All posts by Manic Exorcism

There is a method to my madness. I've just not figured out what it is yet.

‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ – The Movie That Scared Me Before I Ever Watched it!

It cannot be stressed enough the impact visual images alone can have over an adolescent mind unprepared to fully process the visual overload it is suddenly forced to compute. And it can be anything. Read Marylyn Manson’s autobiography (Long Hard Road Out Of Hell) and you’ll read in grotesque detail what he and his cousin saw out of their grandpa which went on to scar them for life. Hopefully, none of us have to deal with lecherous visions of perverted grandparents like that, but, without a doubt, there could be something that you saw while you were little that left a searing brand smoking on your psyche. 

I sure did and it stayed with me for years! It helped develop my obscene taste for horror-gore and death metal music too. And though there is a macho Manic pride growling inside me to not reveal any hint of fear over anything I cannot deny the one thing that did really, really mess with my head at an early age.

I stumbled upon it while glancing through the magazine rack at a checkout line way back when. Being an avid horror/monster fan from the time I was in diapers I was eagerly skimming through a Gorezone magazine, my own little happy space when I turned the page to see a girl being hoisted up by a maniac to be hung on a rusty meat hook. 

I cannot tell you why but fuck-a-monk that got into my head! Like could it be possible for a movie – even a scary one – to go a little too far? I was only eight at the time so I hadn’t explored the gorier side of horror yet. This single image alone alerted me to a side of horror I was unaware of. Something that felt genuinely dangerous.

I was a stupid kid so cut me a little slack.

I didn’t know a thing about cannibalism at that age so I was unaware she was going to be that evening’s main course. I just knew what followed was going to be terrible for her. I later learned about people eating people being an actual thing and – again – that fucked with my head a little more. I didn’t know people did that. In fact, I wasn’t aware that was even possible! 

But one thing that did cross my mind while staring wide-eyed at that macabre image was how very taboo this was. Like I was going to get into trouble just for looking at it. That girl, someone young, pretty, and very helpless, about to hang in agony on that hook. They can’t put that kind of stuff in movies, could they? I closed the magazine and with some newfound trauma stood silently waiting for my aunt to finish up so we could leave. 

What kept repeating around in my head was, That must be the scariest movie ever.

Years Pass

Long story short my parents decided to become missionaries when I was in 4th grade so I ended up spending the next 15 years in St. Petersburg, Russia. I loved it if we’re being honest. The horror and metal scene are both strong in the city, at least when I lived there. Once a year we would travel over to Helsinki, Finland where I would go to comic shops and books stores and load up on comics, figures, magazines, and books.

While skimming the magazines I got hold of a horror mag and, well wouldn’t you know, there was a huge piece on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bear in mind I was about seventeen at this time and was still trepid over the fucking movie without ever even seeing it.

Out of obsidian curiosity, I poured over the lengthy article, soaking in each and every grizzly detail, and learned about the puking hot despicable conditions the actors put themselves through.

How Gunner Hanson stank to high heaven and made people sick due to the odor when he was around. Because no one would wash the costumes! And filming under the glaring heat of a Texan sun inside a humid shack lacking any AC was entirely unbearable. 

Sally’s finger really did get cut open to feed Grandpa because actor Gunner Hanson just had enough. And, shit, I can’t blame him. Conditions were disgusting, hot, uncomfortable, and it played through on film fantastically. 

Considering how I hadn’t seen the movie yet I was bewitched by all the details. And then I read it was based on a true story – and not knowing much about Ed Gein at the time – I closed the magazine and let that bit of obscene info sink in. My teenage brain really thought this shit happened! Whatever dread I may have already established in my mind over this little film increased tenfold! 

Oh but that’s not all. For whatever reason when I was seventeen it was totally all about TCM! Day after reading that magazine article I was out and about looking around the Helsinki flea market where I saw a clamshell copy of – yeah you already know – TCM. I was also too chicken shit to buy it. You may all laugh at me. I was seventeen and stupid. Something I rapidly got over while pouring through all the Video Nasties I could later find.

However, I did return back to Russia entirely pissed with myself for not buying the fucking movie. And for some reason it was not at all easy to find a copy of some movies – Last House On The Left, I Spit On Your Grave, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were almost all impossible to find. And there were no streaming services like Shudder or eBay to order hard-to-find movies. And that’s what made me kick myself over not getting the film. 

A whole year passed before I found myself in Helsinki again and back at the flea market. It was there, the clamshell video of TCM. I swear it was waiting on me like some malevolently patient stalker. My celluloid devil at the crossroads. I had to buy it this time and took the movie back home and watched it that very night. Lights were off and I was in bed watching truly the scariest movie I had ever seen up till that point. 

I don’t need to tell you how great the movie is or the merits of its scares. It works. Still to this day it works. It plays out like a demented dream and allows ghastly visuals to tell a simple story.

One thing the remakes and succeeding movies never quite manage to capture is the hellish simplicity of just letting scary images progress a story. It’s so simple but chillingly effective. The movie starts off with a corpse and it concludes with the ravings of a blood-drenched lunatic.

Added to the macabre images is a soundtrack of grating metal objects, static akin to a geiger counter, and shrill moans. It’s not at all traditional and fits perfectly into the strange and demented story of Leatherface and his family. It’s been said before but it really does feel like you’re watching a grotesque documentary.

Even though I had this film hyped up in my head I was not at all disappointed when I finally watched it. It did give me chills, like what the fuck is with the chicken in the parakeet cage? Weird shit like that just weirded me out and made me love the movie more and more. 

Joe Bob Briggs calls it the best movie ever made and he might be right. It’s certainly one that scared me years before I ever even watched it. It’s a dirty little product of its time and was influential in establishing the slasher genre. 

Future Past of Chainsaw

Gun Media, the guys behind that little Jason game I’m always yammering on about (check here), have gone and done it again by bringing fans TCM to play. The game is one of the most highly anticipated games among horror fans today as we wait for the chance to traverse the dangerous backwoods of Texas and, oh please let it be, become Leatherface and chase down stupid little fucks with a roaring chainsaw. 

So the legacy of Leatherface isn’t slowing down. And sure the franchise as a whole isn’t all that amazing but the first film alone is more than enough to keep fans screaming and scared. If you’ve never seen that original film it’s high time we fixed that. Grab a beer and turn the lights off as you cozy in for some Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And if you scream a little well that’s ok. 

Manic out! 

A Horror Retrospective – Ghostface And His Generational Influence

Effective horror lingers with its audience long after the credits roll. The images (or messages) take root deeply inside our psyche and not only leave lasting impressions to fuel our nightmares but make common everyday things something dreadful. That’s a sign of great horror and only the masters of the genre can manage it. 

Scream 3 (2000) Directed by Wes Craven Shown: Ghostface

They turn the mundane into malevolence, and, to the peril of their audiences, suddenly the shelter of the everyday norm is stripped away and our world of comforting shelter is no more. Some examples include: Psycho violated the private safety of a common shower making it no longer a safe and intimate place. After Jaws premiered family outings to the beach were something turned suddenly macabre. No one wanted to step into the water.

Jason scared people away from camping out and Freddy met us in our nightmares to slaughter us like pigs. Ah Hell, Stephen King made cornfields scary and Clive Barker turned a music box into a doorway to Hell.  

In like manner, Ghostface made answering the phone dangerous. To emphasize the malicious effect this slasher had on society after Scream’s blockbuster success the rate of people getting caller ID increased astronomically. All of a sudden people had a reason to fear who was on the other line. After all how well do you know that other person?

The chance that a stalker – or serial killer – was waiting on the other end was always a great possibility. Something Scream exploited brilliantly. 

Not being the first horror movie to make crank calls something to fear (Black Christmas, When A Stranger Calls) it certainly gave the concept its own grisly twist and introduced Ghostface as a new horror icon whose spectral visage has now haunted generations of horror fans. 

Part of the character’s violent success is the unique fact that – unlike his big brothers Jason, Michael, or Freddy – anyone can be behind that ghostly mask. There is no repeating Ghostface murderer from movie to movie. The only thing shared between each of them is the iconic mask.  

With each succeeding film, new serial killers don the mask and cloak and busy themselves by both revering the established standards of the past while carving a new grisly legacy of blood in the flesh of new victims. Bottom line no one knows what sick maniac hides behind the ghost’s face … but it’s probably someone you’re closest to. Just saying. So the victims of the franchise are always on edge and never know who they can trust. 

Scream 3 (2000) Directed by Wes Craven Shown: Ghostface

That’s the scariest side of Ghostface: who is he or she? The clever script of the first film had us all on the edge of our seats trying to figure out who in the Hell was guilty? Was the lead girl pulling the strings behind the whole thing or was she an innocent trapped in a violent game? That’s the hook, that bloody mystery and classic slasher motif of ‘who done it’ the subgenre was originally built on.

Bottom line is we all know who Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and Leatherface all are. We don’t know who’s behind Ghostface, at least not until the final reveal in the third act of each movie. 

Final Thoughts

Admittedly Ghostface is not as readily adored as much as his older brothers of the slasher genre. Possibly because the Scream franchise went on to inadvertently inspire a long list of copycat films and parodies that made it tough for some horror fans to take the franchise seriously. And that’s too bad because this really is a fun series with plenty of scares and kills to keep people coming back. 

One phenomenal achievement Scream can claim is reviving the horror genre when it was clearly on life support and rapidly losing the battle. Long gone were the days of the ‘60s when Hammer ruled the box office or the ‘70s that gave us groundbreaking terror like The ExorcistThe Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And the entire decade of the ‘80s was ruled by horror. We grew up on the teats of the Beast and just expected each year to produce a brand new Jason movie or Freddy film. It was the decade of slashers, zombies, and splatter! 

Then… nothing. Like bones left out to bleach under a desolate sun, horror seemed to have outlasted its usefulness and many fans left the genre completely. Then came Wes Craven’s little meta-horror film (that manically embraced what it was) sparked a hellish flame among audiences and they came out in droves just to see what all the fuss was about.

Holy shit! Scream (1996) didn’t disappoint either. 

You could call it sensational. I call it a ‘90s phenomenon. Scream became a hit and people – as aforementioned – were scared of ringing phones. Everyone was a suspect (in the movie) and the simple formula of mystery and murder pumped new life into the genre and horror was back on its feet. The Beast was awakened with a new scent of blood on its maul and was taking no prisoners.  

There are today horror podcasts who readily admit they would not be into the genre if it weren’t for the black magic of Scream’s howling success. It stabbed deeply into the cultural psyche and left an oozing mark. 

I look around my writing space here and see all the Scream Factory and Severin Blu-Rays I own; a pantheon of horror icons line my shelves thanks to the brilliant work of NECA’s beautiful renditions of Jason, Pennywise, Chucky, and many, many others. I’ve spent hours playing the Friday the 13th game on PS4 and the list of my collection (and obsession) can go on and on. So I’m left wondering if any of these things I love would have been possible without the success of Scream

Our younger readers might think this to be over-exaggeration but those of us who know simply know. Horror was almost lost because no one wanted to invest in the genre. Scream changed a lot of corporate minds and suddenly there was money to be made in well-written and smart horror movies.

That’s not to say there weren’t any good scares or genre flicks happening at the time. There were movies like Cape Fear and Silence of the Lambs that both came out in 1991 and scared the shit out of people. But these movies were placed under the moniker of Thriller. There was an obvious attempt being made by studios to do everything in their power to not let their sophisticated movies be called a ‘horror film’ as if the term would taint their project.

Among the rise of thrillers also came the romantic gothic remakes of classic monsters with titles like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1993) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994). Both movies were elaborate projects sporting big-name actors, stunning set pieces, and performances of a lifetime. Wolf (1994) also joined the fray and reworked the classic werewolf story into a more modern setting. But these movies were not being called horror movies but were gothic romances instead. Hell, I still loved them.

 But Scream made being a horror fan something to be admired. All of a sudden all of us horror geeks were like part of a clandestine order, holders of dark knowledge and be sought. It was a game-changer and wasn’t afraid to be called a horror movie. It wore the title proudly. Both it and The Blair Witch Project (1999) helped re-evaluate the genre in the minds of many, many people.

As of writing this article the franchise’s fifth movie is in theaters now – and enjoying good reviews. So Ghostface is back and, after seeing the movie, I say make a big deal of it. Watch all four previous films – or at least the original trilogy – and lead into seeing Ghostface up on the big screen again.

This is certainly the most violent of the whole franchise (no complaints from me, I love that kinda stuff) and really got me excited about the Ghostface killer all over again. If you’ve not seen the series yet you owe it to yourself – as a horror fan – to go watch the first movie at least. See the movie that made future movies like Hereditary possible at all.

Reads For A Scary (Post) Halloween Part 3: The Chills Continue

Halloween is upon us and soon shall pass like a fine mist rolling across a pale cemetery. An army of jack o lanterns flicker dimly in the silent autumn night as whispers of the haunting season linger on well into our unsettled dreams. We may grieve the parting of our favorite holiday but there’s no need for woe. With any of these marvelously malignant reads, the spooky season need not vanish entirely.  

The Living Dead – by George Romero and Daniel Kraus

That’s right, my oozing Nasties. We’re starting this list right off right with a George Romero gem. Papal Romero planned this book to be a pay-per-chapter online read and had already completed chapters to upload. Unfortunately, we lost Papal Romero (way too soon) before the web series was finished and many projects he was working on were lost with him. 

This book, thankfully, is not one of them. Luckily his notes and chapters were picked up by Daniel Kraus and what could be considered the very last of Romero’s Dead projects was brought to life. That’s right, this book comes to us from beyond the grave which in of itself gives it Halloween credit. 

As with all of his Dead projects this book covers some of the political tension and cultural paranoia of its time, which was honestly just a few years back. The book is rich with relatable characters and glows with some very nicely detailed gory moments. 

This book is a treat to horror fans. I remember reading about this book a year – or maybe two years – before its publication. Then there was nothing more said of it. I kept it in mind however but began wondering if it would ever get published or be another lost project. That mystery made me want to read the thing so much more. 

I finally found it at a Barnes and Nobles last October (2020) and kinda fucked out right there. I was shocked to finally see it. And to be frank I want more (really good) zombie novels. In a world of World War Z and The Walking Dead graphic novels, it’s great to have a fresh new vision by the man who made zombies what they are today. This is one horror fans will want to own. 

The Fog – James Herbert

This book has nothing in common with the John Carpenter movie save name alone. It’s much, much better. Before any assumptions are made let me assure you I do like Carpenter’s The Fog. Very cool atmospheric ghost story. But this book has nothing to do with specters out for revenge.

The Fog begins with a street caving in causing lots of stress and injuries to those caught on the road. But rest assured this is only the beginning of their woes as a yellow mist rises out from the cavernous expenditure. Anyone caught in the sickly fog start indulging in their most violent fantasies. Anyone familiar with the Crossed comics will have an idea of what I mean. Honestly, after reading this book I wondered if Garth Ennis might have been inspired by it when writing up Crossed. 

Oh yes, there is blood and beatings, and brains splattered about on walls a plenty. This is a meaty good one for the gore fiends among us. There are some incredible (and quite graphic) death scenes in this book. You could call this a sticky book for all the slaughter found in it. My personal favorite is when the Fog hits a cow pasture and the herd proceeds to eat the farmer alive. Absolute genius. Another scene that caused readers some genuine anxiety was the slow torture of a gym teacher at the hands of his Fog-poisoned students. 

But like his grotesque The Rats don’t think this is all splatter without substance. Herbert weaves a believable group of unfortunate survivors trapped in a world where the Fog causes carnage wherever it’s seen. The book manages some epic tense moments and plenty of chills as you follow the heroes in their apocalyptic search to defeat this bizarre intelligent veil of death.  

Said it before that it’s a shame, not more people know who James Herbert is today. So I want to change that. 

Zombie, Gates of Hell, House By the Cemetery – Eibon Press. 

Our long-time readers will be very familiar with these guys. I can’t shut up about them, but that’s only because they are so fucking good! This is where you’ll find the perfect blend of cult-horror and comic books stitched together with some of the best visual art you’ll see this side of Hell. 

Building upon the cult cinematic imagination seen in Lucio Fulci’s most beloved films, Eibon Press takes readers back to the dark side where pain is god and there is no escaping the approaching maul of doom. Any title these guys released is a great read, but for first-timers curious to try out the material of Eibon Press would be doing themselves a favor by starting out with Zombie, Gates of Hell, or House by the Cemetery

Faithfully adapting Fulci’s movies EP adds their own incredible talents of striking art and narrative to flesh out a broader lore found out of the source material. Luckily these guys are current and, unlike plenty of other horror comic publishers I could mention, are not out of print. You can log on to their website (click here I dare you) and find all these titles plus way more. They do not pay me to plug their stuff either. I pay them in fact. I’ve ordered comics, T-shirts, movies, and just everything from these guys. Honestly, they are the best horror comics out there. 

Tomie – Junji Ito

I’ve been wanting to talk about this guy for a while now. When I’ve re-read everything from Eibon Press I turn to Ito’s macabre manga. Again, this is someone I cannot get enough of. Every time I see a new Junji Ito title I can’t help myself and pick it up. His library is growing and it may feel daunting to know which title to start with though. 

I recommend Tomie, a weird story about a woman so damningly beautiful that men cannot stop themselves from falling in love with her. And the men who do fall in love with this enigmatic beauty are soon given over to an inexplicable need to murder her. And Tomie comes back again, and again, and again to ruin more lives and shatter more souls. 

I suppose one could call it a succubus story for how her beauty lures in lover’s hearts but it’s herself who lies in sawn-off pieces by the men whose hearts she’s captivated. The manga is phantasmal, eerie, and shocking. Considering how Tomie constantly is slain in many different ways you’ll find yourself sympathizing more with her killers who oddly seem to be the true victims of her wiles.

Now knowing this will not ruin the story for you though. There’s plenty of suspense and anxiety awaiting readers daring enough to pick this title up. I personally found myself dreading to turn the page because I knew something really, really unpleasant was waiting for me on the other side.

 If you find this your cup of tea you’ll want to try out even more of Junji Ito’s works. Not a one of them is bad and each broadens the writer/artist’s influence over modern horror. 

Junji Ito’s been a rising star for a while now.

Hope you all have a Happy Halloween!