THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

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Elizabeth

So remember Lake Placid? That movie about a crocodile just living its life in its lake until some dudes come along and start fucking around with the lake causing the crocodile to kill people? That movie where the conflict could have been avoided completely if the villain was just left alone? The human version of that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Five friends, including Sally and Franklin who are brother and sister, go on a road trip to visit Sally and Franklin’s grandfather’s grave after hearing there’s been vandalism in the area. Okay, sounds like a fun time! While out there they decide to try and find their family’s old homestead and for some reason they pick up a hitchhiker along the way. The hitchhiker is creepy and mean and obviously insane, but it takes a lot for them to kick him out of the van. It’s not until he cuts Franklin, who’s in a wheelchair, with a razor that they decide he’s too weird to continue on with.

They get to the homestead and Franklin tells two of their friends, Pam and Kirk, about a watering hole, and the two take off to find it. They don’t find the watering hole but do find a large, isolated house. Their car needs gas, and even though said car is pretty far away at this point, Kirk decides it would make sense to knock on the door and see if anyone inside has gasoline for them. They’re not out of gas, mind you, just low on gas, and this house doesn’t seem to have a car anywhere. So Kirk knocks on the door a few times and calls out, but doesn’t get an answer, so then he decides it will be another good idea to walk into the house, looking for anyone inside. He wanders down the hall, calling out, until a sliding door opens and there’s Leatherface in all his glory. Leatherface seems annoyed more than anything else and he smashes Kirk’s head in with hammer before Kirk can even realize what’s going on. When Kirk doesn’t come out, Pam also goes into the house looking for him. Unlike Kirk, Pam notices a room full of human remains and furniture made out of bones, but before she can run away Leatherface snatches her up, hangs her from her back onto a meat hook, and takes apart Kirk’s body in front of her.

So, okay. Yes, Leatherface is evil, a murderous monster. But like . . . maybe they shouldn’t have gone into his house? That doesn’t justify them being murdered, but just like Lake Placid, trouble only comes to our protagonists when they start poking around a monster’s habitat.

So their third friend, Jerry, follows the same routine: Where’s Kirk and Pam?, Let me look for them, Oh hey there’s a house here . . . and murder.

Finally, it’s just Sally and Franklin, who are screwed because Jerry took the car keys with him when he went to look for Kirk and Pam and now it’s dark and Sally and Franklin are stranded. Left with no other real choice, Sally and Franklin set off to find their friends. Leatherface has sort of caught on at this point (or he at least knows there’s a pack of kids running around getting into his business). So as Sally and Franklin approach Leatherface’s house, he’s ready for them and jumps out from the woods and immediately murders Franklin with his chainsaw. Sally runs into the house, finding more remains, and then jumps out the window when she realizes where she is (though, where did she think Leatherface came from?). She runs to a nearby gas station where the attendant acts like he’s going to help her, only for him to gag her, tie her up, and dump her in his truck, and bring her back to Leatherface’s house, where he also lives.

And of course, there’s the hitchhiker, too. They keep Sally bound and gagged to a chair while they taunt her Leatherface serves them “dinner.” Also there is Grandpa, a person who looks much more like a mummy than a human, who is apparently the best killer of them all. They put a hammer in Grandpa’s hand and position Sally’s head beneath him, but he keeps dropping the hammer because he’s seriously barely alive. Sally manages to escape in the confusion that causes as Leatherface and the hitchhiker chase her down the road. A truck runs over the hitchhiker, killing him, and Leatherface tries to attack the driver when he gets out to help, but the driver hits Leatherface with a wrench and Sally jumps on the bed of a passing pickup truck to escape. What happened to the truck driver that ran over the hitchhiker? Eh, just shit out of luck out there on the road with Leatherface, I guess.

So I mean, this movie just isn’t scary. There are a bunch of murder victims, but the most victim-y of the victims is Sally, who got into that situation not because she was too stupid, but because her friends were. So that sucks for her. But there’s just nothing deeper going on – there seems to be a complex family of cannibal killers here, but we don’t delve into that at all. Instead we got a bunch of scenes in the beginning of the movie of all the friends enjoying their shitty road trip, which doesn’t add anything.

But seriously. If there’s a monster somewhere, leave it the fuck alone.

Christopher

This has been on my list of movies too scary to watch for a really long time. We found it on Showtime or something and it felt like the right time to finally sit down and just get through it. I’m glad we finally did because as messed up as some scenes are, mainly the dinner scene, this movie has a great deal of humor in it as well. Even though it might not be intentional, it was not the nightmare I thought it was going to be. Mainly, all but one of these people brought their deaths upon themselves.

Basically the story is that a group of kids are checking out an old home two siblings’ father owns. Along the way we find out that there have been a bunch of grave robbings in the area, maybe just one location. Once the kids get to the house, one by one they go find a swimming hole. But the path they follow literally just leads them to Leatherfaces front door. They all find the house, check for people, enter the home, then run into Leatherface and are killed. It’s actually super funny. To the point where you aren’t really scared of Leatherface but hope he gets rid of those pesky kids!! Once he kills the second person he flips out trying to figure out why all these kids are entering his house.

Now what I really thought was interesting in this movie was Leatherface himself. Like I said, he’s really not a predator but just a guy at home. Once enough kids enter his home without his knowing he starts searching for more on his own. But of course he does, they are invading his home! When we first see him he’s bloody and has a mask made of skin but later his skin turns to what seems to be a woman’s skin as you see a bunch of makeup. Also at one point Leatherface is dressed up as a lady. Old grey hair and dress. Because of both of these, I really wonder, does Leatherface identify as a woman? I feel like he really might. His home is that of nightmares. The walls are cover in animal skin. He has his own “murder” room. There are bones all over the place and there are zero women in his life. All he has is his brother, who we meet early in the film, his father, who owns a BBQ/Gas Station, and his grandfather, who is kind of alive? He has no female role models in his life. I almost wonder if because of the lack of female role models in his life, maybe Leatherface was trying to recreate that role on his own? I don’t know but honestly this is what I thought about throughout the movie the most. It just makes this straightforward killer much more interesting. I also liked that he was fat and not just a big muscular 7’ tall guy like he is in all remakes. It added to his creepiness.

What didn’t work in this film too was the set design. At no point does it ever look like Leatherface or his family is surrounded by real bones. Everything is so white, and everything has holes drilled in it for scientific display. To the point even where they do just have bones that are stringed together. The scene where the family tries to get the grandfather to kill the last girl is pretty funny. He’s just a sack of bones, not really someone that can even hold a hammer, as demonstrated by the multiple shots of them trying to put the hammer in his hand and he just immediately drops it.

I’m so glad we finally watched this film because now I know what it’s like. Creepy but mostly goofy. I can’t wait to watch part II with Denise Hopper!

 

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3 thoughts on “THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

  1. So, in the vein of movies with a reputation so scary you’re too scared to watch them, I’m wondering, Chris (or Elizabeth, too), if you’ve ever seen The Exorcist. I’m not a horror movie person in general, as we’ve discussed, but that one even more so I’m just too scared to try to watch. I haven’t done a site search yet for it, so maybe you’ve actually posted a review about it.

    On this one, I normally don’t like reviews going over the plot, but since I probably won’t watch this one — or even if I were going to — it doesn’t really matter. Obviously, there’s nothing really to spoil about it, narratively, and hearing you guys describe was, I imagine, even more entertaining than the movie itself.

    1. The Exorcist is incredible! One I (Elizabeth) was definitely too scared to watch for a while, but it’s so good! The narrative actually supports the scary stuff going on, so it actually feels like a horror movie – not just a movie designed to make you jump and not think too hard.

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