The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

texaschainsawmassacre_1974_poster
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • Time: 83 min
  • Genre: Horror
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Cast: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal

Storyline:

Upon hearing that vandals have desecrated a graveyard where her grandfather is buried, Sally recruits her boyfriend Jerry, her brother Franklyn, and her friends Pam and Kirk to investigate. On a side trip to the grandfather’s deserted farm, the travellers pick up a slimy hitchhiker who cuts himself and slashes Franklyn. After arriving at the farm, Pam and Kirk search for an old swimming hole–Kirk hears a generator and believes he can find some gasoline. He enters the house hoping to find the owner. Unfortunately, this is the home of the hitchhiker, as well as Leatherface, who has some surprises for the travellers consisting of sledgehammers, chainsaws, and assorted cutlery.

2 reviews

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, without doubt the greatest and purest horror movie ever made!

    Considering the fact that horror fans are amongst the most knowledgeable of any type of film lover, I realise that declaring any one movie as the ‘greatest’ of that particular genre could prove a futile task. Yet with this bad boy I feel completely at ease saying it. So on the eve of its 40th Anniversary I’m asking why is that? What is it exactly that makes this 1974 exercise in terror such a powerhouse in the pantheon of horror heavyweights? Forever copied yet never bettered.

    The horror genre itself is like fashion, its identity and style moving in circles. You only have to study the box office hits of the early seventies to see where horror audiences were being led at that particular time. Typically stories evolving around religion, possession, satanic evil with biblical undertones. You have to make one hell of a first impression if you’re to buck the trend and forever change its landscape. Well it’s fair to say that in 1974 audiences were not ready for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This was a movie which had its origins rooted in solid truth, the murders and subsequent discovery of Ed Gein’s very own real life house of horrors, planted a seed in the mind of Tobe Hooper, much like it did Alfred Hitchcock before him, and the landscape of horror cinema was never to be quite the same ever again. Its influence still felt strongly today. Here was a movie that pulled no punches. It’s title alone hit you in the face like a sledgehammer, no pun intended. Completely unapologetic in its efforts to do nothing other than to scare you shitless. This wasn’t a movie which was going to hide under a veil of religious deceit, evil lurking firmly in the shadows, no this movie was going to grab you by the balls from minute one and not let go until the credits had long since rolled.

    “The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.
    For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”.

    What follows next is an assault on the senses, with camera flashes of human body parts inter edited with images of a burning sun together with audible screeches, culminating in a horrific close-up of a decaying body, freshly dug from its grave and eerily posed on a tombstone as dawn begins to break. Within five minutes of the start you’re under no illusions that you should have left your Rosemary beads at home, God cannot help you now. The foreboding sense of evil is a forever palpable presence.

    The horror genre of the seventies was much the same as it is today when viewed as a possible stepping stone to bigger and better things. Many talented directors got their big breaks while operating within its low budget origins. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was cheap, cheap, cheap, coming in at just under $300,000 but these restraints only serve as an artistic positive when you consider the lengths they’ve gone to in trying to make it appear that it really happened. The cheapness adds an almost documentary feel to it, the image is grainy and grimy with colours washed out. An added realism permeates every scene.

    Cast completely from unknowns, every character our ill-fated posse runs into appear completely authentic and extremely unnerving. At no point do you feel comfortable in their presence. At no point are you ever allowed to feel comfortable full stop.

    As two of the group separate from the pack and head out in search of a swim, they lay eyes on a distant house. The house. Now we’ve all seen ‘Psycho’ right, it’s the spooky looking horror house, I’m sure I know what to expect here? As one waits outside the other ventures in………..

    Now people can harp on about Omar Sharif’s character introduction in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ all they want, but when you first lay eyes on Leatherface, and that metal door is slammed shut, BANG, you’re rendered rigid in your seat, too scared to even breathe. A rumbling noise echoes through your sub woofer as we bare witness to a sumptuous tracking shot as we follow Teri McMinn to the front door. The words “Don’t go in there, don’t go in there, don’t go in there” loop continuously in your head, still recoiling from the shock of what you’ve just seen. If the movie had somehow failed to grab your attention before this point, it’s not failing anymore. The sheer power of this scene is incredible. I remember witnessing that power first hand when seeing it at my local cinema, growing ever more annoyed as a group of kids were continually playing around behind me, laughing and wailing. After that door got slammed shut I never heard another peep.

    If the foreboding atmosphere is a triumph then the art direction is too, the sets are meticulously laid out with unnerving decoration. The horror house especially. The detail is never hidden in darkness but swathed in bright light, Tobe wants you to see the macabre furniture made up of human remains while the soundtrack continues to pulverise you with unnerving shrieks.

    As our cast of willing victims gets whittled down to just Sally we get taken through one of hollywoods greatest ever foot chases, here the soundtrack is king. The screeching of the chainsaw serves as a constant reminder of Leatherface’s presence, even if you can’t see him on screen, the fact that he’s there tells you to run, run, run. After finally being captured we see Sally subjected to some of the most fucked up depravity ever seen on a cinema screen. Yet it’s mainly psychological rather than physical. Eyes bulging, ears bleeding and that’s just the audience.

    What surprises me most with the modern horror film is the eagerness to shock you with gore, it’s more a case of whether you can stomach it rather than being scared by it. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is surprisingly light on blood letting, especially when you consider its title. The gore is implied rather than shown and this is also a telling example of letting your audience perceive it in their heads. The imagination can reveal images far more unsettling than anything shown on screen.

    The final, most unnerving aspect is that at no point does Tobe try to give you any reasons or answers for the horrors you’ve witnessed. Its far more terrifying that way. It’s embedded in the human psyche to struggle with the unknown. We need answers to feel safe.

    So there you have it. Thank you Tobe Hooper for 40 years ago giving us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, without doubt the greatest and purest horror movie ever made!

    10/10 An absolute masterpiece!

  • There’s something about the title of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and how people think of it. Many just think of it of being about a chain saw wielding killer who stalks people and cuts them up for fun. However, that is just skimming the surface of this particular horror franchise. What some may not realize about this story is that there is more than one could expect to see – and that doesn’t include scares. There’s another aspect about this movie that first time director Tobe Hooper included that will have the audiences baffled, stunned and amazed. That aspect is the sheer bizarre atmosphere that is this film.

    Viewers will follow the path of five friends who are on the road, heading toward a relative’s house. On their way, they run low on fuel and look for a place to rest for the night. What they don’t know, is that they’re not going to see the light of day. Unbeknownst to them, something, a danger so unspeakable is headed their way that quite frankly if anyone ran into, should high tail it out of there. This danger is a family of psychotically deranged cannibals that have no conceivable conscience. But, the most deadly individual is the man (if he is one) known as “Leatherface”.

    This guy is not to be messed with. He is the towering, chain saw wielding killer and can this beast run! Strangely enough, he and the rest of his cohorts were the ones who were given the most attention to when it came to character development. The audience actually gets to understand his place in the family and how the overall family acts. This is also a major flaw. With the antagonists more developed, this left our main characters on the sidelines and are basically only fodder for Leatherface. Sure, audiences’ will understand that they’re friends but what else is there to learn? Not much else – or at least from what’s given to us. Along with that is a rather underwelming plot. There really isn’t much of a plot at all. Friends travel and end up running into the goons. Not much else. There are a few twists but nothing that wasn’t too oddball or unpredictable.

    However, in place of this is the bizarre aspect that was mentioned earlier, credited to Tobe Hooper. The way of life that takes place with these killers are something to behold. It will make the viewer question to themselves, “Who enjoys this kind of thing?”. It’s that bizarre. Another element that viewers should enjoy is how the movie pushes the endurance meter. To see how long one can watch the screen without turning away or closing their eyes is a serious plus. Adding to this is how little music is in the running time. It is almost to the point of completely absent, yet when it is heard, it’s distinct. Still, it should’ve been more prevalent because there were areas that could’ve used the emphasis of terror. With all this, it still amounts to a decent horror film.

    It’s surprising that with uneven character development, lackluster music and a very thin plot, that this movie made the impact it did and will for future viewers. With an atmosphere and characters so bizarre, it’s hard not to sit down and wonder how things will turn out.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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