The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974; Directed by Tobe Hooper; starring Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger

I can’t believe we’re almost a week into Poptoberfest and I haven’t written a single entry yet.

Well let me fix that now, by giving you my Friday Pizza & Movie Night selection:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this entry is because, as a kid, I absolutely loved horror movies. I would stay up late to watch them on TV, I would sneak into movie theaters (since I was too young to buy my ticket) and I rented absolutely everything in the Horror section of my Friendly Neighborhood Video Store.

But there was one movie I avoided.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Just the name itself freaked me out. Most horror titles are vague “Halloween“, “Friday The 13th“, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street“.

But there was nothing vague about this one. It was viscerally specific. The 3 words alone could give kids nightmares. Texas. Chainsaw. Massacre.

Add to that, I had a friend who’s older brother had seen the movie and told us in vivid detail about a scene where a young girl gets hung on a meathook, screaming and twitching. That was enough for me. I decided there-and-then that I was never going to watch that movie.

(Tangent: The only other title that’s ever reached this status for me is the still-unseen “Faces of Death“)

I managed to keep my boycott until I was 30 years-old and news came out that Michael Bay was planning on doing a remake. That’s when my inner Film Geek spoke up and said, “You can’t call yourself a horror movie fan if you’ve never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!”

So, I manned up, sat down and finally watched it… and it was awesome!

Made in 1974 on a shoestring budget (and it shows). It’s dated look and pacing could lower it’s entertainment value for modern horror fans.  But if you can plug into it’s look and weird pacing, this is truly a masterpiece of horror filmmaking. With darkly imaginative set-ups and vicerally shocking scenes.

One of my favorites comes when, after their van has broken down, one of the hippies makes his way to the farmhouse to ask for help. As he’s knocking on the screen door, we can see inside to this dingy, dark, hallway. At the back of this hallway is a doorway with this blood red wall covered in animal skulls. As the hippie is looking at this, he hears squealing coming from inside, so he enters and starts to run down the hallway. Except he trips just as he gets to that red doorway, and as he’s falling, this giant man suddenly appears in the doorway. He’s wearing a butcher’s apron and he’s got on this bizarre mask topped with a mop of crazy black hair. He’s also holding a big, fat hammer. Without a word or a moment’s hesitation, he just bashes the hippie’s head in with the hammer. The hippie drops to the floor, arms and legs splayed out, and starts spasming. The Big Man grabs the twitching hippie and yanks him through the doorway. He then slams this sliding, metal door, shut across the doorway with a BANG! Cutting off our view and leaving us in that dingy hallway again, just staring at that metal door, wondering “What the hell was that?” and “What’s going on behind that door?”

Except, we don’t really want to know, but it’s too late. Because just like that hippie, the movie has stunned us and, whether we like it or not, we’re getting dragged behind that door too.

– j.

Jacob Saariaho