The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - 9/10
There’s a new Texas Chainsaw film out. I have zero interest in it, but it’s a good reminder to instead dig out the original. I’m not a horror nut, I can’t regale you with inside stories about some of the blood being real, although there’s really not that much. Or that Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) only had one costume in that Texas heat and stank by the end of the shoot. Okay both those I believe are true. What’s also true is that this film is still terrifying nearly 50 years on. Why is that? Well The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a very simple story with no extra fluff. The shots are carefully crafted and brilliantly edited. Most striking though is the daylight. Horrors usually rely mostly on darkness and shadows to heighten the tension and there is some of that when we get into the house. What’s striking though is all that sunshine and dust. A bunch of kids are out driving in rural Texas. Things quickly take a bad turn when they pick up the hitchhiker from hell, but it’s just to set the tone. Some of it feels a little tropey, but let’s be fair it’s films like this that set the standards for the tropes to follow. What’s remarkably is how fresh it still feels and although it’s only 80 minutes, it’s in no rush. The opening half hour scene setter is all you need to ease you in before Kirk and Pam come face to face with still probably the most diabolical cinema villain of all time. The horror house is just as brutal as when I first saw this years ago. The first sight of Leatherface takes your breath away and quickly Kirk and Pam’s as she’s hooked up and the chainsaw makes its first outing on Kirk. Before long there’s only Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her let’s be honest quite annoying brother Franklin in his wheelchair left. Another thing that makes this work so well, is that it’s scarily believable. Don’t get my wrong it’s very extreme, but it feels oddly realistic. I’ll be honest the scene around the dinner table in the third act is a bit schlocky, but I guess it needs to ramp up to something and Sally gets the unenviable dinner invitation. The grotesque sight of the family together as Leatherface watches his table manners is bonkers, but it’s the two chase sequences either side with that gas-powered chainsaw that really get the pulse racing. Like I said, I’m not a big horror fan, but this deserves its cult classic status. It’s pretty flawless. I’m still not watching the reboot though.