THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenplay: Tobe Hooper & Kim Henkel
Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal, Paul A. Partain, Jim Siedow
Running Time: 84 Mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
It’s easy to forget how difficult it is to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s virtually bloodless, made for pennies (at least in Hollywood terms) and the story is so lean you’d struggle to dry fry it.
Like many in the UK I first saw it on a highly suspect, third or fourth generation VHS copy. Leatherface stalked his dinner through screen snow. Now I’m watching it on a restored blu-ray presentation, the sound is so clear I could swear someone has tripped up while delivering a selection of power tools and saucepans to my lounge.
Not that the picture has been scrubbed so clean as to lose its power. No, this isn’t the cinematic equivalent of a vinyl hound extolling the virtues of crackle, but Texas Chainsaw Massacre needs a little grain, it needs to look as if it’s wilted from being out in the sun too long, it needs to feel a little dirty.
The restoration is perfect. God it looks good. Except it doesn’t because… because Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a hard film to watch.
Tobe Hopper went on to make other good films, Lifeforce of course, even the sequel to this, the unfairly maligned (or perhaps misunderstood) Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, but I’d argue he never made another great one. This eighty-four minutes of sparse, flyblown, splintered, raging, maniacal, barbecued, electric cinema was hard to beat.
But, God, it’s hard to watch. It gets under your skin. The yellowing bones, the stained freezers, the skeletal trees in the Southern moonlight. This is pure experience cinema. It unsettles. Then it disturbs. Then it terrifies.
Forty years old. Older than me (just). Yet in the intervening decades we’ve probably never bettered this for pure cinematic horror. We may have equalled it occasionally, very occasionally, but no, I don’t think we’ve created anything that’s more intense.
And if you think I’m exaggerating then pick up this edition and remind yourself exactly why I’m not. It’s as definitive a version as we’re likely to get (or frankly want) two discs, four commentary tracks (two new and exclusive to this disc), deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews (both old favourites from previous releases and a handful of new additions too), documentaries, location tours… After several hours of this you may think you’ll never leave that creaking old house with the damp, copper smell and the tattooed lampshades.
An undeniable classic, treated with lavish attention. A meal that’s almost too large to stomach, just like the movie itself.