Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal
Director: Tobe Hooper
Running Time: 83 mins
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an American film about a group of friends who travel to a country mansion, only to encounter a family of deranged cannibals.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most famous horror films in history. And for very good reason. An utterly horrifying watch that tells a nasty, deeply unpleasant story in gruesome detail, it’s a spectacular piece of film, delivering genuine scares and upsetting emotion like few other films have ever done.
Now, despite what its reputation and indeed title may suggest, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t wall-to-wall gore. It’s a gruesome, graphic film, and the controversy it stirred up about violence is entirely understandable, but the way it uses gore and violence is what makes it both so interesting and so terrifying.
Rather than showing blood and guts spewing across the screen for a heightened scare effect, this movie uses far more realistic and as such unpleasant gore to really drive home its scares.
The use of images of bones, skeletons and slaughter is deeply unsettling, creating a genuinely horrifying atmosphere that’s very unpleasant to experience, but as such allows you to fear for the film’s leads even more.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is without a doubt one of the most influential horror films of all time – starting what are now known as genre clichés such as young adults being picked off by a killer in an isolated location, a faceless murderer, and of course graphic violence.
But where so many horror films since have taken those ideas and run them into the ground, seeing the way that the film credited as genesis uses them is hugely impressive.
Its unpleasant and unsettling use of gore is one thing, but the film’s unrelenting approach to horror is another. Where many horrors might take a little bit of downtime to let you breathe between the action, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is entirely ruthless, with shocking and nasty horror from the very beginning to the very end.
It’s a deranged horror that sees its characters in danger at every moment, once again driving home that sense of fear so powerfully. And as things start to go south very quickly, the reality of that danger is all the more clear, and all the more terrifying.
From around about the 20-minute mark right up to the moment the final credits start rolling, there’s barely a moment to step away from the sheer terror unfolding before your eyes.
The film really doesn’t let up, so much so that lead Marilyn Burns’ chilling, soul-destroying screams are for all intents and purposes the soundtrack of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as she runs desperately from a deranged killer, screeching out of terror until her lungs can’t push any more.
There’s no denying that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a hugely impressive film, and without a doubt one of the best horrors ever made. But, while it scares and terrifies in a way few other films do, there’s an argument to say that it doesn’t go further and tap into a deeper, emotional level.
The fear factor is what makes the film such a gripping watch, but there are times when I was frustrated at the lack of character development and depth. Of course, a low-budget film with such a short runtime doesn’t have the luxury of real character development, and that’s arguably what makes it such a stunning exercise in pure horror.
But the fact that the film is so deeply unpleasant and ruthlessly terrifying feels almost overwhelming with the lack of any emotional depth to grip onto, and that means it comes across as a film that’s certainly effective in its main goal of scaring you, but not in delivering a story with something more.
Still, I was hugely impressed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. One of the few horror films that has genuinely scared me to the bone, it’s a deeply unpleasant, deranged and nasty slasher movie that tells a ruthless and often overwhelmingly gruesome story.
Director Tobe Hooper’s ingenious use of gore is enormously effective, while the impassioned performances add so much to the film’s intensity, and though it may not fascinate on a deeper, emotional level, the fact that it’s just so scary is all you really need to know. And that’s why I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a 7.5.