Director – Tobe Hooper
Cast – Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Ted McMinn, Edward Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan
Release Year – 1974
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I’m sure this film needs no introduction, and if you really need to ask the question “What is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?”…where the hell have you been?!? This is one of horror most iconic films and is the one that “started it all” when it comes to the inbred-cannibalistic-family-that-lives-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-and-preys-on-unsuspecting-travelers type films. This landmark 1974 horror film marks the debut of director Tobe Hooper, who went on to direct such horror classics like Salem’s Lot, The Funhouse, Body Bags, and of course who could forget…Poltergeist. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will remain infamous in horror lore due to it’s raw nature and shock-ability. If you are looking for horror’s most “raw” film to date, this is your only stop.
This flick follows five friends on the road to an old abandoned house that belonged to one of their grandfathers. The group is just looking for a weekend of fun and boozing but their plans are spoiled when they venture out of the home and meet their neighbors, a family of grave-robbing cannibals led by a chainsaw welder killer wearing a mask made of someone else’s face.
What really sells this film is it’s documentary-esque feel. This is by no means a pseudo-documentary film like REC or Cloverfield, but nonetheless Tobe Hooper incorporated the grainy cinematography and overall feel of the type of film that is based on true events, and is shown to you to keep you away from certain acts. Example: the grisly videos of high speed crashes shown to Driver’s Ed students to sway them from speeding. Yes, this is the film you should watch if you intend to take a wayward drive into the middle of nowhere looking for fun and adventure. Unless you are Bear Grylls, who would meet his fateful demise if he were to parachute onto this Texas farm, stay away from these parts. Mr. Hooper excelled in the area of exploitation where Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left did not…it found a tremendous cult following and financial success. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Craven’s The Last House on the Left to be one of the best exploitation flicks ever, but it’s success has been mainly underground still to this day, with only a less than majority percentage of horror fans even seeing the film. This flick did the opposite, it became recognized by pretty much every single horror fan on the face of the earth, and nowadays “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a phrase most Americans will recognize whether they have seen the flick or not.
I won’t go into this deeply, but this film is NOT based on true events. Tobe Hooper solidified himself as a marketing genius with this and it seems to have paid off pretty well. Now, this film is INSPIRED by some partially true events regarding the serial killer Ed Gein, who would dig up bodies to use for various acts. However there is no indication he EVER killed anyone with a chainsaw. Nonetheless, this marketing ploy does make this film slightly more fun to watch. Ok, enough on that.
Aside from Tobe Hooper’s direction in this film, I feel that what really sells this film is it’s writing. Co-written by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel, this flick features a tight screenplay and the only family that could kick the asses of The Munsters and The Adam’s Family combined. As far as overall plot goes, we don’t get much from this flick, and that is what makes it enjoyable. A complex plot would have ruined the overall gritty feel of the film, so we needed to have this simple plot and let it’s characters do the rest. The character Leatherface is one of horror’s most well known characters, and rightfully so. Not only does this brute squeal like a pig when he psychotically plunges his chainsaw into his victims, but he is wear a freakin mask made of human skin as he does it! How awesome is that!?! I really liked how the cannibalistic family was written into the film, and although this has been done time and time again, at the point in time when this film was released it was a bright new idea, and an awesome one at that.
I have no complaints about this film whatsoever. If you are looking for great acting performances and intense dialogue then look elsewhere, because this film lacks that for good reason. I personally wish that this flick would have paced a little bit better during it’s first act, and a little here and there during it’s subsequent acts, but it is nothing to balk over(although it is what kept this film at a 9 instead of a 10).
Overall, this is an amazing horror film that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre. If you have not seen this film, get to it NOW! And if you have, give this a watch again and relive Tobe Hooper’s genius effort at creating one of horror’s most recognizable sub-genres.