Five friends head out to rural Texas to visit the grave of a grandfather. On the way they stumble across what appears to be a deserted house, only to discover something sinister within. Some... Read allFive friends head out to rural Texas to visit the grave of a grandfather. On the way they stumble across what appears to be a deserted house, only to discover something sinister within. Something armed with a chainsaw.Five friends head out to rural Texas to visit the grave of a grandfather. On the way they stumble across what appears to be a deserted house, only to discover something sinister within. Something armed with a chainsaw.
But Hooper's CHAINSAW is more than just a classic horror film. With its print in the permanent collection at the NY Museum of Modern Art, it truly is a classic of cinema. I've shown this to Bergman fans, Tarkovsky fans and, yes, horror fans too - none of them have been prepared for its power, its inventiveness, its willingness to push the envelope of what cinema can do. And, with its simple story and powerhouse, unstoppable delivery, it is as open to interpretation as any piece of "modern art" - whether it be from the "vegetarian treatise" angle, or the post-Vietnam traumatised America school of thought. But, as I was on my first (of several) viewings, those I have introduced to this movie have been bowled over by the quality of the film-making, and the filmic techniques (soundtrack, editing, startling images) used by Hooper to capture his "waking nightmare" on screen. It is something I really don't think any other film has quite achieved, though many have tried.
Now, of course, there is a fluke element at work here. Hooper never came close to achieving anything like this again, and many, though not all, of the film's fascinating resonances are a product of the era and the filmmaker's unconscious sensibilities. What he obviously had as a director was the kind of daring to take the visceral power that cinema can deliver so well to the limit, to the the edge of acceptability, skirting on exploitation. That the film is so unrelentingly dark and so unbelievably sadistic in its second half, and yet fascinates even as it traumatises, is a definite testimony to the skill of its director. What could have been sleaze is instead a horrible nightmare experience, sure enough, but one that borders on the transcendental. Should be seen by ALL students of cinema at least once in their lifetime.
- Jan 16, 2006