31 Days of Halloween – Day 31 – Texas Chainsaw Special Edition
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre opens with some introductory text and two rotting corpses sitting atop a gravestone. Yeah, that’s what this movie is. I can tell you that I don’t know a lot about Ed Gein and I’ve never seen a movie about his life. Director Tope Hooper based Chainsaw on the exploits of Ed Gein, who was convicted of murder in 1957 and died in prison in 1984. Most of the details surrounding the Ed Gein case have been lifted wholesale for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with some unsuspecting teens thrown in for shock value. This led to great success, a series of sequels and two remakes.
Ed Gein inspires the kind of sick detail found in this movie. Police discovered human remains in his house, furniture made of out of human bone, and a series of severed heads on his mantle. Yeah, the guy was a wacko. Details of the Gein house and his habits are copied for the family in Chainsaw, as they collect the same sort of human remains. I think the most horrible parts of these movies and remakes are when the victims are tied to a chair and tortured, or watch violence in front of them.
The influence of this movie is unparalleled, appropriately making it number one for this year’s Halloween movie marathon. It changed the way horror movies were made and rocketed the genre into the landscapes of Backwoods USA, isolated places we took for granted. Outsiders getting skewered by the locals was best done in Chainsaw and it is one of the most suspenseful horror movies ever made. That’s probably because of all the friggin screaming and blind action done at the end of the movie. It works.
The film quality and the style are what make this movie the best at being gruesome and realistic. It’s set up with a newspaper crime style, which is why the movie has that text introduction. It’s meant to build the realism. The film stock does the same thing. The whole thing looks grainy and off-color. The first scene is yellowed and weird looking. It’s almost as if the movie reels were sitting in the backwoods waiting for somebody to come along and find them. Like Suspiria, the color works to reinforce the tone. Reds hint at blood or horrible doom, and yellows speak of decayed, rotting flesh.
Even the environments are horrible and scary. The movie takes place on a really hot day, making everything seem disheveled and unkempt. Continuous pictures of the sun make me think of the maddening heat. The teens are on a road trip and experience this first hand. They pick up a hitchhiker and the environment comes alive with his stories. Edwin Neal plays the hitchhiker and I still squirm to this day when he cuts himself with the knife. It’s a good performance.
The teens are terrible characters but they are only victims in wait. Leatherface and his family are also not that very developed as characters, but they are more threatening and exude everything built up to that point in the movie.
This movie could be anti-meat propaganda. Tales of the slaughterhouse are only the beginning of the horrible crimes against cows. The teens find bones in Franklin’s family house, which is evidence of more animal murder and abuse. I will note that the DVD for the special edition came wrapped in a MEAT slipjacket. A picture of ground beef is on the front. The teens are themselves treated like pieces of meat, hung on a hook to dry. The meat locker and the freezer are not very subtle about hinting at meat, livestock, and poultry storage, which is now used for humans. Pictures of MEAT are used late in the movie to inspire scenes of violence.
Chainsaw doesn’t dwell on the murder and the blood like the Evil Dead or something, although the acts of violence are front and center. Leatherface chases Final Girl for what seems like forever. The father of the killers is there to throw in some black humor, as he berates Leatherface for cutting down the front door with a chainsaw. I always chuckle at that scene. There is no “musical score” for this movie, only echos and bells ringing, which is appropriate for the mood. In all, there are many scenes that are sadistic and horrible, from the meat hook scene to the dinner scene. It’s a great horror movie. Meat is what’s for dinner, I might add.
31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28. The Wicker Man (1973) and The Wicker Man Remake
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990)
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995)
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982)
21. Phantasm (1979)
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015)
18. The Guest
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971)
14. Army of Darkness (1992)
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
7. The Changeling (1980)
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986)
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!