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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Thread or Dead : UK Based Horror Clothing To Die For & some further musings on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

I was sat at my iMac the other day, minding my own business and musing on whether I should start a new blog article, read an online newspaper or simply do what the rest of the world seems to do on and go out for a meal so I could take a photo of it to put on my Facebook status update. 

It so happens that my decision was made all the easier when I instead decided to check my emails. After sifting through the notifications that a very nice chap in Africa had died and left me his millions (all I had to do was respond with my banking details) and the numerous offers of Viagra to cure my 'condition' (just how the hell did they know about that?!) I noticed an email with the title Thread or Dead
I was more than a little Intrigued by the title and so decided to forget about the promise of millions of dollars and the use of those little blue pills, and continued to read on. The message had been sent by a chap going by the name of Dan Charnley, who had contacted me as a fellow horror obsessive to inform me of a particular venture that he is involved with. 

Thread or Dead, is an original UK based Horror design and T-shirt company and having just re launched the site, are trying to get as many people involved as they can, to get the word out.

I'll be honest, I was more than a little reticent at first. After all, one of my recent posts on my blog was also about a t-shirt design site. Did I want to do another? The answer quickly became yes after I chatted with Dan, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that Thread or Dead is a true UK based original designer t-shirt site. Secondly, that it was abundantly clear that Dan and his colleague Luke's personal and professional horror philosophy is very, very similar to my own. Essentially, I was initially advised that they had contacted me in order to get like minded individuals like myself (sweet talking silver tongued devil) to guest blog, so that they get lots of different thoughts and , of course, get the word out there about what they are doing. 

They not only have a passion for horror, but that passion isn't confined to the narrow limitations of popular cinema, as I'll briefly explain.

From what I can gather this has been something of a long-time project for Dan and Luke. Why did they choose horror as the theme for their work? Well, they both love the horror genre, from M R James to Hammer Horror to Evil Dead (Dan is a big italian horror and Luke apparently is a monster movie nut) etc. He told me that they are always comparing notes on movies and and the like and one time they became embroiled in a discussion about horror t-shirts and how the couldn't get hold of any really good ones in this country. All horror merchandise just seemed to be American or film posters or simply just overpriced. Then it dawned on them, to start up their own UK based original horror design T-shirt site. 
The Mission 13 shirt

They had already been working in print and design, (Dan has apparently been hocking his horror illustrations around conventions for a while) and so they decided to go with something that they love. The plan is to build a site with original designs based on their own ideas, film influenced stuff, book influenced etc. 

What I particularly love about their ethos is their notion that they believe that there is so much more to the genre than movies. The mistake that I believe many in this field make is to unashamedly pander to the movie masses, thus in turn omitting a vast untapped area of the genre. They plan to put short stories, a comic based on the Mission 13 shirt and get people involved from a wide area on their site and blog.

So essentially, thats why I'm here. 

I must admit to be rather interested in being given Cart-blanche by Dan to write on his blog page in whatever horror theme that took my fancy. After all, I don't need much encouragement to talk about myself and my horror interests. 

So what did I want to talk about for my first (& possibly last if Dan or Luke don't like this article) guest blog post? Well it seemed only right that I would have to talk about my favourite ever horror movie. The problem is that the title of my number one horror film of all time regularly alternates between two genuine classics; the first being the truly sublime The Wicker Man, of which I mean the original 1973 version, not the frankly reprehensible piece of tosh that was the Nicholas Cage monstrosity. The other movie that I would regard as my horror love of my life is actually the one I'll briefly talk about, if for no other reason that this year sees the 40th anniversary of its original release.

So ladies and gentlemen, I give you....

 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Let's stop here, what's the worse that could happen?....
Picture the scene - it's the early 1980's in a small Yorkshire town in England. A young man who has more than a few dreams in his head, stars in his eyes, and a growing obsession with all things Science fiction and horror, hears something startling and wondrous on a national news bulletin. Namely, a that particular movie which had over the years gained a reputation of controversial and mythical proportions, arguably as no other has in the history of movies, was finally to be released on video. Amazingly, some 7 years after its initial production the seminal horror movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was finally going to see the light of day over here in the UK. 

Believe me, this was big news. Since its release in the UK in early 1975, thanks in part to the usual suspects within our sensationalist and hypocritical tabloid press, the opportunity to see the movie in cinema's had been withheld by the British Board of film classification. Those bastions (I said, bastions) for the protection of the nations viewing sensibilities, believed vehemently that the magnitude of violence, particularly in two noted scenes and the feeling of claustrophobic terror in the last 3rd of the film, was far too much for the sensibilities of a British audience. Therefore deeming that it was unsuitable for a BBFC X certificate to be issued. Ah bless the BBFC for protecting us from making up our own minds.

So it finally seemed in those dark and distant days of 1981 that the British Board of film classification had finally seen sense it seems and permitted the movie's release. However, this respite of finally seeing sense turned out to be very brief as the video was soon to be removed from the video stores after new video classification rules came in ('Thank you', Margaret Thatcher...).

Seems legit......
Indeed, as it transpired, no theatrical or video release was going to take place for another 18 years thanks to the backward and miss-placed 'protection' of the the public sensibilities by the continuing preaching of sections of the press and political community - bastards.

However, before it was unceremoniously pulled from the shelves, a lucky few of us had managed to get our hands on the film, and it's iconic horror bad-guy, by now had achieved cult status of his own fabled proportions. I had managed to get a copy of the movie from a friend of mine, a grainy 5th of 6th generation copy which meant that the visual quality was less than perfect in some middle parts. But it was MY copy. It may be a lifetime ago, but believe me, it is still difficult to communicate the level of excitement and anticipation that me and my young friends were experiencing as we sat huddled around a VCR on a chilly February evening. Not only were we giving two fingers up to the establishment, we were about to see a colossus of Horror cinema that even today, though it may have been copied a thousand times, still has yet to be surpassed.

I'm not going to give anything near a detailed synopsis of the plot as any self respecting horror devotee will be at least familiar with the rudimentary elements - the other two people in the world can watch it for themselves. However, to basically sum it up... Loosely based on the true crimes of Ed Gein, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre tells the story of Five teenage friends who are travelling across the State in order to pay a visit to their grandfather's grave after stories of vandalism and desecration have reached them. As they travel cross-country to the homestead they chance upon an old run-down property, where they are hunted and terrorised by a chain-saw wielding murderer and his not so lovable family of grave-robbing cannibals.

Just a man and his chainsaw hobby.....
Forget the basic storyline. Put aside opinions on the quite frankly ropey acting in a couple of roles (the cast taken mostly from Director Tobe Hooper's teaching friends and students). While you're at it, if you haven't ever seen the film (and where the hell have you been if you haven't?!), ignore the rather miss-placed and over sensationalised claims that you may have heard that the film is nothing more than thoughtless violence and nothing else. 

No, this is a movie that is much more than that as it takes you along with it on an adrenaline filled journey of barely suppressed terror. Indeed, there are times, particularly in the last act of the film when that the experience becomes more of a sensory and emotional overload - such is it's intense and unsettling power. There are scenes and images within this film that burn themselves onto your consciousness for a variety of reasons. Yes there are scenes of unyielding violence which will shock, even on repeated viewing, particularly from one of the true iconic horror characters, Leatherface.

The cinematography is frankly stunning, originally shot on poor quality 16mm film, this seems if anything to add to the overall atmospheric ambiance, partly in the external country scenes but particularly in the internal terror scenes that are at times genuinely suffocating in their claustrophobic intensity. 

Somebody won't be recommending this establishment
 on Holiday
As I mentioned previously, it wasn't until 1999 that the BBFC realised that years of complete miss-interpretation of the movie had taken place. Contrary to popular misconception, there is no over-reliance on explicit violence in the movie (in fact there is a distinct lack of blood and gore throughout). Rather it is the often implied threat of violence and atmosphere that creates the power to shock and discomfort the viewer. 

I could also talk at length about Leatherface and his family's treatment of the teenagers being an evocation and allegory of America in the 1970's with such things as the Watergate scandal and Vietnam making it it quite clear that the modern world world was cruel and nothing like your childhood memories said it was. No one is safe, no-one can be trusted. The hippy peace loving days of the 1960's were long gone.  But I'll leave that sort of discussion for those far more qualified and able than I.

I could also talk about the less than successful remakes, with the most recent an attempt to turn Leatherface into some sort of Franchise leading character who we are meant to actually support and feel sorry for, thereby losing all the essential elements of this true classic original - but that is a rant for another time.

A version of this article appears on the bog section of the Thread or Dead Website at

The Thread or Dead Facebook page can be found at

Luke and Dan will, over the coming months, be giving people chances to win exclusive t-shirts (except for mine, which you can see below - I’m not giving mine away!) There will also be the opportunity to pick up freebies and purchase exclusive limited edition Morgue Members only t-shirts.
Joining the Morgue is free and very easy. Just pop your details in the form on the Thread or Dead website to join their e-mail mailing list (don't worry, they wont sell on your details or e-mail you every hour to tell you what they’re doing...). Once signed up, you will begin to receive their weekly Morgue members e-mail which contains stacks of information about Thread or Dead, their offers and such along with other bits and bobs that horror nuts are going to love.
So... what are you waiting for? I’ve just gone and joined, myself.
Join the Thread or Dead Morgue!


This morning I received a rather intriguing package from my distinctly attractive Post delivery lady person. 

Well I suppose that the Thread or Dead stickers that appear in the photo on the left may be something of a give-away. Another little clue may well be the overall floppy look to the plastic packaging, hmm, it's almost as if there may something of a clothing like garment in there? Possibly even a t-shirt perhaps?

Lets take a looksee shall we?.......

Well blow me down, it only seems to be one of the very samples of t-shirts as made by Luke and Dan from Thread or dead: Clothing to die for. Not only that, but included in my little delivery seems to be stickers, personal hand-drawn pictures and badges of all manner of horrifyingly good loveliness. 

It was all by way of thanks from the boys to thank me for doing my little bit (some would say very little, but hey, I've always said that size doesn't matter.........) in helping to get the word out on their fabulous clothing venture. I had previously been asked which particular t-shirt I would like to choose for my own, it will come as no surprise to those that know me that I immediately plumped for the Karloff Frankenstein monster variation - I'm nothing if predictable it seems. Well so what? Go with what you know and what you like sometimes isn't too much of a bad thing to do.

And do you know what? the pictures on here and elsewhere online simply do not do their work justice, because the shirt is gorgeous. I was going to post a picture of myself modelling the shirt - but I'm not quite sure the world is ready for that sort of thing.

So you will have to make do with my amateurish attempts at taking photos - but one is for sure, you have to admit that the shirt looks great!

Check out below the other captures I made of the goodies sent to me - now who says this blogging lark wouldn't pay?!

An original Dan Charnely  -  now safely packed away to make me
loads of money when he's rich & famous

I'm a sucker for stickers and badges

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