What to know
Thanks to a smart script and documentary-style camerawork, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre achieves start-to-finish suspense, making it a classic in low-budget exploitation cinema. Read critic reviews
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Cast & Crew
Leatherface, Bubba Sawyer, Jr.
Critic Reviews for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Audience Reviews for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Oct 09, 2018And here we go, with the movie that legitimately started it all for the slasher genre, at least in the U.S. This one started it, but it was Halloween, in 1978, that legitimately popularized it. That's something that's interesting to think about in retrospect, like why did it take four years in between this movie's release and for the slasher genre to become popularized. I think a big reason to that would have to be this film's controversy when it originally came out. Tobe Hooper struggled to find a distributor due to the film's violent content. Hooper even edited down the movie so, hopefully, he could secure a PG rating from the MPAA. Obviously, that didn't go as planned as the movie still got an R rating. I wonder what the original cut of the movie actually looked like, if the violence was actually toned down in this version. Regardless, the film was banned in several countries and pulled out of some theaters as a result of complaints, both as a result of its violent content. Of course, in the intervening years since its release and now, obviously, the movie has been reappraised as one of the best slasher movies ever made and for being one of the most influential horror movies of all time. The big, hulking faceless figure started here, the use of power tools also started here. It is not preposterous to say that without this movie, Halloween might not have existed. Or at least existed in the form that it did in 1978. I've already actually seen this movie once before, there was a special edition DVD released some years ago that I bought. So, technically, this review will only be for Letterboxd, as I already reviewed the movie for Rotten Tomatoes. (Edit: Turns out that I haven't reviewed this movie on this site, so here we go). Going into this movie once again, however, I was worried that the issues that plagued Halloween that made it so it didn't stand the test of time as other classic horror movies would also plague this movie. My main issue with Halloween was that its deaths were tame and didn't really feel, within its own context and world, that the characters were really dying, it felt more like actors play fighting with Nick Castle (who played masked MIchael Myers in the movie), before pretending to be dead. There's no real heft or weight to the deaths in that movie and that really held it back to me. I was worried that a movie released almost half a decade earlier would suffer from the same issues. And, again, this is coming from someone that has already seen this film at least once. With that said, this movie holds up so damn well, honestly. Even better now that I'm looking back on it. If there's anything that Halloween does better than this movie is building up the tension and dread of what Michael Myers is actually gonna do when he decides to strike. I feel that's why the deaths themselves ended up being so disappointed, they spend a long time building up that tension only to give us relatively weak deaths. This movie, on the other hand, doesn't really do that. While a lot of the violence is certainly left to the imagination, like when Leatherface cuts up Franklin with the chainsaw, you only see the attack from behind Franklin's wheelchair. Or Pam being hung up on the meathook, you just see her hanging from the hook, you don't seen the entry point or anything of the sort. The point I'm trying to make is that, still, to this day, the violence in this movie is still brutal and visceral. I do think the reason that is a result of the fact that the movie is so dirty, grimy and gritty. Other films in the same franchise have tried to capture this same tone and they have just failed miserably. The thing about this is that, while subsequent movies, particularly after the remake in 2003, may have had bigger budgets, their griminess clearly had a touch of Hollywood shine. And, in my opinion, to capture that original tone and dirtiness of the Sawyer household and surrounding area, you need a need a smaller budget. I don't mean that to make the film look cheap, but it inspires creativity in using different styles of cinematography to get the utter filth of this world across. And this movie, which cost something like $80,000 to make, is still the best example of that. Even Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which I greatly enjoyed, didn't capture that. Not that it was meant to. Though, if I'm being fair, the film still had its own grime when compared to many horror movies of that same era. The point that I'm trying to make is that this film's visual style is probably what got it most of its controversy. That's not to say that the movie isn't violent, because it is, but, again, it's never as explicitly violent as modern horror movies. The movie, visually, looks absolutely disgusting. That combined with the violence added up to have an effect that repulsed a lot of viewing audiences at the time which was the point. It worked to the point that my aunt and mom, who doesn't enjoy horror movies, both found the movie repulsive. And my aunt actually does like horror movies. But, and that was something I told them (after having seen the movie for myself), and that was the fact that, explicitly, the film isn't exactly that violent when compared to modern horror. It's just that they got the tone and atmosphere that that world required. So good on Tobe Hooper for making a movie that, to me, still holds up visually. As far as the content within the film itself, it also holds up quite well. Because the film works as a metaphor for industrial capitalism, seeing as the Sawyer family, formerly being slaughterhouse workers, were rendered obsolete by advances in technology. The film also serves as a parody of the typical sitcom family during its climactic dinner scene. And, obviously, the film could be seen as pro-vegetarianism. As some of the characters find themselves heading straight toward the Sawyer house. And the metaphor I used while watching, quite literally, was cattle being lead to slaughter. And that's precisely what the film is meant to portray. These characters are metaphors for what goes on in slaughterhouses, which leads to the meat that billions of people around the world consume. I don't really consume that much meat, but I do consume some and I'm certain that if I knew what actually was done to these animals that I would give it up almost immediately. The Sawyer family, led by Drayton Sawyer (the Cook), cooks the body parts of the people the family murders to sell as barbecue at the family's restaurant/gas station. This is what I feel the film serves as a metaphor for vegetarianism, seeing as the fact that most people would be repulsed not only by the fact that they're actually eating human meat, but how these people were disposed of in order to create this meat. Oh and, of course, the Sawyer family are cannibalistic maniacs as well, so there's that to boot. So the movie, to me, works on a considerably deeper level than I was originally aware of at the time I originally watched it. That's why, to me, I feel quite comfortable calling this a great movie. I've gained a newer appreciation for it now. Not that I didn't have an appreciation for it before, but now I'm able to fully comprehend its ideas and concepts. So, yea, not only has this stood the test of time, I think it shows the world that, when done right, slashers can still be an effective form of horror and of telling a story with deeper subtext. It doesn't have to be mindless violence and gore. Of course, I would definitely recommend this, it's one of the classics that still holds up. PS: I should also note that of all the movies I've watched in this horror fest, eight in all (including this one), only two of them have been rated lower than three stars. This has surprised me and, hopefully, I'm able to keep up the quality for the rest of the month. That's obviously not gonna be guaranteed, but fingers are crossed.Jesse O Super Reviewer
Oct 14, 2017In my opinion, horror films actually end up aging pretty well, especially low-budget ones. There's something about the grainy, inexpensiveness to the early days of horror that I always find really creepy. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is no different. Everything from the unknown cast to the real-life inspiration for the story, this film feeds off a truly terrifying vibe. At a mere 80 minutes in length, the runtime flies by. There is no slow burn here. Once the group of friends reaches their destination about 20 minutes in, the film goes off the rails for the rest of the time. Inspired by real life events done by Ed Gein, Leatherface proves to be one of the most menacing horror villains of all time. Rarely ever saying a word, and if he does it's extremely mumbled, he terrifies with his size, his unforgettable mask made of human flesh, and of course a chain saw. It's always difficult to review films that were pioneers for their genre. Much like Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre changed the horror genre and inspired many slasher films thereafter. And similar to most horror films now in days, it has the common "last girl" theme to it as well. All of the unknown actors are okay, especially without given too much material to work with, but Marilyn Burns is a force to be reckoned with here. Watching her both physically and emotionally go through terrifying event after terrifying event was a thrill, and it mostly has to do with her acting. If there was ever an actress who nailed the "horror scream", it was Marilyn Burns. Overall, TCSM is a horror classic. It delivers scares (and not meaningless jump scares), blood, twists, and creativity. I doubt I'll ever have the will-power to sit through this one again, but it's certainly worth a watch. 8.2/10Thomas D Super Reviewer
Sep 20, 2014Tobe Hooper's controversial classic is a landmark stamp in the genre of horror and a step towards the slasher sub genre. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a rare low-budget overnight sensation that produced hysteria and is still a disturbingly entertaining film for audiences then and now. 4/5Eugene B Super Reviewer
Oct 19, 2013A frightful tale of the macabre, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a classic horror film. The story follows a group of college students who are abducted and tortured by a family of cannibals. The acting is really bad and is a little hard to get passed. And, Tobe Hooper's directing is extremely raw; which can be distracting. Still, Hooper brings an impressive level intensity and suspense to the action scenes. Though it's a bit rough and slow paced, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre delivers some chilling scares.Dann M Super Reviewer
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