Sunday, October 23, 2005

31 Days of Des' Horror Favourites: #9 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Why I like it: This film may be the most visceral and raw horror movie ever made. That's why.

Banned in several countries for decades Tobe Hooper's 1974 masterpiece The Texas Chain Saw Massacre pulled a Blair Witch Project 25 years before that movie existed: they made people believe it was true.

BWP only did this for a very short time to very gullible people. While most people in their right mind knew that even if a crazy witch was killing people in the backwoods of Pennsylvania (or wherever) and that if 3 film students made a documentary about it that no one would ever be allowed to see it. Unless of course you were a juror in the upcoming trial (witch trial hehee) as it would be evidence. The straw that broke the camel's back was the soundtrack being released (no music in the movie) was labelled as "Josh's Mix." Being the songs on the tape he left in the tape deck of his care that they found. Funny how Josh made mixtapes of bands that all appear on the same record label, huh? What a funny guy.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre outright tells you that it's a true story. In fact the following introduction to the film almost makes you think that you should already know about the strange happenings in backwoods Texas:

The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which
befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid
brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had
they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they
have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.
For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of
that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the
annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

I enjoy how he's referred to as the "invalid brother." Definitely pre-PC on this one.

What really makes this film appealing is that the killer is not a single madman or a monster bent on destruction, it's a family of deranged cannibals in Texas. Rednecks who don't give a shit about anything except causing pain. There's something there that sheds light on a darker part of America that just caught on to people and still catches on to this day.

Leatherface is not a maniac. Leatherface is the product of his environment. He cries. He screams in anger and shame. He acts out his frustrations with a chainsaw. His family are the maniacs.

The Hitchiker is downright fucking nuts! From the knifeplay and the voodoo thing with the photograph in the van to the howling at the dinner table he is a pure nutter.

The Cook seems to be the older brother/father figure fella who seems most rational and even likeable at first. One of the funniest moments in a movie I've ever seen is when the Cook comes home and scream at Leatherface for "chainsawing" the door to shreds.

It uses other humour for scare tactics. At the dinner table when Sally begins to scream, the three crazed brothers begin to mock her by screaming and crying even louder than her. It seems a little childish when typing this and I suppose that's why it is so scary. Ever been hurt as a smal child and cry only to have others do the whole "boo0hoo" thing while you cry. It doesn't feel nice.

The geography of "Texas Chainsaw" is quite important in its own right. The dusty unforgiving landscape is filmed quite a lot with an occasional skeleton or roadkill for thematic accents. But where the geography really kicks in and impresses me is in the cinematography when Leatherface is chasing Sally (which seems to be the last third of the film) there are several shots of them running solo adding doubt as to where they are in relation to each other. Then, "BOOM," a new angle shows that Leatherface is directly behind Sally with chainsaw roaring. Tobe Hooper does this geography quite well. The "center of the screen scare" in The Toolbox Murders is another impressive example. Texas Chainsaw is hard to beat in the horror geography department.

It's grim, vile, nihilistic, grand guignol at its best and the part where Leatherface slams that steel door shut still loosens my bowels to this day.

Check these out:
-Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2-A really over the top sequel with more violence and terrible humour throughout. Still, it's got Dennis Hopper in it!
-The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)-Approached with low expectations this remake actually impressed me. Still, it's unnecessary.
-Poltergeist-Feelgood horror from Hooper about a girl who communicates with the ghosts from the Indian burial ground their house is built on. A cliched mess but Craig T. Nelson's in it!
-Eaten Alive-Hoopers first foray into horrror.
-The Toolbox Murders-A little over the top in plot when it could have been much better as a simple slasher. Still enjoyable.

1 Bitching, Moaning and Praise

Blogger Stacie Ponder said...

The opening and slamming of that steel door is about my favorite part of the movie. This movie still really gets to's just so twisted.

12:42 am  

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