The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974, USA
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen
Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film I have seen at least a dozen times at home via DVD and Blu-Ray, it's a film i thought I knew like the back of my hand, until I got the chance to see it on the big screen last night. In a theatre, ''Chainsaw''s already unmatched disturbing aura is only maximised. Resulting in one of the most relentless cinematic experiences imaginable.
From John Larroquette's eerie opening narration, and that unforgettable sound of the camera flash in the begging, to the incredibly haunting final 15 minutes, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an exercise in sheer terror. Hooper's gruelling assault on the senses is an absolutely unshakeable experience, from the first second till the last.
I currently attend a film school and have Camera, lighting and sound classes in which they tell us about how each film should abide by at least the simplest set ups for each, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film that doesn't abide by any of those standards and that's one of the reasons it is so special. There are scenes in this film where we can barely hear the dialogue which the characters are speaking, like in the scene where Kirk and Pam first stumble upon The Family's house and there is a generator blaring in the foreground as Kirk is trying to spout some dialogue, and there are plenty of scenes that are just so damn under litten, the chase scenes through the forrest. If 'Chainsaw' lack of complying to standards is an indication of anything, it's that sometimes you have to bend the rules in order to create something truly groundbreaking, and 'Chainsaw' is definitely that.
In many ways, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a portrait of the decline of the American family. Leatherface's family is a far cry from the typical nuclear family, yet they still seem to be a cohesive family unit. While they are a bunch of cannabilistic, murderous monsters, they are a family unit with a routine in which all the members have a part. The Old Man, play by Jim Siedow, is the father and the bread winner of the family, he works at the BBQ/Petrol station. He doesn't seem to be a morose of morbid, sure he partakes in awful crimes but it's more in the way of "what has to be done" rather than for the sick pleasure of it, he even displays humanity throughout moments of the film ("I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."). The Hitchhiker, is almost the child of the family, as displayed by his childlike behaviour and speech. Leatherface doubles as the muscle and woman of the family, he is the intimidating behemoth who will dismember a victim on inspection, but he is also a little oppressed in terms of the family hierarchy, as shown when The Old Man demands he goes back to the kitchen and he proceeds to quickly scurry away. He also dons a female wig and make up on his mask, showing that he is the honorary woman of the woman-less family. And finally, there's Grandpa. The 100+ year old, wheelchair bound, patriarch of the family, the three other family members gush over Grampa's past glory, because ''he was the best'' and ''killed 60 in 5 minutes''. In their own world, the family is as normal as anyone. but as Morticia Adams said ''Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the Spider is chaos for the fly.''
''Chainsaw'' isn't a film with wide array of incredible performances, because it doesn't need to be, the experience is more vital performances, but Edwin Neal's performance is something that needs to be adressed. Neal plays The Hitchhiker, in a performance that sees the man completely disappear into the character, to the point of which I can't imagine the man being any different in real life to the character he is portraying, A truly mesmerising performances. The other standouts of the cast is Jim Siedow, who is awesome as The Old Man, the way in which he switches from evil to humane is brilliant. Gunnar Hansen gives the defining portrayal of Leatherface, unlike later performances, Hansen's portrayal is not really that of an indestructible monster, but rather that of a childlike giant who is living the only way he knows how.
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an unshakeable experience. It's just as haunting and visceral experience today as it must have been 40 years ago. A true horror masterpiece that was incredible to behold on the big screen.