The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

by on Oct.27, 2010, under Daily Review

Welcome to the new dawn of contemporary horror, a film which bridges the gap between the classic Universal & Hammer’s and today’s ultra gorenography. A film which feasts on the broth on horror’s past, but which seasons with a whole new flavor.

A group of friends are on a road trip in search of the American dream or maybe the last remains of the summer of love. They stop off in the middle of nowheresville to see Sally’s fathers grave, but before long encounter some weird country folk. A big old house is stumbled upon and from there on in, it gets a bit grizzly.

This is a stunning masterpiece by any standard. Dan Pearl was born to be a DP, Hooper shows what a brilliant director he will become: the performances he pushes for here and achieves are outstanding. Marilyn Burns (as Sally) really should have gained the 73 Oscar for this as her performance is as brutally real as it gets. Great roles, paired with great cinematography don’t equal a great film, but throw in a killer plot, a cooking script and some inventive score and you have a stunna on your hands. Given this was all back in 73, it must have blown people away. It holds up well though and by today’s standards still keeps the viewer gripped and a little unnerved, not to mention disgusted.

Hooper’s winning formula here is lifting from what has gone before. Maybe this was subliminal, but the basic premise is classic Universal. Haunted house, spooky woods, full moon, monster in the cellar. The spin comes with his choice of monster, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) who, rather than a bloke in makeup to create the beast, alla Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, we have a human character who strips the flesh from his victims faces to wear as his own mask: instant monster.

We also have a situation with innocent people brutally massacred and very little in the way of a comeuppance on behalf of the villains, original and unheard of in it’s day. And to suspect any kind of happy ending, I’d question anyone’s judgment over the positive final sequence as no-one sleeps tight after an ordeal like this.

So we have influences from the silverscreen, we also have an obvious reflection from Spider Baby, a film which is closest in spirit and story. Hooper takes this basic and turns it into a riot of anguish and despair. The finger licking scene with grandpa is hideous, the moment with the bone room full of feathers also has a read adverse effect on me, but there are things going on in this film that had never really been touched upon. Mental torture, brutal murder but shot with such a beautiful eye makes the whole thing that more disturbing. Those super close up scenes of Sally’s eye are outrageously good.

Let me mention the rest of the cast. Allen Danziger, Walliam Vail, Edwin Neal and Teri McMinn are outstanding and deserve the mention, high praise. Marilyn Burns takes the lead 100%, makes the film what it is but balances against the pure horror and brilliance of character from Hansen, Neal and Jim Siedow.

A final last note, one on a brighter subject. My favorite shot of the whole film has to be Pam (Teri McMinn) as she steps off the swing chair and approaches the house. Inferior camera pan with glorious blue skies, white clouds roll by with the doom of her demise soon approaching. (A scene beautifully recreated in the remake, once again by the brilliant Dan Pearl) This is the most glorious of scenes then Leatherface makes his move and treats Pam like a doll.

This film is a gem and rightly recognized as so. I have a very special place for this one which just gets better and better with each viewing.

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