Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Reviews
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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 Kill Graph

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Straight Razor, Pocket Knife, Sledgehammer, Meat Hook, Chainsaw, Broom, Fillet Knife, Pipe Wrench

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Reviewed by: Pontifex Aureus

The original 1974 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is comparatively low on bloodshed by today’s standards, but tame? Not at all. The film possesses a deep well of savageness and ferocious energy from which it draws its strength, not only in terms of the horror action, but in the very way that it looks and feels. This is what made the film controversial in its time and what has made it a classic today, not gratuitous bloodshed, but harsh, unforgiving ugliness.

Reports of bizarre grave desecration bring Sally Hardesty and her friends to a small rural area in Texas to ensure that her grandfather’s remains have not been disturbed. Their road trip is disrupted, however, upon encountering a family of murderous cannibals, including the horrific chainsaw-wielding maniac, Leatherface.

Cast Pic The Hitchhiker

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is slim on plot and features little to no character development, but that’s okay because that’s not what this movie does. This movie is a well-oiled machine that was built to do one thing and do it well: punish the audience. No, not scare the audience, punish. More than scare you, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delights in disturbing you, right from the very beginning, the first thing we see is a desiccated skeleton impaled on a tombstone, setting up the macabre tone right away. Before any killing begins at all, the movie goes to considerable lengths to establish an oppressive atmosphere of gruesomeness: the deranged hitchhiker, the story of the local slaughterhouse, the furniture made of human bones—all add to the sense of nastiness and unease even when there’s no actual violence onscreen.

Butcher Leatherface The Family

Not that there isn’t any violence. The violence is really the centerpiece of the film, with the aforementioned atmosphere being the plate upon which this entrée is served. And I don’t mean simple bloodshed—I mean naked, unadorned violence. Every action is carried out with overwhelming force and power, even mundane things like cranking up a chainsaw or slamming a door are so loud and so physically expressive that it frazzles the nerves. It’s not the blood that makes you wince, it’s the sudden furiousness of the attack. It’s not the death that disturbs us, but the dying; we watch the victims twitch before they go. And finally, most horrible of all, is the extreme casualness of the violence. There is no anger or hatred on the part of the killers, no complex psychological motive; they kill for the meat, with all the humdrum of a neighborhood butcher’s shop.

Formal Wear Leatherface Survivor Sally

When the film was first released, the opening faux-documentary monologue lent credence to the belief that there really had been a Texas chainsaw-massacre. But more than that, audiences were ready to believe the story because, being human, they recognized human nature when they saw it—the unending capacity for violence and cruelty. Indeed, some of the onscreen horrors were based on the real-life crimes committed by Ed Gein, the infamous murderer and corpse desecrator. For all its horrors, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not stray outside of the realm of possibility; it could have happened. It could happen yet. The film makes us believe it could, because gives us a candid look at what real violence looks like. I can sum it up in a word. The word is: ugly, ugly ,ugly.

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