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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (A review of two films)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is regarded as one of the most horrific films to hit theaters and is without a doubt one of the defining films of the slasher horror genre. Like many films of the era a handful of teenagers/college students are involved. In this version the group of young adults are on their way to visit an old house that belonged to two of the youths grandfather. On there way to the old abandoned home they pick up a hitch-hiker who is crazy and ends up slicing up the hand of one of the young travelers. This of course ends with the crazy hitch-hiker getting his ass thrown on the road (and the reason why no one picks up hitch-hikers anymore.) The kids stop by a small gas station that has no gas, but has some delicious barbecue. The kids decide to keep moving along with their journey to grandpa's old abandoned house. Once they make it to the house the characters begin to venture towards a nearby and stupidly walk in uninvited where they get picked off one by one.

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a semi-intelligent film that seems to play around with certain concepts that are never fully explored. At the beginning of there is talk of animal killings in slaughterhouses and ones destiny of sorts. Is ones life/day planned out by fate? What happens when one loses purpose? Are human-beings more animalistic in nature then what we want to believe? Again, these concepts are not ever really explored in the film and I really am probably looking far into things that aren't really. It really is the conversations that are had by the characters at the beginning of the film that really make the events that happen later on in the film that much more interesting.

The series of characters are slightly more developed than the type of characters you would see in the majority of slasher films, but they still aren't developed enough for one to really care about once they meet their demise. The conversations at the beginning of the film is what gives the characters more depth, however their actions don't follow through to what a normal human being would do.

This film has been regarded as one of the most violent and brutal films of all time and was even banned in certain countries. In reality very little blood is seen in the film, but the film gains its horrific tone from its atmosphere and onscreen deaths. The films most memorable deaths actually don't stem from the chainsaw that the film is so known for. The film is most remembered for the slaughterhouse setup with a guy being knocked against the head like that of cattle and a girl being hung onto a meat-hook. During these scenes is when we really see just how brutal the killer really is and the horrific imagery of a human slaughterhouse.
"In Kim Newman's view, Hooper's presentation of the Sawyer family during the dinner scene parodies a typical American sitcom family: the gas station owner is the bread-winning father figure; the killer Leatherface is depicted as a bourgeois housewife; the hitchhiker acts as the rebellious teenager."-

When the young adults stumble onto the cannibalistic family's house on the outside we see nothing that would indicate just how terrorfying things are on the inside. On the outside we see a beautiful white house surronded by sunflowers that looks like the type of thing Mr. and Mrs. Kent would proudly call home. When the characters we see decaying animals, furniture built from human remains, and a slaughterhouse set up. By 1975 the American dream was perceived dead by most and the cold war and social upheaval had lead American soceity to become cannibalistic.

As a slasher film it is certainly a classic and does do quite a few interesting things that keep the audience interested. The film still remains to be an affective horror film even to this day, but the film is not without its problems. The ending of the film seems to be rushed and a bit of a let down. The film would of been more affective if it had ended a few minutes earlier or a more ambigious ending.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not based on a real event like many beleive, but is in fact based on the infamous serial killer Ed Gein. Psycho is another film that takes inspiration from Ed Geins and it's surprising to see that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was only released less than ten years after Psycho and already had the horror genre changed to a dizzingly degree. When Psycho came out we still have a film that has elegance and class that was in the golden age of Universal Monster film. In ten years time the horror genre had completley changed, we now had brutal,gritty films and films that oozed with violence and sex.

Today's slasher audience might find the film to be a bit slow in the beginning, but the film provides enough interesting on scene kills that keeps the audience intrigued. This film is also a cult classic and has defined the slasher genre and lead us to having great slasher films like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St. and of course Halloween.

Random Facts:

The farmhouse that was used in the film is now a restaurant in Kingsland, TX, with delicious food  that is of the non-human variety. Check them out here:

The actress whose character was hung up on a meat hook was actually held up by a nylon cord that went between her legs, causing a great deal of pain.

The human skeleton in the house at the end of the movie was a real human skeleton. They used a real one because a human skeleton from India is far cheaper then a fake plastic skeleton.

Rated: R
Time: 83 min.

Film Type: Midnight Slasher,

During this day and age the majority of films released are remakes or sequals.This is nothing new for the horror genre, but the 2000s seems to be big on remaking the horror classics for later decades so it was no big surprise that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre got a remake in 2003. This time the group of youths are traveling towards some kind of music festival that encounter when they encountered a traumatized woman on the side of the road that they decide to pick up and help. The woman while in the car shoots herself in the head and cause the young adults to flock to a town known as Travis County in order to find help. One by one the group is picked off untill there is only one left.

Less time is focused on  th group of characters themselves and more focus is put upon the plot itself. The actions of the characters in the film seem to be a bit more understandable, but still seem to fall into same flaw most slasher films have with characters never really questioning their surroundings.

In the orginal the house and looks to be a plesant farmhouse on the outside and macabre horror on the inside. The reamake however shows no difference between the inside or outside and should have tipped off the travelers first hand that something is not right in Tavis County. Certain aspects of the original are not included in the film such as the big dinner scene or any mention of the family being cannibalistic.

In all honesty this remake is a couple steps above most horror remakes,but fails to live up to the original. If the 1974 Texas Massacre a semi-intelligent gory milestone, the remake is a mindless,but enjoyable popcorn flick. Even though the violence is amped a few notches, the death scenes seem to be a bit less memorable and this might be due to the fact that the film lack the grittiness of the original and had a cast of characters that weren't as likable as the orginal cast.This film is action packed from the very beginning and a bit more violent than the orginal,so today's slasher fans might find this version a bit more enjoyable.

Rated: R
Time: 83 min.

Film Type: Midnight Slasher,

-Horrorwood Doll


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    all the best / Robban

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