When Tobe Hooper tragically passed away, I was devastated. Poltergeist is one of my favorite horror movies, and it’s actually the film that got me into the genre to begin with. So did I feel like a fraud for having not seen the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Yes. But, I knew I had this article planned out, so I waited. For the sake of journalism. You’re welcome.
When it was finally time for me to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I lapped it up like a dehydrated dog after a long and sun scorched day.
I loved this movie. Normally, when a film has been hyped up for so long, it can be a bit of a disappointment when it comes time to finally watch it. It doesn’t always live up to the widespread cultural praise. But let me tell you, friends, this one did.
Whether intentional or not, the film makes a strong statement about the meat industry. The jobs that were once occupied by Leatherface’s family are rendered obsolete by technological advancements. Humans are given the same brutal and inhumane treatment as any animal that may find its way into a slaughterhouse – posing the idea that, deep down, we’re all just a bunch of meat sacks.
There’s a dichotomy between the earlier scenes of camaraderie between the characters as they blast down the highway in their crowded van, waxing on about Astrology (that pointedly acts as foreshadowing for the terrors to come), versus the manhandling of the victims as they fall prey to Leatherface. Their humanity is disregarded; they are simply hunks of flesh to be torn and consumed.
Even though the brutality takes place off-screen, it’s still noted as one of the most horrific films of all time. By casting relatively unknown actors, Hooper ensured that the horror felt real. We connect with Sally because, to us, she is that character. We’re not watching some starlet scream as she feigns fear – we’re connecting with a terrified and exhausted stranger who frantically fights for her life.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre brought the idea of the hulking masked maniac to the forefront of the horror genre, dragging the modern scream queen along in his wake. It also gave us one of the rare instances of a paraplegic character who was not used for a plot gimmick. Franklin’s narrative is included because he’s a focal character, which is not a perspective we often see in horror films.
There are stories about the hellish experience of making the film (overwhelming temperatures mixed with unwashable costumes and decomposing animal carcasses really don’t mix), and now that I’ve seen it, I totally believe it. But there’s something so genuine about litetrally putting your blood, sweat, and tears into a movie. Everyone was fueled by passion – or likely, in some cases, misery – and it makes the final product so incredibly visceral and sincere.
This movie really stuck with me. I’ve somehow watched most of the sequels, and I had seen the remake, but going back to the roots of the whole thing with that informed history made me appreciate it even more, I think. The ending, in particular, is intense and chilling perfection. The pure desperation and manic terror is palpable. It makes me shiver, I love it so.
If you also have yet to see this incredible classic of a film, please, don’t wait any longer.
(As a side note, I’m a huge fan of True Detective (season one, of course), and I hadn’t realized how much of the Childress household is an homage to the farmhouse in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But now I know. And I want to re-watch that series for the 10th time. So… I’m going to do that.)
To reach about how Ed Gein inspired The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, click here!
Stay tuned for next week’s Late to the Party with Jacob Davison!
Header image by Chris Fischer