Tobe Hooper’s iconic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre changed the face of the horror genre from the day in which it had come out, and to this day it remains one of the most important American films of the genre. For even to this day it remains every bit as terrifying an experience as it might have been during the original release in which it had been met with a mixed reception, and there’s never a sign in which its mark upon culture has been lost. Over the many years that have come by, others have tried to give the same story their own spin but they failed at retaining what it was that had made Tobe Hooper’s film the classic that it is, and what it is sure to remain for all of time.
From the marketing, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre made people to believe the events that have taken place in the film were said to be true. As a matter of fact, Tobe Hooper had taken inspiration from the crimes of Ed Gein. We revolve around Sally Hardesty and her disabled brother, who travel together with friends to visit her grandfather’s gravesite after reports of grave robbing. Yet along the way, they also come across the home of Leatherface and his family of cannibalistic killers to whom they end up falling victim. Tobe Hooper uses truth as a way to create something all the more terrifying on his end, but at the same time the creativity with what has been crafted with how he chooses to tell of something that could have happened is worthy of note.
How exactly does one manage to strike much fear into one of their viewers’ minds? Would it be the manners in which specific characters get killed? Could it be a result of the circumstances which our lead characters get themselves caught up in? Tobe Hooper never plays around. He never lets the film sink down to the realm of overplayed gore, but the fact that the violence is implied rather than displayed the good chunk of the time ends up leaving a particular image to sink inside the heads of the viewers.The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not nearly as violent by today’s standards but when we think about the results of the actions that we are witnessing on the screen, are they something we want to see up close? Said image is just placed into the mind and soon enough it plays out to a much more haunting effect.
Yet why do these images linger even if we never see them? It is because Tobe Hooper is setting up the atmosphere so perfectly from the film’s opening sequences onward, especially with the slow pacing together with the strange circumstances of the story which is being told. The most important aspect to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘s effectiveness is how it plays around with the viewers’ psychology by creating an atmosphere in which those who are watching end up feeling a sense of claustrophobia, especially when they are trapped together with the group of our attention. It is in turn a rewarding experience for patient moviegoers, for after Hooper makes his lunge towards their senses from the moment in which we enter Leatherface’s home, he sets off a bomb inside of our head – one we never expected, demonstrating the effectiveness of his jump scare tactics. There’s a reason Leatherface has grown to become one of the most iconic of horror movie villains, it is because he embodies a perverted sense of what American hysteria can grow to become the moment we see industrialism lashing out its dangers upon the normal citizen.
And for how frightening the circumstances are, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is strangely beautiful too. Akin to Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho, Hooper establishes a voyeuristic perspective from how he observes our group of victims who have befallen to where they are set to come, and then suddenly he isolates us from Leatherface’s first appearance on the screen. To note already how Hooper has unleashed so much energy out of so little, as the film had been made on a budget of around $300,000, something all the more gorgeous arises from how Hooper guides the way through minimalism. It is never easy to pinpoint what is most terrifying about the experience that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is set to provide from there onward, because sooner we end up falling in line with whom we are watching.
Within many years to come, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has still managed to remain fresh – from the raw imagery or its distortion of truth in order to let out its aggressive social commentary. Everything about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with how little it has, utilizes the very most of what it can bring out at the very moment. Just to say it is the best slasher movie of them all will only understate its glory, for it lacks the distractions to which many slasher films can easily fall under. One of the most iconic horror films of all time, and for good reason: it’s grainy, and it makes us feel trapped on the inside. Films like this are what nightmares are made of.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Dark Sky Films.
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Screenplay by Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel
Produced by Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper, Jay Parsley, Richard Saenz
Starring Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, Teri McMinn
Release Year: 1974
Running Time: 83 minutes