Oct. 31: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974):
Those few of you who have been following this blog this month (hi, mom) may have noticed that I'92ve tried to avoid the obvious titles that come to mind when one thinks of horror movies. You don'92t need me to tell you about Halloween or Psycho. Yet, on the last day of the blog I couldn'92t resist writing about the classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the scuzziest, most effective horror films ever made.
Sally (Marilyn Burns) and a group of her friends have taken a road trip to a cemetery in rural Texas to check on the state of her grandfather'92s grave. They pick up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be a gibbering nut who cuts one of the girls with a knife before they manage to kick him out of the van. Low on gas, the group stops to check out the childhood home of Sally and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain). They also stumble on an old house next door, which is the home of hulking psychopath Leatherface and his family. Lots of unfortunate things happen to the kids next.
The film doesn'92t have as much gore as you might think, but it is relentless in its brutality. The sound the hammer makes when Leatherface hits one of the guys on the head, and his body'92s subsequent twitching, will stay with you far more than any gore special effects. The pitch-black sequence in which Leatherface chases poor Franklin through the woods is similarly horrifying.
The last half-hour or so of the movie is relentless in its horror in a way not commonly seem in films. From the time that Leatherface and his family capture Sally, the movie absolutely doesn'92t stop until the end. Through multiple foot chases, captures and recaptures and leaps out of windows '97 taking out for the chilling, yet oddly funny, scene in which the family tries to have dinner together, and make a meal out Sally '97 the movie just keeps going, building to a fever pitch.
Still, writer-director Tobe Hooper manages to find time for a little satire (again, just look at the odd family values on display), but while it'92s definitely there, it'92s never all that clear what the film is making fun of. In the end, it may just be a violent, scattershot reaction to the troubling times the film was made in.
'a0Courtesy of Hooper and cinematographer Daniel Pearl, the movie feels positively foul and corrupt. You want to take a shower afterwards. Besides the relentless heat, and the brown tones in which the bulk of the film is shot, the brutal subject matter of the film '97 with its meat hooks, cannibalism and lampshades made out of human skin, not to mention the chainsaw itself '97 are revolting and scuzzy. Well-crafted scares are nice, and the film has them, but this movie wants to damage you for real.
When the heroine escapes at the end, you get the feeling that she won'92t be getting over what happened to her any time soon. And after watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, neither will you.
If you liked this, then check out:
'97'a0'a0'a0 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986): Tobe Hooper'92s sequel disappointed many, because it is exchanges most of the horror of its predecessor for outrageous comedy. Still, for sheer insanity, it can'92t be beat. I mean, it has Dennis Hopper getting into a chainsaw battle!
'97'a0'a0'a0 '92Salem'92s Lot (1979): Hooper directed this, one of the best Stephen King adaptations, as a TV miniseries. It tells the tale of a small Maine town becoming overrun by vampires, and manages to scare viewers largely because the vampires are depicted as more animalistic, in the style of Nosferatu, than in most films.
'97'a0'a0'a0 The Devil'92s Rejects (2005): There'92s another murderous family on the loose in the Southwest in this, the sequel to Rob Zombie'92s Chainsaw ripoff The House of 1000 Corpses. This movie (which co-stars Bill Moseley, who played Chop-Top in Chainsaw 2)'a0is a marked improvement over its predecessor, as it ladles on the atmosphere and even makes us feel for the psychos a little. And it has great use of the song '93Freebird,'94 which is always a plus.
Again, I want to thank the literally several of you who have been reading this blog for the past month. I hope I turned you on to a few movies you hadn'92t heard of. It'92s been kind of grueling, but a lot of fun, and I hope to do it again next year.