Film Review - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Starring - Marilyn Burns, Gunner Hansen, Jim Siedow, Edwin Neal | Directed by Tobe Hooper | Dark Sky DVD WS R 84min 1974

Review By Xmortis

Bloodline Video wants you to climb into the van with me, Xmortis, and head down the Texas highway, stop at the Last Chance Gas Station, get some BBQ for lunch and take a look at a film series that has a long and amazing past filled with some great sequels, not so great ones and even a remake thrown in. So gas up the chainsaw and lets take a look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Sally Hardesty, her wheelchair bound brother Franklin, her boyfriend Jerry and friends Kirk and Pam are on a road trip through Texas in 1973 to see if their grandfather's grave has been disturbed by a rash of grave robbers and to go to their family's old home that is now in ruins. Along the way they pick up a crazed hitchhiker who attacks Franklin before being booted from the van. They also meet a gas station owner named W.E who warns them not to go to the old house and warns them his station is out of gas. The group doesn't listen and heads for the farm where their fun and games turn into a nightmare as a killer known as Leatherface (because he wears human skin as a mask) picks them off one by one. Leatherface uses all his tools of the trade to dispose of the teens like his trusty hammer, chainsaw and meat hooks. Finally Sally is the only one left alive and comes face to face with the true horror of Leatherface and his deranged brothers that include W.E., the hitchhiker and their wheelchair bound blood-drinking Grandpa who was a slaughterhouse worker. Sally is chased, beaten and forced to have a cannibal dinner with the family before she tries to escapes the madness with her life as Leatherface with chainsaw and Hitchhiker with straight razor are in hot pursuit. In the end the hitchhiker is smashed by a semi truck, Leatherface takes his own chainsaw to the leg and Sally escapes with her life but not her mind.

This film is what set the bar for all the low budget slasher and drive-in trash cinema that flooded the market back in the late 70's and through out the 80's. That is only one of the reasons this film is so near and dear to my heart, for bringing me the cinema that I enjoy the most. My first time seeing this film was on a gritty GoodTimes Video VHS that my brother bought from a store called Half Priced Books. I was a fan of Universal and Hammer horror films at the time and was still pretty young. I was blown away by this film, its over all nasty feel and the idea it was based on a "true story." Moments and dialogue have been stuck in my mind for many years and even inspired me to write a fan-made Texas Chainsaw film that I pitched to Independent B Movie back in the day.

The film's direction from Tobe Hooper is a nicely paced build up that increases the dread and fear and makes you think you have seen more then you actually have, showing that Hooper was at the top of his game when he made this cult classic. Bob Burns, who made the set pieces, should also be given some major credit for making this film look as amazing as it does. If not for the furniture made of human bones and flesh and Leatherface's many masks, this film would not look as sinister and iconic now as it does. There is no Hollywood polish. The script is filled horror and makes a statement about the USA at the time of filming. This is credited to Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel who turned what could have been a shlocky cheapie into a scary inspiring piece of American cinema. The locations are also outstanding and are perfect for the mood of the film. Without the family's bone scattered home or the hole in the wall gas station, the film would have not looked as gritty.

Marilyn Burns, who is my second biggest crush in horror films right behind Danielle Harris, is who I consider the original scream queen when she plays Sally Hardesty with such passion and realism that I found myself worrying for her wellbeing through out her horrible ordeal in this film. She is beautiful, a good actress and a perfect horror icon that future scream queens should look up to. You have to give her credit for all the bumps, bruises and cuts she put herself through to make this picture as scary as it is. Gunner Hanson plays Leatherface, and while he never speaks, Hanson does a great job at showing emotion through body language. Hanson will always be the true Leatherface, and while many others have put on the human skin mask, he still will be the most iconic actor to do so. One can only hope that a studio will hire him to do so one last time. Edwin Neal plays the hitchhiker and is really believable as the birth marked faced, razor blade slashing nut job who is clearly the most sadistic brother in the family. It's a shame that he is killed of in this first film and only his corpse makes an appearance in the second film. But the best actor and character among the brothers is Jim Siedow who plays W.E., also known as the Cook. The way the character switches from caring business man to blood thirsty torturer is the stuff of real life killers. Siedow's portrayal of the Cook is almost as iconic to me as Leatherface. In fact, all the acting in the film is right on and perfect for this style of film. The film is for the most part bloodless and only offers a few scenes of the red stuff. What makes this amazing is that I know people who swear that this film is way bloodier than it really is. The film's score is also amazing, basic yet somehow fitting. The end scene with Sally running down the driveway path and Leatherface hot on her trail is one of the top iconic moments in horror history and is one of the most recognizable moments to even the most novice fan. If you like your horror films underlined with social commentary, lots of horrific blood curdling screaming, hammer blows to the head, chainsaws, a blood drinking old man and a killer who wears human faces, then check out 1974's most groundbreaking horror film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

This two disc set is amazing and has some great documentaries, deleted scenes, commentaries, gag reel, trailers, TV and radio spots, a look at the farm house as it stands now, subtitles, still gallery and much more making this edition a must own for fans of this independent shocker.

This film has inspired many modern horror filmmakers, still shocks audiences to this day and always finds a new generations of fans who see it for the first time. I have had the honor of meeting many of the actors, and all have great stories about making this cult classic. I also find it amazing that this film invokes so many raw emotions from viewers. It's always an extreme love or a extreme hate for it. Some of our own staff here at Bloodline are on both sides with Joker, Mr. X, The Buddy and myself being in the love section and Juliet and The Baron being on the hate side. If you're a horror fan, an aspiring horror filmmaker, a fan of anything drive-in reviewer/horror host Joe Bob Briggs loves, then this is a film for you. It's a MUST own and a MUST see for all horror fans.

We go back to Texas 10 years later for the film's more black comedy sequel that is as well directed by Tobe Hooper and shows what Leatherface, the cook, W.E. and new brother Chop-Top are up to. So join us for the next review as we look at Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2!