I Love the Smell of Misogyny in the Mornings.
Tobe Hooper is insane. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career, though if you’ve bothered to venture much further than Spontaneous Combustion you’ve probably got a touch of brain fever yourself. Occasionally, as in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Eaten Alive, insanity works to his advantage, but most of the time his films are like Rob Zombie lyrics. At first blush, they appear to be the work of a horror-obsessed beat poet, but after a while it just turns out to be a homeless person on a three-year brown acid trip. I thought things had hit an all-time low after he cast Mark Hamill and Twiggy in his segment of Body Bags, as if he took out an add in Variety about being washed up, but then I saw The Mangler, a film that has the distinction of being the only feature-length horror movie made about a killer washing machine. Granted, it’s an industrial laundry press, but I haven’t been scared of household appliances since the feds took their tap off my internet connection. Thank you, lax Canadian child pornography legislation. In any case, I thought all was lost for Hooper, especially after Crocodile, but then Toolbox Murders came right out of left field. It’s not actually a good movie, but after watching a promising young director chronicle his deteriorating mental condition through various Robert Englund movies, the level of quality and coherence evident in Toolbox Murders was shocking, like sitting through a Bernie Mac stand-up set and finding that one joke near the end that’s actually funny, instead of being a stream of incomprehensible profanities punctuated by a grunted ‘faggot’.
Still, the movie’s no good. There are some interesting moments, and the script seems to suggest that the screenwriter had some good ideas until he realized he was writing a script for Tobe Hooper, so he might as well just knock the rest of the third act off during commercial breaks, because judging from Night Terrors, Hooper probably can’t read anyway. In Toolbox Murders, a historic Hollywood apartment building is the setting for a series of grisly murders, all of which appear to be connected to the building’s history of black magic and haunted house clichés. Thankfully, the first murder is of Sheri Moon, the star of House of 1000 Corpses and one of the worst actresses I’ve watched since the dialogue scene that sets up Gia Palomo’s double penetration in Meat Holes 2, so we don’t have to sit through her struggling to differentiate between ‘acting’ and ‘reading screen directions out loud’. In her place, Angela Bettis must investigate the murders and their source amid legends of voodoo and something called a ‘coffin baby’, which sounds like the punch-line to a great joke. Nothing really goes anywhere, but I was expecting your standard stalk and slash teen horror movie, only with less Dawson’s Creek stars, so I was pleasantly surprised when the story had some moments and the only TV actress to be spotted was Drusilla from Buffy, especially considering that this film is a remake of a particularly shitty 70s slasher movie.
Dennis Donnelly’s original film is not one of the crowning achievements of the horror genre. Despite involving tools, an apartment building, and idiot direction, the film bears little resemblance to the remake, save the title and the fact that neither of them are worth watching. The remake, however, is just inconsequential, whereas the original film is a bit of a black eye for horror. I firmly believe that the genre never gets its due, deserving much more respect than it receives. There are just as many crappy comedies as there are crappy horror films, and yet most people would be much more comfortable admitting they like an American Pie movie than to cop to owning a tape of Night of the Living Dead, or a sixth generation dub of an Asian snuff film featuring a Taiwanese woman peeling off her own skin at gunpoint. And the problem with horror, aside from comments like that, is films like the original Toolbox Murders. There’s nothing wrong with making horror films, however graphic they may be, provided that there’s a genuine fear behind them. Fear of communism, fear of consumerism, fear of lesbians, whatever. That’s what makes an interesting film. The problem is, a lot of the worst films are made about hatred, specifically hatred for women, which gets repetitive and harder to defend in an argument. Sure, we all hate women at times. They make you watch The Notebook twice a week, they insist on being fully conscious before sexual relations, and they won’t get your name tattooed on their forehead so you feel safe letting them walk to the grocery store un-chaperoned. Plus, they never laugh when you recite Impaled Nazarene lyrics in a bad Christopher Walken voice. But this endless vicarious punishment through horror films is going too far. Women are already being punished enough by those ugly pointy shoes that look like jester feet that have been pounded out with a hammer and died a hideous vermilion. And due to the rapid spread of internet pornography among young males, they’ll soon be unable to procreate without subjecting themselves to humiliating sexual degradations and endless arguments about how protein is good for the skin. So, in essence, what I’m saying is that I’m joining the fight for a horror cinema that focuses on sub-conscious societal fears, instead of the punishment and hatred of women. Unless that woman happens to be Sherri Moon.