The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

directed by tobe hooper
cannon films/golan-globus productions

Hey, a new competitor for worst movie on this site! For some reason turning one of the best and most impactful horror movies ever made into an extended bout of broadly drawn “humor,” aggravating characterizations, little plot and no point, TCM2 is a chore to endure. Insulting in its carelessness, this flick only could have been more of a cartoon had The Mystery Machine appeared. (Much of the action takes place in an abandoned amusement park, for crying out loud. Where were the Harlem Globetrotters and Phyllis Diller?) Leatherface – sorry, “Bubba” – is reminiscent of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, which is not a compliment, much as Bill Moseley’s horrible character seems to have presaged alleged funnyman Jim Carrey’s equally irritating “Fire Marshall Bill.” (And in actuality was a template for Michael Keaton’s Betelgeuse.) Meanwhile, Dennis Hopper spends the first half of the film not even pretending he gives half a damn and the second half hamming it up wildly. Mr. Hooper allegedly wanted to compensate for the audience’s not recognizing the black humor in the original, but this extremely stupid and classless farce raises the question whether his first attempt was just a happy accident. Also commits the sequel’s sin of reductionism while simultaneously destroying continuity – a hapless combination. And the FX suck, too. Excruciating and disgraceful.

why did i watch this movie?

I recently had heard and read positive mentions of it, for which those responsible should have to forfeit their eyesight.

should you watch this movie?

Nobody should watch this movie. This movie should never have been made.

highlight and low point

Highlight: it eventually, mercifully, ends. If you ignore its sequel or two and the three titles following the 2003 reboot.

Rating from outer space: F

you don’t say

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

directed by irvin kershner
columbia pictures

When it comes to mysteries, I’m the quintessential mark. It’s that character! No, that one! Wait, it’s probably her! Every time. How bad is it? I kept waffling about the probable identity of the killer whose dastardly exploits are viewed through Laura’s Eyes, even though this movie is 40 years old and I’ve read about it multiple times. Anyway, this production – written by John Carpenter for his first major film credit – knowingly manipulates its audience with suspenseful close-ups of René Auberjonois, our old pal Brad Dourif, the late Raúl Juliá, and other, less famous actors. Nonetheless, even a major misdirection in the late going doesn’t deter one from deducing the SHOCKING ending, especially as it’s telegraphed shortly beforehand. More “thriller” than “horror,” but it IS chock full o’ murders, death, and images thereof. The maudlin “Prisoner (Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars)” blares over the end credits, Barbra Streisand holding nothing back.

why did i watch this movie?

As noted, I was familiar with this picture from various compendia, and also MAD Magazine, so I figured I should finally see it, especially as I was interested in comparing it to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s 1981 debut, Eyes of a Stranger.

should you watch this movie?

Are you a John Carpenter completist? Really interested in what movie Kershner helmed right before The Empire Strikes Back? Brad Dourif?

highlight and low point

I suppose that the then-topical examination of the impact on society of violence in the arts – as exemplified here by Helmut Newton’s photography posing as Laura’s – is kind of interesting in regard to contemporary culture, and a look at New York’s glamour scene during a transitional period for the city before the vast changes of the ’80s will always fascinate me. The dialogue between Tommy Lee Jones and Faye Dunaway during their big love scene is absolutely laughable.

rating from outer space: c−

© 1979 E.C. Publications, Inc.

The Devil Within Her aka I Don’t Want To Be Born aka Monster aka Sharon’s Baby (1975)

directed by peter sasdy
“a unicapital production”

This British film is absurdly amateurish, and in fact may be one of the most unprofessional movies made by an actual studio that you’re apt to see. It’s all here – ripoff script, the lowest of budgets, random illogic and execrable dramatics. Joan Collins isn’t even the worst actor in this picture, which should really tell you something. One of the characters is a nun, and her fake Italian accent is truly a wonder to behold, especially voicing dialogue such as “Is it possible for a baby not to want to be born?” The performances are so laughable that Donald Pleasence – DONALD PLEASENCE – appears reasonably accomplished with his typically disaffected mien. The absolutely most striking feature here, though, is that the director repetitiously focuses on an ordinary baby lying in its crib (or “pram,” depending on scenario) to illustrate … EVIL. Or something. It is, uh, not effective. Whatever you call this mess, it’s another abominable creation that later became a “camp classic” – although typically part of such (dis)honor is that dreck becomes enjoyable when you’re in on the joke, and this film is not enjoyable for any reason. (By the way, the baby’s mother’s name is Lucy; no Sharon can be found.)

why did i watch this movie?

Long abuse is my excuse.

should you watch this movie?

“Oh, how can I tell the doctor … I think my baby’s possessed by a devil!” This line is delivered by a presumably distraught ex-stripper to her gal pal, with whom she used to work at the cabaret operated by her former (and the gal pal’s current) lover. Luckily, mom’s sister-in-law – the “Italian” nun – will actually be the one to inform the physician, who will listen because, naturally, Sister Albana has a background in Veterinary Science.

highlight and low point

rating from outer space: F

 

Pengabdi Setan aka Satan’s Slaves (2017)

directed by joko anwar
rapi films/cj entertainment

So close, so very close … Man, this Indonesian remake-of-sorts could have been the stuff of legend, a terrifying spectacle difficult to withstand, but it just can’t pull it off, leaving us with a rather standard malevolent-spirits Asian spookfest. That’s a shame, because all of the necessary elements are on hand:

  • Threatened family? Check.
  • Seemingly vengeful spectres? Check.
  • Shady characters? Of course.
  • Satanist mumbo-jumbo? Yeah, look at the title.
  • Coincidental coincidences? Misdirection? A house that directly abuts a cemetery? Strong Muslim leanings?

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t part of the usual checklist, and an American version would probably substitute some Christian BS, but yes, it’s all there and then some. Despite that, it really never manages to terrify, possibly as a result of the fact that one can generally predict when it’s about to make the attempt. Not a bad film, mind you, but were this, oh, I don’t know, baseball, it would be a fat pitch down the middle fouled straight back instead of clouted over the fence. My, what could have been.

why did i watch this movie?

The synopsis: “After dying from a strange illness that she suffered for 3 years, a mother returns home to pick up her children.” Uh, yeah, I’m in.

should you watch this movie?

For right now, I’m going to say no, you can do better for this type of thing. But allow me to watch the 1980 original and get back to you.

highlight and low point

The family’s interactions – particularly the children’s – are pretty truthful, and contain a fantastic switcheroo that I can’t reveal more of without spoiling the fun. In addition, the roles of the Ustād and his son contribute a great deal in a relatively brief time. Ultimately, however, there’s no real payoff here, and the big reveals are no big deal.

rating from outer space: C

Mercury (2018)

directed by karthik subbaraj
pen studios/stone bench films

A frankly bizarre eco-horror experiment, this Indian film contains no dialogue; characters communicate with grunts, howls and ululations, with broad gestures and what is apparently some form of sign language that I do not recognize (and which does not seem as though it could be very effective). On occasion, this choice of the filmmaker’s does interfere with one’s enjoyment of his picture, but it’s not as much of a problem as one may surmise. It remains odd and somewhat off-putting, however. WHY there’s no dialogue is implied by some setup shots: the five main characters are graduates of a special school for people with unspecified disabilities, though in this case they’re deaf-mutes. Now, wouldn’t you just know it, some tomfoolery goes horribly wrong and they must face the consequences. Which in this case are supernatural. And then there’s an extremely ironic twist. To be completely honest, this effort’s not exactly coherent, but its hallucinatory elements and creative craftsmanship combine to produce quite an effect. Slight tension arises here and there, not much in the way of fright.

why did i watch this movie?

This one only got a shot because it was a foreign production and described itself as “silent” – NOT meaning that it had no sound. (It has plenty of that.) Having just watched a subtitled film, it seemed reasonable.

should you watch this movie?

It’s definitely different.

highlight and low point

These aspects are likely more aligned in this instance than is usual; it may be difficult to judge without involving one’s opinion of the unique presentation. This goes beyond the lack of dialogue; the picture is highly stylized in many ways. Even for a movie based largely on unearthly events, though, a few things herein don’t really add up.

rating from outer space: B+

blood was raining like water