The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - 1974
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is produced, directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper. Having a shoe-string budget, Hooper had to rely on a grueling shooting schedule and relatively unknown actors, creating a raw unique experience for the audience. The story centers around two siblings who visit their grandfather's grave in Texas along with three of their friends and are attacked by a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.
Ed Gein also known as “The Butcher of Plainfield”, has been cited as the source of inspiration for Hitchcock’s Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and House of a Thousand Corpses, each of them taking different elements of his 1957 crime spree. Texas Chainsaw took inspiration in his grave robbing, cannibalism and use of the human body to make furniture.
Since they based their story around Gein, they decided to say during the opening of the movie that it was based on true events. This wording created a bit of a confusion with the audience since they walked out of the theaters thinking there was a crazed maniac swinging a chainsaw around in Texas. This has now become a trope in the horror genre with almost every new move coming out being based on a “true event”.
Hooper and his co-writer Kim Henkel take their sweet time showing their audience the weird and creepy place this group of friends have walked into. We see the sweaty locals that look as if they have been pulled from an inbreeding catalog and how they contrast with the group. We immediately identify with the group since we all feel so out of place in this sweaty town.
Leatherface’s two first victims are extremely jarring and unsettling given the fact that we have been at a snail’s pace for the first 35-minutes. He wastes no time in killing the boyfriend with his hammer and dragging his girlfriend to hang her on a meat hook. This sudden change of pace and tone takes the audience by surprise. It grabs them by the throat and doesn’t let go until the very end.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t known for its acting, due to the use of unknown and unproven actors, but the cannibal family are the clear standouts of the movie. Gunner Hansen plays the iconic Leatherface. He sought inspiration from special needs children to develop his unique mannerisms. Edwin Neal plays the Hitchhiker and “brother” to Leatherface. He gives one of the most unhinged and unsettling performances in the movie. Jim Siedow plays the leader of the family and is the driving force behind Leatherface and Hitchhiker to keep this sadistic family together.
This movie has one of the most grueling viewing experiences ever put to film in what is known as the dinner scene. Quick note: this scene also parodies the typical family sitcoms dinner scenes known to this day. The entire sequence takes around 5 minutes but it feels like an eternity. The family take turns torturing this poor woman and all she can do is scream her head off, as she is tied down to the chair. Since Hooper had such a low-budget for the filming that he had to resort to shooting long and extreme hours. This lead to the actors going a bit stir-crazy as it was extremely hot in Texas and the headcheese they were using as props started to fill the room with an unbearable stench.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a landmark in the horror genre, creating a huge cult following by both fans and peers in the industry. One would think that having a low budget would hamper the final product, but it ended up working in its benefit as the cheap look adds to the realism of the movie. Knowing the actors almost went insane for the sake of our entertainment is why I love movies.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. This review is based on a true story.
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