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.