[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 23 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen

Screenplay: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

83 mins. Rated R.


Finally, we come to the day we talk about the iconic horror film that was Based on a True Story: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Except, here’s the thing, it’s not based on a true story. In fact, anyone can say that any movie is based on a true story and just roll with it. All you have to do is tangentially connect it to actual events. In the case of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it’s based somewhat obscurely on Ed Gein. There you go.

Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns, Helter Skelter, Sacrament) and her friends are on a road trip to see her grandfather’s grave and visit the homestead in Texas when they come across several strange people, most notably a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal, Future-Kill, Kill or Be Killed). When they get to the homestead, they separate, and two of the find a house they believe to be abandoned. They are wrong, and they’ve just stepped onto the land of the Sawyer family, and now the entire group is headed on a path with only one destination: death.

I personally don’t enjoy watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It isn’t remotely a fun experience to me. I don’t like any of the characters, and I think it pervades a nauseating feeling. This is partly due to the tone of the film and the score, which is made of slaughterhouse noises. I don’t find joy in the movie, and that’s not entirely a fault on the film. That’s what it’s trying to be.

The funny thing about this film is that it’s assumed that it’s a very bloody, gory experience. Really, the terror is the imagined and the emotional distress that lives within its frames. There’s very little actual blood or gore, but because of the editing and pacing of the film, there’s an assumed level of terror and bloodshed that strictly isn’t there, and it’s one of the reasons that the film earned an X rating the first several times it was submitted.

There are no truly great performances in the film, only iconic ones, particularly with Gunnar Hansen (Campfire Tales, Death House) as Leatherface. He doesn’t get much to do, and the only real acting he does in the film is the final shot. I would also throw some attention to the incredible opening narration by John Larroquette (who claims he was paid for his efforts with a joint), who sets the tone nicely for the film. Everyone else is just screaming and yelling and fighting the whole time.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is more myth than perfection. It’s an iconic horror film, but not a particularly great one. It’s good, no doubt, and it sets the precedent for much to follow, and it’s one of the better Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Spontaneous Combustion) efforts, so I’ll give it that. But not really the greatest horror film ever made like it’s been noted by some.



-Kyle A. Goethe



For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler, click here.

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