Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Ron Barnhart, Pamela Craig, Allen Danziger, Sharon Danziger, Mahlon Foreman, Kim Henkel, Amy Lester, David Noll, Jim Schulman
Plot: Free flowing and highly experimental film following a group of hippies living in a house.
Review: If you’re like myself you’ve probably been drawn in by Tobe Hooper being in the director’s chair with this film marking his feature length directorial debut after previously directing the short film “The Heisters”. Here four years prior to his breakout and arguably best known film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Here though he opts for something far more experimental tone and one more closer to the films of Jean-Luc Godard than anything resembling the legacy of horror films he has become better known for. Shot on a paltry budget of $40,000 this is if anything a curiosity to say the least let alone an early forerunner to the “Mumblecore” genre.
Chances are if you’ve seen this film it would have been via the film festival circuit were it often turns up as a fun curiosity, while personally I caught it at MUBI which serves as a Netflix / online cinétique for the more cinematic adventurous movie watcher. But so low regard the film is held in it, that it recently also turned up with “The Heisters” as a bonus feature on the recent blu-ray release for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” an indignity not seen since “The Boondock Saints” showed up as a bonus feature for the documentary “Overnight” which focused on the self-destructive atmosphere surrounding that film.
The film itself wasn’t a huge success back when it was released and would have possibly marked the end of Hooper’s directing career had it not been down to a midnight screening of George Romero’s genre defining classic “Night of the Living Dead” that he would find the inspiration to craft his own budget horror with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Watching this film now it serves as a kind of time capsule to the period it was made, while at the same time falling to same pitfalls most experimental films are prone to in that they tend to be made for film makers rather than a traditional audience.
Shot from an observational standpoint the film features no discernible characters or plot, but rather a collection of scenes strung together, as one scene see’s a hippie couple sharing a bath, another sees another two characters discussing whether the house is haunted. Then we have sequences such as the guy in the basement, which after finding a sword by the toilet proceeds to engage in a swordfight with himself. It’s a scene frequently discussed for the editing technique used, much like the occasional bursts of psychedelia which not only bring to mind the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” but also further serving as a stamp for of the period.
Written by both Hooper and Kim Henkel who would later team up again for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, Henkel also turns up here as a crazed hippie in a shed who frenziedly writes what he thinks on his typewriter making me wonder if this was how they came up with this film. More so when Hooper appears to be making it up as he goes it would seem to be the only explanation for the scene in which a paper airplane takes an extended flight before crashing into the house and turning into a fireball as it hits the ground before one of the bewildered hippies.
This film would be ultimately the last Hippie movie that Hooper would make as he instead moved to throwing the hippies to chainsaw welding crazies with the film which followed. Ultimately though this film was kind of a chore to get through, mainly because of the lack of plotting and interesting characters, let alone the fact that I had the feeling throughout that it was one which was designed to be enjoyed with the kind of illicit substances which don’t exactly fit in with my straight edge lifestyle. Still if anything it proves even early on in his career that Hooper was a cinephile as he pays homage to his inspirations here, though this is best viewed as a curiosity at best and really one for the completists only.