Showing posts with label movie reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie reviews. Show all posts

23 October 2013

Tobe Hooper Double Bill - Lifeforce & Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Blu-Ray Reviews

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Release Date:
14th October 2013
Tobe Hopper
Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth
Buy Lifeforce: Blu-ray

Release Date:
11th November 2013
Tobe Hooper
Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow
Buy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Blu-ray

The great Arrow Video has re-released two mid 80s Tobe Hopper films, both were part of his 3 picture deal with Cannon films. The films in question are Lifeforce and the unthinkable sequel to his masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He got the deal after the massive success of the overrated Poltergeist, which we all know Steven Spielberg really directed anyway.

Noted British occult, sci-fi and crime writer Colin Wilson novel The Space Vampires is the basis for Lifeforce. When he saw the finished film he famously called up John Fowles who cited his the adaptation of his book The Magus as the worst film adaptation ever, he told him there was a new one Lifeforce. I have never read Wilson’s source novel so I can’t comment if that’s the case.

Anyhow the film is a pretty naff bit of horror sci-fi, it was suppose to be a big budget franchise starter but it bombed quite badly. It’s about a group of astronauts who discover some space vampires in this spaceship hidden in the corona of Hailey’s Comet. Everything goes to shit and a rescue mission is launched and the 3 bodies they found in the spaceship but they look human.

They start to operate on them but they are actually still alive. Despite everything going to shit and the rest of the crew dying, one escape pod gets back to earth (it all seems to be a matter of days) with Colonel Tom Carlson. The Colonel is flown to London (which seems to be only a matter of hours) and warms them of what happened and has a psychic connection to the girl who is one of the bodies. The Space vampire girl breaks free and sucks the souls out of people for energy and England brings in Martial law. It’s called Space Vampires but they more resemble Zombies than vampires.

It’s a passable bit of sci-fi/horror fluff. It has some nice matte paintings and special effects, some terrible acting but it’s about 30 minutes too long for it’s good and is quite a chore at times to get though. The end space vamp zombie apocalypse is gleefully batshit crazy which it gets some props for that. It’s one of many misfires in Tobe Hopper’s career every since his made such a splash with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which brings us too…

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of the strangest sequels ever made. It is much in tune with something like Evil Dead 2 than its almost cinema vérité style of the source material. It takes place 13 years after the events of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It starts with almost parody voice over of the first film which gets increasing fast telling you what has happened in the 13 years. It many ways like Evil Dead 2, it’s a retread of the first film. The family having a chainsaw killing spree across Texas and it even has a redo the famous dinner scene from the original.

The film starts with Leatherface killing a bunch of yuppies on the freeway an obvious political statement. The yuppies are harassing a local female radio dj called Strech (Caroline Williams) who records their death on tape. Dennis Hopper than shows up in probably one of his most unhinged performances ever and this is a guy who made a career out of them. He is Lieutenant Boude "Lefty" Enright who is the uncle of Sally and her brother (the guy in the wheelchair) from the original film. The police have been incompetent in bringing the Sawyer family so he is on a mission to find the killers of his niece and nephew.

Strech plays the tape on air so the police are forced to listen to it but the Sawyers hear it and Leatherface and his acid casualty Nam’ veteran Chop Top comes to kill her at the radio station. The film becomes a total bloodbath from this point onwards. She survives and teams up Lefty to finish the Sawyer family for once and for all. Lefty brings a lot of chainsaws.

The film is fascinating mess of a film in the best possible way. It’s a deliberately surreal film from the get-go, which is as different as you can from the original. This may be one of the many reasons why the film was probably panned when it first came out. It has a great 80s aesthetic, which is partly inspired by his previous film The Funhouse, The Sawyers live a disused theme pack out in the desert. It’s all day-glow and obvious a good chunk of the budget when on the almost German expressionist esq. design of their underground home.

TCM2 is a deciding more political film as well even though the original is very much a post-Nam/Watergate film as much as any other 70s film. It is damning on everything from the treatment of veterans, 80s greed, consumerism and so on. In an interview with Tobe Hooper says he considers it one of the finest political films of the 80s and the guy has a point. Horror a genre not known for being particularly political if not somewhat dodgy politically it’s refreshing for a film of this kind to be so political. The award winning human chilli scene definitely brings back memories of Soylent Green.

Dennis Hopper is so insanely unhinged it’s almost mindblowing he was directed if at all. It’s also worth noting this was after he got “sober” he seems to have had a cocktail of blow and Frank Booth’s helium. It’s kind of a glorious bit of over acting to other side and then some. This was after all the same year as Blue Velvet.

It’s misfires often with it’s zany but extremely black humour. It often does Felliniesq retrends of scenes from the original film but it has a certain bizarre 80s charm that make it worth while and it’s only like 90 minutes. It’s probably his best film since the original film as well.

Both discs include loads of bonus material including feature length docs on Lifeforce and TCM2, numerous interviews, 2 different cuts of Lifeforce (theatrical and director’s), commentaries. TCM2 also includes early films made by Hooper including a rare bland comedic short and feature length film on hippies. I recommend TCM2 but if you’re a fan of Lifeforce you will be overjoyed with it’s blu-ray.

Ian Schultz



Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2