Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Remains a True Classic Film (Happy B'day, Tobe Hopper)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 65 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Running minutes: 83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
WRITERS: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hopper
EDITOR: Larry Carroll and Sallye Richardson
COMPOSERS: Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper


Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Dazinger, Paul A. Purtain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan, and Ed Guinn with John Laroquette (narrator)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a 1974 horror film directed by Tobe Hopper. Filmmakers such as Ridley Scott and Rob Zombie have cited this independent film as being an influence on their work. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most famous and infamous American horror movies ever made. It spawned two direct sequels, a prequel, and a 2003 hit remake.

The film follows a group of young people (or hippies, depending upon your point of view), traveling through Texas by van in the 1970’s, when they encounter a family of murderous cannibals. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her brother, Franklin (Paul A. Purtain), visit their grandfather’s grave after hearing news about vandalism and grave robbing at the cemetery. Three friends have accompanied the Hardestys on this trip, which becomes weird when they pick up a hitchhiker who turns violent. While looking for gas, things get worse, and these young people must fight a chainsaw wielding, masked manic – known as Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) for their lives.

The film (itself based on the Ed Gein murder, upon which Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is based) has spawned many urban legends, most built around the idea that there are people in Texas selling delicious barbeque made out of human flesh in roadside quick stops and shacks. View the film carefully, and it’s easy to see why. Hooper’s direction is brilliant, and it is a shame Hopper’s career never quite reached the heights that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre promised.

The film is documentary-like, but also has a dreamlike quality that is very effective. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie is often like a nightmare that’s over quickly, but while you’re experiencing it, the nightmare seems to go on forever. Its jarring finale not only furthers the idea that this is a bad dream, but it also makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seem like a fairy tale. It’s like a really nasty Grimm Brothers story of careless and naughty youth who are so oblivious to nature and so focused on their own wants that they ignore the sense of evil and foreboding around them.

Hooper really had a solid vision for his crew and the assisting filmmakers. The shots, editing, lighting, and music go a long way into creating the sense of dread and psychological horror in the film. The cast is mostly inspired and never slacks up, which allows the level of intensity and fear to keep increasing as the film narrative unfolds. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is unsettling, frightening, and just plain freakish, but it’s also funny and has some odd moments of satire and social commentary.

8 of 10



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