Classic Horror in Introspection: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Alissa Humphrey
Staff Writer

PC: Alissa Humphrey

With Spooky Season soon ending, it only seems right to breakdown one of the most revered slasher films in cinema history. ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the beginning of a new wave in the horror genre during the 1970s of iconic villainous figures that would later bring Michael Meyers, Freddy Kruger, Pinhead, Jason Voorhees, etc. Practically all the big guys we love and root for. Lately, there have been several discussions about the iconic 1974 film, which has recently passed its 45 anniversary and is being re-released on Netflix for the holiday. Even the fans of the classic still discuss what has made this film so special. After all this time, why does it still resonate with us today?

The concept of this film was conjured up by the influential filmmaker, Tobe Hooper who had recently passed in 2017. Before creating Texas Chainsaw, he was a documentary filmmaker and a college professor. With his first feature film being the psychedelic film, ‘Eggshells’(1969). He co-produced Texas Chainsaw with Kim Henkel and his crew on a budget of about $90,000, which today would be $428,728.40. It’s amazing when films can leave such an impact and do so much on low budgets. 

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ follows five youths Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her brother Franklin Hardesty (Paul A. Partain), and their friends, Pam (Teri McMinn), Kirk (William Vail), and Jerry (Allen Danziger) on a journey through Texas. But they are unaware of the circumstances around them that leads to inevitable demises from the chainsaw wielded by Leatherface. The plot is so surreal, gritty, and raw. But it does not rely too much on gruesome effects to evoke the viewers, it is left to the viewers, themselves, to imagine the horrific after-kills. This is something that the prequels give more attention to. It’s more than a big man enacting revenge with his chainsaw, but rather doing his familial duty and supplying their meat. 

Beyond the chainsaw slashing and cannibalistic aspects that the film revolves around, Hooper’s classic notes the world’s cultural and political atrocities. A deeper look sees that the film explores the apocalyptic nature of the world. A family on the outskirts of society must survive in a world they no longer recognize, and have to find alternative resources after their meat plant has shut down. 

During this time the world was in a hellacious period. The Vietnam War, a massacre of its own was in effect and did not end until 1975. The Watergate Scandal and the oil crisis were both in full effect as well, and the nation was in a time of political uncertainty. Texas Chainsaw shows what the world could be if it collapsed completely, with limited resources to food, isolation and eventually the characters breaking down to absolute insanity. 

Hooper’s film expresses what will happen to this world if we do not make efforts to change what it is. I see it as either seeing the world for what it is, embracing the nihilistic glory and being aware. Otherwise we end up like the youths and fall victim to Leatherface and his family, entering a world that will leave you behind. 

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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