Release Date: October 1st, 1974
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Music by: Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, Teri McMinn
Vortex, Bryanston Pictures, 84 Minutes
Originally, I wanted to review the first four Texas Chainsaw films as a series, as they are considered to be the original run of films before the remakes, prequels and other alternate sequels started. However, every single film bearing the Texas Chainsaw name, follows its own continuity. Part 2 is one of many versions of a sequel. Part 3 ignores Part 2. Then you have Part 4, which ignores Parts 2 and 3 and establishes a “next generation” of characters. After that, the series was rebooted. Then the reboot got a prequel. Years later, another alternate sequel to the original was made. Now there is another prequel coming out within the next year or so; I’m not sure which of the films it is attached to. Needless to say, the continuity is confusing as hell, so I would rather review each film separately.
Artistically speaking, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the best film in the series, although I can’t call it great. Sorry, it just isn’t. It also isn’t my favorite in the series, that honor would go to the second part, which I will explain when I review that chapter in the franchise.
This film is insane and scary. The atmosphere and the characters create a sense of dread that has never been replicated in the series. The dinner scene is one of the most legitimately frightening moments in 1970s horror. The sets, the cinematography, the characters, the music, the sound, everything just melds together in a good way. The film does the job it set out to do.
The only thing about the movie that I hated, and many will probably agree, is the invalid brother Franklin. He was beyond obnoxious, stupid and annoying. I don’t see how anyone could feel bad about his death in the picture. I only wish it had come sooner and been a lot more violent.
One of the common misconceptions about this movie, is that people remember it as being extremely violent and bloody. It isn’t. Most of the actual gore happens out of the shot or is implied somehow. There is very little blood, overall. The film is just so intense, at the right moments, that it doesn’t need to slap you in the face with blood and guts.
I know I am in the minority, but I have never held this in the same regard as classics like A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween or Friday the 13th. It certainly isn’t as good as Black Christmas, another well-noted horror film from 1974. I have always liked it but it just doesn’t hold a special place for me like the other movies. And out of all the big time horror franchises, this one has spawned the most awful sequels.
Regardless of my criticism, Tobe Hooper made a solid horror picture for 1974. This is considered to be one of the greatest scary movies ever made. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been in 1974 when the world hadn’t really seen something this brutal. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre opened the flood gates for what was to come in the horror genre and that, more than anything else, is why this film is important.