Sunday Matinee: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

I was saddened to hear that filmmaker Tobe Hooper has passed away at the age of 74. His body of work started off strong in the 1970s with his legendary classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He would several other horror movies like Eaten Alive and Salem’s Lot. The 1980s had Hooper working with Steven Spielberg on Poltergeist which has long remained a rumour that Hooper didn’t really direct it.

He also made some fun B horror movies like Invaders From Mars and Lifeforce. Once the 1990s hit though Hooper didn’t really anything significant. In fact other than some OK TV work his movies tended to be awful. But looking back at his career I realized somehow I have never actually tackled The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I’m not sure how I could write all those 31 Days of Horror and never feature The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Strange.

The film starts with a narration informing the audience that what they are about to see is based on a true story. John Larroquette provided the narration. Of course it wasn’t really based on a true story but it was inspired of serial killer Ed Gein (as was several other horror movies). A group of friends are traveling through Texas heading to Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain) family homestead. With them are their three friends Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail), and Pam (Teri McMinn).

After stopping to check out a massive grave robbing site to see anything happened to grandfather’s grave, they continue on their way. They pick up a strange hitchhiker who freaks them out. Once they make it to the old farmhouse Kirk and Pam go looking for a swimming hole and end up going over the neighbouring property looking for gas. There Kirk and Pam run into Leatherface. Wearing a skin mask and wielding a chainsaw. Leatherface quickly eliminates Kirk and Pam. Soon the others go looking for them and find more trouble.

Hooper made the movie on a very low budget using a cast of unknowns. The production was grueling because of the low budget and the extreme heat from shooting in the summer. When the movie was released in theatres, it became a hit but also gained notoriety. The movie was banned in several countries for many years. The movie itself it’s a masterpiece of gritty terror. It’s not that gory compared to today’s standards but it still has quite an impact. Eventually Hooper would make a sequel in the 1980s that was much gorier and funnier. From there several poor sequels ensued along with crappy remakes in the 2000s. In fact this October they are releasing a bad looking origin story for Leatherface called well Leatherface. Nothing will ever compare to the original and even if Tobe Hooper never really made another movie that came close to his first he helped changed horror movies forever.

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