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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (#110 of 11)

The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

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The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

Columbia Pictures

The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

Happy Halloween, folks. Hope you’re enjoying our epic horror list, which is counting down the best of the best in a genre that’s near and dear to our hearts. As an added bonus, I thought I’d pay tribute to one of my favorite horror tropes—the Final Girl, a very specific type of heroine who’s usually left to deal with the cops when they come to clean up the bodies. There are newbies, legends, and even a comedienne on this roster, but all of them have earned their right to be here, either by standing on the shoulders of giants or wildly impaling creatures of the night. Sadly, I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) didn’t make the cut, but as she would say, “What are you waiting for?!?!” Read on.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot

We’ve stormed the gates and are now officially part of the canon-forming establishment…or (fingers crossed) the canon-altering anti-establishment. That’s right, for its seventh installment, the venerable Sight & Sound poll to determine the 10 best films of all time is including among its ranks of voting members a whole slew of bloggers and new-media representatives, including a handful of writers from Slant.

Not, unfortunately, all of us. But, speaking on behalf of all of those who didn’t get a ballot, I can say we’re not jealous, but instead thrilled that the same critical profile that once placed Trash, Showgirls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Lickerish Quartet alongside Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, John Ford, and Carl Theodor Dreyer will be making its mark in what nearly any card-carrying cinephile recognizes as the most authoritative word on the canon.

15 Famous Movie Savages

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15 Famous Movie Savages
15 Famous Movie Savages

Oliver Stone returns this weekend with Savages, a nasty crime thriller based on Don Winslow’s drug-cartel novel. The dictionary defines “savage” as “an uncivilized human being,” “a fierce, brutal, or cruel person,” and “a rude, boorish person.” In other words, it covers just about every villain who’s ever graced the screen. To whip up a list of 15, we set our sights on vicious characters as fierce as they are remarkably uncouth. There are no classy rogues here, folks. These are teeth-gnashing, eardrum-piercing, elbows-on-the-table types, and from a child murderer to a furry monster to two more Stone creations, they comprise a choice selection of scoundrels.

15 Famous Movie Hicks

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15 Famous Movie Hicks
15 Famous Movie Hicks

Chloë Moretz and Blake Lively get their hillbilly on in Hick, one of this weekend’s Dark Shadows alternatives and, quite possibly, one of the year’s worst. It is indeed good for something, though, as it’s inspired this 15-wide roster of cinema’s unforgettable rednecks. While far more prevalent in recent movies, characters who don’t quite hail from the upper crust have long been giving fuel to the likes of Jeff Foxworthy, who might have made the list himself if not out-hicked by a slew of fictional kinfolk. Whether hailing from the sticks or the trailer park, these hayseeds might even make Jerry Springer blush.

The Formulaic Shock and Awe of Tobe Hooper’s Midnight Movie

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The Formulaic Shock and Awe of Tobe Hooper’s Midnight Movie
The Formulaic Shock and Awe of Tobe Hooper’s Midnight Movie

The pop-cultural consensus on horror director Tobe Hooper would seem to be that, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he somehow made one of the genre’s defining masterpieces right out of the gate only to squander a promising career on a string of strange mediocrities that ultimately marked him more as a hack-for-hire than an auteur in the tradition of more respected contemporaries such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, or George A. Romero. (The only other film Hooper made that had any significant cultural impact, or drew favorable critical notice, was Poltergeist, which is, of course, famously primarily credited to producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg.)

While this rep undeniably has more than a little truth to it, I’ve always been sympathetic to Hooper, as I’ve always felt that he’s gotten a bum rap from even the horror genre’s notoriously less discriminating fans. Firstly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t “one of the best American horror films of all time” (though snobs love that sort of qualifier), it’s one of the best American films period—a sweaty, rough-and-tumble masterpiece that catches a specifically troubled time in this country’s history with an immediacy and intensity that 30-plus years and countless remakes and imitations hasn’t managed to diminish one iota. Secondly, Poltergeist, which admittedly reflects quite a bit of Spielberg’s sensibility, has a cynicism and jolting brutality, not to mention an intimacy among the reformed hippie parents, that strikes me as more a result of the influence of Hooper than Spielberg. And thirdly, Hooper’s extremely uneven filmography has born more, well, fascinatingly not-quite-right features than is typically acknowledged, such as Eaten Alive, The Funhouse, Invaders from Mars, Lifeforce, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, which all have a mad drive-in theater potency that’s far more interesting than the work of the inexplicably overrated Wes Craven.

Pleasures Worthy of Guilt: A Cinephile’s Confession (2005), with Postscript (2009)

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Pleasures Worthy of Guilt: A Cinephile’s Confession (2005), with Postscript (2009)
Pleasures Worthy of Guilt: A Cinephile’s Confession (2005), with Postscript (2009)

Editor’s Note: The House Next Door is proud to reissue a series of articles developed at 24LiesASecond, a now-defunct platform for provocative criticism with an underdog bite. The essay below was first published on 03/21/2005, under the editorial guidance of James M. Moran (editor-in-chief) and Peet Gelderblom (founding editor).

I was first introduced to the concept of “guilty pleasure” (one not related to the tribulations of adolescence or ruler-happy nuns thwacking out at the slightest transgression, at least) through the auspices of Film Comment magazine back in the late ’70s. At that time the magazine ran, as a recurring feature, articles written by various luminaries of film—directors and actors, usually, with the occasional high-profile writer or cinematographer thrown in for good measure—who would recount the sodden treasures of their film-going pasts, ones that helped make them the artists they were or in some way retained particular personal meaning for them. Of course the whole point of the series was the revealing of their dirty little secrets, their love for films disregarded, ill-regarded, derided or otherwise forgotten by critics, audiences and film historians.

Watching Movies: Circumstances Matter

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Watching Movies: Circumstances Matter
Watching Movies: Circumstances Matter

One of my favorite bits in the movie Slacker comes near the very end, after a barkeep rushes some patrons out of a bar so that he can close it down and go home. He gets in his car to leave, starts the engine, and then with a nod of his head he signals to an attractive female standing outside to get in, presumably to hook up for a one-night-stand. She obliges, and next we cut to the couple in bed at early dawn. The guy is still crashed out, but the girl is already awake and sitting up. She slips her bare, comely legs into a pair of cowboy boots and walks out into the morning like some vagabond spirit. As she’s leaving the house (here is the part I like) she passes by a guy crouched over a small television set, intently watching an old movie, smiling and rocking back and forth. We don’t know for sure, but I like to think that he has been up all night and is watching his third or fourth movie. I recognize this guy because, well, that’s me, or rather, I used to be him because I haven’t been that guy for a long time now. I used to stay up all night alone, smoke cigarettes, and watch old movies with a private enjoyment. I’d rock back and forth and watch early Wild Bill Wellman movies, or Eddie Cantor making whoopee, or just whatever came on Turner Classic Movies. This was back when I had cable and worked the night shift, before the wife and family I have now, before I grew out of my twenties and realized that, yes, I do indeed require sleep.

Nowadays, I hardly ever sit through an entire movie alone. At home, I find myself walking away from a movie at every opportunity, and I rarely travel away from home to a movie theater. Of late, I mainly use movies as a sleeping aid. To be more specific, I use the DVD commentary tracks that are (thankfully) so common now. Back when I had cable television, C-Span was my preferred dozing agent. Give me a boring Senate committee hearing, or some panel of reporters and editors at a navel-gazing journalism and ethics symposium and, man, I was out like a baby. But now, audio commentaries do the trick, and I often put them on, close my eyes, and drift away listening without ever watching the movie. To get me through a movie these days, I need an audience of people. I need my friends. A while back, there was an excellent post here at the House about horror movies and violence. The ensuing comments thread was of a very high quality. I was a little awestruck, and I couldn’t say much. It was all very interesting, but I hadn’t seen the recent films they were talking about. I felt like Henry Hill in Goodfellas.