Friday, October 21, 2016

Season of Horror: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

....aaaaaand we're back! How lovely it is to have some time off after an intense work week, and be able to spend quality time with some fearsome fictional characters. I had not really planned to be watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre this evening. It just happened. It's another adventure in streaming TV.

This is my first time viewing this film. Brother John will surely be shocked to hear that, since he played it regularly in our youth, and although I did have some exposure to it, I always managed to avoid seeing it. I felt it might be too scary for me. Upon perusing the selections Amazon Prime Video was boasting in advance of Halloween, I decided to take the plunge on this film. I really only meant to see the first part of it and then got sucked in.

"I just can't take no pleasure in killin'. Well, there's just some things you got to do, don't mean you have to like it."

Nothing says scary movie like the 1970s. Which brings me to the question: Where is the cutoff point for a movie to be called a classic? I don't know if 1970s films are considered classics by most people, but they are to me.

Some hip 1970s kids are tooling around in their van, listening to some groovy tunes and decide to pick up a freaky hitchhiker, which may begin a cautionary tale. He upsets the kids in the van by describing butchering in detail, cutting himself across the hand, taking a photo of wheelchair bound Franklin, and then burning it after being refused payment for it. He suddenly grabs Franklin's arm and slices into it with a knife, prompting the kids to kick him out of the van.

There are ongoing disturbing reports on the radio about desecration at a cemetery, and the kids go to find their kin. Afterward, they go visit the old deserted homestead. While there, the first two victims go exploring and find the slaughterhouse, meeting the brutal butcher who wears a mask of skin.


The third victim goes after them and gets put down by Leatherface. Franklin and Sally get worried as it's getting dark and they don't have keys to the car, so they also go in search of the others and meet up with the chainsaw wielding fiend. Franklin is dispatched and Sally is taken and forced to endure horrors much worse than being clubbed. It's especially repulsive when her finger is cut and inserted into the gruesome Grandpa's mouth, who noisily slurps away at it.

After taunting her at the dinner table with their cannibalistic feast laid out before them, the grandkids try to give the corpse-like Grandpa some fun and entertainment by allowing him to take out Sally with a hammer, but he's not quite up to the task, making her attempted killing all the more disturbing, and allowing Sally a chance to escape. You may want to stop reading here if you've never seen this film and don't want to know what happens at the end.

Sally leads Leatherface and the hitchhiking brother on a chase.  The Hitchhiker gets nailed by a truck, but Leatherface is undaunted by the bystanders who are on scene to help Sally, and continues his pursuit. 

She manages to hop into a truck bed, escaping his clutches, while screaming and laughing maniacally.

He does an interpretive dance of frustration with the chainsaw in the light of the rising sun.

This film was not what I expected and I was pleasantly surprised. It's not as gory as I thought it might be and it becomes more terrifying as a result. The focus is not on blood and guts, but on the real fear of being chased, bludgeoned, chopped and cooked up into a sausage. The slaughtering of the victims is not seen but suggested. It has a certain realism that makes it especially unsettling. The cannibal family has got quite an odd cast of characters that lend a disturbing quality to the film, and the collection of artfully displayed human bone artifacts increases the level of fear and disgust. The sound in this film is interesting. There's a lot of grinding and mechanical noise that sets a person on edge. Then there's the laughing and the screaming that has the same effect as nails on a chalkboard. I'm glad I was inspired to watch this movie and I'll be adding the Blu Ray to my collection. It's a film worth seeing for any fan of classic horror.

Addendum: So is it me or is this film attempting to promote vegetarianism?


John Scoleri said...

It's about time! You're going to LOVE Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2!

Christine said...

I knew you'd be pleased. TCMII looks like a different beast. I can appreciate the sick horror humor, but I think I prefer the straight up horror in this original, just as I prefer Evil Dead to Evil Dead 2. Though I may enjoy seeing Dennis Hopper having fun with a chainsaw. Maybe you could loan it to me. Kudos for being the first commenter!