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Review: THE GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1990)

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Best Bad Quote:
“Are you scared? Let’s bathe.”
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When galavanting about campus in my college days, my German cinema professor told me about a little gem called The German Chainsaw Massacre, otherwise known as Blackest Heart. Needless to say, as a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my interest was quite piqued, especially since my teach’ spoke of this film like it was the Holy Grail of awesome. Well, I finally got my hands on a copy, and I can tell you that he was right. It’s the holy grail all right, but it’s more like the one “chosen unwisely” by the villain of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You know, the guy who grabs the golden challis, drinks from it certain that he is about to taste paradise, and seconds later is desperately asking, “What is… happening to me???”
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This film is both better and worse than its more popular, Texan predecessor, though the two can’t really be compared, as they are distinctly different movies. For starters, German Chainsaw is absolutely, one-hundred percent intended as comedy, so it’s definitely nowhere near as shocking or scary as Texas. It is, however, much gorier, somehow more disturbing, and much more… upsetting. Director Christoph Schliengensief isn’t exactly a popular director here in the states, but his big coup in German cinematic culture was his trilogy of films that “cut” into his nation’s history. (Pun! Slam)! The first volume covered the last hour of Adolf Hitler, the second– Massacre– delved into the fall of the Berlin wall and the first hour of reunification, and the final part continued the post-Wall collision of people in the aftermath of Chainsaw. Basically, this filmmaker has a David Lynch-like bizarreness to his art with subliminal, socio-political context: Eraserhead meets Hostel meets… segregation? Yeah… You can package it any way you want, but the movie is just plain fuuuucked up. For example, it opens with a shot of one of the film’s main characters blithely singing, despite the fact that she has been cut in half and her guts are spilled out on the street.
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Plot, you ask? Basically, the heroine of the film murders her very scary husband– really a woman in drag– so she can finally leave the accursed, socialist East and escape to the free market West where her boyfriend awaits her. She doesn’t make it very far. The falling of the Berlin wall… did something. It seems that the ingredients of East and West should not be mixing, because everyone has gone completely cray-cray. Within minutes of crossing the border, Clara (Karina Fallenstein) is nearly raped by her horny, homely boyfriend Artur (Artur Albrecht), is consequently saved then attacked by the film’s Leatherface– who alternately sports a clown mask or a sausage helmet (yes)– and is finally held hostage by his maniacal family at their hotel. Surrounded by Sausageface, a terrifying, erotically supercharged lesbian named Margit, a married couple who really enjoy chainsaws, and a butcher brother who stays locked in his bedroom talking to the rotting corpse of his deceased father, you can really feel Clara’s pain. This movie is a total mind eff that makes you want to press Stop all the time. But you can’t look away… You’ve come so far! And it’s only an hour long, so you tell yourself that you can make it!!! Sure you can, and you will. But let me tell you, you can never un-see this. It will haunt your dreams, make you want to curl up in a fetal position and cry, and no matter how many baths you take, you will never, ever feel clean again.
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That being said, despite the fact that I was either cringing or staring cock-eyed at the screen the whole time, there are some very hilarious moments. For example, Artur– who had his head bashed in at the beginning of the film with a rock– just keeps on coming back! This guy survives a chainsaw to the gut, an axe to the chest, and whatever else it takes to get some sex from Clara! (I guess this makes him the Christopher “Highlander” Lambert of Deutschland). Better yet, the director is clearly offering up the expected gore in jest. He knows that’s what the audience wants to see, so he gives it to them in a way that is totally incomprehensible, less brutal, and yet even more unsettling There is definitely plenty of blood and some unappetizing inner-organs to stare at, but when actual, physical violence is exhibited, black confetti comes flying out of the gaping wound instead of oozing organs. (Haha). Additionally, he has Artur nonchalantly peel the gruesome putty and makeup from his face after he has been denied carnal glory by Clara for the last time. F*ck that bitch! They are broken up! The unfortunately unattractive but kind of friggin’ awesome Margit (Susanne Bredehoft) is also a miracle of sexual discomfort. She spends most of the film humping Clara’s leg and trying to get her to play sex games, and eventually Clara has to suck it up and screw her. It’s not hot you guys. Schliegensief robs you of the obligatory titty scene too. This is ugly, butt bumping sex. Literally. Clara eases her predator’s sensual torment by pounding her own fully clothed ass against the writhing Margit’s. Then, she stabs her in the vajazzle to escape, etc.
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If I were trying to dig into the meat of things and figure out Schlingensief’s message, I would say that he is unabashedly attacking the politics and hypocrisy that kept a country divided for thirty years. The xenophobia and paranoia each side exhibited during that time is lampooned and put on awkward, sickening, hysterical display– this guy pulls no punches. The film’s catch phrase, in my estimation, very well could’ve been Humans: We’re so dumb. However, I don’t know enough about that period of European history to make such hypotheses, nor can I force my mind to untangle enough of what was happening onscreen to want to. It was just a totally screwed, bad ‘shrooms experience, and as someone of German descent, I have the authority to tell you that the German language is not something you want to hear on ‘shrooms. This film loses points for lack of coherence and turning my stomach but gains some for creativity, an appearance by Udo Kier, and witty, gritty murder.
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Rating:
3 out of 5 Arthur “The Deutschlander” McLeods
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