During the first viewing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) this writer was scared to death. This is in good part to the fact my cousin had me convinced the film was entirely truthful. Yes, there are elements of truth within the film, but the film is not a true story. However, if one believes such things when viewing the film, especially late at night, this tends to freak one out. The original feature is one that this writer watched entirely too young for that reason. Going into a feature with that type of knowledge at a young age and discovering there are people that sick in the world is never a good thing. The 2003 remake of the same name is a bit worse in this writer’s opinion. There is far more gore than in the original, more brutality. There are tidbits that change not merely because they needed updated, but because the technology was of course better in 2003 than in 1974 when the original was made. To be honest as far as remakes go, despite the excessive amounts of gore added to the feature, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorites. In fact, as far as horror films go this is one of the only features where this writer wanted to own both the original film in addition to the new feature. Since it was not until a couple of years ago that the special 2-disc collector’s edition of the original came out, this writer did not upgrade my VHS until then. While this writer might have thought that my copy of Friday the 13th was bad, it was at least watchable compared to my VHS of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Either way, this writer is glad to have both upgrades, but must move forward.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starts out with pure motives. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), decide that they are going to visit their grandfather’s grave. Someone has told the two that the grave has been desecrated in some type of ritual that took place there. While the ritual is unknown, three of the sibling’s friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail), and Pam (Teri McMinn), decide that they are going tag along for the trip. Along the way, the group takes pity on a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and allows him to get into the van. Once the hitchhiker starts talking rather crazy and produces a razor blade that he not only cuts himself with, but cuts Franklin with as well, the group forces him out of the van. Despite the fact that the group stop buy a gas station to refuel, they are informed that the pumps are empty and decide to get gas on the way home. Soon afterward they arrive at their location, Franklin speaks of a swimming hole off in the nearby distance and along with Kirk and Pam they set out to find the swimming ground. Instead they run across an old family home and decide not to leave well enough alone. Soon their never-ending nightmare begins as they encounter a family of cannibals who are eager to have them for dinner, but not in the pleasant way most southern families are willing to offer when getting to know a person. Regardless of how much truth there is to this feature or not, which was inspired by real life serial killer Ed Gein who also inspired Psycho (1960) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), there is something frightening about a family of cannibals.
In terms of acting, the film is well acted and the same can be said about the remake. Burns is probably by far the best actress within the entire film. Her character goes through pure hell and then some. Major spoiler alert ahead. She has to not only endure the insanity that is the family, but also she has to come to the realization that all of her friends are gone. Her brother is dead. She is the only one left in their groups venture afterward. These are the characters that viewers see on the screen that we cannot help but wonder how many years of therapy one had to go through in order to successfully erase at least some of the anxiety from their system. Something tells me that therapy was not the only thing needed in Sally’s case. She probably needed a ton of therapy, some pills, and then some if possible. I cannot even imagine how to continue living after everything she endured. The other characters in the film of course give accurate portrayals of those being tortured and ulitmately murdered. After all, there are moments when these people think they are going to be able to get away, but they are drug back into the house. To me, to be able to taste the freedom and have it immediately taken away once more would be more than one could bare. Finally, in terms of acting one has to mention the acting of Gunnar Hansen as the one and only Leatherface. To have such a large build but then to wield various slaughterhouse weapons as a means to kill and torture those who are unlucky enough to enter the house in the first place is not as easy as one thinks. While some people feel that Leatherface can easily be replaced, it is the mannerisms that make these performance memorable. So anyone who thinks it is crazy to person Hansen is crazy themselves not to.
In conclusion, make sure to pick up the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre this Halloween season. After watching the original, make sure to pick up the remake and note the similarities as well as the few changes that were made to update the story and make it just as relevant and frightening as the original. When one is able to capture such terror twice there is something to be said at the end of the day. Once again, a viewer can see what happens when someone has a limited budget of $83,532, in comparison to the estimated $9,200,000 for the remake. In addition, and in terms of numbers, the original grossed $30,859,000 in the USA, which made the film a major success at the time. The remake grossed $107,071,655 worldwide, also making it a major success. The fact of the matter is the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of those classic horror films that everyone should view at least once. This is also one of those films that most people should consider owning. The best part of the two-disc collector’s edition is the fact that there are two amazing documentaries about the feature to go with the feature. One of my absolute favorite features about the special collector’s editions of older films are the documentaries that most include with them. The more one knows, the more knowledge that someone can share in the long run with those around them when they share the feature, which is never a bad thing. So make this Halloween season more unique by learning a little bit more about a film that is considered a classic among the horror genre and horror fans. View the original, especially if the remake is the only version you have seen. You will thank me later.
If you are interesting in renting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, make sure to check out this title through your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, Netflix, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider around Halloween. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.