Classic Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Leatherface, a horror character that is deeply ingrained in pop culture. I am sure most of you have heard of this guy, although he is usually overshadowed by other horror icons such as Michael Myers and Jason. Even with that, I still think Leatherface is the most menacing of them all. I mean, you definitely should be running in fear seeing a man wearing a mask made with human skin waving a chainsaw at you.

Leatherface was originally introduced in the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This film was influential in making the slasher film one of the most popular horror genres throughout the 1970s and beyond.

This film was influential in making the slasher film one of the most popular horror genres

Wizzard on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The slasher film has seen its ups and downs, as Hollywood pumps out sequel after sequel of slasher films that were very popular back in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of those were good, some of those were just plain bad. I am on a quest though, to watch all the originals, as there had to be something in those originals that made them so wildly popular right?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has a total of 8 films. From this 1974 classic all the way to a movie as recent as 2017. A new movie is due to be released later this year (2021). I will admit, I had never seen this 1974 classic, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

The film was directed by Tobe Hooper, who also co-produced and wrote it along with Kim Henkel. This was Tobe Hooper’s second film that he directed, and would later go on to direct projects such as Poltergeist and Salem’s Lot. With just a $140,000 budget ($700,000 when adjusted for inflation), and casting relatively unknown actors at the time, this film was an unexpected hit at the box office.

Tobe Hooper casted relatively unknown actors from central Texas

For a film that was made in 1974, it holds up well. With such a small budget, Hooper made sure that practical effects were used whereever possible. The farmhouse that is presented in the film, filled with furniture made of bones, looked creepy enough. I later read that real animal bones were used. The use of latex as human skin, and the use of animal blood obtained from local slaughterhouses, made the entire film look more gory than I expected. These practical effects made for a movie that was not only terrifying, but could make you sick to the stomach with the amount of gore you see on screen.

These practical effects made for a movie that was not only terrifying, but could make you sick to the stomach with the amount of gore you see on screen.

Wizzard on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Leatherface, looked absolutely menacing, as the Icelandic-American actor Gunnar Hansen is a big guy. The mask of human skin that he wears looks convincing enough, although in closeups it does look a bit like latex. However, his grunts and growls made for a terrifying figure, and he does a great job of convincing us that we should run if we ever see him.

Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface

The rest of the family of Leatherface did an excellent job in their performances, as they were just as psychotic as one can expect of a family that murders people and eats them. The cast of the victims, well, I can say there can be quite a bit of improvement in their acting, but who cares, most of them were only on screen for a matter of minutes. Most of the victims were just meant to be cannon fodder for Leatherface, so I can forgive their acting.

Hooper was a rookie director at the time, so we can forgive him in some of the mistakes he made in this film. Some of the dialogue that the cast uses really can be improved, and some of the camera work was questionable. These mistakes can be forgiven though, as I am sure the audience that this film was targeting was really there to watch Leatherface murder victims.

The film indeed was influential for its time. I swear there were some scenes in there that influenced Resident Evil 7. It brought audiences to the world of slasher films, and the silent, hulking, menacing killer. This 1974 classic is a good movie for its time. A must watch if you want to see some good old fashioned gore with practical effects. Will I watch the other films of the franchise? Maybe. But nothing beats the original.

My recommendation: Watch this cult classic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.