The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

30 Mar

142224__texas_chainsaw_lSmith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When filmmakers dare to make a film as violent and as gruesome as “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” it’s hard to make it well with effectiveness. But “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is effective, well-made, and well-acted, yet violent and gruesome as I mentioned. As the title suggests, people die—teenagers, to be more specific—after being stalked by a maniac wielding a chainsaw (that never seems to run out of gas, but who cares?). Strange, yes, but what really got to me was the news at the beginning of the movie saying that this was based on factual events. I’m not quite sure I believe that, but with the things we hear about Ed Gein in the past, something like that might have happened.

“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” focuses only on the five youths who fall victim to the maniac and his psychotic family. Not once do we identify the psychos—there is no motivation, no back story, and no proof that this happened before. That’s a risky move to make in a horror movie, but all the more disturbingly effective.

The five youths (one of which is in a wheelchair) are taking a drive through Texas in their camper van. These are just ordinary, everyday teenagers (or as ordinary teenagers could be in the mid-‘70s) who have something unordinary and something that DOESN’T happen everyday happen to them. It starts when they pick up a weird hitchhiker who likes to cut himself and talk about “head cheese” (the remains of animals’ heads when they’re slaughtered). He slices at the kid in the wheelchair and is kicked out of the van. Before he leaves, he smears blood on the van—an ominous sign that he will be seen again.

The teenagers stop at an old house in which two of them were raised. They decide to have a good time before they return home. But as two of them leave the house to find a swimming hole, they find instead an old shed. The Boy walks in and never comes out. The Girl is worried, so she goes to find him. She gets snatched too—well, she is hung by a meat hook. The Heroine’s Boyfriend sets out to look for the crazy couple after a while. He falls victim too. Soon, it is dark and the Heroine and her wheelchair-bound Brother are about to fall straight into terror, after looking for their friends.

This film is very violent—it shows characters being hit on the head with sledgehammers, clubbed on the hand, hung on meat hooks, and chased around by the chainsaw-wielding psycho. We see rooms with human bones all around, a decomposing skeleton sat upright in a cemetery, and if that’s not enough, there’s a sequence in which the Heroine is captured and tied to a chair, sitting with the psychotic, cannibalistic family, seeing just how sick and bizarre and weird and violent they truly are. She is going through pain and torture at the same time. I also should mention the bit in which the Heroine’s finger is cut so that the psychos’ corpse-figured grandfather will suck her blood. Ech…

“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is not for everyone; it may hardly be for anyone. It’s sick, depraved, and violent—But I’m recommending it because it is, like I said, well-made, well-acted, and effective. I can think of a lot of other movies that are also sick-minded, but those probably feature phony performances and too much rely on the villains. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” doesn’t feature any of that.

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