I want to try something unique.
Rather than focusing on a single review, I’m going to highlight certain elements of filmmaking in a
variety of movies. They make me want to either smash a camera over the director’s head or rise in
speechless awe and initiate a standing ovation.
Welcome to an episode of Pet Peeves & Inspirations. I’m the Haunting Usher. Let me scare you to your
As we’ve seen in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise, which has spanned several unnecessary
sequels and at least two remakes, Hollywood loves gore. They splash it all over the screen. Not only
do the characters suffer a gruesome, painful death but in most cases so too does the plot.
The aforementioned films rely solely on the motif of people getting sawed in half and dismembered by
raving lunatics wielding roaring chainsaws. Never mind that the directors see little need for veracity
and emotional substance even though the material they’re working with is based on actual tragic
events. Never mind things like character development that allow us to care about the victims before
they get hacked into heaps of bones and bloody puddles. Don’t bother explaining how the murdering
lunatics ended up flipping their discs in the first place for that matter.
Some would say horror is a lot like junk-food. It’s messy. It’s loaded with toxic ingredients and doesn’t
necessarily need to be sophisticated to be enjoyed.
That’s a fair point.
Nevertheless, the gore sequences in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" lack uniqueness and are not
especially memorable. Well, unless they made you sick to your stomach, that is. I nearly tossed my
During an interview regarding a graphic scene in "The Godfather" in which a stubborn film executive
awakens to find a horse’s severed head lying at his feet, director Francis Ford Coppola says it best.
“Violence is such a disgusting thing to watch unless you give it a detail, a little something to set it apart
from all the other murders.”
Coppola foreshadows the deaths of his characters with the clever use of oranges. The deaths are
also varied. One mobster even gets stabbed in the throat with the stems of his glasses. That happens
in part three in case you’re wondering.
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" doesn’t offer variation. It is just a generic hack and slash.
Not every horror movie is the same.
Let’s take a look at the "Salem’s Lot" TV miniseries adapted from the novel by Stephen King and
directed by Mikael Salomon in 2004. Salem’s Lot follows the story of young writer Ben Mears, played by
Rob Lowe, who discovers vampires are unleashing unspeakable horrors on his own childhood town.
Driving stakes into the hearts of vampires is unmistakably gruesome, but the gore is nonetheless
subtle, subtle compared to "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" anyway, and it’s understated. It doesn’t drown
out the rest of the show and at 181 minutes, that’s a good thing.
One of my favorite scenes is when Rob Lowe’s character is in prison and a vamp is crawling toward him
through the vents. “I broke my collar bone, Mears,” the entity informs him, “but I’m getting there.”
The gore factor in movies like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the way that it is exploited at the
expense of the elements of good filmmaking ranks about a nine on my list of pet peeves.
Those elements are masterfully utilized in the 2004 "Salem’s Lot." I recommend the miniseries for its
clever cast, its engaging, well-rounded characters, visual effects that are freaky even for a TV
miniseries, its haunting tone, and rich storytelling.
This is the kind of horror I prefer, the kind I strive to emulate in my fiction. I’m the
Haunting Usher. Let me scare you into a vampire cocktail.
Do you agree with my review? Are you a hack and slash blood and guts kind of person or
do you like the subtler, more psychological horror better? Let me know in the comments
Another Pet Peeves & Inspirations is coming soon.
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