by Ian Sputnik
The Texas chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
From the opening scene of exhumed, putrefied human corpses, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exudes an uncomfortable feeling and a promise of what’s to come. The story centres around a group of young friends on a road trip. They encounter a family of inbred, cannibalistic psychopaths, and soon find themselves in a waking nightmare.
In order for a horror film to achieve cult status, the chief antagonist must have certain qualities that makes them stand out from other characters in the horror genre. A unique look and special weapon are paramount to becoming iconic. Both Freddie (with his burnt features, hat, and glove of knives), and Jason (with his hockey mask and machete) have shown the importance of this. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre introduces the monstrous bulk of Leatherface; a subnormal killer who wears a mask of leather and wields a chainsaw. As well as spawning two sequels, Leatherface, a prequel to this film tells the story of what shaped this character into the killer he would become.
Directed by Tobe Hooper, who went on to direct Salem’s Lot and Poltergeist, this movie moves at a fast pace. The action rarely lets up and the atmospheric setting has an eerie and dirty feeling about it.
The film was marketed as being based on a true story. This was an advertising ploy; although Leatherface and a few minor plot details were inspired by real life murderer, Ed Gein who had a penchant for exhuming bodies so he could fashion trophies and keepsakes from their skin and bones, as well as killing two women. Film-makers really need to make use of the words ‘inspired by’ instead of the misleading ‘based on’ handle.
Despite the strong threat of dismemberment throughout the film, the blood-letting and gore is—on the whole—only hinted at. In fact the most graphic piece of violence involving the chainsaw comes near the end of the movie when Leatherface manages to accidently cut his own leg with it.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a must-see film for the Halloween season. Although it looks a little dated and the script feels a little ad libbed at times, this all helps give the movie a realistic feel.
So close the curtains, turn the lights out, and settle down for the night with a classic piece of cinematic horror. And, if you hear a petrol motor, start running and don’t stop.