The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an immensely influential film; ever since that steel door swung closed, Leatherface’s hulking descendants have descended upon foolhardy teenagers venturing into the woods and cabins and campsites therein.

If only its influence were more widely felt in modern horror, though! It’s a rare slasher that can boast sound design that can even approach the quality of Hooper’s gritty masterpiece. It’s more than that eerie, rusty gate soundtrack: listen in the first encounter with the crazed hitchhiker, as the jaunty pop music underscores his feverish insanity without undercutting the mood. Or listen as Leatherface lopes after Sally Hardesty through the woods, the whir of the soundtrack dovetailing with the buzz of his titular chainsaw and contributing to an atmosphere of confusion and despair.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre understands that most primal childhood fear: the fear of the dark. While much of the film takes place in stark, unforgiving daylight, act two is consumed by thick, oppressive night. This isn’t a well-lit film set faking darkness, but an impenetrable miasma obscuring all. The film’s relentlessness, or the way it toys with and intermingles fear and absurdity are also lessons worth learning. TCM is a classic for a reason.

Rating: 192/200

34 thoughts on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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    • Haha, I love that word. I originally just had “fog” there but thought I’d break it out 🙂

      I’m not that happy with this write-up – I kinda want to talk for another hundred words or so, but didn’t quite have enough to say to bother with an Extended Cut. My word limit is a curse at times!

      • I remember when my wife and I first got together – she made me go buy a computer (this was a long time ago – I’m old). I had no idea what to do with it so I played with the only thing they had available that interested me, a free built in dictionary. WOAH! Miasma was a featured word. I barely even remember now what we did before the internet and cell phones.

      • Oh man, I can just imagine you poring through a computer dictionary. Nothing beats that for entertainment 😉

    • I should have known I’d find you here!! Anywhere, there’s a horror entry, there’s Isaacs! lol.

      I don’t think I knew that word before reading this! But now that I can clearly see through all the miasma, I do! 🙂

      • Glad I could ..reveal it to you 🙂

        I do find it funny that most people following my blog are here for horror, even though I only write about it once every 10 posts or so. Not complaining, though, I love horror!

    • Thanks! It definitely holds up remarkably well, especially given how old it is. What really struck me watching it this time was the absurdity of it – it’s on that margin between hilarious and horrifying (especially during the dinner scene) without ever toppling over into farce.

  8. Everything you wrote about it is true. TTCM is a true masterpiece that will continue to stand the test of time. In many ways it is the most perfect horror film ever made.

    • Thanks; it’s certainly one of the very few horror films I’d even begin to describe as “perfect” (The Shining and The Thing come to mind, perhaps Alien? Most horror – even the great films – tends to have some glaring flaw).

      • Halloween is definitely a great example! Still yet to see The Exorcist III … more due to not being able to find it than anything else! I wonder if it’s on Netflix…

  9. Great review. Love that you mentioned what the film does with the harshness of daylight, and the unforgiving isolation of darkness. Just part of what makes this a truly classic horror masterpiece.

    • Thanks Alex! I’m still surprised that you don’t really see much horror take advantage of the fear that can be generated simply by using real darkness. There are a lot of “dark” horror films, but very few where you actually can’t tell what’s going on (outside of isolated scenes, like the flash-camera scene in Mama).

    • Exactly! I love how it’s so light on the gore but it suggests so much (case in point: the meathook scene, which is agonizing to watch but has no gore or blood!). Thanks for the comment

  10. Nice review 🙂 this is one of my fav slasher films. I’d argue it’s probably the best, maybe even better than Halloween. It’s really rare and has a great atmosphere and some really unsettling stuff. It’s also what influenced Ridley Scott when making Alien, which is pretty cool, and Kubrick apparently loved it too.

    • Yeah, it’s a really potent film and it’s hard to nail down why it works so well when so many other films try to rip it off blatantly and fail spectacularly. I didn’t realise it was an influence on Alien, but that makes a lot of sense!

      • Yeah, apparantly producers gave Scott 2001 and told him to follow that, but he turned around and said he wanted to make ‘the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space’ 🙂

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