The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

the texas chainsaw massacre

“If I have any more fun today I don’t think I can take it!”

The Scoop: 1974 R, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain and Gunnar Hansen

Tagline: Who will survive and what will be left of them?

Summary Capsule: Five teens go on a road trip right into horror movie legend. It may also drive you to vegetarianism.

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Justin’s rating: If someone with a chainsaw and a mask made out of human skin – not his own – was chasing you, how fast would YOU run? Thought so.

Justin’s review: With all the remakes and the brutality of modern “torture porn” movies, it’s common to be surprised by older scare flicks that meet and surpass what today’s directors are pumping out. Yet it’s true – sometimes the older is still the better, and perhaps more jarring because you don’t expect how talented these horror-crafters were within the limitations of filmmaking back then. Alien, Psycho, Last House on the Left, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Halloween… these will still be scaring our grandkids some day, if they dust off their iHolos and give them a whirl.

Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are particularly notable for inventing a completely new type of horror film: The Slasher. Although if TCM was the first of those two to come out, I guess it would’ve been called “The Chainsawer,” so fortune smiles upon us. You’ll recognize many familiar slasher elements as you chomp through this film – the iconic villain, the brutal weapons, the extended chase-the-girl scene, the fake/real scare jumps – and yet it won’t help you to allay your feelings of disquiet and fear that director Tobe Hooper continually deposits somewhere deep within your body.

TCM begins like any great urban legend campfire tale: Five young adults are taking a road trip to a cemetery to make sure one of their grandparents’ graves hasn’t been desecrated (apparently, it’s an epidemic) deep in the heart of bumpkin Texas. Along the way, they pick up a mentally disturbed hitchhiker, run out of gas, and find themselves exploring a farmhouse that really should be left well enough alone. The five characters, excepting overweight, petulant, wheelchair-bound Franklin, are likable enough, in a hippie way, and before things get really bad, you’re already screaming at the screen for them to hightail it out of there.

What lies within the house isn’t just a bad guy with a hatchet, but an entire circle of hell or something. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling anything for you, other than to say that if you’re expecting a very straight-forward slasher story, you’re in for quite a few twists and shocks. The what and why of the events that occur aren’t fully explained, and like many of the signature scenes, are left a bit obscured as to make your brain work overtime to fill in the gaps.

More than anything else, TCM uses audio as its greatest tool of horror. Their use of slaughterhouse and farm animal sounds will disturb you, as will the moments of quiet, the constant grating of the chainsaw, the shrill screams that go on for minutes upon end. You’re even betrayed by the soundtrack, which more often than not is completely without a musical score, giving us no subconscious indication of how we’re supposed to be feeling and what might happen. When it all crashes to a dead silence at the end, you’re not sure whether to welcome it or fear it.

It’s been called one of the greatest classics of horror cinema, and after watching it for the first time in 2009, I’d have to agree (and I’ll probably stay away from the sequels/prequels, which by all accounts just sullied the brand name). It’s a quick, brutal and deeply disturbing flick, still, curiosity makes you peek through your fingers. Boo!

Some thought Mr. Whittaker’s science class went too far with the dissection portion.

Intermission!

  • Both Psycho and TCM were loosely based on the real-life story of Ed Gein.
  • When it was first released, the film was so horrifying that people actually walked out on sneak previews for it.
  • Something to note is that TCM is actually not as gory as people make it out to be. A lot of the violence is implied, not shown, and they cut away from showing most of the bloody parts. This doesn’t stop a lot of folks from getting the impression that this is one of the bloodiest flicks of all time, which goes to show the power of your imagination filling in the gaps.
  • TCM had one of the most notoriously difficult shoots in movie history, putting the cast and crew through hellish conditions. Edwin Neal who played the hitch-hiker claimed “Filming that scene was the worst time of my life… and I had been in Vietnam, with people trying to kill me, so I guess that shows how bad it was.” This was a common sentiment among the cast. People also got very irked at the guy who played Franklin, because he was a method actor who didn’t break character.
  • The film was shot in chronological order.
  • Contrary to popular belief, this film is not a true story. It was filmed from 15 July 1973 – 14 August 1973, while the opening narrative claims that the real events took place on 18 August 1973, so it would be impossible for the film to be based on actual events which had not happened at the time of filming.

Didja Notice?

  • Whoa… trippy 70’s fashions guys… trippy
  • Slaughterhouses don’t smell as fresh as you might think
  • Does this van have any actual seats? Isn’t that dangerous?
  • And that’s why, kids, you never pick up hitchhikers
  • “American Astrology”? That looks like an awesome mag.
  • They need to fire their interior decorator
  • The freezer scene… brr!
  • He wouldn’t have such a hard time finding you in the dark if you’d just STOP SCREAMING
  • Extreme angles and eyeballs
  • During the dinner scene towards the end of the film, when Leatherface cuts the girl’s finger, he actually does cut her finger because they couldn’t get the fake blood to come out of the tube behind the blade

Groovy Quotes

    • Franklin: If I have any more fun today I don’t think I can take it!Franklin: I think we just picked up Dracula.

Old Man: I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.

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7 comments

  1. […] first picture that used gore as a serious special effect, making it the grandfather of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, and Saw. As you can then imagine, the levels of Naraka that Shiro wanders through are […]

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