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Finally! I can't believe that I have never reviewed 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what with it being my favorite film of all time. Why did I wait so long? I wouldn't call it waiting per se; it was always a daunting task that I enjoyed putting off. I majored in Procrastination at Asshole Academy with top honors. If you need substantiation of my puttering, it's already the seventh of October, and I'm just now tossing up my first review of the month. I don't like doing stuff. This much is patent. I do like Chainsaw (even my segues are laggard), warts and all. In fact, the warts play a pivotal role in why I love this flick so much. It has grit. It has character. It has a dude in a wheelchair.
You see, Chainsaw is based on the true story of...heh, just kidding. I believed that bullshit for a long time as a teenager. Here is something you may find interesting - upon my initial viewing of the film, I wasn't crazy about it. It was a chaotic blur. Chainsaw's 83 minutes rushed past me, and I wasn't really sure what to expect to begin with. Maybe it was the ceaseless screaming that prorogued my appreciation for Tobe Hooper's debut set of scares. Today, Sally (Marilyn Burns) Hardesty's wails don't rasp my nerves, although I do turn the volume down during certain scenes. Between her and the saw, it's enough to make your ears bleed.
Over the years, I've often asked myself why this particular movie resonates with my wheels, and I still don't have a lucent answer. My best guess...it's horror. Pure horror. There are no supernatural elements, but Chainsaw never pretends to be anything other than a horror film. The opening reels are an effigy of death. The spooky text scroll, the ingrained image of a corpse shackled to a headstone, the dead armadillo...it's almost as if Hooper is clearing the decks with reserved stillness to ready your mind for the entropy that is to come. It's masterful. You wouldn't know it from watching 1990's I'm Dangerous Tonight (ergh), but Hooper is talented as hell.
Can we talk about the characters for a minute? Burns (rest her soul) is never brought up as one of the original scream queens, but I have no idea why. Her performance is natural. Her body (and psyche, I would imagine) was put through the wringer on set, which could be said for most of the cast. The infamous chase sequence is fucking INTENSE. A fair share of genre enthusiasts despise Franklin, and look, I get it. I do! But for obvious reasons, I was able to empathize with the guy. That's a testament to Paul Partain's method acting. He was so method, in fact, that Gunnar Hansen hated his guts for years, not realizing that he was basically acting all the while. Yeah, it was a rough shoot.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed in Texas in the strangling calefaction of summer. As a result, the celluloid sweats. It reeks! You can see the swelter shedding off of the television screen. It's the polar opposite of Carpenter's The Thing, a shocker that freezes you numb. Polar opposite. Is that a pun? Did I make a funny? I don't care. I'm tired. I hope you have already seen this mortifying classic. If not, don't look me in the eyes; I will turn you to stone!