Let’s dispense with the pleasantries, shall we? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a horror movie I’ve always wanted to see because of the intense and divided attention and controversy it had received ever since its release back in 1974. If my memory serves me correctly, it was banned here in Australia until the early 80s and didn’t get a home video receive until the early 2000s. My cousin swears he saw a contraband home video version of this movie back in the mid 80s. The details he revealed about it made me believe he was telling me the truth. He would go on to reveal that it was one of the most frightening movies he had ever seen. On a personal note, I finally got to watch this shock-horror classic about ten years ago.
In short, the film follows a group of friends on a summer road trip through 1970s Texas, which turns quickly into a nightmare when they stumble across a homestead house of cannibal killers. They are subsequently terrorised and murdered by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. By the end, only one of the film’s protagonists (Sally) manages to escape and survive. That said, I am forever haunted by the film’s ending, where Sally played by ‘scream queen’ actress Marilyn Burns, escapes the clutches of her captors by jumping through a window. As she runs for her life, she eventually hitches a ride in a pick-up truck. Psychologically scarred, maimed and hysterically cry-laughing, she watches her would-be killer slashing his chainsaw in the air in frustration, as she seemingly drives away to safety. It is truly one of cinema history’s most gripping scenes.
Shot on a shoe-string budget, somewhere in the vicinity of $80,000, a relatively unknown cast and crew, under the direction of Tobe Hooper, worked tirelessly in the blistering summer of 1973 in Texas, to create one of the greatest horror films of all time. Though, upon its release in late 1974, no one imagined it would have such a profound cultural impact in the United States and eventually around the world. Even decades later its still quite frightening. Furthermore, contrary to popular believe and clever marketing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a true story. Though it is fair to say, the real crimes of the infamous Winconsin killer Ed Gein, and his insanely sick appetite to make trophies and keepsakes from skin and bones of exhumed corpses, did serve as inspiration for one of the most starriest dudes in film history, simply known to us as Leatherface.
As I mentioned earlier, I finally got to see this twisted little movie about ten years ago. I now understand why it stands as one of the most controversial films ever made. Its suspense and unnerving sadistic violence and the film’s controversial portrayal of its female leads, not only scares the shit out of you, but it also makes you feeling numb and outraged. That said, as a film that set out to truly shock us, it achieves it in a no-hold barred manner.
At the risk of sounding like a censor, this is a film that no child or teenager should ever see. And please don’t give me that bullshit line that they’ve got to get desensitized at some point. I’m certainly glad I didn’t see this film in my youth. In fact, it’s not a film any adult who is squeamish or sensitive by nature should see, especially because this cult classic will definitely mess with your head! For instance, in my mind’s eye, the burning image of the film’s infamous family dinner scene or sight of a leatherfaced killer running around with a chainsaw still gives me stomach-turning chills. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.