The Lucky 13: Week Four: Thanksgiving Horrors!
If Thanksgiving is about one thing it sure doesn’t seem to be giving thanks. I’ve “broken bread” with a good variety of families from all walks of life over my years on this hallowed of American holidays and if one thing is certain it’s that Thanksgiving is about gluttony. That and football. But mostly gluttony. Surely this is a less than decorous way to put it, but from my experience all the thanks that is given seems to boil down to a half-assed blessing curtly delivered that “better not last more than thirty seconds, because I can’t wait to get my meaty mitts on a big ass shank of turkey”. When the first course typically has you loosening your belt that’s a sign of the season.
This week we give thanks to the gods of horror for a damn fine year of films and offer up to you some of our personal favorites to partake in on this most gluttonous and voracious of holidays.
Here’s wishing you and yours all the best this Thanksgiving!
Also – be sure to visit our cohorts in crime over at The Vault of Horror for their selections! I’m sure Brian and crew have a wonderful spread whipped up for you!
It’s as much a part of my Thanksgiving tradition as pumpkin pie. After I’ve consumed a plateful of turkey, a fat helping of stuffing, some good old jellied cranberry sauce, including some weird side dish Aunt Maggie brought, and washed it all down with a few cold brews; after the football games have aired and it’s time to put the kiddies soundly to bed, then (and only then) it’s time to break out the good stuff. That’s when I invite old Gunnar Hansen and his family of cannibalizing crazies into my living room. It’s time for desert with the original family of mayhem. It’s time for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What makes this film the perfect Thanksgiving horror film? Quite simply it’s the near satanic perversion of the Norman Rockwell ideal of the holiday. Tobe Hooper in creating this homage to Ed Gein literally took what is the most holy of bonding moments between family members and flipped it squarely on its head to create one of the most memorable moments in horror history, and it all plays out in the final act of the film around the dinner table. Everything leading up to this frenzied finale is purely appetizer.
Here’s some sage words of wisdom: You better take your Tums because the final twenty or so minutes will have your insides rolling over from indigestion. It’s not the grotesqueries. No, it’s Sally (Marilyn Burns) screaming her lungs out non-stop for those final brain melting moments around the dinner table. Such screaming is so emotionally draining and distressing to viewers that it’ll literally make you feel nauseated. In fact, there is little – if any – blood let in those moments. It’s the abrasive intensity that takes the level of chaos through the roof. Leatherface prancing around in women’s clothing, his father and brother cackling away. The pasty shell of grandpa sitting corpse like. It’s as visceral and horrifying as horror gets.
Of course, my darkest moment of humor, that always has me laughing out loud as I choke down some apple pie and ice cream is that limp-dicked grandpa feebly attempting, though with all the strength he can muster, to pop Sally over the head with that hammer. This, my friends, is the epitome of dark humor.
Yes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s a good old fashioned family get together that you just don’t see much of anymore, at least not like THAT.
I’ll admit it – House of 1000 Corpses wasn’t my first choice for favorite Thanksgiving viewing. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, but Marc (Brutal as Hell editor) got to it first… I digress. Still, let’s face it. If there ever was a poster boy for gluttony of all sorts, it’s Rob Zombie, so while he may be my second choice, his “old-school” flicks are certainly worthy.
It’s 1977 and two couples are out on the road, researching for a book on strange roadside attractions. They stumble across Captain Spaulding’s Museum of the Strange and after taking his infamous “murder ride” (which I wish actually existed) decide they must explore the legend of one of the more famous subjects, Dr. Satan. One hitchhiker and flat-tire later, they find themselves inside a veritable house of horrors with a seriously dysfunctional family. The inspiration behind House of 1000 Corpses is easy to spot (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but this is a fresh take on the backwoods crazy family with an extra dose of just plain fucking weird.
House of 1000 Corpses is not an easy movie to like – at least it certainly wasn’t for me the first time I saw it. But there was something about it that was strangely alluring, not the least of which is Sid Haig’s performance as Captain Spaulding. So, I watched it again. And then again. Every year, just like clockwork, I find myself settling in for a double-feature of it and The Devil’s Rejects. Both movies are a testament to over-consumption and gluttony of all sorts, so I find they fit in especially well with Thanksgiving.
One of the things I really love about House of 1000 Corpses is that it feels like a labor of love and inspiration from everyone involved. The cast is all around a blast to watch: Karen Black is just plain unsettling in her portrayal of Mother Firefly, Bill Moseley as Otis is clearly a star for the genre, and Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby Firefly is surprising, fun, gorgeous and all manner of crazy. There’s so much here – period. Not all of it is great, that’s for damn sure, but in the end House of 1000 Corpses is an entertainingly odd piece of work that always grabs my attention. If that doesn’t make for fun holiday viewing, I don’t know what does.
My picks for the last couple of weeks (except for War Horror, which I sat out on) have been unconventional, if you haven’t noticed. For Man vs. Nature, I chose Grizzly Man. For Halloween film I chose Mommie Dearest. And now, for Thanksgiving, I have chosen The House of Yes. Is it straight horror? No. It’s a very dark comedy-drama starring Parker Posey (the queen of quirk), Josh Hamilton, Tori Spelling pulling a Sharon Stone a la Casino and playing the only character she should ever play (dumb), Freddie Prinze Jr., and Geneviéve Bujold.
The story follows the dysfunctional Pascal family – Jackie-O, Marty, and Anthony (Posey, Hamilton, and Prinze Jr., respectively) – as Marty comes home for Thanksgiving for the first time in years. His sister Jackie-O is mentally unstable, believes she’s the former Mrs. Kennedy, and has decided to stop taking her meds. Jackie-O rules this family and is something of a demanding brat, taking advantage of her poor mental health and the sympathy of her mother and brother.
Complicating matters, Marty has brought home his fiancee Lesly, but Jackie-O is the center of attention and refuses to believe her brother could love anyone else. A rainstorm hits, the power goes out, and as Jackie-O’s insanity wildly progresses it becomes apparent that Marty might not be all that sane either.
Posey and Hamilton are absolute perfection in their roles, and although Spelling and Prinze Jr. have never been particularly good actors, they turn in capable performances in roles that seem written to suit their “type”. Parker Posey was made to play Jackie-O and captures the frenetic energy and manic ups and downs fantastically.
One of my favorite parts of the film is during the opening credits, where a young Jackie-O (played by Rachel Leigh Cook!) gives a tour of her home Jackie Kennedy style and we witness her madness for the first time. Note the moment when she tells Marty (who is filming her) to “stop it.”:
Oh, Thanksgiving. The one time of year we are required by God and country to sit down with our families and pretend that we like them when, in fact, a good lot of us would rather tear them apart. Some of us do just that, if only in a metaphorical sense and usually after consuming a goodly amount of alcohol. Thankfully (no pun intended), Antonia Bird’s 1999 film Ravenous provides us with just the sort of cathartic release we need after the stifling feast. With a Christ-like Robert Carlyle playing father figure to a group of mismatched soldiers turned reluctant cannibals, Ravenous (directed by a vegetarian, no less) perfectly illustrates how our own flaws and resentments devour us from within, driving us to devour all we encounter in return.
Oh, and it’s also just a hell of a gross-out flick with astonishing scenery, incredible acting and a musical score milked from insanity itself.
Cory J. Udler on Blood Freak
I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. Probably because there’s not a constant barrage of Thanksgiving songs on the radio, or Thanksgiving trees and ornaments and a guilt trip of buying gifts for people you don’t really even know or talk to. Fuck that. Give me lots of food, booze and football. I am from Wisconsin, after all.
When Marc announced this edition of The Lucky 13 a while ago, I knew there was only one Thanksgiving movie to talk about. One of my favorite movies of all time. 1972’s Blood Freak, directed by Frank Grinter and starring Steve Hawkes (Sipek).
Basically, folks, this is one you have to see to believe. This was a movie that for years I was dying to see. In the days before the internet, I would only see snapshots in various magazines depicting a guy in a big paper maché turkey mask. When the almighty Something Weird Video released the special edition of Blood Freak a few years ago, I was first in line. I think I may have been the first consumer in the world to have my fingers all over this fine piece of filth.
I’m not even going to go into the premise of the film, that’s now your job. Let’s just say it’s the only completely inept, anti-drug, pro-Jesus, bloodsucking turkey monster movie ever made that stars a former Spanish Tarzan (and bad, Vegas lounge Elvis look-alike) and appears to have been edited with a weed whacker. You don’t even have to smoke any weed to get the full effects of this one. In a nice, compact hour and some odd minute runtime, Blood Freak is nothing short of the most bizarre and insane grindhouse masterpiece I have ever seen in my life.
One of my favorite stories (possible urban legend) about Blood Freak is that when they turned it into the distributor, it clocked in at 90 minutes. It was then discovered that almost one entire reel was a static shot of nothing, someone forgot to turn the camera off at one point and they wound up turning it in as part of the finished movie. Amazing!
The lead character smokes some dope, nails some hot 70’s chicks, gets a job at the grossest “research” facility in history, eats some turkey, turns into a turkey monster, drinks some blood, cuts a dude’s leg off, winds up with his own head cut off, then gets the girl in the end. Makes no sense? Good. Gobble, gobble, Goddamn it! Blood Freak is the tryptophan cure all this Thanksgiving!