Friday Night Frights: "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974) | Movie Review
Genre: Horror, Slasher
Release Date: October 1, 1974
Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.
MPAA Rating: R
Welcome back to Friday Night Frights! And in case you were wondering, yes, I'm aware it's actually Sunday and not Friday but I couldn't NOT talk about this film.
When people talk about classic horror films, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is one that is bound to come up. It's a film that gave us one of the most iconic villains, a film that originated horror tropes we expect in movies today, a film in which the director limited the amount of gore in hopes of a "PG" rating, and yet ended up not only getting an "R" but also getting the film banned in multiple countries because of its violence. It divided critics and audiences, but love it or hate it, it's impossible to deny the huge cultural impact this film had.
I've been putting off watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for quite some time because of what I've heard about it—I don't enjoy violence for the sake of violence, but that's what a lot of people made this movie sound like. And now that I've watched it I have to admit, it's easy to see both sides of the argument: pointless violence vs. a gritty cinematic achievement. Surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with the latter. Yes, it's a gruesome experience, and Leatherface isn't the most complex villain in cinematic history, and yet the final result of this film can only be described as some kind of twisted movie magic, proving that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Tobe Hooper creates an unforgettably disturbing atmosphere that also somehow feels real and honest (which, of course, makes it even more disturbing). A group of young people taking a road trip pick up a hitchhiker who can only be described as the worst random passenger—at this point the movie's tone just seems to be strange. It's not long however until we meet the villain who doesn't waste any time introducing himself and gets right down to business—now the viewers are in for a well-done slasher. The film culminates in a family dinner from hell that quite frankly managed to make me feel very uncomfortable, and if you weren't quite disturbed yet the last third of the movie (along with the ending) is sure to get you there.
I also have to point out the acting, particularly from Marilyn Burns as Sally, and the entirety of Leatherface's family, including the silent villain himself. These performances are unforgettable, and the final shots of Marilyn Burns are going to haunt me for a long time.
As far as negatives go, I don't really have much to complain about here, apart from a few silly moments that almost come off as unintentional comedy but really don't ruin the overall experience. In a way, I understand the criticisms this film gets as far as shock-factor violence and exploitation, but neither of those things stood out to me as something that didn't fit this particular story. It's shocking but it's meant to be, and as far as exploitation goes—I didn't interpret the events and visuals that way.
Overall, this gritty and gruesome slasher definitely lives up to its reputation and status while also holding up impressively well throughout the years. From the chilling opening sequence to the iconic ending, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is undeniably a must-watch for any horror fan out there.
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