Akuma no ikenie (Japan) | Bloodright in Texas (Germany) | Blutgericht in Texas (Germany) | Headcheese (USA) (working title) | Das Kettensägenmassaker (Germany) | Leatherface (USA) (working title) | La Masacre de Texas (Argentina) | Masacre en Texas (Venezuela) | Massacre à la tronçonneuse (France) O Massacre da Serra Elétrica (Brazil) | Massacre no Texas (Portugal) | La Matança de Texas (Spain) (Catalan title) | La Matanza de Texas (Spain) | Moottorisahamurhaaja (Finland) (informal title) | Motorsågsmassakern (Sweden) | Motorsavsmassakren (Denmark) | Non aprite quella porta (Italy) | Texasin moottorisahamurhat (Finland) | The Devil of Punishment (Japan) (literal title) (English title) | The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Finland) (video title)
In 1974, a young filmmaker set out to create what would later be regarded as one of the most influential and creative horror films ever made. The filmmaker's name was Tobe Hooper and his film was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film was partly inspired by the book about Ed Gein, the infamous midwest serial killer from the 1950s. Hitchcock's film Psycho (1960) was also based on the same book.
The film begins with a scrolling introduction and its read by actor John Laroquette (Stripes). Then over black we hear an ear splitting sound effect. We can see after a few seconds, flashes of light. It is someone is taking pictures of something. The camera fades in and we see a scary scene of two decomposed bodies tied up in a twisted pose upon a cemetary headstone. As we watch, we can hear a radio announcer talking about the actual crime scene we are witnessing.
After the hellish opening credit sequence, we see a dead armadillo lying in the street and then a van driving nearby. Five kids: Franklin Hardesty (Paul Partain) an invalid, his sister Sally (Marilyn Burns) and their friends Kirk (William Vail), Jerry (Allen Danziger) and Pam (Teri McMinn) are driving through the country. They have to stop because Franklin has to piss. They wheel him out of the van and as hes pissing in a can, a large 18 wheeler drives by and startles them all, Franklin loses his footing and rolls down the hill. Afterwards, as they are driving, they hear the same radio announcement about the grave robbing. They realize that one of their relatives is buried in that same cemetary the bodies were robbed from. So they stop and talk to the local police and people who have gathered there. As Sally talks to the police chief, Franklin is in the van and a crazy old man (John Henry Faulk) is rambling on telling Franklin stories. The way Hooper shot this scene makes it really creepy. The old man is talking lying on his back, so it looks like hes a dead corpse. It gives the scene a a real ominous feeling as well.
Later, the kids then load up into the van and are off on their way again, and they drive by a slaughterhouse, they can smell the bad stench and Franklin explains that his granddad used to work there. Franklin explains that now they used air guns to kill the cows. They see a hitchhiker looking for a ride. So they pick him up. The Hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) is very crazy looking and the kids all watch him as if he were a strange animal in a cage. The creepy Hitchhiker has a camera with him and he shows the kids the pictures hes taken. The pictures seem to be dead animals and rotten cow carcuses. Franklin asks the Hitchhiker about the slaughterhouse and they both seem to be getting along after they discuss the finer delicacies of HEAD CHEESE. The Hitchhiker explains that Head Cheese is made from all the brains and eyeballs and tendons of the cow. Franklin has a knife that hes been holding and the hitchhiker wants to see it. After he takes the knife, he cuts his own hand open as the kids look on in horror. The Hitchhiker gets off on this. Then he takes a picture of the kids and demands they give him money for it. They refuse and he takes the pictures and puts gunpowder on it and lights it on fire. The Hitchhiker freaks out and grabs a straight razor and cuts Franklins arm. Then the van pulls over and they push the hitchhiker out. As they are pulling away, the Hitchhiker makes faces and taunts them, and he kicks the van and scrapes it with his razor.
The kids screech off in the van and they are stunned. They tell each other "thats the last time we're gonna pick up a hitchhiker!" The kids get to a gas station and decide to take a break. They find out that the gas truck isnt there yet, so they gotta wait. The gas station is also sells BBQ, so the Gas Station owner (Jim Siedow) tells them to stay around. They wait awhile and then they head on to their relatives house (they spent time there as kids) which is now all decrepid and rundown. The kids look around the house and see that its full of junk. Jerry looks in one room and sees a horde of spiders, its a creepy place. While the kids are upstairs looking around, Franklin is downstairs in his wheelchair. Hes angered at them for leaving him all alone, so in a comedic outburst, he whines, cusses and spits. Franklin then looks up and sees a strange ornament made of bones hanging from a doorway. Somethings not right.
Jerry and Pam come downstairs and ask Franklin if theres any place to go swimming around the area, Franklin tells them there used to be an old swimming hole they used to go swimming in down a trail. So Jerry and Pam get down there and see that the swimmin hole is all dried up. In the distance, they hear a noise, as they walk on, they can make out that its a compressor of some kind. They see a house and they walk over closer, they see a large garage loaded with cars covered in netting. They walk towards the house and Jerry goes up to the front door and asks if anyone is home. Noone answers, so he proceeds inside. Pam sits on a swinging chair and waits. Jerry walks inside and keeps calling out to see if anyones home. He walks into a doorway that seems to be adorned with dead animal skulls, suddenly he is savagely attacked by a hammer to the head. Its the infamous human skin masked ghoul Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). As Jerrys body shakes like a stunned animal, Leatherface clobbers him a few more times and drags him all the way in and slams the steel door shut. Pam follows after Jerry and calls out to see where he is. She walks into the front of the house and she opens a curtain and sees a macabre and startling sight. Its a room of furniture made out of animal and human skeltal remains. Theres also some chickens hanging in a cage. She falls down and is sick with dry heaves as she looks at each of the deranged lounge furniture. She gets up and tries to run out the door, but Leatherface runs after her and picks her up and brings her back into his butchering room. He carries her to a meathook and plunks her on it like a piece of Grade B beef. She is in shock as she realizes shes hooked like a slab of beef.
Back at the house, Sally, Franklin and Kirk are waiting for Jerry and Pam. Kirk decides to go look for them and he walks towards the house. When he gets there, he walks inside and noones around. He walks into the back room and he hears a noise coming from a large freezer, a knocking. Jerry goes to open the freezer and Pam's dead body pops out like a Jack in The Box. Leatherface rushes in and kills Kirk. Then he crams Pams body back in the freezer like a old pair of socks. Leatherface is freaking out, he looks out the window to see if any other intruders are about. Actor Gunnar Hansen really did a wonderful job as the masked fiend.
Sally and Franklin are restless as they wait for the others to come back, the sun is going down. They decide to go look for the others. They yell out and (this is the first horror movie to use the "I'll go look for Joe" plot device that we'd later see in many horror films like Friday The 13th and others). Sally has to push Franklin through the woods in the wheelchair, as they are going down the trail, they hear a noise. They stop, but then, like a ghost, Leatherface appears with his chainsaw and he saws Franklin up into bits! Sally takes off and Leatherface chases her through the thick brush.
She finally gets to the Sawyer house and closes the door and then she runs upstairs where she encounters Grandpa (John Dugan) a mummified looking ghoul. She screams at him for help, but Grandpa shows no sign of being able to do anything but sit in his chair. While Sally is pleading with Gramps for help, Leatherface is sawing through the front door, I really like how Tobe Hooper crosscuts Leatherface's buzzing saw cutting through the door with closeup shots of Grandpa in his chair. Sally then jumps out the top floor window and falls into the yard. She gets up and runs through the woods, as Leatherface bolts after her, Sally screams like a maniac (wouldnt most of us?). She sees lights up ahead and she runs towards them. Shes back at the gas station/BBQ cafe where they were earlier. She runs inside and Leatherface dissapears. The old guy inside tells her to calm down. Sally is livid, as she sits and waits for The Old Man to get his truck to drive her to the police, she sees the BBQ smoker, with some odd looking sausages inside. When the Old Man gets back, he has a potato sack and a broom. Sally is confused. Then the Old Man lets her know that shes not safe after all. The Old Man beats her and knocks her out and puts the potato sack over her head. He puts her in the truck and as they drive along, he pokes and prods at her with the broomstick handle.
As he drives down the driveway to his house, our friend The Hitchhiker is just getting home as well. Its one big happy hellish family! When they get inside, The Old Man yells at Leatherface (his brother) and we see that the big bad chainsaw wielding killer is actually just a big retarded baby who likes to cook up dishes of death. Leatherface is now wearing an old ladies wig (may be a reference to Psycho). They take Sally and tie her up in a chair. When she awakes she sees that shes at the dinner table with the Sawyers. She screams and they taunt her as she flips out. Tobe Hooper shoots an extreme close up of Sallys eyeballs and it really is an amazing effect. Her eyeballs dart back and forth, it conveys the complete frenzy she is feeling. For the big dinner party, the boys bring Grandpa downstairs for the party. When they get Grandpa downstairs they decide to feed him. Old Grandpa doesnt want a beer or a steak though, he wants some FRESH BLOOD! Sally is the donor, so they slice her finger and they let Grandpa suck on her finger, as he sucks, he suddenly comes back to life and almost gets up and does a dance. Hilarious!
Then for the coup de grace, they give Grandpa a large hammer to hit Sally on the head with, but everytime they place the hammer in Grandpas hand he drops it! This is a very funny sequence. After Grandpa finally lands a blow to her noggin, Sally manages to break free and she runs and crashes out the front window, and we can see its dawn outside, she is bloody and bruised and she runs down the long driveway as The Hitchhiker and Leatherface chase her once again. She gets to the highway and she flags down an 18 wheeler, as the 18 wheeler tries to stop, it crushes The Hitchhiker and turns him into roadkill. Sally jumps into the truck and she barely escapes Leatherfaces saw.
As Leatherface tries to get Sally and The Trucker, The Trucker pegs Leatherface off the head with a large wrench, Leatherface falls down and the chainsaw slices his leg. Sally crazily flags down another truck and she jumps in the back. Leatherface chases after her, but the truck speeds off with the bloodied Sally deliriously laughing in the back. Leatherface goes crazy as he misses his chance to slice and dice, as the sun comes up Leatherface wildly swings the chainsaw around in defiance. An iconic cinematic ending if there ever was one!
What I really love most about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the fact its actually one big joke on the audience. The title sounds as if its a huge gorefest, but Tobe Hooper's genius execution is a Hitchcockian work that shows almost no blood at all! The only bloodletting that is shown onscreen, is in the van when the Hitchhiker cuts his hand then Franklin's arm with a straight razor. The rest of the film is a goreless work of cinematic brilliance. It is also very much a black comedy. Another aspect I really enjoy is the way it looks more like a 1970s documentary than a expensive Hollywood production. It gives the film a raw, gritty quality that just adds to its unique aura. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is more than just a low budget horror film, its really a work of cinematic art and its a very special film to me.
Reviewed by Popeye Pete - 5/28/07