In Loving Memory of Marilyn Burns
A Primal Root Written Review
Our experience begins in the void of darkness, we are blind to the world around us, yet we can hear the nearby sound of a shovel burrowing into the soil. The sounds of heavy breathing, exertion. Our senses are heightened alright as our minds race with the possibilities, as we are made to feel uncomfortable, trapped, anxious…And then our very first image. The visage of a thoroughly rotten, glistening, corpse that eerily resembles a batch of General Tso’s chicken, illuminated by a camera’s flashbulb, accentuated by the startling sound on the film;s soundtrack rumored to be anything from a cello to Tobe Hooper running a pitchfork down a piece of metal. Either way, in the span of mere seconds, the audience viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is experiencing one thing above all else, fear.
The premise is simple. Throw a pack of kids in their late teens and early twenties into the heart of darkness, watch them die and then cheer on that one young woman who remains as she struggles for survival. We would call it cliched if it weren’t for the fact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the very first. To call Texas Chainsaw Massacre a milestone in horror cinema is justified. Like absolutely nothing that came before it in the film’s attempt to truly obliterate the sanity of anyone who views it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired a generation of horror filmmakers and decades worth of copy cats who could never dream of coming close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s raw, uncompromising, power. Though many sequels and cash-in’s follows in Chainsaw’s wake, there is no other horror film like it.
Tobe Hooper, a young filmmaker out of Texas, was inspired by, as legend has it, tales of serial killer Ed Gein and his penitent for digging up corpses to steal their skin and wear it as well as the man’s hobby of turning the remnants of the dead into furniture and serving dishes. Another inspiration came in the form of a holiday shopping trip to Sears. As hooper stood in the hardware aisle int he midst of the holiday shopping madness, his eyes fell upon a rack of chainsaws when the thought came to him, “I know of a way to get out of this place in a hurry!” According to Hooper, within second, the premise for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most innovative and enduring piece of cinema to come out of the hippie movement, it has become a touchstone for the end of the movement an highlighting the sick, subversive nature or our American culture and society itself. In the wake of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the failed war in Vietnam, the brutality of The Civil Rights movement and The Tate-Labianca murders, it was no wonder such a ferocious, merciless, hopeless piece of cinema was the product. Many other horror films of the era, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, all dealt with the frustrations, horror and disheartening of a generation of idealists, who struck out to change things, and watching as that struggle got buried, and never actually took hold. By the late 60’s and early 70’s we had become a nation haunted by that period in time when so many believed in a dream, only to watch it fall apart, like a person being chopped to pieces under a whirring chainsaw. None matched the unbridled fury, the primal scream of disgust and anger that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delivered. All at once, the young people of a generation are painted as idiots, ego-centric assholes willing to mock one another and leave those less fortunate behind as they seek their own personal pleasures. And by films end, we are reminded, that it’s all just business as usual as an ancient old man in a suit and tie sucks the blood from the tip of the new generation’s finger tip. The message is clear, welcome to the American Nightmare, don’t expect to ever wake up.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a true work of absolute terror. A story pitch perfectly told, well acted, beautifully shot and fantastically edited. I could go on all day about Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of the premiere achievements in outlaw independent filmmaking, but the results speak for themselves. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now, 40 years later, considered a film classic and a masterpiece of the horror genre. All these decades later and it has not lost an ounce of it’s power to drive it’s audience to the brink of their sanity. To this day, as Leatherface dances with his chainsaw and the sun rises over rural America, just as the film cuts to black, dead silence, I still have to catch my breath every time. 40 years on, and we’re still feeling the the influence of that idyllic summer afternoon drive that became a nightmare. The most bizarre crime in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre LEGENDARY status aka: Infinite Dumpster Nuggets