Sometimes I really regret asking for a book to review. Especially when I had just finished reviewing one epic size book of Psycho-Babble, and then along comes this relatively new book by David Roche. He is a professor at the Université Toulouse Le Mirail with some publishing credentials under his belt. In other words, he’s no slouch. In fact, Roche is a very smart man and can do some amazing fact finding research, which he puts to use in this book. The concept of the book is to try and figure out the differences between the original ’70s versions of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Hills Have Eyes, and Halloween, and their remakes that were all made in the 2000s, or what makes them better or worse and for what reasons.
That initial concept is what intrigued me at the start. But once I dove into it, I quickly realized what I had gotten myself into once again. This is not written for the casual fan, but for a very academic crowd. In fact, I had a dictionary opened most of the time when I was reading it to make sure I was getting the point he was stating. Gotta say though…even that didn’t help a lot of times. These University style books love to go way out of their way to explain something about a movie that really doesn’t need it or even have an explanation other than what is at face value. Here, Roche does a lot of quoting from other works of this sort, as well as giving his own insight, which I frankly think all of which is putting way too thought on this stuff. Let me give you a couple of examples.
When talking about the ending of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, where the truck driver stops after running down the Hitchhiker, Roche writes “Leatherface’s parody of white corporate power might provide some symbolic outlet for racial, class, sexual, and economic tensions, namely by giving a black truck driver the opportunity to throw a manual tool at a white white-collar maniac wielding a machine that, like the truck, needs oil to run. On this reading, the black truck driver is thereby enacting a fantasy that unties the exploited working class and the oppressed racial minority against the white capitalist.” Aren’t we thinking a little too hard on this one? Couldn’t it be as simple as that the guy was throwing a wrench at Leatherface because he was chasing him with a freaking chainsaw?
No? Then how about this? When discussing the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead, when one of the security guards calls Ving Rhames “Shaq”, apparently there is a much more deeper meaning than just because Rhames is a large black man, like famous basketball player. But instead, according to Roche, “The use of the name draws attention to the historical opposition between basketball as a presumably African-American working-class sport and baseball as a presumably white working-class sport, an opposition suggested by the fact that the white security guards are all wearing baseball hats.” Again, why do we need to spend so much time delving and searching into some deeper meaning when I’m guessing there wasn’t any thought into that line other than coming up with a famous tall black person he could call Rhames. That’s it? Do we really think the screenwriter James Gunn was sitting at his computer trying to figure out a deeper connections to come up with a name for him to call Rhames?
Throughout the rest of the book, Roche goes into great depth and detail of different theories on these films, and how different things effect them, like economics (?!?!?!), racial classes, gender, and sex, and even though he thoroughly explains his theories, it seems to me, to be going way overboard trying to explain something that quite possibly is simply nothing more than what we are seeing on the screen. A truck screaming by a van full of people, in a quick and sudden cut is meant to a quick jump scare out of the audience, not because it is implying any sort of an economic statement about the world today.
With the price on this book ranging from $30 for the paperback version to close to $60 for the hardcover edition, you have to really be interested in these kind of film theory before dropping your money. For some, you might really enjoy it because it does make you think and does have the research to back up his ideas. I personally just think that it is like trying to come up with a historical reasoning behind why the color yellow is…yellow. Sometimes it just is.