It's not often that other webmasters contact me, asking to publish their articles on my site. But Alex Harris, author of the ElectrosawHQ blog, recently got in touch, asking if I wouldn't mind featuring this article about his favourite horror movies involving chainsaw. So, not wishing to dissapoint and in the spirit of Halloween, here it is...
While it is easy to look into the heart of rural Texas to find story lines that include cannibalistic villains utilizing power tools to create situations of mayhem and terror, there are many other horror movies involving chainsaws worth exploring. A saw with a large engine and bar is a heavy and bulky weapon to use. An ignited two-stroke however, can increase a movie scene's tension exponentially. Some movie writers choose to focus on psychology to build fear, but others choose to use the visceral potential of having one's body parts detached with a common machine. Here are three examples.
Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness (1987, and 1992)
A professor of anthropology leaves his life's work on the occult in a cabin deep in the woods. A young relative of his invites several friends to an excursion at the cabin. The unsuspecting guests accidentally release a spirit from reading a passage in the Necronomicon, or “Book of the Dead.” One by one, the guests are possessed, and turn into zombies. Ash (Bruce Campbell), is the only person not transformed. He uses every tool available to fight the zombies and return the evil spirit to Hell.
These movies are the second and third installment in the Evil Dead series. The use of a chainsaw is woven into the movie when Ash's hand is possessed by the nameless and faceless spirit released by the Necronomicon. His hand develops a mind of its own, and tries to kill Ash. The only way he can separate himself from the demon is by separating his hand from his body. Once the hand is detached, Ash takes a chainsaw, fashions a harness, and straps it to his mutilated arm. Despite pain and massive amounts of spilled blood, Ash finds success with this new weapon against the zombies.
Unfortunately, Ash incorrectly speaks an incantation. A time portal is opened, and he is transported back the medieval court of King Arthur. In this ancient realm, he is perceived as a great warrior. He is convinced to help the people of the kingdom fight their own time's zombies appropriately known as “Deadites.” During the battle, Ash fights his own doppelganger zombie, frees the kingdom from evil oppression, and wins the love of a princess. His arm chainsaw weapon is used heavily throughout the movie, but Ash only succeeds in bringing back ancient Deadites to the present.
The Evil Dead series was fantastically popular, and it had a strong cult following. The first movie in the series was a true blood-fest, and had an incredible level of true horror grittiness. The Evil Dead II introduced dark comedy and a degree of kitsch to the zombie formula. Army of Darkness was more of a spoof on the themes in the other installments, but offered a great deal of cinematic innovation and gory fun. Overall, these movies were very successful in combining magical, supernatural, slasher, comedic, and stomach-turning elements.
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning (1985)
The story begins four years after Tommy Jarvis survives a terrifying confrontation with Jason Voorhees as a young teen in part 4. The now seriously troubled Tommy is sent to the Pinehurst Youth Development Center to try and overcome the enormous psychological damage that Mr. Voorhees brought upon him.
The main antagonist in this installment is Roy Burns, a paramedic that snapped after learning that his son, Joey, had been brutally murdered by Vic, a very unstable resident of Pinehurst. Roy decides to pick up the legendary hockey mask and take vengeance on everyone at the halfway house, Jason style.
When the copycat “Jason” returns to hunt Tommy, he slowly whittles the house's residents down to one counselor and two young boys. In one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, Roy chases the three into an old barn. As he searches in the dark, the counselor bursts from a stable with a running chainsaw. She pits her chainsaw against Roy’s machete in a spark-filled melee. Suddenly, the chainsaw chokes and stops, which turns the tide in Roy’s favor. Roy does sustain a horrendous shoulder wound that provides one of the movie's goriest close-ups.
This movie was an evolution in the Friday the 13th series. It was littered with graphic nudity, drug use, and modern props and had the highest body count of any of the films in the series, up till that point. When Tommy finally overcomes Roy using the killer's own machete, audiences are treated to seeing the face of the demonic murderer behind the hockey mask. Part 5 was not as successful as Part 4, and a big part of this could have been due to most of the cast’s neophyte-quality performance.
In a twist on the Frankenstein story, a college is haunted by a killer who is intent on creating his own fleshy toy from the body parts of his victims. This movie piggybacks on the success of other innovative new horror movie concepts of the time. These include the Friday the 13th series and The Shining.
In the 1940s, a young boy was permanently and psychologically scarred. He attempts to put together a “naughty” jigsaw puzzle, but his mother discovers it and punishes him. When he grows into a man, he becomes intent on satisfying his curiosities by dismembering various co-eds on a college campus. Of course, his chosen weapon is a powerful chainsaw. As the murder victim numbers climb, the local police are engaged in a manhunt for a killer who is unlike any that Boston has ever seen. As the college Dean, an undercover agent, and a student try to discover the killer's identity, the campus is canvassed in blood and fear.
It is really too bad that the killer in this movie wasn't wanting to slice cheese, because the film is littered with it. With bouts of bad scene editing and rushed dialogue, Pieces is more of a comedy than true horror. It does provide more than enough blood and gore for horror fans, but fails to create any coherent strings of captivating terror. There are a few laudable elements however. The killer is absolutely maniacal, the concept of carnal desecration is strong, and there are plenty of sawing moments. This includes a rather compelling decapitation.
Alex is a firewood cutting fan and a chainsaw expert. He owns a ranch in Montana where he lives with his wife and son. He is a tech cowboy who enjoys writing his blog ElectroSawHQ.com.