Believe it or not, I’ve only seen this movie a handful of times. Not because it’s bad or anything like that, but just because it is so unsettling. I went to a midnight show of this with “JD”, as he prefers to be known on the internet, and it was for a film school. This means the film was introduced by someone who had apparently read a bunch of articles and interviews about it, making him certified to also answer questions after the film. I was surprised to see how many people there had never seen this movie before, so I just assumed they were all a bunch of pretentious film school dorks that are too busy watching Gus Van Sant or Sofia Coppola bullshit.
Check out that butt! This butt dies so quickly, do don’t get too attached.
The soothing voice of John Larroquette lets us know that what we are about to see is based on true events that took place in August of 1973. A group of teens is travelling through Texas and they meet a hitchhiker. He goes crazy and talks about the slaughterhouse that’s nearby, but he stabs the wheelchair-bound teen and they kick him out. The van runs out of gas, so in an attempt to find help, the teens one-by-one encounter the hitchhiker’s family, and more specifically, the retarded chain saw wielding Leatherface. One-by-one they arrive and one-by-one they die. Until they get to Sally, played by Marilyn Burns, who is taken captive. Sally must sit and watch the chaotic frenzy that they call “dinner”, until they introduce her to Grandpa, who is legendary for how easily he could slaughter cows. When presenting Sally to a hammer-wielding Grandpa, he keeps missing, and she eventually escapes. The hitchhiker gets run over by a giant truck, Sally jumps in the back of a pickup, and Leatherface is left standing in the road, swinging his chainsaw like a goddamned madman as the credits then appear onscreen.
You know he’s a professional killer, because he wears a tie while killing people.
This film is typically included in every single “Scariest Movies Ever” list, but I feel like your average person doesn’t really know why it’s so terrifying. I’m sure some people would argue that I am also just your average person and have no idea what I’m talking about, so fuck those people. I find it so terrifying because of how unconventional it is, by not only today’s standards, but by standards set during the 60’s and 70’s. Most scary films up to this point were about mood and tone and an overall sense of creepiness. They didn’t really rely on too many “jump scares”, but more just the overall spookiness. TCSM is not at ALL spooky. This film punches you in the nuts, spits in your face, then goes about its business. The first time you see the villain? He pops out from around a corner with no warning, smashes someone over the head with a mallet, then slams the door shut, leaving us with no idea of who that was or why it happened. Also keep in mind, that this is after about 45 minutes with the expendable teenagers, who before we had an idea of what was happening to them, they were just dead. That’s it. No explanation, just dead.
Everyone in this picture is so ugly! It must be like at Megan Fox‘s family reunion. Not pictured: lots of toe thumbs.
Even if you don’t speak any english, I would assume this film would be extremely unsettling as just a visual and auditory frenzy. The scene involving Sally having dinner with all the psychopaths feels like it was edited by Edward Scissorhands, as there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to why the edits and cuts are made. It’s extremely disjointed, going from shots of the family at the table, to close-ups of Sally’s face, to extreme close-ups on her eyeballs, back to the family, back to eyeballs. Add to that, most of what you hear during this scene are the sounds of Sally screaming, causing the family to scream, making Sally scream more. It’s a scene that you kind of just want to turn the volume down for or maybe fast-forward. Moments like that make up most of the second half of the movie, either using erratic edits or just the sounds of chainsaws, screams, and other strange metallic sounds that seem unnatural. Every single one of these elements makes it terrifying, and were you to remove any of them, you wouldn’t have gotten the same result. This film is just a perfect storm of terrible things that come together to create a cacophony of terror.
Wolfman Moon Scale