Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Directed by Tobe Hooper

Starring Allen Danzinger Edwin Neal Gunnar Hansen Jim Siedow Marilyn Burns Paul A. Partain

An eerie, neo-realistic (almost to the point of being documentary-style) horror film is surprisingly low in gore, but way up there in sheer terror. Originally released in a horrible video, it finally made its way to DVD in the late 1990s, in a Pioneer edition that at last does the film justice. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" could only have been made effectively in the 1970s, as so many of the films sequels would later prove. Produced on a budget of just $140,000, the film grossed $30,859,000 at the U.S. box office, making it one of the most successful independent films in cinema history. The financing for this film came from the profits of Deep Throat, a previous film the production company had financed.

While on a roadtrip to an abandoned family home, a group of teenagers pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who used to work in a nearby slaughter house. He quickly demonstrates that he's a few sandwiches short of a picnic when he starts carving up his own hand, laughing. They dump him out of the car. Naturally that isn't the last they hear from him.

The grittiness of "Texas" is what makes the movie so special. Based partially on the real-life killings of Ed Gein (who also served as the inspiration for Hitchcock's "Psycho"), and featuring an introduction that hints that the events of the film are true, "Texas" definitely suspends disbelief. The film's low budget only adds to its overall realness. Everything about the movie--from its opening shot of a defiled corpse over a graveyard to the last frame showing the chainsaw-wielding killer Leatherface waving his chainsaw vainly in the air--is brilliant. Very much in the spirit of Wes Craven's early film "Last House on the Left," "Texas Chainsaw" exploits the fear we all have of our fellow man, the dilemma not knowing whom we can really trust. The final two thirds of the story focus on the survival skills of star screamer Marilyn Burns, who did a great job of portraying a woman pushed way over the edge. A masterpiece of horror, "Texas" is one of a number of films that influenced "The Blair Witch Project," not to mention a million other, lower-quality copycats.

What's amazing is that director Hooper never made a great movie after it. He made some good ones -- the "Salem's Lot" miniseries, the dumb-but-fun "Lifeforece," the braindead sequel, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" -- but couldn't come close to the greatness of this. The closest he may have come was a 1970s horror movie (featuring some of the same cast) entitled "Eaten Alive" or the slasher film "Funhouse."

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

USER COMMENTS

Posted by Thanatos on April 9, 2008
Great film. A msterpiece. Tobe couldn't top this film, true, but few directors can. Funhouse was probably his next best. The 'Chainsaw Dance' at the end was perfect. Also how it just cuts off and rolls the credits. However, where is the black truck driver? Where and why did he take off running and not get in his truck and drive away?


Posted by k+l on May 5, 2009
loved it since i was little, the new ones pretty good too!


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