Tobe Hooper’s now cult classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked audiences on release and is no doubt held in the top tier of horror movies remaining a horror icon to this day. Quite simply this movie proved pivotal and changed the slasher movie and landscape of horror genre forever.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of teens out on a road trip when they end up in a backwoods town only to run into a psychotic family out to slaughter them all it really is that simple. The family headed up non-other than chainsaw wielding and human flesh wearing maniac “Leatherface” who is loosely based on the life of Ed Gein.
The opening half of the movie is suspense filled and although some may say ‘slow’ it is certainly the stronger half showing off Hooper’s directing talent to raise tension with each passing scene with the first on-screen sighting of Leatherface being a prime example. Theres also some great sound effects from Wayne Bell that sound horrific on the ears and somewhat blood curdling. Notable moments include Leatherface smashing one of the teens in the head with a meat hammer or hanging them on meat hooks in his basement.
There is a stand out performance by Edwin Neal as the Hitchhiker the teens pick up. He is outright scary and his actions and words are purely terrifying. He is the definition of a hitchhiker from hell. What our teens don’t know is that he is member of the crazy family they will later encounter.
While the teens are picked off like any slasher movie, leaving a sole heroine Sally (Marilyn Burns) it is here where the movie loses its way and degrades into what would become a staple for the slasher sub-genre – the menacing villain chasing the down the heroine in her attempt to escape certain death at the hands of the psychotic family. This involves a lot of running and screaming transforming the suspense filled horror into a typical slasher movie. This half of the film also sees a somewhat terrifying dinner sequence that really brings to life the peril our heroine is facing, fantastic performances from everyone involved ensure that scene sticks out.
This dinner sequence also shows off the cinematography by Daniel Pearl and art direction by the late Robert Burns. Burns took to the highway in the face of low budget collecting carcasses and roadkill to use as props for the movie. The authenticity of these items gives each set genuine realism with bones and rotting flesh setting the scene. This when combined with exceptional film making has produced a classic in the horror genre.
Like most horror films though it comes across as dated now but looking at it from a fair perspective It isn’t hard to see why the film gained its notoriety and the film was banned from initial theatrical release in 1975 in the UK, pre video nasty era. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a must see for all horror fanatics as it has been influential to the genre for decades but for those normal people out there you probably won’t see what all of the fuss is about.