I had to go to Arizona and Texas for work this last week. I spent the first part of the week in Phoenix (otherwise known as "The Stunt Double for the Surface of the Fucking Sun") in 115 degree heat. I can't begin to tell you how much hate I have for the heat of Phoenix. I hate it with the white hot intensity of a burning sun, which - incidentally - is what it feels like there. I swear to the dark, Pagan gods - the place feels like it's somehow 1000 miles closer to the sun than anywhere else on the planet. A 1000 miles closer, and situated on the caldera of a fucking volcano. I often joke that the sun is trying to kill me. It's a funny joke, you see, because I'm an old school Goth and I hate summer and heat. But it's normally a joke.
In Phoenix? It's totally true -- the sun was really trying to kill me.
However, my stay there was short and a few days (and several pounds of water weight) later, I found myself in Austin, Texas.
I'm a fan of Austin. It's a cool, eclectic, hip town and have always had a great time there.
This trip, though, proved to be - quite literally - awesome.
You see, I worked like a dog in the heat, and desert, and beneath the brutal ultraviolet death rays of an angry sun because I had made some time at the end of the trip to indulge one of Doctor Zombie's favorite pasttimes - visiting iconic places from horror movies!
You may remember my previous trips into the heart of Zombieland, where I visited the Evans City Cemetery and the Monroeville Mall. Both places are near and dear to this horror fiend's heart because they're where George A. Romero filmed his two zombie masterpieces - Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead; respectively. Click on the titles to review the adventure, the terror, the insatiable hunger for road trip snacks like Vanilla Coke and beef jerky!
This time though, we strayed from our love of all things zombie and visited another place of cinematic note. I woke early and, after gassing up my rental pickup (I was in Texas. I was unaware that you're legally obligated to drive either an F150 or Dodge Ram pickup. The rental car company gave it to me without warning or notice. Peculiar, right?) I headed north of Austin to tread upon the bones and gristle and grindhouse memories of Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
Here's my rental pickup truck. You thought I was kidding?
Anyway, I motored out of Austin into the ranch land of south central Texas. After an hour or so of brown dirt and grass, heat stunted trees, barrel cactuses, and quaintly named ranches; it suddenly hove into view... the terrror-inducing house that scared generations of teens with it's deranged, cannibalistic, chainsaw-wielding, human skin mask wearing inhabitants! It was ghastly! It was horrifying! IT WAS...
... a stop on bus tours for senior citizens?
The former TCM house, now the Junction House Restaraunt
Seriously, I pulled up and had a weird feeling of anomie upon viewing the iconic house of horror, and the fucking busload of senior citizens wandering around and milling about, smelling roses and talking about the senior lunch special. It was a bit disconcerting.
So I waded into the mob of octagenarians, and nonagenarians, and otherwise dinosauragenarians and grabbed the first waitress I could. "I'm here because of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I'm not with the tour group... can you give me some info? Can I take pictures?"
As it was, the waitress showed absolutely no disgust or exasperation at yet another horror geek interrupting her day, and encouraged me to exlore the house. She also said I was welcome to join the bus tour for lunch (they're not normally open for lunch). I declined and bit back a question about whether or not Grandpa was going to get his lunch by sucking the blood from my fingers...
I then gleefully explored the house!
So, on to the photos.
Some history - the TCM house was actually located at an another site (where they filmed TCM) It was moved in the 1980's to its current residence on the grounds of the Antler Lodge hotel. It is - indeed - a nice, tasteful restaraunt and is very different from its horrific origins.
Here's a screenshot from the movie. this is the first opening shot of the house...
Note: Like in my Evans City Cemetery pictorial, I'll alternate my shots with screen shots from the movie.
So, our first look is from within the doorway, looking towards the stairs and central hallway. This was Jerry's first look into the house, right before he got whacked with a sledgehammer by our first, brief yet disturbing glance of Leatherface.
Here's how Jerry saw it...
...and here's how it looks today.
Much nicer, huh?
Immediately to the left is the first room of the house. It's here that poor terrifed Pam discovers whatever it is that keeps cannibalistic serial killers busy during their downtime. Apparently that involves making bone scuptures and plucking chickens inside the house.
Here's Pam, realizing that trespassing and being a hippy're both bad things.
And here's the bone room today.
Ahhh! The colors! The kitsch! The old people having lunch! Truthfully, I know you may think I'm weird, but I think the original decor was much more tasteful. Nothing says Better Homes and Gardens-worthy more than a few tastfully arranged human skulls and the sweet, pungent smell of fear!
Directly next to this room, and attached by a set of sliding doors, is the dining room that was so pivotal in the last half of the room. It was here that Sally had her strange dinner with the family. After the death of her brother Franklin, and after thinking she's escaped, she's kidnapped and wakes up to THIS view...
This is how Sally would view it if she had a burlap bag thrown over her head and was brought there today.
I think your intrepid horror reporter should score huge points on his readers' part for wading amidst the smell of old age and mothballs to snap these shots. Fortunately, the old people were still deciding whether or not they had taken their insulin shots that day and hadn't gotten to the first blood sugar destroying course of chardonnay and Southern sweet tea. I don't want to seem too circumspect, but I smell Pulitzer. Do they do that for horror writing geeks? Just saying...
Here's another shot, from the hallway looking into the dining room...
Moving on, I headed upstairs where it was much more quiet than downstairs. Also, upstairs, they had a small tribute to the houses illustrious history. As you come up the stairs, like Sally did early in the movie...
...you are greeted with a lifesize Leatherface mannequin, some bone sculptures, and a movie poster in tribute to the movie that made Texas synonomous with inbred psychopaths with a prediliction for gas powered lawn implements.
Fucking awesome!!! I, of course, had to pose with a picture with him. (Note the snazzy, sexy, kick ass Eric Pigors Toxic Toons t-shirt!)
And don't forget the chainsaw!
I took another picture of the Leatherhead tribute because, behind it and the incongrous Bates Motel sign, is the window that Sally jumped out of. Here's Sally, springing out the window...
And here's a long shot of the window...
And today, it's decorated with all kinds of cool Star Wars collectibles. Whoa. Star Wars collectibles? Huh? I guess it's become a repository for someone who loves mixing their geekiness. I guess I can't fault them for that...
I was so excited at this point, I had to pee. Seriously. Fortunately, there was a bathroom right there. That's right, bitches. I took a whiz in Leatherface's fucking house? Can YOU say that? What? What's that? You want proof? OK, then. Here's me washing my hands after having a waz.
Don't be jealous. Not everyone can be as cool as Doctor Zombie.
So, moving on.
Here's another quick shot I took of a framed TCM t-shirt. I was kind of bummed that they didn't have t-shirts or anything for sale. I'd have even bought a cheesy Junction Restaraunt t-shirt. If anybody from the Junction stumbles on this... this would be a great idea! And Doctor Z. should get a free one when you get around to it - just for giving you the idea.
Heading back downstairs, this is the angle we saw of Sally running away from Grandmas room, and towards Leatherface before running BACK up the stairs and out the window.
Now it looks slightly less creepy.
So, after deciding that I was probably ruining old people's meals... I headed outside for some shots of the still very recognizable exterior.
Here's a really cool publicity shot I found on the interwebs.
I tried to match it so you, my readers, could see that much of the original architecture is still intact.
Here's another iconic shot from the film. Here's where Pam, after discovering the bone room, is chased by Leatherface out the front door. He grabs her from behind and pulls her screaming back into the house of hell.
And here I am by the same door!
Here are two more iconic shots from the film. The first is of Sally fleeing from the house - chased by the maniacs.
The second is an iconic shot that actually doesn't appear in the movies, but was actually a publicity shot that shows Leatherface running down the driveway.
I point these out because I wanted to show a long shot that was similar.
Wait. What's that?
It's hideous! It's like Leatherface... only uglier!!!
After this silliness, I decided to recreate another cool scene. Fortunately, I had an assistant with me. Believe it or not, I managed to talk one of my coworkers into going with me. She served as my assistant and as a stand in for Pam.
Here's Pam, waiting while Jerry's getting himself offed.
And here's my assistant, Mrs. Fear.
Cool, huh? She was actually a really really really good sport and spent two hours in a car after a hard week of work solely because she wanted to see some sights as well. That and she very patiently indulged my idiocy. Thank you, Mrs. Fear!
Some final shots...
Here's Sally coming out of the upstairs window at the rear...
And here's Leatherface looking at her. Notice the look of plaintive sadness, the distress at having lost yet another pretty girl. Leatherface is such a tragic, misundertood serial killer, don't you agree?
And here's the rear of the house today. No sad cannibals, just a sad Doctor Zombie because he had to leave Texas on a 3pm flight. Note: Yet another pickup truck! I told you, pickup trucks - like cowboy hats and drawls - are required in Texas. It's not just a rule... it's the fucking law!
And a closer one of the window...
I left very soon after this, my insatiable and unnatural hunger for Diet Vanilla Coke calling to me. I began the long drive back to Austin, happy in the knowledge that we didn't share the fate of Sally, Frankiln, and their friends under the blistering heat of a texas sun.
As a then unknown radio announcer said in the intro to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - "But had they lived very, very long lives they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see so much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare."
That unknown radio announcer? The unyet discovered John Laroquette. Crazy, huh?
So, once again, I've explored the dark history of horror -- and survived unscathed. I survived my idyllic summer afternoon drive.
I hope you enjoyed the pictorial as much as I did visiting the site, dear reader.
Stay tuned, I'm going to Colorado in a few weeks and am planning yet another horror-themed side trip. It'll be either the hotel in Colorado that inspired Stephen King's incredible horror story and the awesome Stanley Kubrick film adaptation of the same - The Shining; or it'll be something a little more personal... the main parts of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak where my own novel, A Darkness Within, takes place early on. Either one is guaranteed to be really cool.
Unpleasant dreams, faithful reader.