← Back to Reviews

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Released in 1974
Starring Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface, Jim Siedow as the old man, Marilyn Burns as Sally, Paul A. Partain as Franklin and Edwin Neal as the hitchhiker

A review by Sexy Celebrity on September 28, 2014.

I already reviewed this in 2009, but I'm reviewing it once more because I just saw it again and I have different feelings/ideas about it now. It's been 40 years now since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released in 1974. It's having a big anniversary this year (although I imagine it might be bigger in 2024, when it's 50 years old). The film has just been re-released again on Blu-ray.

It's been almost 30 years since I first saw this movie. It's at least been 25 years. I'm thirty years old, almost thirty-one, and I was below five years old when I saw this movie for the first time. I think I've always seen this movie differently because of that. Now, I think I may see the movie that everyone else sees. If I'm wrong, I'm going to try to explain to you what I see now and what I saw before. By the way, I just finished writing the review and I'm not sure if I really did that, but read on anyway. It just seems like the movie is more crazy to me in a way. I see it more as a work of art than simply... a horror movie. I always knew it was a work of art, but now I see why even more.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a movie about madness. It is about unfortunate events. The title is an example of such an unfortunate event -- this is the story of a chainsaw massacre in Texas. When this movie begins, and even throughout the whole movie, there is a lot of background narration. First there's the well known narration at the beginning of the movie featuring a black screen with words scrolling up, describing what the film is about. This is very Star Wars-like with the narration and the rollup. John Larroquette reads this narration out loud.

It then dissolves into a pictorial montage of death and decaying bodies. Buried corpses in a dark area, probably six feet underground where they are buried. At least that is how it feels to me. Then, in the bright sunlight, we see corpses mounted to a gravestone, like a shrine to death and morbidity. While we look at this ugly display, a new voice narration is going on, this time over a radio as the announcer speaks about what is going on here, the bodies being discovered dug up in the cemetery, the town sheriff thinking that something outside of the state of Texas is responsible for it. But listen carefully to the other news stories this announcer speaks of: they are all horror stories. A man commits suicide by jumping out of his hotel room window after his favorite football team loses. Two bodies are discovered dead somewhere, the male body missing its genitalia, which made them think that it was a female body at first. This particular story, with genital mutilation, has a theme of transsexualism to it, which is fitting because Leatherface, the killer of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, has some transgender-like issues of his own since he sometimes wears dead women's faces over his own face.

Anyway, these stories of horror keep going and going and then I realized what it was trying to say: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is another such story. When this movie is over, the story of what happened will be read by the news announcer on the radio later. What happens in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is another real life tale of terror. Another example of madness and unfairness, depravity, darkness and randomness going on in the world. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is saying: The world is f**ked. Life is filled with horror. Every day, somewhere in the world, somewhere close by, there is another Texas Chain Saw Massacre going on.

Interestingly, the sheriff's name of where The Texas Chain Saw Massacre takes place is Sheriff Jesus Maldonado. Jesus is pronounced "hay-zeus" but still, look at the name -- Jesus. The sheriff, the force of good in this awful place, is obviously named after Jesus Christ, though with a Mexican twist since Texas is near Mexico. The last name, Maldonado, looks like a play on the Latin word "mal", meaning "bad" or "evil."

One of the characters, Pam, played by Teri McMinn, is an astrology buff. While she and her friends travel along their way through Texas, she reads her astrology magazine, which predicts the doom and damnation which is to come to them that day. Pam's readings is another source of dark narration. She is their soothsayer and fortune teller bringing the bad news. When she reads the horoscopes of her friends, they all accurately describe an event which befalls upon that certain character. Franklin, a wheelchair bound guy, obnoxious because life has been unfair to him thanks to his handicap, gets the fortune of meeting someone who will bring him trouble. This happens when the group of friends all pick up the crazy hitchhiker, who happens to be the brother of chainsaw wielding Leatherface. The hitchhiker and Franklin strike up a conversation about the nearby slaughterhouse, where the hitchhiker apparently hangs out and works at sometimes. He was "the killer" at the slaughterhouse, who bashed cows' heads in to death with a sledgehammer. He even conveniently and weirdly keeps Polaroids of his slaughterhouse kills in his little knapsack which he keeps around him, and he shows these to Franklin with pride.

Possibly because of how non-traditionally brought up the hitchhiker is, he decides to amuse everybody by taking out a pocket knife and cutting his own palm, while he laughs. Everyone in the van he's in is horrified and shocked. How could someone do such a thing? But to the hitchhiker, this might have just been his own idea of bizarre fun, a way to bond with others, even. He really feels dejected, though, when Franklin refuses to pay $2.00 for a Polaroid photo the hichhiker takes of Franklin. Appearing saddened, he gets out some foil paper and places the Polaroid in it and then sets it on fire. The fire in the van angers and horrifies the group of sane friends, and further angered, the hitchhiker grabs Franklin's arm and cuts it. He is evicted from the van, but he continues to fight back by blowing raspberries at the group and smearing blood from his cut palm onto their van door.

I can remember being kind of amused by the hitchhiker's antics in the past, but now I can really see what a twisted piece of work he is. He is a random and chaotic and frightening calculation played out and created by our universe, which gave birth to this madness. He is a force of wandering evil and darkness that you just might pick up on the road of life. A demon from Hell in the countryside. Satan causing trouble in Heaven. He is the product of the disturbed "chainsaw family", which consists of the hitchhiker, Leatherface and the Old Man, played by Jim Siedow, who happens to run a gas station that the gang of friends stop at -- although there is conveniently no gas at this gas station until the next day, which means they have to stay nearby overnight. And who lives nearby? The family.

After they stop by a house which is the house of two of the characters' grandparents -- those characters being Sally and her brother, Franklin, the invalid -- the group of friends start getting killed off. First, Pam and her boyfriend, Kirk, when they go off to find a swimming hole and instead find Leatherface's house. Then Jerry, the very '70s friend who drove the van, when he goes looking for Pam and Kirk and ends up inside the house, as well. Finally, frustrated, bored and getting tired, Sally and Franklin go looking for their lost friends. While pushing Franklin in his wheelchair, they are confronted in the woods by the maniacal and probably retarded, or at least socially dysfunctional Leatherface, who comes upon them with his roaring chainsaw, monstrous face and apron. He proceeds to saw into the living body of Franklin, splattering blood everywhere, as Sally screams in shock and the most fright she's experienced yet that day. She scampers off and she and Leatherface engage in a lengthy chase through the woods and even into Leatherface's house, which she thinks might be a beacon of help, but it isn't. After discovering the ghoulish bodies of Leatherface's alive, but ghastly looking grandfather, and probably the dead, skeletal body of the grandmother upstairs in the attic, Sally jumps from a window in the house after Leatherface comes inside with his chainsaw (after chainsawing down the front door) and she flees again, but Leatherface is quickly right behind her. She makes it to the gas station and bursts inside a room where she finds the Old Man. Curiously, even though Leatherface is right outside, he disappears and never barges in, which is what I think would should happen. But the Old Man lives with Leatherface, and I suppose Leatherface has been instructed to never enter the Old Man's workplace. Thinking she's safe at last, the Old Man merely appears with a rope and a bag to place around Sally, and after hitting her with a broom a few times when she tries to defend herself with a knife, the Old Man bounds Sally and takes her on a ride in his truck to the house he shares with Leatherface and the hitchhiker.

From here, they all enjoy a maddening dinner, complete with Sally screaming her lungs out. The house is adorned with grisly decorations -- chairs made of human bones, animal bones, animal skins on the walls, you name it. It was apparently a nasty experience filming the scenes inside this house, particularly the dinner seat, which also included rotting meat and the cast wearing dirty, smelly clothes which they wore for a week or so and never washed. The stories one hears about them filming this scene sound a lot worse than the scene looks on film.

In the end, Sally escapes the house again, Leatherface and the hitchhiker go after her, the hitchhiker is killed -- perhaps by the miracle of God -- by a passing tractor trailer on the road, Leatherface is hit in the head with a wrench by the driver of the tractor trailer and he ends up accidentally chainsawing his own leg. A passing truck on the road comes by and stops and Sally climbs in the truck bed, while a limping Leatherface attempts to get her. As the truck drives off with Sally, she laughs with glee and happiness as she observes Leatherface disappearing farther and farther from view. He is enraged and furious and frustrated, swirling and twirling in the road, his chainsaw high above his head, swinging around as he twists and turns like a dancer. The driver of Sally's safety truck keeps looking out the back window in horror and shock, so obviously he's not just another member of the macabre out to get her. She has been truly saved.

The last moments of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are this vision of Leatherface as he spins and twirls into the madness that he is. A dance of the Devil. The blurriness and madness from the beyond. The primal energy, the hallucination of the worst kind of drug. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is hallucinatory. It evokes the wind and the fire and the demon Gods. Leatherface and his macabre family are symbols of the Earth and of the universe that are forces of darkness. The unseen masters of annihilation, decay, loss, transcendence, mutilation, sorcery, death. They are graverobbers and cryptkeepers, polishing the instruments of life's cruel merchandise from Hell.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is very '70s. It looks and feels well crafted. I could complain that the ending doesn't do a whole lot. I could complain that the whole movie might be a little boring overall. I could complain that the story and the characters should have been a little different. But the overall vibe is that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is about madness and the worst things in life. It's simply one story of horror out of billions. The scary thing is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not the worst story imaginable. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is having fun with evil. It's actually a comedy. That's why the sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, is blatantly comical. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a macabre episode of a family sitcom. Married... with Children on drugs. They just happen to be a little family that kills people, eats them, and makes furniture out of their bones. They're just trying to get through life. The Old Man, aka The Cook, even says he "gets no pleasure in killing." So they don't all kill. It's mainly just Leatherface and the grandfather (who has a huge history with murdering people) and probably the hitchhiker.

I do not know how to end this review.

I'll just say THE END.

There. That's how I'll end the review. I figured it out. Thanks for reading.