(1974)

Who will survive and what will be left of them?

When Sally hears that her grandfather's grave may have been vandalized, she and her paraplegic brother, Franklin, set out with their friends to investigate. After a detour to their family's old farmhouse, they discover a group of crazed, murderous outcasts living next door. As the group is attacked one by one by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, who wears a mask of human skin, the survivors must do everything they can to escape.

***Disturbing iconic slasher about a demented family in rural Texas***
After a van of young people picks up a psycho hitchhiker in east Texas they stumble upon a farm house of crazies, including a burly mute man with a mask made of human-skin.
Tobe Hooper’s "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) is a seminal, iconic slasher that’s genuinely disturbing and horrific because it plays out in a gritty, realistic manner. While some viewers might find a couple of scenes amusing, like Franklin in his wheelchair accidently rolling down the hill and, later, having a hammy fit in the dilapidated building, it doesn’t change the fact that this is a serious, unsettling horror flick.
By contrast, Rob Zombie’s homage (or rip-off), “House of 1000 Corpses” (2003), wasn’t disturbing or horrific at all because he opted for an over-the-top, cartoony approach. It was colorful and amusing, yes, but not unsettling or horrifying.
Other positives include the rural locations, cool nighttime sequences, e.g. the thorn bush, and the effectively photographed women with no raunch: Teri McMinn (Pam) and Marilyn Burns (Sally). They’re girl-next-door types, but alluring enough.
So this is a standout film as far as serious slasher horror goes and I can understand those who give it a high rating, but horror movies are about more than just scaring & troubling the viewer. For me, the last act is overly one-dimensional, focusing too much on the eye-rolling demonic dirtbag family and a girl fleeing & screaming. It’s thoroughly manic, indeed, but also vacuous and uninspiring.
The film runs 1 hour, 23 minutes; there’s also an 88 minute unrated version. It was shot in east Texas as follows: Round Rock (house), Bastrop (gas station/BBQ shack), Leander (cemetery) and Watterson (slaughterhouse). The house has since been moved to Kingsland and refurbished as a restaurant.
GRADE: B-/C+

Vortex, Bryanston Distributing by Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel.
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger.

Genres: Horror

Keywords: gas station texas van midnight movie leatherface hitchhiker slaughterhouse chainsaw cannibal family polaroid cult film

10/11/1974

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