Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


The engine kicks on, the chain starts to spin and a roaring buzz sound screams out across the open Texas landscape. The person holding the chainsaw defies description; a strange mix between businessman and housewife, all wrapped up in the guise of a butcher. Oh yes, and he’s wearing someone else’s face.

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a relentless descent into madness so convincing that the people making it must have been at least partly unhinged. Judging from the infamous stories from the set, that seems to be the case. But there’s more at work in the film than just deranged psychosis. There’s an intricate pattern of macabre images that slowly chip away at the audience’s sense of comfort, subconsciously dragging them deeper and deeper into the world of the Chainsaw Family. By the end of the film, you’re gasping for breath, desperate to keep your sanity alive. Is this statement over the top? Perhaps, but appropriately so.

It’s the ultimate “road trip” horror movie. A group of friends travel to Texas to check out their grandfather’s old house and stumble upon a maniacal family of cannibals. It’s one of horror’s most enduring and powerful themes. Characters have a plan for their future and they set out to accomplish it, but an unimaginably destructive force interrupts them. The fear is universal. It’s the nihilistic anxiety that the world is an unpredictable and meaningless place and that although you’re a good person reaching for your goals, you might just get cut down by a chainsaw and wind up sizzling on a Foreman Grill. This thought alone is terrifying, throw in some creepy vegetarian-inducing slaughterhouse violence and you’ve got an all around horror masterpiece.

Although the shots are beautifully choreographed and thought out, a trait usually associated with polished Hollywood productions, the film manages to hold onto a sense of realism, setup by its scrolling text opening. Contributing to the reality is the grainy quality of the film, as well as the naturalistic performances and everyday dialogue. Most modern “road trip” horror films fill their character’s mouths with snappy one-liners to keep the audience entertained, seemingly unconcerned with maintaining a realistic atmosphere.

When it all comes down to it, is there anything more threatening then a chainsaw? It’s loud like a gun, personal like a knife and can inflict serious damage. It’s primal, yet at the same time industrial. A small mechanical engine revving a razor sharp chain that still has to be wielded like an axe. It’s technically advanced, but not so advanced that the killer is detached from the chase. All the horrifying elements are in place – the hunt, the kill – but with an extra edge of spinning gas powered terror, ripe with its own metaphoric impact.

In the end, after all her friends are dead, Sally bursts forth from one of the windows of the Chainsaw Family’s nightmare home. She’s been through hell, covered in blood and cuts. A final chase ensues and she narrowly escapes into the back of a pickup truck where she begins to laugh uncontrollably. An enraged Leatherface takes out his frustration by dancing violently with his chainsaw. He spins endlessly, swinging the blade through the morning air. The light itself has become red, as if the madness past down to the blood soaked Sally has taken hold of the rest of the world… Or at least the rest of Texas. A true massacre.

90/100 - Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a relentless descent into madness so convincing that the people making it must have been at least partly unhinged.

Craig Stewart

Am I obsessed? Maybe. I prefer the term “passionate”; it has a less creepy stalker kind of vibe. Not that I have anything against creepy stalkers being that my genre of choice is and forever will be the depraved, demented and deranged dwelling of horror. If you're looking for films that don’t sugarcoat things, that reveal people at their ugliest, that aren’t afraid to spill a little blood and have fun doing it, then look no further!