[Contains face-masks made of latex rubber, human skin, and SPOILERS!!!]
As I’ve learned the hard way, there are “terrible” movies that are terrible in an enjoyable and endearing way, but there are also “terrible” movies that are terrible in a tedious and/or insulting way… and this week I watched two critically reviled horror sequels that exemplified both sides of this tacky coin.*
On the “entertaining” side of terrible was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), which begins with one of the greatest opening shots in the history of cinema: an extreme close-up of Renée Zellweger’s mouth, as she carefully applies red lipstick. Hotcha! There are a lot of unscrupulous marketeers out there who will slap a large photo of a famous actor on the cover of their DVD, regardless of the role they play in the movie itself, or the length of their cameo… but Zellweger fans can rest assured that she is in fact the indisputable star of this schlock. As a stranded highschool geek being hunted by a “family” of backwoods psychopaths, she remains an admirably resilient, resourceful, and riled-up “final girl”, all the way to her (relatively) happy ending. I doubt Ms. Zellweger tends to brag about this movie too often, but she has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of here… she absolutely shines in every scene, providing ample evidence of the irrepressible charm, humour, and super-cuteness that have since made her a star. Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, is probably better off pretending it never happened, because this is far from his finest hour. To be fair, I’m not sure anyone could really pull off this role any better than he did… a bat-crap-crazy killer with a remote-control cybernetic leg (!), employed by the Illuminati (!!) as part of an unspecified spiritual experiment on the local populace (!!!). Poor guy never had a hope of coming out of this movie with any dignity… but thankfully it doesn’t seem to have held him back none.
I also have to give a shout-out to Lisa Marie Newmyer and Tonie Perensky, who had some very amusing scenes as a weirdly-morbid “mean girl” classmate and deceptively boisterous femme fatale, respectively. They probably suffered more physical abuse than Zellweger did, but they also got bigger (intentional) laughs during their dialogue scenes, so I guess it balances out? I hope they felt it was worth all the discomfort anyway, because they helped to create an off-kilter horror-comedy that I’m proud to have in my permanent collection.
Which is a lot more than I can say for Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). I imagine a lot of genre fans objected to the silliness of its central premise, even though that’s what compelled me to watch it in the first place: An elderly Irish toy manufacturer steals a five-ton rock from Stonehenge, so he can grind it up into computer chips, which are then sewn into novelty Halloween masks, and programmed to zap their wearers with a deadly magickal beam when exposed to subliminal messages in a special TV advertisement. Yeah, sure, why not? Never mind the fact that the differing time-zones across America will render the whole scheme half-assed at best… or that his factory is staffed with incredibly life-like clockwork replicants, masquerading as job-stealing immigrants, instead of more efficient machines… or that he chooses, in classic Bond-villain-style, to let the hero live to thwart his plan, for no apparent reason!
All that I can swallow with a smile… but a gorgeous young woman falling for a divorced deadbeat dad, who’s twice her age and kinda looks like Cliff Clavin from Cheers? Yeah, no… that’s where I draw the line. At first I found his skeevy attempts to put the moves on her amusing, assuming they were just unscripted symptoms of the actor’s own attraction to his leading lady (Stacey Nelkin)… but then the ill-conceived couple started kissing and sexing on the hotel bed, and I gave up any hope of ever seeing them as plausible, sympathetic characters. Even if the dude had looked like George Clooney, the fact that her real father had just been murdered would still have raised some very troubling questions about her state of mind when she succumbed to his blatant entrapment. “Hey, let’s go incognito as a married couple and share a room to avoid arousing suspicion!” Yeah… riiight. Still, the straws that really broke this turkey’s back were the flat dialogue and perfunctory performances, that sucked all the fun out of the silliness… plus an intensely irritating advertising jingle, that’s repeated about a millions times throughout the movie. Which reminds me… “Thirty-eight more days ‘till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween… Thirty-eight more days ‘till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween… Sil-ver Shamrock!!!” Gah!
* Note: Obviously I’m judging them as movies in their own right, rather than measuring them against the seminal classics that spawned them, because, c’mon!]