Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Essentials- Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Essentials-#24

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
October is drawing closer and closer...and its definitely one of my favorite months of the whole year. You already know I love horror films and the genre itself. I am currently catching up on "The Walking Dead" on Netflix and I am thinking about trying "American Horror Story" afterward. I love this time of year, so expect lots of Halloween themed posts in the near-future.

When I reflect upon my favorite horror films, I think of the films that truly, deeply frightened me. There have been several times throughout my life where I was up the whole night after watching a horror movie. The Sixth Sense. The Exorcist. The Ring. These are all films that have horrified me, that have plagued my mind even today. I think they are all great films however, movies from this genre that deserve to be seen. Another film I'd add to the list of horror films that kept me up all night is the 1970's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Lots of critics like to denounce "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" merely because of what it stands for. This was the movie that gave birth to the "slasher film." There are many film lovers, professional and unprofessional, detest this sub-genre. I detest the sub-genre. Its wacky, cliche and unnerving. There have been many filmmakers who have used that for their horror film but they never live up to their potential. If every slasher film was made to the template of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," I feel it would be a much stronger sub-genre overall. 

What separates "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from the rest of the herd is evident right as the film starts. The entire film looks cheap, rugged, it looks like a film that never made it all the way through the editing process. I love that feeling in 1970's movies, there was a in-your-face quality to most '70's grindhouse movies that made them effective. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," shares that effectiveness. There is a huge sense of realism that splashes across each scene in the film, it feels your watching a documentary of what happened to a group of teenagers who went to visit a relative's grave. The film's cast is also what makes this film stick out. Each actor's first film was "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," very few of the actors credited in this film acted in a movie again. This is also what I mean by realism in terms of this movie. Every person in this movie acts well. The teenagers, the cannibal family, everyone. I don't know where director Tobe Hooper found these actors but they certainly came to work. Gunner Jensen in particular as Leatherface...absolute horror. 

The title always made me smile however, because this is one of the least gory horror films ever made. I think that works for the film rather than against. I always champion horror films that try to avoid violence for grim atmosphere and eerie mood. There is a lot more of that in this movie over bloody violence. The violence we do see is terrifying. It is handled in such a matter-of-fact way that it exploits true power. Lots of violence in modern horror films are so stylized that it isn't scary. People being shot or stabbed in the real world isn't stylized, and neither are the deaths in this movie, which is why its so damn scary.

As October begins to assimilate itself, you'll be seeing lots of reviews for horror films popping up frequently. If you read this blog avidly, if you make lists of films to see based on this blog and if you are fan of all things scary, you owe to yourself to see this movie. As far as the horror genre goes, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is basic vocabulary. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out sometime this month, when your friends are over, and the lights are off. You'll be glad you did.

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