The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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Loosely based on the true story of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, this is truly one of the classic horror films of the 70’s that started the famous “slasher” genre.

Hearing reports of a grave robbery in Texas, five youngsters decide to head out to see if the grandfather of two of the travelers has been robbed. The group consists of Sally Hardesty, her handicapped brother Franklin, Sally’s boyfriend Jerry, and their friends Kirk and Pam. En route to the cemetary, they pick up a hitchhiker who goes off the deep end, babbling about a slaughterhouse and how he and his family used to work there. When the hitchhiker goes crazy and cuts Franklin’s arm, the group kicks him out. However, that becomes the least of their problems.

The group runs out of gas but are able to find the house that once belonged to the Hardesty family. When Kirk and Pam find a farmhouse on their way to a watering hole, Kirk decides to go in to see if the occupants have gas. He never comes out. A worried Pam goes in the house and is shocked by what she sees. Bones and grisly items everywhere. Things comes to a head when she encounters Leatherface, a maniac who wears a mask made of human skin. He grabs her and she becomes the next victim. Jerry decides to look for his friends and upon encountering the farmhouse, is Leatherface’s next victim. Soon, Sally and Franklin are left. Will they discover what has happened to their friends and what will happen should they encounter the maniacal man known as Leatherface?

This is truly one film that has had a lot stories in both production as well as the result of the release, first in 1974 and then again in 1980. Just graduating from the University of Texas-Austin, Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel decided to craft a horror film and were inspired by the insane serial killer Ed Gein, who notoriously murdered two women and did the unthinkable before pleading insanity. This is truly a film that boasted a newcomer cast, notably the late Marilyn Burns as the prototype for horror film’s “final girl” and the amazing Gunnar Hansen as the maniacal Leatherface. Hansen researched extensively for the role and it shows in his non-talkative performance as a killer who is revealed to be more of a puppet of his elder brother and father rather than a man who is angry. With the three masks he sports in the film, Hansen simply defines menacing.

The character of Franklin, played by Paul A. Partain, may come off as annoying, and apparently, it was like that on the set. However, it is apparent he can’t be blamed for that because he’s the character stuck in a wheelchair and serves more of a “fifth wheel” while there are couples Sally and Jerry and Kirk and Pam. Kirk and Pam seems more like the genre’s “sexualized couple” as compared to Jerry and Sally’s romantic couple and one can see that as to why Kirk and Pam become the first two victims.

When people hear the title of the film or have walked out on the film without seeing the entire film, they believe the film is a gorefest when it is actually the opposite. The violence is virtually seen more of an off-screen sort of effect with no blood. The most blood seen in the entire film comes from one character who is screaming as they try to escape the clutches of Leatherface and later, the clan.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is truly a classic horror film. In the sense of a more “psychological” horror film rather than a gorefest, the film is driven by the performances of the young cast, especially Gunnar Hansen as one of horror films’ most iconic characters.

WFG RATING: A+

A Vortex Inc. production. Director: Tobe Hooper. Producer: Tobe Hooper. Writers: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. Cinematography: Daniel Pearl. Editing: Larry Carroll and Sallye Richardson.

Cast: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Jim Siedow, Edwin Neal, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan.

 

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