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Sunday, August 27, 2017

RIP Tobe Hooper: Ten Rambling Thoughts on Eggshells (1969)

1943 - 2017

So less than a month ago we lost Romero, now Man God Tobe Hooper has passed on. He was 74.  No details yet on the cause. Back in June he put a restraining order on his 38 year old girlfriend after she beat him up. There are pics online, but that is sleazy underbelly stuff. Give it a few days, we'll know more.  Right now, let's take a second to remember this guy who is known for making THE scariest movie ever made, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The first horror movie I remember ever seeing was Salem's Lot. Don't remember being able to stay in the room, but I would peek in every now and then before running back out. This would have been 1980, I was 5. It is the shot where Geoffrey Lewis is in the foreground and we see that he has a vampire bite on his neck, unseen by the rest of the characters. I think that's what it was. I may be mixed up. That shot was scary enough, I fled.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre I saw after Chainsaw 2, and on first viewing I didn't get the fuss. I thought it was slow, and it looked cheap, especially on the Goodtimes Home Video VHS I watched it on. I was expecting the lunacy of Part 2, one of my all time favorites. It wasn't until later, that I saw a decent DVD that the original really started to dig into me, and I have seen it repeatedly, as all horror freaks have. What used to bug me, the slow build, I now love, as it is a march to annihilation that the characters are unknowing participants in. It feels like fate, like the astrological predictions warn in the movie. They are doomed, sacrifices to the Gods. As the movie progresses, and the hero's devices are stripped from them one by one, the lunacy increases, and we devolve into an absolute worse case scenario that is hard to watch. Civilization disappears the moment you pull off the road. Also, every family is a nation onto itself, with it's own laws and customs. You have no providence in another's home. You are at their mercy.

What sets TCM, and all his movies apart is the pure visual mastery he had. He is so confident and inventive, and not afraid to let the pictures tell the story. Even on this first movie, which I will try to describe below, shows that Tobe Hooper was working on another level.

Pack your bags kids, we going on a trip.

1. Austin, TX. As in the The People's Republic of Austin. Alamo Draft House. South by Southwest. Ain't It Cool. Before all that, there was a weirdo name Tobe Hooper who made a counter culture head film called Eggshells. You can not tell me that Richard Linklater did not see this movie and say, "I could remake this movie for the rest of my life and be happy." Maybe it is an Austin sensibility. but Hooper's lost movie is evident in Slacker and Waking Life, even Boyhood. Long scenes of people talking about crazy deep existential musings. If that is your thing, then this is your thing.

2. Linklater did miss one element in revisioning this movie time and again. Bathtubs. A lot of the dialog in Eggshells happens while hippie couples take baths. They take a lot of baths, and we see them all. Maybe the acoustics were good. The movie follows a pattern of abstract psychedelic freakouts intercut with hippies taking a bath. So if that is your thing, then this is your thing.

I don't want to do anything with myself.

That's so cool. I love you.
3. But it is not just hippies in baths! As I said, after a scene of dialog, we get some crazy stuff. This is where the movie comes alive and we see young wild man Tobe Hooper experimenting with light and camera and a kazoo heavy soundtrack. You can feel he was busting out to make a movie and realize all these ideas he wanted to try out. It is a 2001 light show done on a thrift store budget.

This doesn't really capture it.
The shot above is from a prolonged acid trip that takes place in the hippie house basement. It's really Hooper running around with a strobe light and gels and a fog machine. At one point he animates a toilet lid flapping up and down. It's really cool, and like experimental movies, you can tell he's excited to show you all this, and he's trying stuff out. There is no real connection to the plot, because there really isn't a plot. This is the kind of self indulgent madness that you have to get out of you before you decide to make something people might want to watch, like a chainsaw massacre. But I liked all this stuff. You can see that he is a visual guy and he was making a movie back when this type of experimental stuff was common. Now, sigh, we have unboxing videos on You Tube getting 3 million views.

4. One tie to Chainsaw is a character named Toes played by TCM's and Eaten Alive's co-writer Kim Henkel. Here he plays a writer, with an epic handlebar and Lennon sunglasses that he wears even in the bathtub.  All the main characters take baths in this movie, I can't overstate it.

Leatherface works for the CIA. Brilliant!

One day he would go on to make Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation, and prove what a miracle the original was. How many movies have chainsaw welding maniacs in them? How many are still revered after 40 years? All I am saying is that any schmo can put a guy in a mask and make him run through a shot with a chainsaw, but it takes a Tobe Hooper to make you feel that the chainsaw is coming at YOU!

5. You know what is cool. Hallway floors in public buildings. The patterns in the linoleum.  This movie makes good use of it. There is a whole scene dedicated to it. Different colors. All sped up and tripadelic. Goes on for about 3 minutes. If that is your thing, then this is your thing.

This frame doesn't quite capture it. You have to watch it race by.

6. One cool scene has the camera locked down, and we see how a party escalates from just two people hanging out, to more and more people showing up. It doesn't serve a story, but this movie isn't about that. It's about cool visual ways to film a scene. I told you, he was excited!

From this...

... to this.

7.  The movie takes place during my favorite period, late 60s - early 70s, those film study classes at GA State did their job. The release date is 1969, though the plates show 1970. Who knows. The point, this is pure regional time capsule cinema, capturing amazing images.

Vietnam protests on campus.

This is my favorite shot in the movie.
8. Other than bathing and experimental asides, there is a third train of thought going on where a shaggy guy who never speaks is also in the house, but no one ever sees him. I think he's in a different dimension. The hippies talk about the house being haunted. At any rate, he hangs out in the haunted basement and messes around with a sword.

Later he leaves the house and goes to a park where he sees this pretty lady and follows her around. And there are all the balloons tied to them. Balloons everywhere. 

Maybe it's the balloons that you let go while you are alive that people say float off to heaven. Maybe when you die you get them all back. Welcome to heaven, here are your balloons. I don't know. All I know is ghost man gets a girlfriend. Hooper was real excited about how those balloons looked. Romero was also stuck on balloons in There's Always Vanilla. Obviously, they were all high.

9.  At one point in the movie Kim Henkel drives the hippie car our to the middle of nowhere, gets out and attacks it with an ax.

Then he takes off all his clothes and tosses them in the car, and then douses it with gasoline, lights it on fire and run away before...

BOOM! Take that materialism!!!

But a few minutes later we have an, oh 20 minute montage of the car driving around at super sonic speed. Maybe this is the car in car heaven?

Then he throws this effect on everything for another few hours. The car is defiantly not in this dimension any more. I have cracked the code.

10. So in the end, one couple gets married and moves on with their lives. The other couple we've been following ends up with the shaggy sword guy and his balloon loving girlfriend. I don't know how to describe this. They take this machine that was in the multi dimensional basement.

They set it up in the park.

They sit under these hair driers and pull bags over their bodies. Body bags?

They get sucked into the machine.

Gross water pours out of the machine into the ground. Circle of life?

Then the machine emits a blast of smoke.

And the smoke floats away. Is that their souls?
I know I shouldn't try to interpret this stuff, but my beaten into submission brain wants to make patterns and find meaning. It doesn't matter. It's all freaky and weird. I don't know what Hooper was getting at, but this is young crazy Hooper stretching his wings. I did enjoy the audacity of it all. I'm sure at the time he was a trip to know. Maybe on the spectrum.

To wrap this up, a cool movie and a must see for Hooper Heads. You can see from the haunted basement stuff how Poltergeist may have been in his future.

You can rent this restored print on VIMEO!

Maybe I'll review some more Hooper coming up. Someone should stick up for The Mangler. Turn the tide. It could happen. Do you remember when no one liked Lifeforce? I do.

Sam Drog

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Slasherama! Ten Ramblings on Graduation Day (1981)

Synopsis: Someone is killing the high school track team. But who?!?

1. I had the most amazing babysitter in 1981. While I tried to be cool with my best Fonzie impression, she would tell me about the latest horror film she saw. She would show me the add in the paper and my imagination created the "Most Amazing Movie" in my head. She told me about The Howling and Happy Birthday To Me, and became my prototypical cool girl. During this blood soaked slasher cycle of '81, on the weekend before Friday the 13th Part 2 was released, Graduation Day hit the screens.

2. So many good movies came out this year, check out the riches below:
  •  January - Scanners (the poster is on my phone case)
  •  March - The Funhouse
  •  April - The Howling, The Hand, Friday the 13th Part 2
  •  May - Happy Birthday To Me, Outland
  •  June - Clash of the Titans, Dragon Slayer
  •  July - Escape From New York (the greatest), Wolfen
  •  August - Student Bodies, Deadly Blessing, American Werewolf in London
  •  October - Halloween 2, Looker
  •  November - Time Bandits, Dead and Buried, Roadgames (Jamie Lee Curtis horror)
  •  December - Ghost Story, Neighbors, Sharky's Machine
I had this pic hanging in my cube for years.
2. Star Christopher George jumped from one low budget slasher to the next in the 70s and 80s until his death in 1983. Former western and Mission: Impossible star, he was THE face of adult authority in these movies. He played the same hard as nails asshole in all of them. There must have been some massive alimony agreement somewhere to inspire his muse. The man was not afraid of slashers, and not afraid to cash a check.

Graduation Day 1981
Pieces 1982
Mortuary 1983
3. This has an early appearance by Linnea Quigley. She already looks haunted to me. Here is how cheap this movie is. The actress who plays the feisty blonde on the team had shot some scenes before being fired for refusing to take off her clothes. Do they replace her and reshoot her scenes with a new actress? Almost. They fire her, replace her with Linnea (who is always naked), but do not reshoot the the scenes she was already in. So we get a Bewitched Darrin situation. When Linnea is decapitated in the movie, it is not her head we see later in the obligatory "all the dead bodies fall out of trees all at once" grande finale.

Blonde Girl 1.

Blonde Girl Switch Out, Linnea.

Back to Girl 1. We will reshoot NOTHING!

  4. The killer wears sweats in this. Maybe appropriate considering he's picking off members of the track team one by one, but obviously a sign of deep depression.

I wasn't going to get out of bed today, but whatever.
5.  Speaking of track, one cool thing about the movie is that all the victims are super athletic and lightning fast runners. Seems like they would be able to get away from the killer, or at least make him really have to work for it. Cardio. If they remake this, I say make the stalk scenes more like this.

Or like this...

In my remake, he would have to chase them down with some sort of bone grinder muscle car.


Put on the front of this...

The movie writes itself.

6.  I have to mention the crazy flash cuts in this that are super fun and would never be allowed in a movie today. I heard on the Hysteria Lives Podcast an interview with the editor who said the director hated them, but he had to use them because the director didn't know what he was doing and wasn't giving him the footage needed to construct the scenes. Sounds like a constructive collaboration! In the end, they give the movie a distinct character. The best example of this takes place during the...


At the roller disco we get to see awesome band "Felony" jam out some totally rad new wave tunes.

No shame

in my game.

The scene is amazing. So much feathered hair. So many nylon jackets. The remake demands that the meat grinder mobile busts in through the double exit doors and spin donuts in the rink, swallowing up skaters and creating so much gory havoc. That band needs to get eaten up.

8. This movie played on UHF 36 here in Atlanta ALOT. I needed to watch it again because certain scenes were etched in my head as being really gruesome. Now they are pretty silly. But that's what makes them cool.

The highlight is a sword in a football, tossed at the quarterback.

Acting, you're doing it right.
And the pole vaulter landing on a bed of spikes. In broad daylight. During school hours.

Zero Witnesses.

9. Most of the stalking takes place in the park on these long jogging trails. The killer just hangs out and waits for the track stars to come running by. There is a cool Minotaur angle in here somewhere. A labyrinth of trails, a beast stalking its prey. Maybe he wears a bull head for a mask. Maybe the school's mascot is a bull. It writes itself.

Concept Art by Patrick Tatopoulos
10.  What sucks is that now I'm a grown up and I feel bad when I see these kids taken out before they have experienced anything but systematic conditioning under a state ran institution. They are prisoners, being told what to think and do, and that is all they have known. I started thinking about how in the remake (I made my own movie up while watching this), the school should be this fascist totalitarian institution, and the track team is this nationalist symbol of genetic superiority. Like the Nazis and the '36 Olympics. Until the Minotaur driving a Muscle Car Meat Grinder shows up and dismantles the system. Maybe he is a Nazi experiment. The system created him, and now he's going to tear that system DOWN! Graduation Day 5000!!!

Bonus: Denise Cheshire...

This actress went on to play the title role in the best baseball monkey movie ever made...

She was destined for such greatness.

Sam Drog

Clown Versus Monkey! Check It Out Here!

Buy Satanic Killer Chicken Here!

Watch Short Films Here!