Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Wow....This movie is insane....and there were moments in this where I literally cringed. And yeah, these scenes are pretty hard to watch. But let me set the record straight before I dive deep into this review. During the early stages of my blog, I was reviewing the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I sort of said that the original was like any other slasher film. I would like to take account of what I said and take it all back. Sure, Texas Chainsaw is a slasher but it's not a typical slasher at all. It's dirty, grimy, and unsettling to ever be noted as "just a typical slasher." I would think the REMAKE is a typical slasher to me than the original. You see the difference is the remake is more psychological horror where as the original was pure horror at best. And it sure is, this is a grindhouse cult classic that can hit you in way that you can't imagine.
It all boils down to how it's directed and how it's crafted by using every specific detail in each scene by that logic, this is why it is helmed as one of the most creepy and unsettling horror movies of the 70's.

The Story: Sally Hardesty and her friends decide to spend their idyllic summer road trip to visit her grandfather's grave where her old homestead used to be. There have been recent reports of grave-robbing and vandalism, so by the curiosity of Sally and her brother Franklin, they figure out what's what and to see if their grandfather's grave have been tainted. but little do the five friends know, the real terror of what's hiding behind the graves. And a certain skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding maniac is at play.

There's not really much to say about the main characters. But I would say this, I like how they are portrayed realistically and is treated with much respect than any other modern horror films these days. They're not going on a trip to party, have sex or do or find drugs, they're there to learn and explore one friend's family history. And even though it has a by-the-numbers plot, it makes it interesting that the cast are more into studying and figuring out a landscape than the their own selfish endeavors.

Again, I don't know anything about Sally, but her will to fight for survival is very effective.

we see fear through her eyes and Marilyn Burns genuinely harbors that fear into her character. and judging what she endured on the set, I could definitely tell that is real terror.

From what she experiencing and the mental and physical torture she goes through is what keeps us invested and scared for the character.

Now let's talk about Franklin. Ugh....Why?....He is probably one of the most despicable, annoying character in this movie. He is loud, obnoxious, kind of dumb and a bit of whiner. I was just counting the hours for Leatherface to do the deed. I know the guy is in a wheelchair and it's quite upsetting to see a handicapped person get killed in a horror film, but you can feel Sally's and the audience's annoyance while dealing with this character.
Now let's focus on Leatherface and his insane, cannibalistic family. But mostly Leatherface.

The Hitchhiker chillingly played by Edwin Neal is the more observant and chaotic of three. The moment where he describes "how to make headcheese" in such graphic detail is really unsettling. And how the hitchhiker tells it in such childish glee along with the other weird stuff that he does, would make you think this guy is definitely not sane. He could strike you at any second which makes the character that much creepy.

Drayton Sawyer AKA The Cook played by Jim Siedlow is sort of the leader of the clan and is the "cook". At first,  you may think he's a nice normal guy especially since the group has encountered a couple of creepy locals but once Sally is attacked by Leatherface and is supposedly "saved" by Drayton, you sort of sense that something sinister is going on when Sally inspects the place as the camera slowly close in what's he's cooking in the barbecue. it's pretty suspenseful. When she decides to escape the place, however, it's all too late and Sally is captured under his whim. It's unexpected moments like that that keeps the tension rising in horror films.

Last but not least, we have Bubba Sawyer AKA Leatherface who is the head honcho of the family, doing all the killings, sawing, and skinning to provide for his family. You never see what he does in his secret hideout and maybe you don't need to see it. Just the thought of what horrors he does to these people is enough to make anyone sick.

But as I always do, I would like to talk about the aesthetic of his appearance. And boy, is it a creepy appearance. A mask made of his victims' skin, a raggedy, dirty suit under a bloody apron, and any specific tools including his trusty chainsaw to slaughter his victims. Yeah, he's a pretty scary guy. He doesn't do this on his own though and it's pretty much at the whim of his family, who seem kind of demeaning towards him. He kind of has a mind of child. A disturbed, psychotic child but a child none the less. Killing and mutilating people is all he knows, it what he's born into and that's....kind of sad. Not that I feel any sympathy for him but all in all, it's pretty messed up analogy.
This is known to be one of the most violent, goriest horror movie without showing a drop of blood. Just the implication of it makes it so. There are some pivotal yet violent and disturbing scenes to showcase how brutal this movie is.

First there is Kirk's death scene which is visceral and aggressive. To the build up all down to the bone-crushing sound effects will make you jump out of your seat and squirm at the same time:

Then there's Pam's death scene not so soon after once she discovers a room full of skeletons, some of it from animals but most from humans scrapped from the bone.

The close-up shots of the skeletons and Pam's reaction is a very uneasy, skin-crawling sequence.

But here's the real kicker. When Pam escapes the room, she is instantly captured by Leatherface and is hung on a meat hook from her back while Leatherface prepares to dismember her boyfriend while she watches. It's probably those scenes in horror movies that cut you deep. You always expect the unexpected:

But the dinner table scene is the vilest and horrid of sequences. To the close-up shots of Sally's reaction to the cackling laughs of the crazed cannibals, it's very disturbing and unpleasant and it's too much to just go on any further.

The climax of the movie is possibly the most intense I've seen in a horror film. Just look at the film clip:

The behind the scenes stories is a horror movie of itself. BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS were put into this and I don't see how the actors even went out alive after this. It's truly horrifying let me tell you. Terri McMillan was actually hung up from meat hook by an apparatus with a nylon cord, causing her a lot of pain. Ouch!
Gunnar Hansen actually had to cut Marilyn Burns' finger when they couldn't get fake blood.
John Dugan was actually a teenager at the time, being put under pounds of makeup that took 36 hours to make. So to endure those agonizing hours, he was drunk through most of the movie shoots.
The actors had to shoot the dinner scene 27 hours straight. With no air conditioning, no venting machine, no fans, no nothing. All this time, they had to breathe in a horrible stinch coming from the dead animals and rotting food all while under a 100 degree heat. So in that scene, the actors were not ACTING crazy, they WERE crazy, hallucinating from the smell.
Franklin's actor was pretty much a pain in the ass in real life.
And lastly there was the climax where Sally is drenched in blood. And yeah, some of that is real blood you guys. Marilyn Burns actually cut herself running through the branches. Wow...just wow.
This movie was so terrifying, in fact, that many people couldn't watch the rest of it in the movie theaters. And it is also named one of the most scariest movies besides The Exorcist.

So there was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A movie so bone-chilling it could make the hair on your skin go up. Of course with a movie like this it was warranted for sequels but not for another 13 years or so. But I just don't see a movie like this need any sequels, maybe one or two should be fine I guess. But all in all, the original frightfest stands on it's own as a highly remembered classic.
Last Word: Yes, go watch it!
This review is also dedicated to the courageous Marilyn Burns who will live on as the slasher film's first final girl.

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