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DARK SKY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tobe Hooper
Cast:
Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan
Writing Credits:
Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

Tagline:
For five young friends, a typical summer afternoon drive becomes a terrifying nightmare.

Synopsis:
This is the bizarre and tragically gruesome account of what happened to five young friends one summer afternoon in rural Texas. After hearing reports of grave robbing, the group sets out to check on a family grave. Soon after, one-by-one they wander into the murderous clutches of Leatherface.

Box Office:
Budget
$140 thousand.
Domestic Gross
$30.859 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
English LPCM Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/16/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper, Director of Photography Daniel Pearl, and Actor Gunnar Hansen
• Audio Commentary with Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul Patrain and Production Designer Robert Burns
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper
• Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer. +

RELATED REVIEWS


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2014)

40 years after its initial release, we revisit the original 1974 version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Specifically listed as being set on August 18, 1973, the film starts with a mention that someone robbed graves and created macabre monuments.

From there we meet a group of young folks traveling through Texas in a van. They plan to visit the decrepit home once inhabited by the grandparents of Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain). Along for the ride are Sallyís boyfriend Jerry (Allen Danziger) plus another couple, Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McGinn).

Along the way, they see a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and take pity on him due to the intense heat. They quickly regret this decision, as the hitchhiker turns out to be a twitchy weirdo who gleefully cuts his own hand and also slices Franklin with a razor. He gets the boot from the van, which sets him off even more.

The kids stop to get gas but find out thereís none to be had. They head out to the old house anyway and explore it. Soon they hear a generator from an adjacent home, so Kirk and Pam go to see if they can score some fuel from the inhabitants. This ends poorly for them, and this starts an experience of terror due to the psycho, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).

The early Seventies packed a lot of seminal horror flicks, many of which retain a reputation for their shock value. The Exorcist deserves all its plaudits, especially since it uses its graphic elements in a non-gratuitous way. On the other hand, The Last House On the Left offers an amateurish mess.

Massacre falls somewhere in between that pair. To be sure, in no way does it match up with the classy and well-executed Exorcist, but it doesnít fall to the cheesy depths reached by House. Massacre manages some creepy and evocative moments, but it seems too campy and silly to become anything genuinely disturbing.

A lot of that stems from the mostly terrible acting. So many of the performers overplay their roles that they rob their characters of any real presence or power.

Nealís hitchhiker creates the most egregious example of this. Perhaps the actor thought his twitchiness and broadness would make the character scary, but instead it just turns him into a bizarrely over the top and comedic presence.

Burnsí Sally probably comes across best of the bunch, but thatís mostly because she can scream really well. She also looks really good in her tank top. The role requires little else from her, and she delivers a sense of genuine terror experienced by her character.

Too bad this doesnít translate to the audience. I realize Iím in the minority here, as Massacre enjoys a strong reputation as a horror classic, but it does little to inspire emotions in me. A few scenes become fairly intense, but the iffy acting again undermines these. Director Tobe Hooper delivers a lot of elements that seem gross to watch, but real terror seems rare. The actors play their parts in such a wild way that I simply canít take them seriously.

I canít deny that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains a seminal work that strongly influenced the horror genre. Heck, Ridley Scott even mentioned its impact on Alien. Unfortunately, the movie comes across as too goofy and poorly performed to work as believable. It manifests some powerful moments but generally relies on graphic grossness more than real scares.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given its low-budget 16mm roots, the image of Massacre came with inevitable issues but the transfer seemed to reproduce it well.

Sharpness suffered from the source material but usually worked fine. Iíd be hard-pressed to cite shots that displayed terrific delineation, and the film could seem rather soft at times. That was an issue with the original photography, though, and I felt that definition mostly seemed positive.

I witnessed no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes or related issues. With plenty of natural grain, the movie didnít appear to come with digital noise reduction, and print flaws never became a problem. A speck or two mightíve materialized, but overall, the movie seemed clean.

Colors lacked great vivacity but appeared fine. The movie went with a somewhat sandy feel during the day and then blue at night. The image brought across the hues in a fairly appropriate manner; like everything else, these tones didnít excel, but they looked reasonably solid.

Blacks showed positive density. Occasionally they looked a bit too dark, but those instances werenít frequent. Shadows could also be a little thick, but once again, that came from the original photography Ė and appeared to be intentional to suit the stylistic choices. With a fair number of low-light nighttime shots, the action occasionally became tough to discern, but these shots were usually rendered well. Even with its inherent problems, this was a satisfying presentation.

In addition to an LPCM monaural track that replicated the movieís original audio, the Blu-ray came with three Ė count Ďem, three! Ė remixes. For the purposes of this review, I focused on the DTS-HD MA 7.1 version.

Despite the multichannel scope, the soundfield remained fairly restrained much of the time. The mix kicked to life on occasion, as it rendered vehicles movement in a pretty active manner and also brought life to a few action sequences. Music used the various channels in an engaging way as well. This didnít make the track a consistently broad experience but it expanded horizons in a reasonable manner.

Audio quality seemed dated but decent. Speech could be a bit thin, but the lines were intelligible enough and lacked many issues like edginess. Effects came across in a similar manner; those elements showed acceptable clarity and didnít suffer from too many obvious concerns.

Of all the components, music worked best. The creepy score managed to provide positive range and definition, with a good sense of dynamics. Given the movieís age, this was a pretty satisfying soundtrack.

How does this Blu-ray compare with the DVD from 2003? Audio seemed smoother and more accurate, while visuals appeared more precise, cleaner and more natural. I didnít think much of the 2003 DVD, so this Blu-ray offered a significant improvement.

With this ď40th Anniversary EditionĒ of Massacre, we locate a whopping four audio commentaries. Originally recorded for a 1990s laserdisc, the first comes from writer/producer/director Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, and director of photography Daniel Pearl. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, story/character areas, photography, effects, and related issues.

The participants display good chemistry and interact well in this fairly lively and informative track. We learn a lot about the production such as Hooperís original goal to get it a ďPGĒ rating, elements related to the shoot, implementing the characters, and the challenges of a low budget. Hansen provides the trackís best elements, such as when he tells us about how the intensity of the shoot led him to go a bit nuts. Itís not a great commentary, but itís generally quite solid.

Commentary Two features actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul Patrain and production designer Robert Burns. Previously found on a 2006 DVD, all four sit along with moderator David Gregory to give us a running, screen-specific take on sets and locations, effects, props and production design, cast and performances, characters, and other elements. (Actor Edwin Neal also appears briefly at the very end via speakerphone.)

For the most part, this becomes a good chat. It gets into a nice variety of topics Ė including thoughts about the 2003 remake Ė and does so in a reasonably compelling manner. Nothing here stands out as great, but the track manages to cover the movie in an enjoyable enough way.

The remaining commentaries are both new to the 2014 Blu-ray. For track number three, we get a solo chat from writer/producer/director Tobe Hooper. Also accompanied by moderator Gregory, Hooper touches on topics similar to those in the track he shared with Hansen and Pearl. This means some redundant information, but Hooper manages to get into a fair amount of fresh material. Despite some repetition and slow spots, the commentary gives us enough new information to make it worthwhile.

Finally, the fourth commentary includes director of photography Daniel Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou. Accompanied by Gregory once again, this track looks at sets and locations, editing, camerawork and audio, cast and crew, and various aspects of the shoot.

After three prior commentaries, repetition becomes inevitable, so expect a moderate amount of information you already heard. When the participants give us new data, I canít claim to find this material to be especially compelling. The track offers a decent look at the film but seems a bit sluggish and doesnít turn into a great listen.

Based on its reputation and my usual preferences within the horror genre, I expected to like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Unfortunately, I didnít find much about it that interested me, mostly because it could be cheap and amateurish, and not in a good way. The Blu-ray offered dated but well-reproduced picture and audio as well as a good collection of audio commentaries. I canĎt say Iím wild about the film, but the Blu-ray brings it home in a positive manner.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

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