The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Rating: 5/5

The most horrifying movie ever made. Like a demented version of trick-or-treating. A mechanical experience with little in the way of character development. A classic horror film that I felt becomes overly distressful souring not only the end sequence but the entire experience, as if the director forgot that the audience is not filled with tormentors.

**Massive spoilers below**

The movie starts off by showing morbid images. Then shortly later shows it isn’t afraid of showing the “facts-of-life” by means of a guy peeing into a can, which places the viewer in front view instead of politely behind. Grossness contained. Soon after a hitchhiker gets picked up, and upon seeing his ugly face, I remembered and concerned myself further with questions of how messed up this movie would get. I went into this movie with the approach that it would be mean-spirited; I was right, although I greatly underestimated how far it would go and what I would be offended by.

The set location and visuals in this movie are well chosen. In the large van, the camera cuts back-and-forth onto person’s faces when they are talking to then contrast by totally not doing that when they step outside of it. The abandoned family house the characters are supposed to hang out in doesn’t look like a place you’d want to stay put in. And the characters don’t. They all one-by-one get drawn into a house off in the distance. The low-angle camera shot used puts the doomed walking character into an iconic shot as they make their way closer to the house, which is the only time they’re depicted in a glorified manner. With the exception of the slower wheelchair bound character, Franklin, the camera avoids leaving itself to one person until their screen time is about to get permanently ended.

All of the above makes the crew feel like a fragile collective while simultaneously giving more emphasis on the general layout of the location making it easier to mentally map. The frozen shot, the static image of a blue ominous door that’s straight ahead down the small hallway upon the opening of the entrance door perfectly captures a place to never walk towards. Once there the character is within the critical distance, the critical distance of a killer. The door opens. The door shuts. Within that short time: death. Characters get slumped over into lifelessness in the most horrific way. Each death exposing more of the unseen workings behind the blue door.

In a film that is shot in such an untouched amateur video way the chase scene cinematography stands out as the only attempt at stylishness. The back-and-forth close-up shots in the dark between the killer and Sally (main character), the thick brush field that Sally tucks and sidles through that the killer cuts his way through, and the fixed camera shot of a suburban house as the hefty brute runs around it trailing chainsaw fumes—All this makes for one of the best chase sequences on film. The ordinary setting elevates the act of madness.

What is really impressive is how there is no gore in this film! Any other horror movie the kill count with the chainsaw would have been unthinkable to limit to one person.

Now despite that 5-star rating, which comes from retrospective analysis, I thought the last act transformed the entire movie experience into something truly sick of the highest order leaving me only to the feeling of disgust at what was filmed and what was watched. I didn’t expect a contrast to the swift “merciful” killings of the cast; I didn’t expect a drawn-out video of abuse. Captivity. Torment. Power drop.—To me the last few scenes looked indistinguishable from the most depraved real-life Liveleak vids: snuff. Like being subjected to an extended ‘Game Over’ sequence in a videogame. The director ends up shifting from making a movie for the adult members of the general public to that of one for the psychopath killers depicted.

And so it ends with what should be registered as a classic ending sequence, but it just feels awful to appreciate until long after the credits. The final chase scene isn’t some artful close-call moment but a demented sicko display of depravity. All red colored now, Sally is getting slashed out in the street. When the evil hitchhiker gets hit by the truck it doesn’t feel particularly satisfying that he “got what was coming to em'”. There is no great feeling of relief from escape here. No triumph. There isn’t a feeling that one has finished a movie masterpiece. There is only dismay left to experience mixed in with repulsion.

This film represents true horror. And I don’t think I need to see any more of that. More horror movies for me like this? No thanks.


POST-REVIEW THOUGHTS

Classic artwork. Nice window jumping. Psycho cutting himself – “Do you think you could do that?,” asks Sally’s friend minutes afterwards — only rememberable dialogue

It’s hard for me to express whether this is “torture porn” since there is no gushing blood or crushed body parts and whether if creating a powerful reaction warrants its use. How much intensity can a scene contain before I hit stop or walk out. This is at least a simulated reminder despite what is felt. I didn’t exactly feel immersed, and I guess in this medium feeling compelled to pick up the TV remote is bad, whereas for videogames feeling like putting down the controller is bad.

 

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