DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Boxing Helena, Pieces, The Collector, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2) (with "The Beginning") 

Title:  Boxing Helena

Release Date:  1993

Nationality and Language: UK, English

Running time:  107 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company: Orion Classics

Director; Writer: Jennifer Chambers Lynch, story by Philippe Caland


Cast:   Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn


Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  film violence in indie films


The ultimate gross-out horror film of all time may be the Spanish/Italian venture, Juan Piquer Simon’s Pieces (1982, Film Ventures International, R), which bills itself as “it is exactly what you think it is,” much more explicit than either Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. 1980s Dallas columnist Joe Bob Briggs would just say, “Check it out!” Violence like this is bad for you. In Pieces, by the way, the big bad Dean on campus is guilty (predictable), but some of the chopping scenes (cutting flesh, cutting a girl in two on camera) are among the most graphic ever on commercial film. And there is one final payback mutilation of the Dean by one of the walking reassembled corpses that censors won’t let newspaper reviewers describe.  As for the Texas films, the Tobe Hooper film (1974, Bryanston, 83 min, R) was wonderfully grainy, cheap and low budget, with pathetic swipes even from grandpa. I saw this at the tiny Northtown Mall theaters in Dallas in the early 80s. The remake from New Line Cinema (2003, dir. Marcus Nispel) is big and bad (though shot flat) but seems overslick for the material (although the trap-amputations are horrible.)

The "Prequel" "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" (2006, New Line Cinema/Platinum Dunes/Next, dir. Jonathan Liebesman, 95 min, R) has more substance than the others, because it plays on the Vietnam era draft an attitudes of some lifer types that draft dodgers are pansies or cowards. R. Lee Emery is riveting as the imposter sheriff (he assassinated the real one), who traps some kids, having a fling before the boys get inducted -- or perhaps flee to Canada since one has a burnt draft card -- in his old mansion. Now the film shows the birth of Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) back in the 30s as a fat woman breaks water on the floor of a sweat shop. That's the mood of the film. Taylor Handley and Matt Bomer are the two "draft dodgers" and the pretend-sheriff will enjoy playing drill sergeant, in a Giant-house that he has turned into a Hanoi Hilton. Then Leatherface himself has at them. When Matt gets it, there is some frank homoeroticism, however sick; but then all hell breaks loose, as one scene offers a double amputation (of a presumably diabetic grandpa) on camera.  Leatherface uses one of his victims to give himself a face transplant (perhaps inspiring Victor's buying Philip a face transplant in "Days of our Lives") -- and the idea of an amputated face sounds pretty gross. Then the movie recreates the Emily Post "dinner table" scene from the Tobe Hooper classic.

Now, for Boxing Helena (1993, Orion Classics, dir. Jennifer Chambers Lynch), a British satire in which a surgeon Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands), hits ex-girlfriend Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) with a car, takes her home and, in two operations, amputates her legs and later her arms to make her into a coffee table freak (like she was a coffee table book).  The film is quite effective in showing her reduction visually, to the point that she is put in a box and made into a household decoration. “Payback’s a bitch” when her old boy friend catches up with the surgeon and executes him. NBC Anchor Tom Snyder gave this film a lot of hype on talk radio then. There is even The Collector (1965, Columbia, dir William Wyler, UK), where a man chloroforms women to kidnap them, until one of his victims finds out how to tease his chest. I remember seeing this in Arlington’s old Buckingham Theater. The payback got a rise from the audience. This is not about debt collectors! 



Related reviews:. Various horror films

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