Movie Discussion: Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

  • Monthly Theme: Slasherstexas_chainsaw_massacre_1_poster_01
  • The Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  • Country of origin: U.S.A.
  • Date of U.S. release: October 1, 1974
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributer: Universal Pictures
  • Domestic Gross: $30.9 million
  • Budget: $83,500 (estimated)
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Producer: Tobe Hooper, et al.
  • Screenwriter: Tobe Hooper & Kim Henkel
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematographer: Daniel Pearl
  • Make-Up/FX: Dean W. Miller, et al.
  • Music: Tobe Hooper & Wayne Bell
  • Part of a series? Yes, this film is the first in the long-running Texas Chainsaw franchise, followed by 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1990’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
  • Remakes? Yes, as 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which in turn led to a prequel (2006’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and a sequel (2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D).
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Genre star Marilyn Burns (Eaten Alive, Future Kill, etc.).
  • Other notables?: No.
  • Awards?: Critics Award at the 1976 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
  • Tagline: “Who will survive and what will be left of them?”
  • The Lowdown: Tobe Hooper’s slasher classic

If you haven’t seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Kristine: Shall we discuss Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Because of our love for inbred moronic hicks?

Sean: Yeah, Texas Chain Saw… So fun to watch with you! And weird to watch through your eyes because I know it so well.

Kristine: Yeah? I didn’t think anything lived up to the opening credits.

Sean: Those credits are amazing. Like I said before, I think the movie is masterful at tone more than anything else. The sound design is really great.

Kristine: I wanted to rate it…”Total trash..I loved it!’ but the honest truth is: This is a horror classic because…why, exactly? Can you believe my sacrilege???

Sean:I know you felt that way. I am not that surprised. You are entitled to your opinion, but I rate it: Masterpiece!

The movie’s opening image: Bizarrely anal

Kristine: Tell me what I am missing. And also, do you think if we watched it earlier in my education I would feel differently?

Sean: I love the creepy spiders’ nest in the abandoned house and that tracking shot of Pam walking up to the Sawyer house.

Kristine: So now spiders are scary? Hmph. Yeah, that tracking shot was good. The freedom and beauty of the outdoors versus the terror and grimness of indoors.

Sean: Those spiders aren’t scary, they’re abject and unsettling. Also I love that weird interlude of Leatherface staring out the window and like, worriedly clasping his hands to his face and acting like Woody Allen.

Kristine: Leatherface = I don’t even know what to say. Not what I was expecting.

Sean: I think all three of Leatherface’s first attacks are genuinely terrifying. How he bursts suddenly out – and I loved Disco Stu’s reaction, just total abject fucking terror.

Kristine: Leatherface being such a brute killer but then being feminized in the family structure is so bizarre and off-putting.

Sean: Right? I love the gender stuff in the movie. I love how and androgynous and chubby and femme Leatherface is.

Kristine: I thought it was effective, but to what end? I do not know… Just total bizarreness, maybe?

Sean:He is like, mincing around, boobies bouncing, waving his huge saw…. He is more hermaphroditic than androgynous, actually

Kristine: The first time you see him it is fucking scary as hell. That scene is awesome.

Couldn’t you have warmed this thing up before you put it in?

Sean: Yes, amazing. I also remember first watching that “dinner” scene where they’re banging Sally on the head, and being sick to my stomach. I was probably… 11? Remember how you felt about Wolf Creek? That’s how I reacted to Texas Chain Saw Massacre when I was a wee bairn.

Kristine: The absurd dinner scene… I don’t know. I did think the attempted bludgeoning at Grandpa’s hand was hilarious and also scary. The toying with the victim is horrifying in both this and Wolf Creek. And both movies have zero backstory about the killer, though a few hints are dropped about their anger towards society. But it’s not really a big deal or main focus, I thought.

Sean: What do you think of the reading where Leatherface and Franklin are stand-ins for damaged Vietnam vets?

Kristine: Sure, fine? But still, I don’t think it is the main thrust of the film. Franklin. I was surprised at how quickly Franklin’s death scene came, because we spend more time with him than any other character, even Sally. It is shocking when he dies so quick. And sorry, but he was gross. Am I a bad person?

Sean: He was super gross in some bits and okay in others. The piggy mimicking laughter in the abandoned house = too much. I just think it’s interesting how much the film is about re-imagining our collective rural past as perverse and horrifying. Or at least, that the vestiges of that past  turn perverse in the modern age, with the industrial age ushering in mass production.

Kristine: Again, I will buy that but I don’t think it is that important as a theme. Maybe I am wrong.

Sean: So what is the important theme of Texas Chain Saw according to Kristine?

Kristine: I don’t know.

Sean: What would you say if you had to say something?

Kristine: I would say… there is no theme.

Bloody, hysterical women. That’s a theme, no?

Sean: I disagree on the lack of theme.

Kristine: Meh. You would.

Sean: So, were any of the guys in Texas Chain Saw hot?

Kristine: I did not find any of them that hot… except the Hitchhiker.

Kristine to James Franco: “This is what you look like.”

Sean: Liar about Hitchhiker.

Kristine: The Hitchhiker looks like James Franco.

Sean: The Hitchhiker looks like a developmentally disabled adult.

Kristine: I cannot tell a lie.

Sean: As always, shocking.

Kristine: Address my question about if you think my reaction would have been different it this was the first horror movie we ever watched together.

Sean: I know it is a piece of exploitation…

Kristine: Address it.

Sean: Yes, I think you might have been more sicked out by it. I think Wolf Creek really did a number on you and you are now more hardened and callous. I love it.

Kristine: Ha ha, I am not. Do you think desensitization can happen that fast? Wow.

Sean: We’ll see when we watch HostelMartyrs and The Human Centipede.

Kristine: What if my rating for all future horror movies is “Yawn”?

Sean: I am learning it is just impossible to tell what you will think.

Kristine: I am an enigmatic woman. Deal with it. A woman of mystery and nuance.

Sean: You are a woman of cockamamie theories.

Kristine: COCKamamie.

Sean: Stop.

Ratings Round-Up

The Girl’s rating: This is a horror classic because…why, exactly?

The Freak’s rating: Masterpiece!

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27 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    1. I actually think, of the whole spate of remakes from the last 8 years, the redo of TCM is pretty good (the Dawn of the Dead remake is also good, at least for most of it) and is not execrable garbage like the remakes of Nightmare on Elm Street, The Omen, etc.