Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Of Chainsaws and Champions

The number one film in the USA this past weekend was a seventh incarnation of the B-ist of B flicks. That will likely set off a new barrage of institutional guardians’ predicting the fall of Western Civilization. It isn’t. Back in the early seventies many claimed that “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was going to produce a depraved and evil generation. They were wrong. The film itself is a product of messed up people. We are all evil, whether we like it or not.

It is not such a new or surprising development in film. The cultural climate of the past decade or so has been similar to the times that produced the first Chainsaw film. And the “torture porn” subgenre has not been this popular since the days of Grindhouse cinema.

However, in a less the-world-is-going-to-end way and more of an art-reflects-the-times way, this latest film is disturbing. And not in your typical, intentional slasher story way.

The first film was a depraved roller coaster experience. A group of people encounter a family of cannibals and the audience experienced the thrill of terror. They identified with the “final girl” and breathed a sigh of relief when she escaped. They were not rooting for killers, at least not in the way that audiences would begin to as the years went by and more monsters were created for their entertainment.

In this new film, things have reached a new level. Descriptions of the plot (if one can call this mess a plot) have it going something like this:

The film begins with a recap (in 3D!!) of all the kills from the first film. After Sally gets to the police, they raid the farmhouse in an effort to arrest Leatherface. A religious mob shows up intent on killing the whole family and they burn the house down, presumably killing them all. A man from the lynch mob finds a surviving mother and baby in the wreckage and kills the mom, but adopt the baby.

Years later, the baby has grown up to be Heather. Heather discovers that an unknown grandmother has died leaving her a house. When she and her friends travel back to Texas to check it out, they discover that Leatherface has survived and was being kept safe. He is unleashed and a whole bunch of brainless killing ensues. The mayor of the town was the man who led the mob all those years ago and he is determined to finish off the family he failed to kill.

When Heather discovers the whole story, she TEAMS UP WITH LEATHERFACE! They kill everyone. She settles down in the old house (WHERE HER FRIENDS ARE STILL DEAD IN THE BASEMENT, KILLED BY LEATHERFACE) to protect him. Movie ends.

I would like to say that the writers are a messed up group who have misinterpreted what audiences want in their horror today. Obviously the box office says differently.

That is why this is such a disturbing trend. We have become a culture that sides with cannibal killers. Leatherface is not the monster; he is the champion, the hero in a world where there are no good guys. In a way, it is an appropriate picture of where our culture is today.

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