THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (REVIEW)
Dir. Tobe Hooper
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
An instant and unkillable horror classic, Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is as visceral and raw today as it was in 1974. A cast of youths come across an isolated house and in doing so garner the attention of the crazed inhabitants. You know the story by now but it's worth revisiting a horror classic just to remind ourselves why it really is one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
Despite now being nearly 50 it still knows how to terrify as images of skulls and human furniture surround a captive group of teens as they fight to survive the night. Bringing to screen one of cinemas greatest villains, there's no character development or explanation needed, just sheer uncontrolled and unrelentless terror hidden behind a mask.
The effects, because of their practical nature still stand tall after all this time as every kill feels closer to a snuff film than anything that has come since. Many films have tried, and failed, to capture the magic of this genuine horror film and despite some interesting sequels, they have never been able to replicate the tension and naivety the victims carry so well. Featuring a disabled member of the group it also is miles ahead of many decades of ableism which still stains cinema. There may be questions on the handling of mental health and isolation that feeds the Sawyer family but it is still a hard hitting stigmatism that affects the isolated areas of the world and as such without societal acceptance, has lead to some of the 20th century's most shocking realities. There's no justification for that and this is fiction exaggerating the truth but there are seeds in reality that are questioned by the visionary director.
That snagging soundbite that litters the film is nerve shredding. Flickering between scenes of macabre mayhem and an inhuman murderer, it's hared to remember that the majority of this film occurs in broad daylight, a feat rarely mirrored in the horror genre as the film puts it's full horror on display. It's easy to see how audiences wanted this banned at a time when horror was dominated by demonic possessions and devil cults, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE really shuck up the system and made an innocent daytrip something to fear. The film evidentially plays on the tropes of Ed Gein but ramps them up to a degree that the film is indistinguishable from the actual events. Like Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, the infamous murderer played with the undead like they were trees and carved them into pieces of macabre furniture. Despite many of his pieces being the remains of graves, the depravity of real life came back to haunt cinema goers as Hooper's classic reminded that real evil was hidden in plain view and didn't sign a pact with the devil, instead they were the devil.
The fuzzy lens that came with the 70s, the yellow pallet that coats the film, those iconic scenes of Leatherface wielding a chainsaw in a field, all of this is a masterstroke of cinema that is often just left as a video nasty but actually is a more far reaching piece of cinematic history. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is nasty, violent and raw, carrying many of the themes still relevant today in cinema and society and all through a vision of not only bringing terror, but to entertain.
Before Michael, before Freddy, before Jason, Leatherface really is the grandfather of horror and nothing has ever quite matched it's genuine sense of fear garnered by a maniac with a chainsaw. The film plays close to real life and at the same time captures pure evil in the senseless murder of the impending victims and that ending...