The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Poster

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All the remakes and imitators are just swimming in its wake...
Robbie-2110 November 2003
With the recent box-office success achieved by the latest remake of 1974's `The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' it's worth looking back at Tobe Hooper's original horror classic.

The movie tells a fairly simple tale at heart. A group of five teenagers driving through rural Texas happen upon a deranged, cannibalistic family. Psychological terror and chainsaws ensue.

Yet despite this simplicity, what is it about `The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' that continues to succeed so with its audience? Outside of one memorial scene involving a meet hook; the movie is not particularly gory by today's standards. The film's characters and actual scares are not that remarkable.

The power of `The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' lies in its atmosphere and in what H.P. Lovecraft called `the oldest and strongest kind of fear': the fear of the unknown. The later of these two staples of great horror is often cast aside in modern horror movies-especially in those churned out by the great Hollywood engine. Instead, every mystery must be explained away, every mask ultimately pulled from a monster's face, and not a moment of exposition is spared. It is interesting to note that the filmmakers behind the latest `Chainsaw' film chose to implement all three of these stylistic vices in their remake.

In the original, the feeling of dread and mounting paranoia creeps over the viewer in slow but steady waves. The first scene in the film depicts a desecrated grave with a voiceover of radio newscast, immediately followed by an opening credits sequence set against a backdrop of roaring solar flares. This, along with some idle astrological chatter on the part of one of the teenagers early on, leads to a feeling of cosmic disarray in the lonely Texas hills they traverse.

Questions about the villain's mask or the field of cars under camouflage netting are left for the viewer to answer on his or her own. At worst, in the loss of any acceptable answer, they are forced to ponder that terrible and limitless gulf of the imagination: the unknown.

In it's later stages, the film becomes a cacophonous world of throat-peeling screaming, blood-shot eyes, laughter, and grinding machinery. One is forced to recall the solar flares in the film's opening credits. In the climax of famous dinner scene, there is a feeling of cosmic forces pressing in on reality and warping it into some crude mockery of order, as if the world were but a TV or radio signal distorted into madness by flares on the surface of the sun.

In the 29 years since `The Texas chainsaw Massacre' hit theaters, there have been countless imitators and four additional films in the franchise, three of them remakes. Yet as loved and influential as the original classic has been, many who would seek to emulate its vision seem to overlook its true strengths.
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Pure, uncompromised horror! A modern classic which still confronts, disturbs and terrifies audiences worldwide.
Infofreak21 April 2003
Tobe Hopper's 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' is a landmark low budget horror movie which must be considered a modern classic. Hooper's subsequent career has ben extremely uneven, and frequently disappointing, but even if he never made another movie he would still be a legendary figure. As would Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and his twisted family played by Edwin Neal and Jim Siedow, and immortal scream queen Marilyn Burns. These actors never have to set in front of a camera again, they'll never be forgotten by horror buffs worldwide! In this day and age of cynically conceived and marketed MTV-friendly teen slashers it's a revelation to see old school horror classics like this, Romero's 'Night Of The Living Dead' and Craven's 'Last House On The Left'. Uncompromising movies, pure horror that makes no attempt to water themselves down and court a mainstream audience. This movie was one of the most controversial of the 1970s, censored or banned here in Australia, and in Britain, and despite the hundreds of horror movies released since, it is still powerful and fresh. There is an undercurrent of bizarre black humour underneath the film, a lot subtler than the sequel and other more obvious "horror comedies". The terror isn't compromised, the uneasy giggles make the extreme images even more difficult to dismiss. The cast, all unknowns at the time, and from what we know know paid diddley squat, are all pretty good, especially Marilyn Burns (who Hooper used in his underrated 'Eaten Alive' and who also appeared in the Charles Manson TV biopic 'Helter Skelter'), and whiny paraplegic Paul A. Partain (who went on to bit parts in 70s Drive-In faves 'Race With The Devil' and 'Rolling Thunder' and very little else). One would have thought both would have went on to bigger things watching their performances in this movie but sadly it wasn't meant to be. Gunnar Hansen is absolutely extraordinary as Leatherface. An amazing performance with his features obscured and no real dialogue to speak of. I don't think it's an exaggeration to compare it to Boris Karloff in the original 'Frankenstein'. Leatherface is a horror icon, and 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' is a landmark movie that remains essential viewing for every horror buff. It's a sensational movie that still has the power to confront, disturb and terrify audiences worldwide!
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Scariest movie I've seen in a long time.
crazypierre27 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I decided to get this movie for my annual Hallowe'en scarefest, a week the new one was out in theatres, I felt a need to see the original first, and bow am I glad I did...

The whole movie just blew me away, I turned off all the phones, chat programs and so on, and just let the story hit me. I think what is still with me after this is the sense of fear and utter WEIRDNESS that emanates from the movie...

And it all seemed so hokey fountains of blood, no running into the shower, or overused cliches, just a bunch of kids that need to get some gas, meet some very odd characters (The Hitchhiker is superb) and then fall into the wrong place at the wrong time...

I think Hooper must have had some divine inspiration, because each of Leatherface's scenes is exquisitely planned and executed, from the first guy who gets dragged down, to Pam, to the encounter with Franklin and Sally in the woods (how chilling and scary was that, and yet how clever, to chase someone in the woods equipped with...a chainsaw) to the end.

Very, very unsettling as well, from the beginning to the final dinner scene, to the unforgettable whirling dance by Leatherface at the end.

Simply put, the best horror movie ever...if this doesn't scare you, then nothing will, sadly.
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Indisbutably a classic of cinema, and not just horror cinema
tatra-man16 January 2006
Those who have posted here comparing Tobe Hooper's (one and only) masterpiece with the dreadful remake are presumably young children with no real understanding of cinema. The 1974 film is the antithesis of the slick, MTV-influenced, cynical cash-in mentality that informed the later remake. The fact that the remake's target teen audience (well, at least some of them) appeared to lap it up is just a sad reflection of how far standards have fallen since the heyday of the horror film in the 70's.

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.
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THE masterclass in low-budget horror
Rathko22 December 2004
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre can, and will, be reinterpreted by critics and theorists for decades to come. It was shot in the summer of 1973, during the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Munich Olympics massacre, at the height of the Watergate scandal and the legal investigation into the shootings at Kent State. It was an era of plane hijackings, government oppression and dishonesty, racial conflict, terrorism and revolution. As a mirror of a dark period in American history, Chain Saw remains one of the best evocations yet of the era, as a group of young individuals, returning to the nostalgic home of their childhood, stumble into the raw and irrational cruelty of the modern world.

The movie has a weak, though functional storyline, one that has since became the staple for slasher movies; a group of teenagers get lost, stumble across evil and get stalked and killed. But Chain Saw isn't about storyline and plot; it's about creating an experience, a sensory overload. The cast and crew work tirelessly to create scenes and images that are raw and powerful and ultimately, against all expectations, beautiful. Leatherface's travesty of motherly domesticity as he prepares dinner, his child-like dance in the dawn light, the open door at the gas station, the van making it's slow turn off the road towards the derelict and ivy clad Hardesty residence are all images that burn themselves into your consciousness after just a single viewing.

The cinematography is exceptional. Watching the Special Edition, you'd never know that this was shot on 16mm in poor light. The picture quality is outstanding, the colors rich and vibrant, the blacks inky and menacing. The brilliant azure skies, the jade green of the grass, the bright red generator, the searing sunlight and stifling shadows. Every frame seems saturated in nicotine gold. Beautiful.

Though not always likable, the actors are always believable. Performances are universally startling, but special mention has to go to Marilyn Burns. Though she has little more to work with than the clichéd screaming heroine, she works it with remarkable conviction. It was a traumatic shoot, and it shows. Few actresses have so effectively conveyed mind-numbing terror.

The soundtrack is exceptional and deserves more recognition. It is a great testimony to the experimentation and risk taking attitude of the era that all melody is destroyed under an industrial ambient soundscape of metallic clangs, scrapes and screams, evoking the atmosphere of the local slaughterhouse and the Family's state of mind. Terrifying.

Despite the complete lack of gore or extreme physical violence, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre continues to horrify and holds up the countless, shot-on-video, slasher clones of subsequent years for the puerile crap that they truly are. Whether by accident or design, this one is a classic.

9 out of 10
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The definition of fear... remind me to not accept that invite to dinner that Leatherface sent me
Smells_Like_Cheese19 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this movie is a legend in the horror genre. I have heard so much about this movie, the interesting thing is, my mom told me it's one of the bloodiest movies she's ever seen, then she paused and said "Wait, actually there wasn't that much blood… it's just creepy". So I had to see this movie, was it really that scary? Is it really that bloody? Is it really that creepy? I had to see for myself, so of course I bought the movie, it was on sale, watched it during the day, not much effect, was pretty disappointed. But then my friends came over and we wanted to watch a scary movie and they all saw that I had The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, we turned off the lights, turned on the surround sound and then the screams came as I realized this is one messed up movie!

Sally Hardesty and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin travel with three friends to a cemetery where the Hardestys' grandfather is buried to investigate reports of vandalism and corpse defilement. Afterward, they decide to visit an old Hardesty family homestead, and on the way, the group picks up a hitchhiker. The man speaks and acts bizarrely, and then slashes himself and Franklin with a straight razor before being forced from the group's van. Franklin tells Kirk and Pam about a local swimming hole, and the couple heads off to find it. Instead, they stumble upon a nearby house. Kirk decides to ask the residents for some gas, while Pam waits on the front steps. Receiving no answer but finding the door unlocked, Kirk enters the house and is immediately murdered by Leatherface. Pam enters soon after to find the house filled with furniture made from human bones. She attempts to flee but is caught by Leatherface and impaled on a meat hook. At sunset, Sally's boyfriend Jerry heads out to look for the others. Finding the couple's blanket outside the neighboring house, he investigates and finds Pam still alive inside a freezer. Before he can react, Leatherface appears and kills him, stuffing Pam back inside the freezer afterward. With darkness setting, Sally and Franklin set out to find their friends. As they near the killer's house, calling for the others, Leatherface lunges out of the darkness and murders Franklin with a chainsaw. She is captured and invited to Leatherface's house for a family dinner she'll never forget.

Movies from the 1970's are so special to me, the reason why I think some of the greatest horror movies came out of that decade is due to the fact that directors didn't hold back like today. Most directors of today's Hollywood are too scared of the censors or go too far and make the audience gag rather than scream. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre I'm sure Tobe Hooper wasn't exactly expecting this movie to become the classic it has. Leatherface is frightening and I'm not so sure I'd accept an invitation from him and his family for dinner. I think they made the Manson family look like the Cleavers, you haven't seen a horror film until you've seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

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The one... the only... The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
mister_pig16 May 2003
Let me begin by saying that there are precious few movies that can actually scare the crap out of you, and this is one of them. The tension that this movie generates is overwhelming at times, and if you watch it with someone who's never seen it before, be sure to keep your eye on them. You'll probably notice a look of disbelief on their unsuspecting face.

Anyone who doesn't like being scared will end up being unable to finish this movie. People who have a taste for the brutally bizarre will probably hit play again after the credits roll. In light of all this, I must also say that in some respects, TCM's bark is much worse than it's bite. Being banned in so many countries for so long, and having a title that includes the phrase 'Chainsaw Massacre', has seemingly led many people to believe that there is an undue amount of gore in it. However, there simply isn't. Gore is not where the scares are in this one. The scares come from the absolutely brutal and bizarre scenarios that befall poor Sally Hardesty.

In closing, I'd also like to go out on a limb and make the following grandiose statement: TCM is the greatest horror film of all time! Not bad for Tobe Hoopers' first effort.
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A masterpiece of sensory horror
chaos-rampant16 August 2008
Who knows out of what strange game of fate or as if the universe conspired upon its creation and everything that came to pass did so that Tobe Hooper would make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Like a blood spattered, low-budget Orson Welles of 70's exploitation, the immensity of his debut will forever haunt him and his career.

The task of committing TCM to words is a difficult one, not because the proper words don't exist but merely because they can only describe the surface and never convey the essence and the heart and what can only be felt in one's own skin and maybe that of others. Sounds of animals and howling of beasts and the clanking of rustling metal speak TCM's language. The dissonant chord that sounds in the soundtrack as the movie fades from black to flashes of decaying flesh is TCM's lingo and what defines it is disorientation.

Indeed the first shot proper that opens the movie, that of a rotten head and as the camera zooms out we see the whole dead body in a grotuesque posture like some sort of zombified jester sitting atop a gravestone, offers no clue and safe grip for the viewer. After the opening credits roll, we are served an orange sun burning in a blackened sky and that dissolves into the image of a dead armadillo laying on the street. We're 5 minutes into the movie and we're provided no clues of typical genre orientation, no protagonists of any sort. As the eye scans the image for something to cling to, narrative or otherwise, there's nothing there save for decay and death.

And then TCM starts rolling and picks up steam and never stops. Apart from how original or not the concept is (crazed backwoods family terrorizing city kids) it's the approach that makes all the difference. Hooper achieves sensory terror and doom by piling on images and sounds, each of them spilling to the next frame starting an avalanche of horror. A close shot of cattles as the van drives in the background, a seedy gas station, a crazed hitch-hiker the kids pick up, an abandoned house. In the interior shots of the abandoned house the blacks are crushed and we only see silhouettes moving against the textures in the walls and those are juxtaposed with exterior shots where the whites wash out, like some kind of rural hell, a land of some other order that is coming apart under the weight of its own abandonment.

Even when the sensory chaos is broken for a while so that our genre expectations can be fulfilled as the crippled guy Franklin mutters to a couple that leaves the abandoned house to make out "Yeah, see you in an hour or so" (followed by a drone in the score) and we just know he's never gonna see them again, a typically ominous foreshadowing common in slashers, that only lasts for seconds. Then Hooper cuts back to puzzling images, feathers on the ground and some kind of dreamcatcher made of bone (?) and weird buzzing sounds in the score, like otherwordly insects flying unseen. TCM constantly tips its own axis, content to be left out of balance.

The first encounter with notorious chainsaw-wielding Leatherface is as disorienting as anything that comes before it. He appears out of nowhere like a beast in a frenzy and the carnage begins. And for a movie of TCM's reputation there is surprisingly no (or at least little) explicit gore. Yet the violence is startling and raw as the images that preceed its outburst spill into it and add their own touch of the morbid. Eisenstein must have been clairvoyant when he spoke of how powerful montage can be.

We're also given glimpses to Leatherface's tortured, crazed soul, bits of characterization like a gesture and a look of his eyes. Not a psycho killer out of sadistic pleasure perhaps, he looks more like a savage beast defending its territory or a wild dog scared of intruders trespassing in his nest.

Like an avalanche of macabre images that is impossible to stop once it starts, TCM whizzes by in a manic pace. The chase scene where Leatherface hunts down Marilyn Burns, scared out of her wits and howling like a wounded animal, is shot through branches of trees, as if the landscape is conspiring to ensnare the victim and so hunter and hunted run in the fields and inside a house and then back outside while the titular chainsaw is buzzing away in a constant reminder of gruesome death. Even when Hooper overplays his hand (as in the dinner scene) it's all done with deliberation that cannot be ignored, like maybe the director is as insane as the characters he's depicting and he takes great pleasure in basking in their insanity.

TCM simply has to be experienced, no critical analysis can do it justice. Without bucketloads of gore, without the slick look of high budget, it remains one of the most bleak, atmospheric and aurally violent movies of all time. What happened to Tobe Hooper's career after it is anyone's guess, but TCM is good enough to top entire filmographies of other directors. It has been imitated countless times, remade and given sequels and prequels to, but there's something primeval about the original that can't be recaptured.
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A classic simply put
MetalCasket25 May 2003
This movie set the stage for the onslaught of classic modern horror of the late 70's and early 80's. Tobe Hooper's vision paints a drab and disturbing picture of a family of cannibals who hunt their victims using any means necessary for survival. Caught up in this whole mess is a group of young people, unaware of what lurks down an old back road of Texas. Hunger is our most probable urge as human beings, and this family takes this idea to the extreme. Each family member is their own character with their own feelings and their own personalities. One such character, Leatherface, stands out for the fact that he was born without a face, thus using human skin to gain an identity. This is what sets him apart from other slashers such as Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees for they hid behind masks. It's safe to say he's not the only insane one in this bunch. Every one of them are one fry short of a happy meal and I am sure they like it that way. Gunnar Hansen did a great job of playing Leatherface, sculpting a faceless killer who slew not for fun but for survival. His perfect killer image was later destroyed by other actors in later sequels. Many people refuse to watch this movie in the first place because of what they've heard and because of the title. Strangely, some even walked out of the theaters on the previews for this thing. That's just how strong this movie actually is. There's really a lot less gore in this movie than most people think. It's Tobe Hooper's great directing that pelts the viewer with suspense. The last 10 minutes of this film are some of the most exciting, terrify shots ever put on film. All because of Leatherface, many people's nightmares will be dominated by the hum of a chainsaw.
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A terrifying n exhausting nightmare.
Fella_shibby3 July 2017
I saw this in the late 80s on a VHS. Revisited it recently on a DVD almost aft 30 yrs. This film is very terrifying n intense. The tiny budget, good direction and dreadful n isolated atmosphere gav this movie a documentary feel n along with the opening credits made it more terrifying. The whole film has this dark n isolated look. Screaming from Marilyn Burns got on my nerves at times.  Her constant jumping from the windows n repeated screaming n the trauma she goes thru made the movie more emotionally scary. Some may find the dinner scene to b the most iconic n terrifying coz it gives the entire idea. But i found the scene wher Leatherface keeps chasing the victim with a chainsaw to b pure nightmare. Boy, that was terrifying n intense. Also the scene wher Leatherface maniacally dances with his chainsaw. The first kill was the most brutal n shocking. Ther is no gore or violence portrayed but jus the impact of the scene was brutal. The swing of that hammer and the way his victim falls to the ground and starts shaking, is just plain brutal n unbearable to watch. The 2nd part is more gory n comedic. The 3rd part has good amt of action n violent shootouts. Avoid the 4th part like plague. The remakes r decent.
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The single best and scariest horror film EVER!!!
thelegendarywd23 June 2003
A group of teenagers on a road trip... OH BOY!!! HERE WE GO AGAIN... the typical horror movie set up. But wait.... something sets this one apart... IT'S SCARY... to be more precise, IT'S TERRIFYING!!! And I'm not just talking about the horrible 70's clothing and hairstyles. This film is one of the very few films I consider scary. Let me list a few reasons:

1) The gritty documentary feel the film has.

2) The excellent performances by Edwin Neil (the Hitch-Hiker), Jim Seidow (The Old Man), and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) as the psychos (in a film this low budget and grainy, performances this real feel all the more scary) and Marilyn Burns (Sally) and Paul A. Partain (Franklin) as the victims (we truly believe and feel their fear).

3)The atmosphere (the skeleton bone art... the freaky metal door in the farmhouse... Leatherface's mask and demeanor... even the way the sun sets in this film is spooky along with the sound of the farmhouse generator).

4)Relentless Horror (Leatherface RUNS not speedwalks after his victims with a live chainsaw... there's no time to trip and fall or your booty is chainsaw bait)

5)The ability the film has to scare you with almost a complete lack of gore (the only "gory" scene is when Leatherface accidently cuts his thigh with the chainsaw). The scares lie within the performances and atmosphere and pacing.

In closing... this is truly the greatest horror film (and one of the greatest films period) ever made. 15 out of 10!!!
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The Best Horror Film
jesusatan200128 October 2003
The (original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is without a doubt in my mind, the most impressive horror film to date. No other horror film stays with you in the same way. You feel not only fearful for the characters, but at times feel afraid for your own safety. The natural lighting and loose, improvised acting style creates a strong sense of reality that no other horror film can possibly achieve. Under a thin layer of dated aesthetics (1973 style of dress) lies the most dangerous, horrifying and psychotic world ever committed to script or screen. As the first of its kind, this movie set the mold for the modern horror film, though none were ever to realize any comparable distinction. It gave birth to the "slasher" genre (for better or for worse) . It is also one of few timeless films that has managed to combine horror and avant-garde styles, successfully. Unlike its remake, this one is more of an exercise in minimalism and simplicity (think even Dogme). The expert subtlety of the filmmakers; Tobe Hooper (writer/director), Kim Henkel (co-writer) and Daniel Pearl (cinematographer) results more in

psychological terror than in gore. The air-tight script, jarring realism and attention to detail are unparalleled in practically any film, horror or otherwise. And last, but by far not the least Marylin Burns PHENOMENAL performance is the only in cinematic history (a close second by that of Shelly Duvall in The Shining) that evokes such a nature of desperate and primal fear. You truly believe in every single one of her screams that her life is hanging by a single, thin thread.
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Fond Childhood Memories
Uwontlikemyopinion3 April 2018
At six-years-old, I watched "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and I'm still allured back into watching this film every once in a while.

Sally with three of her friends, and her wheelchair bound brother Franklin, travel to her grandfather's grave, but along the way they meet an insane hitchhiker. Problems continue to surmount.

This influential film takes no prisoners; it's a sweat-inducing, relentless scream fest that leaves the gruesomeness up to the viewer. It's influences are unmistakeable. The concept (five or more regular individuals get mass murdered by a lethal killer) continues to inspire the horror genre especially slasher movies. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" introduces the audience to the first unstoppable masked killer Leatherface. The opening sound effect is truly spine-tingling (I believe it's the sound of a flash bulb from a camera). Additionally, the scenes inside the farmhouse, where Leatherface and his family lives, are masterpieces of terror and dread. Even though this film is effectively made for a movie in the 1970s, it's still an extreme oddity.

An oddity because it's a low quality cult movie that resembles a snuff film. By snuff film, the movie requires a woman to run around screaming her head off for the final third act of the movie. There's minimal characterization, plot and no context. Although "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" suffers by focusing on grisly violence (mostly left up to the viewer's imagination), the film manages to convey palpable terror.
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What REAL art-house horror should be like.
TheFinalAlias23 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Indie film community's head is so far up it's own ass with delusions of grandeur that they actually fail to see, at times, the area where their own films succeed. And is it any wonder? When Tobe Hooper's 1974 opus was released, it quickly became a mainstream hit. I specifically remember it becoming 'The film to sneak into' for kids. This automatically robbed it of any following it had with indie film fans despite being one of their own circuit's films. They instead dismissed it as a pointless exercise in graphic gore(there's actually very little), while praising lousy later films like 'Blair Witch' to the skies because of so-called deeper meanings. A shame they could not see that Hooper had crafted perhaps the ultimate statement on post '60's America, and one that remains unmatched in it's power.

The film makes no doubt about what state the country was in: Decay. Everything in the film reeks of death. From the prologue with the corpse 'art'(not as much a stretch considering the kind of art produced in this era), the Dead Armadillo in the film's opening; a Texas national landmark, it would seem, to the dried up 'Ol swimming hole, to the heroine's once-thriving home now populated with spiders and rats. It doesn't take sides, either. The 'Good 'ol ways' represented by the homicidal Sawyer clan as a nightmare parody of the American bible-belt family are obviously the villains, but the 'new' generation, itself dying out since '68, isn't presented as any more desirable. Both are mercilessly ridiculed. Even the heroine survives only by sheer luck. She's not the intelligent, feminist heroine(despite being of the 'free love'generation)that Laurie Strode of 'Halloween' is, she survives because of the killer's(s) incompetence. It's almost as if the film is saying that the ignorant, rebellious youth have emerged scarred from the real world they ran off unprepared for(The doomed protagonists are all jaded ex-hippies), and are all limping back home(Sally does visit her old house as a form of shelter)to the comforting arms of the 'old folks' who warned them; who react violently and vehemently, telling them 'I told you so!', but still give them relief: Death.

Speaking of the 'heroes', isn't it bizarre how the heroine's crippled brother Franklyn is treated like a nuisance by them? Even though we don't see it; it's obvious that they have frequently ridiculed him(His reaction in the abandoned house to their laughter best reveals this, as he can't stand to hear their mocking laughter even if it is not directed at him and he knows it). Yet, in contrast to the lead's treatment of the childish invalid Franklyn, the Sawyer family treats the two characters most similar to Franklyn(mentally and physically); Leatherface and Grandpa; as valued kinfolk, they are accommodated and appreciated in their family unit. Although the older brother heaps much verbal abuse on the Hitchhiker & Leatherface, it is no more than your usual stereotypically portrayed hick family on 'Hee-Haw'. They're close-knit, and as Franklyn says after the Hitchhiker slits himself and endures it: 'Gotta admire that".

Add to the fact that Franklyn is the the only character in the film to come close to communicating with, and in a sense, relating to, one of the Sawyers(Who starts up a genial, at first, conversation about knives and killing with the Hitchhiker); and it becomes more disturbing. Almost as if, under different circumstances, Franklyn would occupy the same position as Leatherface(If he could walk)or Grandpa if he were a member of the Sawyer clan, as if the hitchhiker recognizes this. It's also strange considering this take, that Franklyn is the last of the leads to die. I'm not saying Leatherface spared him for last out of mercy(He had just met Franklyn when he kills him), but because they are similar symbolically. Even Hooper has called Leatherface a 'big baby', and that seems to apply to Franklyn as well.

Bizarre, the cannibals accept the handicapped(in their own way), and the 'heroes' see the handicapped as a burden, much like how former hippies who were drafted and returned maimed or crippled were rejected by their former friends for 'killin' babies' in 'Nam. Even more strange is that it's Franklyn who inadvertently causes their deaths when he gives them the faulty directions to the swimming hole, as if he's unknowingly getting his revenge.

Obviously, I see the film as a social commentary. But I would not simply call it another entry in the cycle of other post '60's downbeat dramas, but a hybrid of that mentality with the 'Old Dark House' genre of years past. Compare the film with Whale's 1932 film of the same name; you'll see what I mean. Even that film's macabre humor and invalid patriarch character are referenced. TCM is an update on that genre with post '60's cynicism. As that stands, it may not be the first slasher film, as it's often called, but the last, and best 'Old Dark House with a homicidal but oddly funny family' type of film ever made.~
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'Cutting Edge' horror
captain_bungle14 April 2005
I was 11 years old. I'd given an older kid 50p to borrow his copy of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I took it home and put it in the top-loader. It took me a fair while to press down on that chunky silver 'play' button, recollecting the stories I'd heard about the film. Rumours were flying around the school - the filmmakers had gone mad whilst making the film and killed each other - Leatherface was real - it was a documentary and the killings are all real. Chain Saw was a snuff movie. So, I pressed down the hefty button and braced myself for what was to come, eyes peeled, resisting the need to look away as if I were looking at a traffic accident. When the film was over I felt disturbed. I hadn't witnessed real human killings, I hadn't just seen a snuff movie, but Chain Saw had reached deep down inside of me and planted a seed of unease, I felt cold to my very core but I didn't know why. As the years passed my recollections of the film became more and more distorted. Most notably my memories of the killings within the film - bloody, gore-filled scenes. Blood. Lots of blood.

The reason I have rambled on about these events is that, until re-watching the film, I appeared to share the same memories as those that had seen it around the same time as me. This is a testament to Chain Saw's masterful construction, a film powered by the age-old technique of suggestion. There is hardly a drop of blood shown within the film, yet people will remember it in bucket-loads. In fact, director Tobe Hooper only shows us what is necessary, maybe because of the low budget he was working with (Hooper's later output would suggest this), but it forced creativity from the filmmaker that is sadly lacking in his other work (Poltergeist may be an exception, but Hooper's direction was steered by Spielberg on that one).

Okay, the story: A mini-bus carrying five teenagers drives through Texas. Pre-emptively they drive past a slaughterhouse as cows await their death. The tone, and their fate, is set, and it is only a matter of time before the teenagers will become meat to a local cannibal family. Their ordeal begins when they enter a sinister old house (don't they always?) and start to snoop around. Before you know it one of the teens, who you're expecting to be the lead, is struck over the head with a mallet by Leatherface (Gunar Hansen), an obese retard with a skin mask. As he falls to the floor, his body twitching, Leatherface closes a sliding metal door and finishes the job where we cannot see it. From here on in it's basically a matter of picking off teens one by one with the use of the mallet, a meat hook and, of course, the chain saw.

What is essentially a by-the-numbers plot is raised above par by the style and atmosphere of the film. From bizarre shots of solar flares to the hot, sun soaked imagery of Texas, Chain Saw seems to be sweating horror out of every pore. The locations are macabre beyond belief, in particular a room with hanging animal bones and bone constructed furniture, and the whole film has a hot, musty orange glow about it that almost makes you smell the dead human meat in the cannibal house.

The performances are relatively functionary from the cast, although Marilyn Burns puts in a good turn as the tortured 'final girl', making us feel that her life is truly at risk. Even though all she does is scream and plead for her life, she does so with such energy and realism that it is difficult to watch her. Most disturbing of all is a scene where the grandfather of the family, a man so old he can barely move, is given a hammer to deliver a deathblow to her head. The family holds her over a bucket as the old man raises the hammer to strike her, but he is barely able to hold it, let alone hit her with it.

Chain Saw is full of images that will horrify and disturb, but unlike many other films that do the same, Chain Saw will leave you breathless with its unrelenting assault on the senses; from the images on display to the ear-shattering sound design that allows Leatherface's saw to intrude your living room and slice at your nerves. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of those few horror films that will unnerve you to a degree of unrest because it hits home where it hurts. Its savage, raw power and its total lack of reason give the impression you are watching something you shouldn't be. A bit like the traffic accident I mentioned earlier. In fact, you never really have time to think about what you are seeing until after the film has ended, which leaves an indelible image of a skin-masked madman waving a chain saw around his head in anger.

So, if you watched Chain Saw a good few years ago and remember it being a standard slasher flick with lots of gore, revisit it and see just how effective suggestion can be. If you've never seen it - what are you waiting for? This is low-budget film-making at its best and a lot can be gained from repeat viewings. If you can watch it more than once that is
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Among one of the greatest horrors ever!
UniqueParticle26 June 2019
So creepy, gory, and authentic... even scarier that it can all happen! A true masterpiece that I have seen at least 10 or 15 times. I even had a chance to meet Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) a few years ago. I was so bummed when he passed away from cancer and regret not doing more that day, at an event called Mad Monster Party. Regardless of that stuff this movie is legendary and sticks with you! I honestly think the guy in the wheelchair is the most annoying one and I'm happy with everything that happens with him or otherwise!
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Who will survive and what will be left of them?
mwilson197629 March 2019
Tobe Hooper revolutionized horror cinema with his film, inspired by the real life exploits of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. The film follows a group of friends who fall victim to the Sawyers, a family of cannibals, while on their way to visit an old homestead. Gunnar Hansen plays Leatherface who wears a mask of human flesh. He regarded the character as mentally retarded, and visited a special needs school and watched how the students moved and spoke in order to prepare for the role. Robert A. Burns designed the incredible sets, with skeletons of animals transformed into furniture and the floors of the Sawyers farmhouse littered with feathers and teeth. Hooper made a much bloodier sequel in 1986, and there have been further movies and a remake. None have had the same impact as the 1974 original.
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Stick to the classics
iWatchedYouDie27 October 2003
If you have never seen this version of TCM, but you've seen the new MTV pop-culture version then you've made a mistake. The original is 666 times better than that new rubbish they actually call a movie. The new version is an insult to classic horror fans ever where.
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A masterpiece of grim horror.
GroovyDoom21 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" could be one of the finest examples of horror film-making, maybe even film-making in general. It does not have much plot, but instead exists solely to put the viewer in a state of distress. I remember watching this for the first time and how utterly freaked out I was.

Despite being a grueling experience, the movie really does not have much explicit violence. Some of the murders happen just out of the camera's frame; only once do we actually see a chainsaw penetrate flesh, and it happens to be one of the villains. What earns the film its grisly reputation is the unrelentingly grim tone, and by playing this to the maximum, Tobe Hooper manages to make you think you are seeing something that you are not.

Hooper starts the film off at a relatively slow pace with a small group of young people on a road trip in a hot van, and it slowly builds in intensity as one by one they fall victim to a family of psychotic degenerate cannibals inhabiting a rural house that they are unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of.

Some people might expect the most unsettling aspect of the movie to be the violence, but what I found even more upsetting is the way the deaths of the characters come suddenly and unexpectedly (to them, anyway). It went beyond most slasher films, especially the first two deaths, a couple called Kirk and Pam. Happening upon the dreaded house almost by accident, first Kirk goes inside and is immediately murdered with a sledgehammer to the head. Then Pam begins to get suspicious when he doesn't return. The camera finds her sitting on a swing outside, completely unaware that her boyfriend is already dead inside the farmhouse. When she goes into the house looking for him, she is seized, screaming, by the bizarre "Leatherface", who hangs her on a meat hook through her back. In agony and shock, she is forced to watch Leatherface dismember Kirk's corpse with a chainsaw, all at once aware that Kirk is dead and that she herself is certainly doomed, when just ten minutes beforehand, they were outside looking for a swimming hole. Later, another character goes looking for them and happens upon the house as well, finding Pam inside a locked freezer. The most horrifying thing is that she is not dead yet, sitting upright in shock but then hopelessly shoved back inside by Leatherface, who has now killed her would-be rescuer.

These nihilistic scenes signaled an abrupt shift for the film, which up until this point had been a little boring. The sudden plunge into savagery was like a trap springing on the viewer, and the effect was extremely memorable. The remainder of the film dealt with the plight of the final victim, Sally, who endures what has to be one of the most grueling experiences a horror-movie heroine ever had to face.

Grotesque and fever-pitched once it gets going, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" was quite a shock for viewers in 1974. In this sense it was a lot like "Psycho"; before it, there wasn't much to compare it to. Rather, it set the stage for numerous films that came after, and it may not resonate with younger audiences who are more accustomed to the films that have been made since.
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Unpopular Opinion
barnesag9 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I feel I should add a few qualifiers before diving in. I went into this movie with high expectations because of its reputation. And had I seen this in 1974 when it was released, those expectations may have been met. But that is not the case. So it's hard to say if I genuinely dislike this movie, or if I'm just disappointed. But either way, I do not think it is good, or worth your time.

It's not all bad, I must admit. When we are first introduced to Leatherface, when he comes from around that corner and slams his hammer down, it is a great moment in horror. The surprise, the bluntness, and the brutality all add up. And this is shortly followed by him grabbing Pam as she runs out the front door, another iconic moment.

And I also need to give credit to the thought behind Leatherface. His different masks determining his personality and his motives, showing that there is nothing behind the mask. Removing a sense of humanity from our killer makes him scarier, in my opinion, because that means you won't find reason or empathy within him.

So credit and praise where they're due, there are definitely good things in this movie. But...

My biggest complaint can be summed up in one word: noise. After Franklin is killed, this movie fills with so much noise I can't stand it. More specifically, screaming. Which I completely understand, to a point. This girl just saw her brother take a chainsaw to the chest, of course she's going to scream. But she screams while running through the woods, she screams while running through the house, she screams while running down the street, she screams right up to the point she falls through that door and thinks she's safe. And the whole time there's also the sounds from the chainsaw and the random grunts and yells that Leatherface makes.

And then when she realizes she's still in danger and tries to defend herself, she gets knocked out with...a broom. She, a young adult with a knife, gets knocked out by an old man hitting her with a broom. And then there's the dinner scene. The dinner scene is where I completely stopped enjoying this movie.

What happens in the dinner scene? Mostly more screaming. The men are yelling everything they say, and Sally screams her head off the whole time. And they get close up shots of her face while she's screaming. Anything interesting that might be happening during this scene, is completely ruined by her screaming. Leatherface is wearing a new mask. We're given some more information about this backwoods cannibal family. Is that what you'll remember from the scene? Nope. Just screaming. And then there's the bit with the hammer. Look, I get that they're showing how grandpa isn't even strong enough to hold the hammer, but why show him fail 8 or 9 times? It doesn't build tension, and it's certainly not scary. If anything it's comical. And while that's going on Sally just...gets away? They seriously let go of her and she just runs and gets away.

After running for a while, and screaming the whole time, she makes it to a road. And luck is on her side because a semi truck is driving down that road. The driver stops, after running over one of the guys chasing her, and lets her into his cab. But then when Leatherface gets to the door, they leave the truck. Why? This one action bothers me so much because I cannot justify it at all. They're in the truck. Leatherface's chainsaw is not getting through the door. They can drive away and both be safe, but they just...don't. They just get out of the truck and run. If someone knows an explanation for why they do this, please tell me, because I am at a loss.

Then while Sally and the truck driver are running down the road, Sally is lucky enough to hop into the back of another truck that stops to help. And she gets away. But the semi driver doesn't. The last we see of him, he's still running down the road.

So, in conclusion, I do not understand how this movie became so popular. Again, if I saw it when it first came out my opinion might be different. But I can't give a hypothetical review based on an impossible situation.

3/10. Would not watch again. I do not recommend this movie.
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One of the best and most influential horror films ever made
Jared_Andrews26 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is one of the most famous and influential horror films of all time. Its minimal budget and direction can be seen in some way in nearly all horror movies that followed it for decades.

The plot is exceptionally simple, a smart choice and another influential one. Five young adults take a trip to a desolate Texas town to honor the death of a friend's grandfather. On what should have been a wonderful, cathartic adventure, they encounter a family of cannibals who slaughter humans with hammers, and yes, chainsaws.

All the actors were unknowns at the time, and they worked little in movies afterwards. I must admit I didn't notice that these were amateurs. After all, they really only needed to scream and run, so hiring no-name actors was a smart cost-saving decision.

My initial reaction is that the film is not nearly as gory as people think it is-virtually all the blood and violence is shown off screen or is blocked by some clever camera work. If you dare to keep your eyes fixed to the screen during the killing scenes, you'll be surprised to find how little you actually see.

The camera work used throughout the film is inspired and clearly inspiring. Countless horror movies that have come after have copied techniques seen here, not only to save money on necessary prosthetics and makeup, but also to let viewers visualize the gore for themselves. In most cases, what we imagine is far worse than anything a movie could actually show us.

For the most part, the movie contains very little score. Sound effects and occasional dialogue make up virtually all the sound we here. During the scariest moments, screams replace the music.

Another replacement for the creepy music we would normally hear is the sound of maniacal laughter. The cannibal family's incessant laughter is creepy as hell. 'Halloween' has the famous piano music, and 'Texas Chainsaw' has creepy laughter.

The chase scene at the end is incredibly terrifying and brilliantly filmed. Making use of wide shots, we see the girl and the cannibals sprinting towards the camera, as carefully selected angles manipulate the viewers' depth perception, causing the chasing cannibals to appear closer than they really are. Also, there's a giant psychopath wielding a roaring chainsaw as he chases a helpless, shrieking girl. Fancy camerawork isn't exactly required to make this scene terrifying. Nevertheless, the chase sequences in this film are some the best and most inventive ever in horror cinema.

When all hope seems lost, the girl with the iron will survives, the only one of her group to do so. This popularized the trope of the lone surviving girl. Watch any horror film-there's almost always at least one girl who fights and survives. That's just one more example of this film's influence.
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Inspired brilliance!
Maciste_Brother21 October 2003
So much has been written about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE these days that it seems almost redundant to write a review about it. Needless to say, TCM is one of my top films of all time. It's so good on so many levels that it would take a book to write a perfect review of this once-maligned flick. Some people, who have never seen it before, wonder what's so great about it after watching it for the first time, well, this is probably because TCM is the most copied movie of all time and TCM will look too familiar to newbies. You can literally trace x number of horror movies (or even action movies) back to this film. The thing is, TCM is a groundbreaking movie but few people back then noticed it. Mainly because when this low budget movie was originally released by its unscrupulous distributors it was dismissed as another trashy drive-in horror movie, when in fact few realized the brilliance to be found within it. After TCM was released, few horror films could afford to go back to Hammer style horror or the usual boring fare. You can really see the difference in movies made before TCM and those made after TCM became a big hit. The unrelentingly blunt, chaotic, savage, take-no-prisoners attitude of TCM was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before and this aspect of TCM is what makes it truly groundbreaking. Horror movies or even movies in general simply couldn't be cutesy or quaint anymore.

The film is unsettling and funny. It's totally original with its brazen, full-throttled approach to horror when most films made in those days were static, slow and poky. The level of energy this movie has is truly amazing. For a low budget flick, the camera is stunningly fluid and rarely static. The editing is sharp. The music is ominous but never overwhelming. The look of the film is perfect; it's looks so natural and un-Hollywood like which adds a lot in creating the uneasy atmosphere of the movie. But the direction by Tobe Hooper is inspired brilliance and even though Hooper often injected bits of black humor here and there which could have made the film less authentic, the humor never overtakes the story (which is probably what many didn't like about the sequel, which, btw, I recommend too) because the rawness of what's occurs on screen is never pulled back. The direction is perfect for this gruesome horror story. What's really remarkable about TCM is that there isn't a "weakest link" about it. Even though the budget was almost next to nothing and the conditions of making the movie were, according to many articles, hellish, the film doesn't have one weak element. Everything fits perfectly. Technically, the film is amazing. There isn't a scene that feels excessive or some performance that wasn't good. Everything is top notch.

TCM is filled with classic moments: the beginning, with the flashes of the corpses; the scene at the cemetery; the hitchhiker in the van; Kirk facing Leatherface; Pam and the swing shot; Pam falling in a room filled with bones and feathers; Pam and the hook scene; Leatherface surprised by Jerry; Sally being chased by Leatherface (the scene is only screams and chainsaws, for a whole 6 minutes. Amazing!); Sally being poked by Drayton; Sally at the diner table (yikes!); Grandpa and the hammer; Sally being chased by the hitchhiker and Leatherface during the chaotic "live-wired" ending; a crazed Sally in the pick-up truck. The film is one amazing moment after another, from beginning to end.

The actors are mostly unknowns to us today but that doesn't mean their acting wasn't good. The entire cast is excellent and game, ready to give their all. What I really like about the script is that everyone comes across as real. Some characters are even unappealing, like Franklin, the guy in the wheelchair, which you won't see done in movies these days. Today, everyone has to be cute, fun and likable, but in an edgy kind of way. Franklin is a real pain in the ass but having him in the movie makes the film feel more realistic. As for Marilyn Burns, well, she's probably the most underrated "scream queen" in history of film. While other actresses have made a career out of horror films and eventually moved on to other genres, Marilyn has been unlucky in this aspect. You'd think her career would have taken off after TCM but it didn't. The release of the TCM early in the 1970s is probably one reason why her star never shone like Jamie Lee Curtis. The "fans boys" that followed Jamie Lee's films were too young when TCM was released. As for the actors who played the Sawyer family, well, there isn't enough praise in the world for them. Jim Siedow is totally unforgettable. The same for Gunnar as Leatherface. But the greatest performance in TCM is surely given by Edwin Neal, the hitchhiker. Man, oh man, what a performance. His performance is so unbelievably believable that I wonder: was he even acting?

Another great thing about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is how it captures the feel and attitude of its time. It's a great time capsule. It's so in the moment, that watching it is like traveling back in time and being there in 1973 or 1974. And remember, this was a very troubled time. Vietnam. The Manson Massacre. Richard Speck. Nixon, etc. TCM is a true statement of the time it was made.

But the thing that always gives me the creeps when I watch TCM is the scene at the beginning, when they drive by the cattle ranch and we see the poor animals while Franklin talks about how they are killed and everything. This gives the whole movie its queasy, black humor subtext: the folly of mass consumerism. The general public doesn't see how animals are killed in slaughterhouses. Our meats are always packaged neatly and look appealing. But we never see the real horror behind the benign act of buying some ground beef at a store. The story of TCM is sorta like what happens to the cattle but instead we see cannibals processing their food which, obviously, comes from humans. Hooper seemed to be using the whole horror story as a statement about mass consumerism gone horribly wrong. Sally running away from the Sawyer house is like the cow that got away from the slaughterhouse.

All in all, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is so good that it's one of those rare gems that can be truly appreciated as a straight horror movie, as a black comedy and even as an art film. Personally, I think the film gets better and better with time. There hasn't been anything done like it since. The whole movie was the result of catching lightning in a jar. It's a one of kind film experience that can never be duplicated.
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a must see movie, for horror fans.
popyflower31 October 2012
OK, so this is one of the most talked about movies that i missed all these years as a horror movie fan, i finally saw it by DVD rental, i am not going into detail about the film because it has already been reviewed countless times, i have already watched many recent slasher, horror, films with blood and gore but this one was the master of them all, why ? because the realism of the first scene was so horrific and well acted that i now realise why it was banned, not a lot of blood and guts as of todays films, and i will never forget it, its stuck in my mind forever, what more can i say, but if you haven't seen yet it then please do,
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Absolute (Art) Madness
danielnunez-815181 June 2019
I've heard all about this franchise and have actually seen the 2003 remake and the 2006 prequel (haven't seen the 2003 one in a while though and don't plan on rewatching the 2006 one).

You'd think that with the reputation and name of this franchise that this inaugural film would be a blood splatter massacre (no pun intended) with a high body count. That's not at all what you get here. I was extremely enlightened and pleasantly surprised that this was just as much atmospheric and beautiful as it was gritty and maniacal. The cinematography in particular was a highlight and I don't mind the claustrophobic shots of faces (because this is a horror film) and the fast paced editing in parts because they knew exactly what they were going for and nailed it in my opinion. The plot wasn't too ridiculous everything about the final sequence/dinner scene was plausible if you ask me. LOVED IT 10/10

Films like these are the reason I love cinema.
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matthewnoorman8 April 2019
A intelligent and well made horror, on a very low budget. Some of the most disturbing imagery to date. At the time there was not a film that came close to the horror and disgust of this film. Hooper's vision was a deeply horrific take on a American Psychopathic killer. The 70's did it best
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