Your horror house nightmares come true in Texas…
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) has been lauded for almost 50 years, so when I decided to finally watch some classic horror films for the first time, I couldn’t help but start with the foundation of my favorite sub-genre. Tobe Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel’s low-budget masterpiece is a slasher film that follows a group of five friends traveling through rural Texas, in August 1973. But, what might seem like a fun road trip ends up being a drive directly to their deaths. If you haven’t seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the last decades, be warned of the spoilers ahead in this article.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in Modern Review
Snapshots of corpses, followed by radio news of grave robberies in the rural Texas area, set the ominous tone of the story. On their hippie van trip, the young adults visit a cemetery, pick up a crazy hitchhiker, arrive at a basically deserted gas station, and find the abandoned family home that seems to be the whole reason for their trip. The first character walks right into the neighbors’ house, and a creepy guy wearing a leather mask appears out of nowhere and smashes his head with a sledgehammer. Two more people enter the same house and die at the hands of the same maniac. The fourth victim follows, and then it is all about Sally, the final girl trying to survive the madness they uncovered… the cannibalistic Sawyer family, made up of chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, his father aka “the cook,” his hitchhiker brother who’s a grave robber, and a corpse-like grandpa.
It is uncomfortable to watch, but maybe that is the exact reason why The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is so highly acclaimed. I found the dinner scene particularly terrifying, as it portrays this absurd family doing something that seems almost natural to them, and contrasts it with the pure and raw anguish expressed by Sally, who is clearly the only one in their right mind… even though she’s being physically and mentally tortured. And, let’s not forget where all of it is taking place: The Sawyer’s house in rural Texas, with its peeling wallpaper, bones and body parts making up the furniture, a mini-slaughterhouse in the back, and blood-sucking grandpa upstairs in the bedroom. However, the scariest part is Leatherface, who at first glance is nothing but a deranged murderer, but really he’s more like a scolded kid with an intellectual disability, who kills to avoid his family’s abuse. I can appreciate how with a filming style akin to documentaries, and inspiration for Leatherface from real-life murderer Ed Gein, the story dives deep into blood-chilling realism. It doesn’t bother with visual effects, blood, gore, or paranormal beings – the real monster is the human species, and the madness within.
It’s evident there is a lot to praise in this movie, but nowadays some first-time watchers like myself can say it is not their cup of tea. I must admit I thought The Texas Chain Saw Massacre slow, the characters have little backstory, the plot thickens very late in the game, the tension rises up constantly but with slightly disappointing payoffs, and thus it lacks the blood-pumping excitement of modern horror movies that I usually enjoy.
Also, keeping in mind how old this film is – acting, filming, and art direction techniques have evolved considerably since its release – if you don’t watch it with the right mindset, it can end up being more funny than scary. Nonetheless, Hooper and Henkel’s work has great historical and entertainment value, and Leatherface has found such a solid place in the hearts of horror fans that I can’t wait to see the rest of the franchise.
For Other Horror Movie Sequels To Get Excited About, Click HERE.
Take a peek at the trailer for the original “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” … if you dare!