When Skullbasher and I began to make this list last month, we both came to the conclusion that once we arrived at number seven, perhaps the rankings didn’t mean as much. On any given day, these last seven could interchange with each other and be the top on the list; it just so happens that today, on this list, number seven is Tobe Hooper’s grizzly horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Certain words come to mind when considering TCM. Words like: shocking, gruesome, raw, seminal, game-changing. Tobe Hooper’s creation is not a true story as many believe, but it doesn’t really take away from the effectiveness of the story. Sally and her invalid brother, Franklin, are traveling with Sally’s boyfriend and another couple. It seems that Sally and Franklin’s grandfather’s grave may have been vandalized. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker, a bizarre and mentally unstable hitchhiker who is quickly booted from the van after slicing open Franklin’s arm. And then things start to get weird.
The plot may seem tired today, but in 1974 it was somewhat of a new idea, the teens going on a road trip and falling into a nightmare. The idea may have been driven into the ground, but has never been as impacting or as chilling as it was in the original TCM. The group finds themselves in need of fuel, and they stumble upon a farm house in the middle of a Texas plain. It is hot, and you can tell. The farmhouse is where their trip spirals into a nightmare that is still the most gruesome displays of horror I can remember in cinema. The world is introduced to leatherface, a retarded killer who wears a mask sewn together from human remains, and the member of a family of cannibals. There are a number of chases, a number of deaths that include impaling, bludgeoning, and a rather large chainsaw, and everything is told with a sincere bit of realism. The camera is grainy and dull, giving the picture the feel of documentary. And the ending, just as the sun is rising, is one of the most abrupt and exhilarating endings in horror history. That last image of leatherface, defeated and swinging his chainsaw wildly in circles, is truly iconic.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still one of the most shocking and thrilling horror movies of all time. It is a raw piece of filmmaking that set Tobe Hooper’s career up. Although he directed the campy but solid sequel and Poltergeist a few years later, Hooper would never match the power and the brutal psychopathic brilliance of his 1974 classic.