Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 Banner

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Straight Razor, Pocket Knife, Sledgehammer, Meat Hook, Chainsaw, Broom, Fillet Knife, Pipe Wrench

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Reviewed by: Pontifex Aureus

The original 1974 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is comparatively low on bloodshed by today’s standards, but tame? Not at all. The film possesses a deep well of savageness and ferocious energy from which it draws its strength, not only in terms of the horror action, but in the very way that it looks and feels. This is what made the film controversial in its time and what has made it a classic today, not gratuitous bloodshed, but harsh, unforgiving ugliness.

Reports of bizarre grave desecration bring Sally Hardesty and her friends to a small rural area in Texas to ensure that her grandfather’s remains have not been disturbed. Their road trip is disrupted, however, upon encountering a family of murderous cannibals, including the horrific chainsaw-wielding maniac, Leatherface.

Cast Pic The Hitchhiker

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is slim on plot and features little to no character development, but that’s okay because that’s not what this movie does. This movie is a well-oiled machine that was built to do one thing and do it well: punish the audience. No, not scare the audience, punish. More than scare you, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delights in disturbing you, right from the very beginning, the first thing we see is a desiccated skeleton impaled on a tombstone, setting up the macabre tone right away. Before any killing begins at all, the movie goes to considerable lengths to establish an oppressive atmosphere of gruesomeness: the deranged hitchhiker, the story of the local slaughterhouse, the furniture made of human bones—all add to the sense of nastiness and unease even when there’s no actual violence onscreen.

Butcher Leatherface The Family

Not that there isn’t any violence. The violence is really the centerpiece of the film, with the aforementioned atmosphere being the plate upon which this entrée is served. And I don’t mean simple bloodshed—I mean naked, unadorned violence. Every action is carried out with overwhelming force and power, even mundane things like cranking up a chainsaw or slamming a door are so loud and so physically expressive that it frazzles the nerves. It’s not the blood that makes you wince, it’s the sudden furiousness of the attack. It’s not the death that disturbs us, but the dying; we watch the victims twitch before they go. And finally, most horrible of all, is the extreme casualness of the violence. There is no anger or hatred on the part of the killers, no complex psychological motive; they kill for the meat, with all the humdrum of a neighborhood butcher’s shop.

Formal Wear Leatherface Survivor Sally

When the film was first released, the opening faux-documentary monologue lent credence to the belief that there really had been a Texas chainsaw-massacre. But more than that, audiences were ready to believe the story because, being human, they recognized human nature when they saw it—the unending capacity for violence and cruelty. Indeed, some of the onscreen horrors were based on the real-life crimes committed by Ed Gein, the infamous murderer and corpse desecrator. For all its horrors, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not stray outside of the realm of possibility; it could have happened. It could happen yet. The film makes us believe it could, because gives us a candid look at what real violence looks like. I can sum it up in a word. The word is: ugly, ugly ,ugly.

He Knows You're Alone Title Banner

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Dagger, Switchblade, Butcher Knife, Revolver, Scalpel

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Reviewed by: Jenicide

The success of John Carpenter’s Halloween took the horror scene by storm, inspiring a host of copycats, among the first of which was He Knows You’re Alone. While thematically different, the film is so structurally similar to Halloween that making comparisons between the two is inevitable, and He Knows You’re Alone suffers because of it.

Amy Jenson is weeks away from her wedding, when she finds herself being stalked by a killer who targets young brides-to-be. Detective Gamble, whose own fiancée fell victim to the maniac, pursues him in a quest of revenge. Meanwhile, Amy tries unsuccessfully to convince her friends that the man following her is real, and not a result of pre-wedding jitters.

Amy & Marvin Killer Ray

While the killer does not use any sort of disguise, He Knows You’re Alone is clearly inspired by Halloween’s formula. His stand-and-stare stalking technique, as well as his knife-centric attacks are straight out of Michael Myers’ playbook. Moreover, the film features a heroine who is the only one aware that something is wrong and a man obsessed with stopping the killer. Yet, these similarities become overkill as homage descends into straight-up copying. Several scenes are almost the same as in Halloween, such as the chase between Amy and the killer, where he breaks a car window with his bare hands, or the confrontation between the killer and Gamble. Even the music is similar, attempting to replicate the stinging piano strikes of Halloween, with much less effectiveness.

Tom Hanks Yesssssssss Aquarium Head

On a positive note, the film’s opening scene should be commended for its movie-within-a-movie psych-out, which inspired imitators of its own with similar tricks being seen in films such as Blowout. Also featured in the opening scene is a cleverly executed kill set to the rhythm of a horror film so that the screams are synchronized and nobody realizes what has happened. The scene was memorable enough that it was practically recreated in Scream 2. Also worth mentioning is a young Tom Hanks in his debut performance, who stands out as the best character in the film, despite being in it for roughly five minutes. Perhaps it was his winning charm that earned him the best lines in the movie, a short speech on the nature of fear.

Gamble Killer Window Smash

He Knows You’re Alone is an okay film, but its weaknesses prevent it from being good. It tried desperately to be the next Halloween, but the film ultimately fails to match its quality in terms of writing, cinematography, and suspense. In the end, it’s worth watching once in a blue moon when nothing else is on.

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Bare Hands, Straight Razor, Tire, Barbell Weight, Garden Shears, Skewer, Fire Poker, Fillet Knife

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Reviewed by: Jenicide

Starting in the 1970s, with horror classics like Black Christmas and John Carpenter’s Halloween, holiday-themed slasher films became a big hit. While one’s birthday does not really qualify as a holiday, Happy Birthday to Me is definitely of this pedigree. Though this sub-genre is guilty of flooding the horror scene with a number of bad movies, this one stands out in terms of production values and in keeping the audience mystified, making it pretty decent overall, despite some shortcomings.

Virginia Wainwright is a content girl on the outside, among her friends, yet is troubled on the inside with a past she struggles to remember, due to a tragic car accident. As her birthday draws near, Virginia’s friends start disappearing, and she begins to regain memories of her accident, while suffering from increasingly frequent blackouts.

Cast Pic Head on a Tray

While Happy Birthday to Me comes off looking derivative of Friday the 13th, the film was in the works at the same time, but was released a year later. And while, like Friday the 13th, it follows the now-classic formula of “mystery killer stalks a group of teenagers”, it features a much higher gore factor and better production values than some of its cheaper peers. The special effects are creative with such memorable moments as the character Steve’s death by shish kabob (as depicted on the original film poster). Another standout is the bloody birthday party scene, where the killer is revealed; the typical “discovering of the dead bodies” that we see toward the end of many slasher movies is here done with exceptional style.

Weird Glasses Guy Bloody Poker

The whodunit appeal is the most noteworthy quality of the movie. It tosses red herring after red herring at the audience, as just about every character becomes a suspect. When this is done right, it’s great; when it’s done wrong, it really stretches believability. The impact of this type of movie hinges heavily on the effectiveness of the ending, when the killer is revealed. It eventually seems obvious who is responsible for the murders, but then the film offers up a surprising revelation, that though startling, hurts the plausibility of the entire story with a killer whose methods and motives are ridiculous. The twist of the movie just seems out of the blue, with no logical connection to the progression of events we’ve just seen.

Corpse in Chair Birthday Macabre

Despite the weak ending, the effective mystery and gore of the movie makes for an overall enjoyable experience.  Still, the twist was memorable enough that it seems to have inspired a host of other surprise endings in slasher movies like The Initiation and Sleepaway Camp. Happy Birthday to Me is by no means a masterpiece, but it is one of the more polished specimens among the glut of slasher films to come out of the early 1980s.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Banner

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Razor Glove, Bed Sheet, Coffee Pot, Sledgehammer Booby-Trap, Light-Bulb Explosive, Jar of Gasoline, Fire

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Reviewed by: Pontifex Aureus

A boogeyman that haunts your dreams, the sound of blades scraping stone, flickering shadow, fire, smoke—this is the stuff of childhood nightmares. This is why this film hit me so close, too close, as a child, because it deals with something that I (and all people) know something about: nightmares. As adults, our boogeymen tend to be real-world characters like home-invaders and psychopaths, but as children, our first boogeymen hid in the shadows of our bedroom closet, or under the bed, and made creaks and bumps in the night. You imagined something was there, watching, and you hid under the covers waiting for sleep to save you, but the terrors would follow you into your dreams and become more real than ever. This is the sense of primal fear that A Nightmare on Elm Street captures so well, the fear that comes from within your own mind.

In an archetypal American suburb, the kids of Elm Street dream of violent death at the hands of a razor-fingered man with burnt flesh named Fred Krueger. When people start dying in real life, teenager Nancy Thompson becomes determined to uncover the truth behind Krueger’s past in order to find some way to combat this deadly menace that exists only in her mind.

Freddy's Boiler Room This is God

Much has been said about A Nightmare on Elm Street’s ability to toy with the audience’s perception of reality; with its mind-bending dream-within-a-dream sequences, you’re never quite sure of what’s real and what isn’t. But this is only part of what the film accomplishes as a whole: it captures the look, sound, and feel of a nightmare and, in so doing, creates one of the best representations of nightmares committed to film.

Freddy in the Tub Johnny Depp Hero in a Half Shirt

The ambiguity and strangeness of the narrative makes you feel disoriented and wary, as it should, since this is just the feeling we would expect of a nightmare. But this alone wouldn’t be enough, not without the chaotic, disturbing imagery brought to us by the boogeyman himself, Fred Krueger. He shape-shifts, his arms become impossibly long, he gleefully mutilates himself just to see the look on your face—this is a villain that is not bound by the laws of physical possibility and that makes him truly unpredictable in a way that other movie-monsters seldom achieve. And perhaps the most overlooked aspect of director Wes Craven’s nightmare-world is the sound. The soundtrack ranges from ominous to campy in an interestingly disjointed fashion, but when I talk about the sound of A Nightmare on Elm Street, I refer specifically to the subtle sound effects and strange inflections of speech. One of my favorite parts is a classroom scene where Nancy slips into sleep while listening to a recitation of Hamlet: “…were it not that I have bad dreams…” that voice—a hoary, unreal whisper hits especially close to the truth of dream-experience. Perfection.

I'm Your Boyfriend Now Nancy and John Saxon

By its very abstract nature, A Nightmare on Elm Street is greatly open to interpretation. Legions of horror fans have put forth dozens of theories, dealing variously with the sexual subtext of the film or the coming of age of Nancy into the bleak adult world inhabited by her mother and father. While arguably true, I feel these theories are subservient to a greater theme; I believe this film is above all, an examination of the enemy within ourselves. We are the victims of our own fears—fear of death, fear of sex, fear of growing up and though we wish salvation were as easy as wishing those fears away, they lurk within us always, ready to sneak up from behind and grab us by the throat. Watching the movie as a child, I felt this fear without understanding it. As an adult, lying in bed, watching the shadows on the ceiling, hearing the house creak, I know that something is watching. It watches from within. If you’ve never seen this movie, get to it. If you have, see it again; you’ll find new treasure every time you do.

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Kicks, Bare Hands, Cane, Knife, Teeth, Towel Rod

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Reviewed by: Pontifex Aureus

In essence, Cronos is a vampire movie. It’s a very different kind of vampire movie, but a vampire movie nonetheless, and while it can be considered a horror movie, I prefer to think of it as a dark fantasy movie. That’s because Cronos is not scary—not one little bit. But don’t let that bother you, because while it may not be scary, it is original, it is highly imaginative, it is rich with devilish imagery and possesses a thoroughly human character. These characteristics are hallmarks of all high-quality dark fantasy.

In Veracruz, Mexico, an elderly antiques dealer, Jesus Gris, and his granddaughter stumble upon a strange and ancient artifact created by a 16th century alchemist. The artifact, the Cronos Device, grants the user eternal life, as Jesus soon finds out upon accidentally triggering the insect-like machine. The price for eternity is steep however, as Jesus begins to develop a terrible craving for blood and draws the attention of an evil man who would claim the device for himself.

Jesus and Aurora Cronos Close-Up

You have to admire a vampire movie that never once uses the word “vampire”. Cronos is a wonderfully understated movie, never clobbering you over the head with its themes. It’s just as well that the film doesn’t mention vampires, since the movie is more about humans than vampires. We have three central characters: Jesus Gris, a kindly grandfather and respectable shop owner who becomes so addicted to the vitality offered by the Cronos Device that he winds up licking blood off a men’s room floor. We have Dieter de la Guardia, a ruthless businessman so against the idea of natural death that he spends his life in a germ-free room with a cabinet full of his own body parts. And lastly, there’s Angel de la Guardia, the bootlicking nephew to Dieter, who wants nothing more than for his uncle to die and leave behind a fat inheritance.

Jesus Using Cronos Nose Bleed for Dinner

In much the same way that a vampire is motivated by its desire for blood, these people are motivated by their desire for power. Each is ruled by their desire—the desire for youth and vigor, as in the case of Jesus and Dieter, or desire for wealth, as in Angel’s case. Each is a kind of power. They live wretched lives and all but Jesus are willing to kill to fulfill their desire. It’s this complex interplay of human frailty that makes Cronos such a sly winner. Keep this in mind while watching and you’ll find a rich layer of symbolism throughout the film (lots of religious subtext—Jesus Gris is phonetically similar to Jesus Cristo, the Cronos Device is concealed in an angel statue, Angel de la Guardia means literally “guardian angel”, and so on).

Perlman Broken Nose Jesus Vampire

Aside from all these subtle qualities, Cronos has several other things going for it as well. Being a Guillermo del Toro movie, it carries his visual flair for dark fantasy. The Cronos Device itself is a work of art, looking like a golden clockwork scarab, it is suitably creepy and evil-looking. There’s also the wonderfully muted performances by the whole cast, but especially by Federico Luppi in the role of Jesus Gris, as he transforms from twinkly-eyed grandpa to skin-peeling vampire without ever feeling over-the-top.

Cronos is a sumptuously dark fairy tale brought to you by the modern-day master of dark fantasy; if you’re a del Toro fan, you should find plenty to like here. Incidentally, this film also marks the first collaboration between del Toro and Ron Perlman, for you Hellboy fans out there. So if you’re looking for scares, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a visually striking, stylish, thought-provoking vampire movie, then look no further than Cronos.

Greetings gore-addicts! We here at splatterjunkie.com, being based in Texas, enjoy a closeness to Mexico which offers us easy access to Mexican films–films which we are quite fond of, but we were shocked and dismayed to find so little information about them online. Subsequently, we are so excited to announce our new ongoing series: Ciné Oscuro, Horror Treasures of Mexico!

From time to time, we will be taking a look at some of Mexico’s greatest horror offerings, beginning with a rather well-known specimen: Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos! So keep an eye out for our Cronos review, because it is coming soon, soon, soon!

by: Pontifex Aureus

The first time I went to the Josephine Theatre, I was smitten—powerfully and immediately smitten with the place. It sits at the far west end of Josephine Street, the sole sign of life in an otherwise desolate stretch of nighttime road. It is close enough to the hustle and bustle of St. Mary’s Street that I could probably hear the music coming from the White Rabbit if I tried, and it may be that this lonely street might likewise be lit up with bars and restaurants someday in the near future, but for now it is dark and solemn—befitting of, what is to me, a sacred cathedral.

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It’s an old place, classic, but not in a self-consciously retro sort of way, it’s just distinctly ‘of the past’. The Josephine opened its doors in 1947 and, as was common for the era, had a now-unthinkably huge 700+ seating capacity to accommodate all the surrounding neighborhoods. Like many other classic movie theaters, it faced a slow decline during the 70’s culminating in bankruptcy, but the Josephine was among the theaters lucky enough to be saved. Standing inside, I’m greeted with a cool-blue interior decorated with large etched-glass depictions of fairy tale characters. It’s dark, with the muted elegance of a Bogart-era nightclub. Now sporting a bar and lounge-area and a more reasonable amount of seats, the Josephine is looking a little more modern, but its old-fashioned charm still shines through.

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Tonight especially, the place has special significance. The lounge is filled with vendors and movie-goers here for the monthly Pigstagg Creature Double Feature. Since late December of 2014, David Gore of Pigstagg Records & Video, in conjunction with George Ortiz of theHorrific Film Festival, have come together to host a monthly double-feature movie event at the Josephine, celebrating classic schlock, horror, and cult movies from the old-school—absolutely nothing made past 1989. Previous showings include: Return of the Living Dead, Nightbreed, Heavy Metal, River’s Edge, The Wraith, and Trick or Treat. And while not always strictly horror, I promise all you horrorphiles out there: you will not want to miss out on this treasure-trove of cinema gold.

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(left to right) David “Pigstagg” Gore, Tony Chainsaw, and George Ortiz

The setup at the Josephine is unique; with its large, open floor-plan, you can choose the traditional route of sitting in the actual theater, or you can choose to relax in the lounge and watch the movie from the comfort of your table. Being as there is a bar in the lounge, you can easily get up, order yourself a drink, and not miss a minute of the movie. If two movies sounds like a lot to sit through, don’t worry; there is an intermission between movies, enough time to stretch your legs and perhaps check out some of the vendor’s tables in the lounge. The Pigstagg Records & Video table is there, of course, offering a range of schlocky, obscure movies for your viewing pleasure. This is a full evening of entertainment, 2 movies back to back, all for the price of $10 ($5 with costume and $5 for kids).

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This series of double-features will be running from now until November, on the last Saturday of each month. This month’s event will take place on February 28th and will feature two street-gang classics: The Warriors and The Wanderers. And don’t forget, come August, the Josephine will also be host to this year’s Horrific Film Festival, where you’ll be able to enjoy a slew of independent horror films and celebrity guest stars. If you’re a horror-lover living in San Antonio, or simply a movie-lover in general, this is where you should be in 2015. So come and join us at the Josephine and see for yourself what kind of magic this old theater still holds.