Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Other Texas Horror Movies

For us groovy ghouls, October is that most wonderful time of year--a season for hauntings, Halloween parties, Hershey bars and, of course, horror movies. Some of the scariest fright flicks ever produced were filmed and/or set in Texas, including Tobe Hooper’s low budget masterpiece from 1974—you’ve probably heard of it—a little picture called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Narrated by an uncredited John Larroquette (of Night Court fame), the film finds a vanload of teens wandering off the main road and into a decrepit farm house occupied by sadistic cannibals. Much mayhem ensues, including a harrowing scene in which the now-iconic Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), a hulking brute wearing a human skin mask and wielding a chainsaw, chases a beautiful blonde named Sally (Marilyn Burns).

Nightmarish and highly influential, the original TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre (avoid the sequels altogether and approach the 2003 remake with trepidation) is the best, most famous Texas horror film, but there are a number of others worth renting or downloading, including the sinister seven listed below.

Send the kiddies to their rooms, however, because each movie is Rated R with good reason.

Race with the Devil (1975)
Recommended for B-movie buffs, Race with the Devil is as much a car-chase film as it is a horror movie, with two San Antonio couples in an RV being chased by devil worshipers across the Texas plains. The cast, which includes Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and Loretta Swit, is considerably stronger than the script, but the action-packed movie remains entertaining.

Writing for www.popmatters.com, J.C. Macek III called Race with the Devil “an unquestionable good time,” citing its “thrills, mystery and legitimate scares.”

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Directed by Charles B. Pierce, the auteur responsible for Legend of Boggy CreekThe Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) stars Ben Johnson as a Texas Ranger searching for a hooded killer who is terrorizing the residents of Texarkana, circa 1946. Supposedly based on a true story, this early serial killer film plays out documentary style and is plenty chilling. Look for Dawn Wells, a.k.a. Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island, as a shrieking victim.

A “meta-sequel” of the same name hit theaters in 2014, debuting at the 10th annual Fantastic Fest in Austin.  

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Elvis and JFK never died. In fact, they’re alive and well in an East Texas nursing home whose residents are being killed by an ancient Egyptian mummy. So goes the premise of Bubba Ho-Tep, an amusing horror comedy starring Bruce Campbell as The King and African-American Ossie Davis, who claims he was “dyed” after his assassination was faked by LBJ, as our 35th president.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the movie is entertaining, and it’s a surprisingly sincere love letter to Elvis Presley as well.

Frailty (2002)
Texan through and through, Frailty takes place in small-town Texas and stars two of the state’s most noteworthy actors: Bill Paxton, who was born in Fort Worth (and also directed the film), and Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde and lives in Austin. A religious fanatic father, beset by visions, enlists his two sons on a mission from God to kill demons disguised as human beings.

Frailty is fairly obscure (perhaps the lame title has something to do with it), but disturbing, powerful and relevant. In terms of sheer quality of filmmaking, it’s one of the better films on this list.

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Directed by shock rocker Rob Zombie, famous for such songs as Dragula and Living Dead GirlThe Devil's Rejects is the superior sequel to Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses (2003). Sid Haig (wearing bad teeth and clown makeup), Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie (Zombie’s wife) reprise their roles as members of the psychotic, prolifically murderous Firefly family. This time they’re on the run from the law, and the cops are about as scary as their prey.

Recommended for fans of extreme horror, The Devil's Rejects is excruciating and unrelenting in its use of gore and violence—don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Planet Terror (2007)
San Antonio native Robert Rodriguez’s contribution to his and Quentin Tarantino’s collaborative double feature, GrindhousePlanet Terror takes place in rural Texas during a zombie apocalypse that was created by the unleashing of an experimental bio-weapon. The fun film takes the “Living Dead” formula to new heights with grosser, more graphic depictions of zombie carnage as a small band of survivors—including Rose McGowan brandishing a shotgun leg—fends of the unholy hoards.

The other half of the bill, Tarantino’s Death Proof, was shot in Texas as well.

The Final (2010) 
In The Final, an independent film screened at the 2010 After Dark Horrorfest, bullied teens take matters into their own hands, exacting revenge on their tormentors by drugging them, chaining them together and brutalizing them using methods derived from horror movies and ancient torture techniques.

The teens take the torture, which was filmed at a farm house in the remote county of Rocky Branch, Texas, way too far, but there are some guilty pleasures to be found in this type of revenge fantasy.