Friday, September 1, 2017

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Well, in light of Mr. Tobe Hooper's passing, I decided to re-watch the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It has been ages since I've watched and I really wanted to see it now that I'm older....maybe wiser? And I actually found things I had not seen in my youth. It's a film with a lot going on. Much more than a non-existent "massacre".

With a budget of $300,000, he cranked this film out as fast as he could - often shooting seven days a week. The film's lead - Marilyn Burns - must have been mute by the end of the shoot with all the screaming she does here.

I'm not going to go over the basics in too much detail. I'm sure if you're reading this, you've seen the film already. You've had over 40 years to watch it, lazy bones. :)  In short....

College folks in a van head to their family home in Texas, they give a ride to the WRONG hitchhiker, they get involved with the wrong folks, and most of them are dispatched quickly and horribly.

The film has several iconic scenes that come up in almost every horror documentary you can see. heheheh  Some of them are chilling to this day. Hooper's direction is fantastic. Scenes are shot well with a ton of thought put into the framing and execution. You can see the vision behind the shots. They are worked out brilliantly with a lot of work put in to get them looking right.

This shot for instance.....

The character of Pam played by Teri McMinn is sitting on a rocker outside and stands when her boyfriend doesn't answer her from inside the house. (Yeah...this doesn't end well....)  She makes her way to the house and the camera follows, slipping under the rocker and gliding with her as she walks to the house. As she gets closer, the house looms up - bigger and bigger as it blocks out the blue sky. GREAT shot. 

There are other shots where the framing is spot on.  Sally (Marilyn Burns) runs for help and, as she waits for the person to get their car, she's blocked in on the far right of the screen with an open room behind her. This creates a TON of tension. I really thought someone was going to creep up behind her. But, no, just tension. Fun stuff.

The grinding, banging, discordant soundtrack helps build that tension as well. With the screaming madness of the Family, Burns' desperate screams, and the insane soundtrack, things are ramped up quickly and you get a feeling of nails on a chalkboard.

And overall, for a film called Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there's not a ton of death and violence in here, but what IS there is really, really awful and terrifying. Hammer blows, meat hooks, and the titular CHAINSAW come into play and the visceral, violent goings on are cringe worthy.

There's also an attention to detail that kinda blew me away. I mean...$300,000 in 70s cash is nothing to shake a stick at, but it's also not a TON of money. There is so much work done to the sets and little details in the characters that I noticed this round that it's a little mind-blowing. Even down to Leatherface's serrated teeth. It adds to the creep factor. There are some aspects that didn't do as well - like Grandpa's old age makeup, but it's still a sight to see.

I didn't really pick up on the supernatural elements until this viewing. They almost elude to the happenings happening due to the Hitchhiker's actions - the bloodletting and writing of a symbol on the van as it drives away. Did he bind the van folks to him through magical means? Did the items left of the porch drive the van folks to the horrific ends they met? Kinda interesting to think about.

There are a LOT of people that need to thank Mr. Hooper for their successes. At least giving him MAJOR props for ideas and styles. (You know who you are, horror filmmakers!) I think I'll be running through more of Tobe Hooper's work in the near future.  I just caught the film I'M DANGEROUS TONIGHT - a solid 1990's made for TV film, and his work is super solid and interesting. I think SALEM'S LOT will be next if I can track it down!

Thanks for reading! 

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