Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Title: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Dir: Tobe Hooper
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

You would think it's tough for a 32-year-old horror movie to still impress, but for me, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre did just that. Like Evil Dead, no matter how many decades pass and no matter how much you remake it, the original movie will always kick ass. It is truly the grand-daddy of all slasher films and most of its successors can't even come close.

The plot is typical of horror (though Massacre pioneered it): A group of young friends on a roadtrip end up in an isolated area and are gradually picked off by a killer. In this case, a sister and her paraplegic brother visit a town recently victimized by grave robbings to make sure their grandfather's grave is intact. They stay in an old family house, along with three of their friends. You can guess what happens next.

Although the build-up to the killings is an hour long, I hardly noticed. There is an effectively creepy scene with a hitchhiker (nothing like the one in the remake) and Tobe Hooper generally builds upon the eerie atmosphere. Then we are finally introduced to Leatherface, as he later became known (but not in this film). Even more frightening is his family, especially the grandfather who is easily one of the scariest characters in the history of horror cinema.

The final scenes of the movie are the absolute best. If you had any problems with the beginning of the movie, you'll definitely forget them by then. I honestly had no idea how the film was going to end, and I found myself screaming at the television: "RUN BITCH RUNNNN!!"

Perhaps most impressive of all is Tobe Hooper's guerilla filmmaking. The directing is innovative and the grainy filmstock really sets the right tone. I think people consider this a very gory movie, but it actually isn't at all - it's just so scary, you tend to forget it didn't even need the blood. Hooper really knows how to terrify. It doesn't surprise me he later made Poltergeist, which still scares the shit out of me. Hell, the title alone makes me uneasy. With Massacre, he turned a shoestring budget and a small nobody cast into a groundbreaking horror film that really lives up to its reputation.