One of my favorite zombie graphic novels, Living with Zombies, features two guys for whom the zompocalypse is nothing less than a fantasy come true. They immediately set about slaughtering as many zombies as possible, each one trying to out-do the other as if racking up points in Left 4 Dead. When they get separated, they keep in touch via cell phone:
Billman: [answering phone] Hello?
Chris: [fires gun repeatedly, right next to the phone]
Billman: God! What the piss was that?
Chris: [smirking] That was my new sweet ass gun.
Billman: See if you can place this sound. [revs chainsaw next to the phone] Could you hear that? Heh heh…
Chris: [dejected] Why is it that whatever I do…
Billman: I one-up you?
In that spirit, I’d like to take a moment to honor one of my favorite horror movie weapons, the chainsaw.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, shot in 1974 by Tobe Hooper, has been both reviled for its gruesome displays of murder and hailed as a masterpiece of independent filmmaking. Hooper claims that he wanted to make a film about isolation and brutality, a response to the real-life massacres that at the time were being carried out by the United States on the other side of the world, in the Vietnam War. According to Hooper, the idea for the chainsaw as a murder weapon was inspired by being in a crowded hardware store and thinking of ways to quickly get out through the throngs of people.
In the sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II, the symbolism of the chainsaw is a little more overt. The sexually immature (and possibly impotent) Leatherface now thrusts his hips suggestively while swinging his chainsaw, and final girl Stretch saves herself, in part, by reassuring Leatherface about how big and dangerous his chainsaw is. Dennis Hopper’s character, Lefty, demonstrates the fact that using a chainsaw as a weapon marks one as being a tad bit unpredictable and, well, crazy. It’s not a “sane” weapon — it’s a brutal weapon, a weapon one chooses not because it’s efficient but because it’s horrific. When Lefty decides to arm himself with three small chainsaws before going into battle with the Sawyer clan, it’s a demonstration of how his commitment to proper revenge has surpassed his sense of reason.
This theme comes up again in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness: when Ash loses an arm, and all appears to be lost — when he’s reached the point of no return — he comes up with a way to attach a chainsaw to his bloody stump, and subsequently uses it to wildly hack his way through the Deadites and other nasties.
…Ash’s chainsaw-arm is also cleverly referenced in the Japanese zombie movie Stacy, in a world in which defending yourself from zombie schoolgirls has become an everyday occurrence.
But then in the 1987 B-movie The Video Dead, the rules change — one of the zombies, after seeing several of her kin attacked by a teenager wielding a chainsaw, manages to get the chainsaw away and start attacking humans with it.
…anyone care to share their personal favorite chainsaw horror movie action?