Review: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 12 January 2013



One of the scariest horror movies ever made in the history of cinema, Tobe Hooper's influential cult classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a low-budget masterpiece that still managed to hold up its shock value until today -- even after the movie was released way back on October 1, 1974. In fact, when it was first came, the movie was so horrifying that people actually walked out during sneak previews.

Inspired by the real-life case that spawned Alfred Hitchcock's seminal PSYCHO (1960), in which of course, based on the notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, the movie begins with Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) heard a shocking news that the Texas cemetery where her grandfather is buried has been vandalized. So she gathers along with her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and her two friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger) and Pam (Teri McMinn), takes the family van and heads on a highway journey to see if their grandfather's grave remains intact. 

En route, they pick up a wandering hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and shocked by his eccentric behavior especially during a queasy scene where he explains to them how his family make "headcheese" from various human flesh before started to go berserk. They manage to throw him out of the van and quickly drive away as far as they can.

Soon after, they decide to make a stop to visit the old farmhouse where their grandfather used to live. But the day soon turns into a full-blown nightmare when they discover another farmhouse located somewhere in the woods -- the one which decorated with grisly items made of human and animal skins and bones. That particular farmhouse is resided by a gruesome family of unemployed slaughterhouse workers, including Old Man (Jim Siedow) and Grandfather (John Dugan). But the most frightening figure of the family of all,  is "Leatherface" (Gunnar Hansen), a mentally-retarded adult who wears a mask made of human flesh and likes to butcher people with a chainsaw.

The story is minimal at best, but what makes this movie such a horrifying experience is the way writer, producer and director Tobe Hooper sets out to do a horror movie that is grounded in harsh realism. In fact, he made a right choice to shoot the entire picture in an almost documentary-style. The result is deeply disturbing, and even sometimes tough to sit through as we watch helplessly how the victims are stalked and butchered by the sadistic family, particularly "Leatherface". Surprisingly, this movie is Hooper's first feature debut and he succeeds admirably. He certainly knows well how to scare up his viewers with the age-old but powerful technique of suggestions, and brilliantly combined them with his gritty visual style.

Though the movie is billed as "gorefest", the depiction of violence is nearly bloodless but the the movie remains as scary as hell because Hooper has cleverly examined the dark side of a typical American family, as well as darker impulses, fears, taboos and repressed desires found in human beings.

By contrast, the cast is impressive, mainly because they act like real people and not some stock caricatures waiting to die miserably. Marilyn Burns is particularly outstanding as the sole survivor of the victims, yet so convincing that you can almost feel her state of trauma she forced to suffer throughout the course of the movie. The slaughterhouse family, in the meantime, headed by Siedow, Dugan, Neal and Hansen are genuinely frightening. Lastly, it should be noted that among the scariest movie ever filmed in this movie is none others than the infamous grueling "dinner" sequence.

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