Where chainsaws ever present in nightmares before The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Since Tobe Hooper’s film in 1974, the chainsaw has taken new life. The rev and buzz of the machine has become part of the soundtrack of the Halloween season and being chased by a madman wielding the tool is essential in many haunted houses. Rumor is, the idea came to Hooper as he was in a crowded hardware store thinking of ways to get through the crowd.
As reports of grave robbers are circulating through the area, a group of young adults are heading to their grandfather’s old abandoned house. In the van is Jerry (Allen Danziger) the cocky driver, Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn) who seem to be dating, Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her wheelchair bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain). On the way, they pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), bad idea number one. Right away, they can tell he’s a bit off, maybe mentally challenged. After a few minutes of trying to be polite and friendly things get out of hand, and he deliberately mutilates his own hand and cuts Franklin’s arm. The gang kick the hitchhiker out, but maybe it’s too late, he a bloody mark on their van.
At the old family home, the couple goes off to find the swimming hole. Instead, they find another house, with a generator running outside for no reason. Trying to be helpful, Kirk goes in to see if anyone is home and we meet Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). From then on, it’s a bloody, murderous, torture filled good time while each of the gang is picked off one by one.
While this is a very low budget film, it helps bring out a perfect tone. Everything seems dingy, old, dirty or faded by the sun. Everything inside the murder house is disgusting and all the bones add the perfectly creepy touch. The costumes and the performances from the actors are pretty simple, except for the grandfather’s makeup. That must have been an ordeal to put on and work with.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a cult classic that has breathed new life and many sequels and remakes. To be perfectly honest, I don’t find this to be an especially great film, nor all that frightening. But some moments are quite a shock and still delightfully disgust me. The way Sally can scream and scream and scream really makes those last few scenes worth it. And chain saws have never been looked at the same way since.
“You could have dinner with us… my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”