bunch of bbq-loving cannibals.   The Bone Furniture – it wasn’t made to look BEAUTIFUL, like what Bob did in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2….   Which I feel, while I love it, it made that film more of a cartoon of the original masterpiece.    No, this film has genuinely creepy oddities throughout it.   From Leatherface himself to that wonderful wall of taxidermy and horns against the red, with that sheet metal door…  HOLY FUCK – the combination of Gunnar slamming that – and the SOUND FROM HELL…   Nightmares.    The shots of Marilyn Burns with her hands tied behind her back sitting in a chair that had real human arms for the arms of the chair.   Well, I have that prop – and it looks like something a serial killer would do, not a Hollywood Art Director. 

 

Everything about the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is perfect – I love how we hardly know the kids before they’re thrown to Leatherface…  in fact, it feels like we were just starting to maybe like them and then…  WHACK to the fucking head.   MEATHOOK in the back.   WHACK WHACK to the head.   CHAINSAW to the gut.   And then pure TERROR.  

 

The soundtrack for this film is the shit of Trent Reznor’s wet dreams.   The sound design on TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is some demon in the bottle magic.   From those AMAZING flashbulb sound effects (my personal favorite sound effect ever) to the sound of Marilyn’s screams.   The audio in that masterpiece of mono-mixing…   well, it just doesn’t get much better.

 

The Table scene is one of the single greatest feats of editing in film history.   I put it right there with Eisenstein and Hitchcock.   IT JUST WORKS!   In fact, I dare say that THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is the very best edited horror film ever.   It’s perfect. 

 

THEN they decided to show us TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.

 

Now, first – that’s just not fair.   Let’s all just agree that the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is not a genie that can be recreated with LARGE BUDGETS & 3D.   However…  3D may give us an opportunity for something pretty fucking amazing.

 

OK – so – there I am a full on Missouri resident thinking “SHOW ME”  

 

Now before we go a step further – you need to know that I was angry about this film being shot in like…  LOUISIANA, instead of central Texas.    But I was not opposed to the film itself.   I’ve enjoyed both of the Bay produced versions – they weren’t trying to be a part of the original’s world…  they were building their own.   I saw them as that and enjoyed them as glossy versions.   But do realize neither of them are close to the original.  The original sequels…  I enjoy too, even though they are not even close to being as great as the original.   And my favorite Chainsaw other than the original is TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 – All hail Choptop.  

 

Then Tobe Hooper gave the film his blessing.   And I was like…  Alright, let’s do this.  

 

Through the opening credits, my jaw was on the floor.   I’m going to say right now – that FOR ME – HUGE HONKING TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE MEGA-GEEK….   Hell, I was a fan before the film was ever edited.   But man, what I saw tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar in the opening credits…   I was not prepared for.

 

The opening credits are a series of shots from the original film – LOVINGLY produced in 3D.    And it wasn’t only that.   Whoever went to town on this opening sequence…  not only dimensionalized it, but just like with Cameron’s Blu-Ray transfer of ALIENS – they de-grained it.    THEN they blew it up to full widescreen.   AND IT LOOKED AMAZING.   I mean, I was just going gaga.  

 

Then we come out of the credits and we’re in the film, probably about 30 minutes after the end of the original.   We pull up on the house with Sheriff Hooper played by Thom Barry.   You see what looks pretty exactly like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre house from the original’s end.  Plate glass windows broken out, door cut all to hell, you could see the original antlers and sheet metal…  That part was turning me on.   As a chainsaw geek, seeing this level of detail made me just smile.   Then there’s like a shit ton of people in the house armed with guns.   But then… I saw who they were.  Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, John Dugan reprising Grandpa!!!  OH!  And Chop Top was there…  no, not playing Chop Top, but Bill Moseley was there as a Sawyer too!  Nevermind that it didn’t make a lick of sense.   I mean, I’d just seen the original and where’d all these Sawyers come from.   I suppose the idea is that there were Sawyers all over the area, and they came together to protect their cute Leatherface!   A posse arrives and it’s basically the end of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD x a bunch.  

 

Now I have to admit – I really couldn’t make hide nor tail out any of what was going on – my fanboy brain was in overload.   It all seemed pretty terrible, but all my favorite people were up there.   And I had a shit-eating grin.   I can take a bad TEXAS CHAINSAW film with a smile.

 

And I did.  But make no bones about it – the movie just TRIES too hard.   It wants to be so fucking clever, but it’s just stupid. 

 

The incredibly fucking hot Alexandra Daddario plays the stolen/adopted Sawyer baby raised up to be Heather Miller – and there’s this whole boyfriend and bff – who is hot – and everybody enjoys everybody.   Heather gets notified of being in her grandmother’s will.  A Grandmother she’s never heard of & presto “I’m adopted,” well, no, honey – not really, it is far worse than that.    Now this Heather girl, we get introduced to her cutting steaks in the meat department of a grocery store.  Can you feel the sledge yet?  Don’t worry.   You will.

 

Ok – so obviously, even though Heather and her friends were planning a trip to New Orleans for Halloween…  mhmmm…  Well, they’ll just drop by Texas on the way.  So of course they have a shitty van…  Oh did I mention it was suddenly 2012…  All the dates you see on the original files – which you’ll see throughout the film – they’re redacted, but they’re all pretending like it was the 80s…   And by 80’s – I’m talking 1986 or so – because that’s about right for Alexandra Daddario.  

 

This was actually really annoying.   I’m not sure if they gained a damn thing by going MODERN DAY.  But it was annoying, because…  oh yes, they do some epic stupid shit with their 2012 technology.   One with perhaps the stupidest use of an iPhone by a police officer in the history of mankind.   The stupid that’s coming…  remember the sledge.   It will hit you between the eyes.    Because, this is in 3D.   That’s important when you find Alexandra Daddario tied up Fay Wray style, but with her boobs out… kinda…   And man, when Leatherface plays curious KONG…   I was dying laughing inside.    I mean.  REALLY?   You’re gonna pull a KING KONG in a Meat Plant?

 

I live for this level of fucking stupid.   

 

You know how I was praising the original’s editing?   Yeah, not so much here.   Also the 3D looked cheap as soon as we left the past.   I also have to say I kinda loved LEATHERFACE at the Carnival.   I mean, it isn’t as great as when the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms visited the Roller Coaster, but Leatherface with Heather on the Ferris Wheel?  The awesome bad.   Just BAD!  Like face-raking bad, which is a pain cuz you’re wearing 3D glasses, so you’ll miss a few bits…  but that’s ok.

 

I was drinking wine…  back during THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE…  and during that film I had ¼ of a glass.  It took 3 more glasses for me to soldier smiling through this film.   If you’re a bit lit, you may find amusement, but do know…  after the opening…  it Thelma & Louises the fuck out of it.  

 

But I have to admit…   the fantasy of waking up being related to Leatherface, who lives in the EPIC FUCKING MANSION in Central Texas.   And having your own LEATHERFACE is a powerful fucking fantasy.

 

If Alexandra Daddario does a series of Girl with pet Leatherface movies…  I’ll probably see all of them.  

 

Tonight, Tobe Hooper mentioned that he based Leatherface’s original performance on Baby Huey, when I think back to Gunnar’s stumble turns in chasing Marilyn…  I can kinda see it.   But this Leatherface is more like a psychotic Mighty Joe Young with a chainsaw.   Also…  Leatherface’s badass case of fucking chainsaws…   shows just how many Christmas’ his Grandma gave him.   I like the one that looked like a sword with a chainsaw blade.   I would wield the shit out of that one.  

 

So yeah, it’s bad – but if you geek on TEXAS CHAINSAW like me – you find a reason not to take the hobby the rest of the way.   I can say, this wasn’t the worst film I saw tonight…  but that’s only because I’m watching GUNS, GIRLS AND GAMBLING – and it kinda makes me laugh too.   I find this to be one of those.   Bad movie, but the effort amused me.  

 

That I tolerated this flick is a testament to the power of the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.   I went to have a good time tonight, earlier I was dealing with Time Warner Cable techs and their higher ups via phones in a terribly cold house because the motherboard for the central air wasn’t local, so while it is snowing outside in a Texas kinda way….  I’m shivering my ass off…  Right now I’d love to be in the warm embrace of Alamo South – even to watch one more bad movie.

 

 

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