In the spirit of Halloween, we’re revisiting the 1974 classic that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film is about a group of friends who encounter a family of cannibalistic psychopaths and must escape from the chainsaw wielding Leatherface. Originally marketed as being based on true events, the film is only inspired by the crimes of the real life murderer and body snatcher, Ed Gein. Decades later, we’re confident that Tobe Hooper’s slasher is still a must watch for all you horror fans, in-between the pumpkin carving and bonfire lighting activities, of course.
Here’s our top reasons as to why you should be adding this flick to your Halloween horror watchlist…
1) It’s one of the notable slashers and exploitation films
Texas Chainsaw is classed as one of the prime slasher films which set the bar for the genre and the many exploitation films which followed. Psycho and Peeping Tom from the 60’s were of course early influencers, but it wasn’t until films like Texas, Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were released until the subgenre was really coined. We’d like to take our chances and suggest that most modern slashers both consciously and subconsciously have Texas to thank for paving the way.
2) Two words: Marilyn Burns
The casting of Marilyn Burns as the protagonist is one of the most believable and distressing performances in the history of slashers. Likely a catalyst of the final girl trope, Burns gave her all to her character, making sure Sally was fierce and resourceful. The best aspect of her talents was in her ability to depict true fear and genuine horror; at times, you believe Sally is truly looking death in the face. The difference between Sally and the final girls in some modern-day slashers is that Sally still showed enough vulnerability and it wasn’t obvious how far her inner strength could take her; Sally will always be one of the more surprising final girls whereas nowadays, you could say that the final girl has evolved to come across as completely fearless, almost enjoying her methods of survival.
3) It’s best viewed with the lights off
Texas may be low-budget, but it looks great and oozes tension. The film offers a grainy, gritty and almost discoloured style, amplified by the eerie filming location. Set on a Texas farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, its every horror fan’s ideal spooky setting, and it offers realistic scares with enough blood and gore to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s jam packed with great documentary-style camera work, unnerving sounds, and Hooper generally does a great job of placing audiences into the deranged setting; note his subtle decisions to use powerhouse tools to intensify the unwelcome erratic noises, and radio broadcasts detailing previous murders to evoke further fear. Scary stuff!
4) It’s more than just a chainsaw flick
Whilst the movie is obviously a slasher on the surface, the socio-political commentary of the film is pretty outstanding and makes for an even more interesting viewing. It incorporates a number of recurring themes – think violence and revenge, but ideas of the apocalypse, family unit, mental illness, repression, and the concept of the final girl are all thrown into the mix too. What’s not to like?
Take our main anti-hero, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who belongs to a family of retired slaughterhouse workers. Thanks to the consequences of economic capitalism and automated machinery, they’re forced out of a job and begin to use humans as a means of surviving. Or, how about the fact that the females in the film endure the most pain and suffering? Sure, this kind of violence may be for enjoyment purposes of the film’s target audience, but it’s also possibly a critical commentary of the female liberation and the shrinking masculinity crisis developing in the era of its release. Texas is smarter than you think, right?
5) The deranged dinner sequence is one of a kind
Picture this; the sound of buzzing flies, hysterical screaming and erratic music, all within the dimly-lit room full of human bones and the worst dinner hosts known to man. The family dinner sequence is one of the most memorable moments, a desolate and scary look at the degradation of capitalism. This is the moment in which Sally wakes up at the dinner table to face all of the horrors around her; her fate is bleak, the Sawyer family torment her, and Burns excels in her hysterical performance. The editing is also jarring in order to mirror the craziness of Sally’s situation, as quick close ups of her eyes and mouth emphasise that the Sawyer home is no place to be. This scene is about as unnerving as it gets!
6) It’s still a lot of fun
Texas is well crafted and offers some great iconic shots and scenes to get you talking. From the jump scares to the chases, to the completely whacky costumes and over the top acting, it’s a film made to appreciate and enjoy. The ending is also one of the slasher genre’s most tense and sensational offerings.
7) It’s only the beginning of a wild franchise
As of today, there are 9 films in the Texas Chainsaw franchise. We’re not saying they’re all good, but we may be saying that there are a number of bad sequels to enjoy. If you’re looking for a good laugh with friends this Halloween as opposed to a good scare, then we’d recommend not missing out on the fourth instalment; Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation. You’ll enjoy seeing Matthew McConaughey in one of his early roles as a deranged villain, together with a young Renee Zellwegger as she elaborately fights to escape the rural estate.