Written by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, and Gunner Hansen
Five friends visiting their grandpa’s old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals.
This movie is horror gold. Sometimes the worst thing about horror is not knowing why. Much like the victims, your brain can’t process such perverse and guttural madness taking place in this film. The message of Lovecraftian inspired fear brought horror to a new level in this ghoulish tale of murderous cannibals capturing and killing a group of innocents on a road trip. Set in the sweltering heat of a Texas summer, a group of friends pick up a creepy hitchhiker who proves to be something more than a simple man in need of a ride. The friends are marked from that point and blindly walk into their individual deaths. The first kill of the film sets the primordial sense of evil that sticks to each progressing frame. A young man walks into a house and takes a few steps inside. A metal door opens and the lumbering Leatherface brutally beats him with a hammer. Hooper doesn’t want to show us a screen full of gore, instead we see Leatherface grab the kid and manhandle him into the back room. The heavy door slams shut and we hear the muted death cries. Hooper substituted human sounds with that of a pig, successfully merging the ominous undertone of animal butchering and bizarre taxidermy present throughout the film. Also present is the pagan symbols, bloodletting, and what could even be called ritualistic to some degree.
It’s surprising that Hooper opted to show blood in the film and not full on gore. The brilliant way Hooper captures the death of wheelchair-bound, Franklin (Partain), is direct, yet left to our imagination. We don’t know what Leatherface is sawing off or carving in this scene. Seeing the act from behind makes us rely on our own vision of what might be taking place as Franklin dies. There has to be more screaming in this film than dialogue. The intense chase scenes resonates in my bones. The use of close-ups and mundane details like sweaty, grimy hair plastered across the characters faces carries so much weight. Bloodshot eyes and gritting teeth present terror in a way splashes of blood never could.
In the end, this film can do no wrong. Hooper’s style is classic and you can see it in new Rob Zombie or Ti West films to this day. Hooper gets major points for creating such an eerie setting and utilizing such talented actors to sell this on a subhuman level. I can’t watch the scene with Grandpa without cringing. They drag the unwilling Sally (Burns) into Grandpa’s room, cut her finger and we watch his withered lips suckle on the blood of this beautiful young girl who’s fighting tenaciously for her life. The cannibalistic family created for this movie are still alive in contemporary horror movies like House of 1000 Corpses, Wrong Turn, and a host of lesser films that churn out on a regular basis.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a work of extreme juxtaposition and cerebral horror that seeps into your psyche without your permission. This is top three stuff for me and I love it more with each viewing. I was truly excited to see this Blu Ray show up in my mailbox. Catch this during the Halloween season or just promise me you’ll see it eventually. Don’t waste a second of your time on any of the other films or remakes – it distracts from the effectiveness of the original.