Thursday, October 28, 2010


I'm not going to do one of those top ten horror films posts, mainly because it would be Halloween at #1 and everything else jostling for second-place.

Anyway, Rol said:
Since it was banned in the UK as a video nasty throughout my youth, I expected to be disappointed by [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre] when I finally saw it. Disappointed, I was not. Disturbed, I was. Not by the expected scenes of chainsaw torture - which turned out to be mercifully few and actually quite restrained - but instead by the scene at the dinner table where Grandpa's corpse starts sucking the girls finger and she screams... and screams... and screams... and screams.

I was expecting something horrendous, so when my film buff mate Chris got his hands on a grainy VHS copy from some former colony -- this was a couple of years before the ban was lifted -- we sat and watched with high expectations; after all, it had to be banned for a reason, right?

It wasn't horrible in the slightest. Rather, it was quite silly, and I found myself laughing throughout. The bit Rol describes, where the family are trying to get the emaciated almost-corpse grandpa to bash the girl's head in with a mallet, but he keeps dropping the hammer because it's too heavy for his withered hands, struck me as pure slapstick. The way the kids casually leave their wheelchair-bound friend to be hacked up with the titular tool had to be a joke, surely. And of course the whole thing was a blatant Scooby Doo pastiche, complete with a camper van full of kids investigating a mystery and the monster being the man from the local meat-packing factory wearing a mask. All they were missing was the dog.

For years I considered the film a failure, all hype and no substance. Friends reported that they found it just as scary and disturbing as its reputation suggests, so I started to wonder if I'd missed something. Then, in the third episode of A History of Horror, Mark Gatiss interviewed director Tobe Hooper, who confirmed that the film is, in fact, supposed to be funny. Probably not the silly laugh-fest I still see it as, but not the gruelling nihilistic shocker it's been characterised as, either.

I feel more well-inclined to the film now, so I think I'd like to see it again, to see if it's still as funny as I remember.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A History of Horror

Back in my wayward youth, the BBC did a series called Clive Barker's A to Z of Horror; I don't remember much about the series at all, but I liked it enough to pick up the accompanying book, which seemed to have been written mainly by Stephen Jones rather than Barker himself. I read that book cover to cover umpteen times, although I've long since lost my copy.

Anyway, I was reminded of Barker's series -- or rather the book -- as I watched Mark Gatiss' A History of Horror over the past couple of weeks, although I think I will likely remember more of Gatiss' series in years to come. Part of this is because he's an engaging host, and I could watch him talk about his favourite films and talk to their directors for hours. Part of it is because Gatiss and I seem to share much of the same likes and dislikes when it comes to horror cinema, but I think the best thing about the series is the honest enthusiasm Gatiss brings to the subject. While Barker was little more than a host, there is a definite sense that the project is more personal for Gatiss, as we see him travel to the locations of the films, speak in person with the directors, and so on. While he does wander into dry theory now and then, for the most part A History of Horror is about Mark Gatiss telling the viewer why he loves these films, and a number of times throughout the series he reminds us that it's not an exhaustive and scholarly list -- it's A, not The -- but simply him explaining to us why he owns the DVDs he does.

At only three episodes -- Barker got six back in 1997 -- it could have been longer, and one wonders just how long Gatiss spent in conversation with John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper and why we didn't get to see more. The third and final episode seemed rushed, more or less stopping at Halloween, missing out stuff like American Werewolf in London and skipping over the wave of Japanese horror, the subsequent wave of Spanish horror, and so on. All in all though, A History of Horror was a brilliant bit of telly, and I eagerly await news of an accompanying book...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is It Safe?

I am not a huge fan of dentists at the best of times. I'm not sure why this is, but it may have to do with the butcher who gave me a bunch of unnecessary fillings -- including in wisdom teeth which should have been pulled -- without anaesthesia. I've managed to talk myself down from full-scale terror, but I'm still not comfortable in a dentist's surgery.

I went to a new dentist today and I was fine until the woman before me fled from the chair in a panic after the dentist tired to give her a filling when she was in for a check up. It turned out that she and her sister had appointments at the same time and had been sent to the wrong rooms. An easy mistake to make, but it wasn't doing my anxiety any good, and it just got worse when they sorted it out and the sister who was supposed to be getting a filling started screaming as the drill went in.

When my turn came, I was in the shocked pale-faced silence of one being led to the gallows, but it turned out I was fine and just needed to floss a bit more. I was sure I would need some kind of work done, so I was half annoyed that this wasn't the case, and half relieved.

Now that some hours have passed, I'm leaning more towards the relieved.