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31 Days of Horror

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Undoubtedly Ranks as the Best Horror Film of All Time

31 Days of Horror

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When someone hears the title The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they might just pass it off as just another inane slasher flick, but in fact, Texas is much more; it’s a relentlessly agonizing, bleak masterpiece of horror cinema. Texas isn’t merely interested in scaring its audience; it’s an intelligent and visceral experience that examines the darker impulses found in people, a movie where unspeakably horrific acts take place mostly outside of the frame.

Shot on a tiny budget of $83,000, director Tobe Hooper’s stylish debut achieves maximum effect through a combination of Daniel Pearl’s appropriately gritty cinematography, shrieking sound design, and an unnerving concrète score that will ring in your ears long after the end credits roll. The shaky, eerie and at times documentary-style camerawork, practical effects, and the age-old trick of suggestion help lend the film an alarming and utterly believable quality. Hooper’s film is implicit, rather than graphic, but Hooper’s directorial style will have you walking away thinking it was bloodier and gorier than it actually is.

The plot is fairly barebones, following five young co-eds, who while on a road trip, cross paths with a murderous redneck cannibal family. If the southern discomfort sounds all too familiar, that is only because countless horror films have since followed the exact same formula: a car breaks down, a group of teens seeks help, only instead they find death in the hands of one or more psychopaths. But Massacre grabs you from the opening frame, with sporadic flashes from a picture camera, images of dead bodies, and the sounds of a news radio broadcast reporting on mysterious grave robberies plaguing the Southern State. There’s also an introductory voice-over (by John Larroquette) claiming authenticity for the events you are about to see:

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre undoubtedly ranks as the best horror film of all time.

 
 

“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular, Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother Franklin… For them, an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history”. (Watch the clip below.)

The film’s 16mm low-budget look and Bob Burns’ surreal sets and props just add to the realism, creating the illusion of a documentary gone wrong. Of course, the story is not true, but it was however inspired by real-life Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein, a grave robber, who garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered he had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. His real-life case influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers, including Hitchcock’s Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains to this day a motion picture of raw, uncompromising intensity, a punishing assault on the senses via some of the most extended scenes of absolute sustained frenzy ever captured on celluloid. Marilyn Burns’ doomed screams will forever be etched in your memory as will the horror icon it produced, the raging, chainsaw-wielding lunatic Leatherface. Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre undoubtedly ranks as the best horror film of all time and also boasts one of the most unforgettable abrupt endings ever.

Ricky D

the texas chainsaw massacre 1974

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

1 Comment

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  1. John Cal McCormick

    September 1, 2017 at 4:30 am

    I’m one of those peasants who thinks this movie is really boring.

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31 Days of Horror

The ‘Jaws’ Pier Scene Might be the Film’s Scariest

31 Days of Horror

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Celebrating Jaws, 45 Years Later

Though the franchise is often viewed as a string of cheesy monster movies better suited to Syfy than Turner Classic Movies, audiences shouldn’t forget that Steven Spielberg’s 1975 original Jaws is a horror masterpiece that terrified millions of summer theatergoers into staying out of the water, garnering five Academy Award nominations in the process, including Best Picture. That’s right, Jaws was up for the most prestigious honor in the biz, and anyone who has seen it should understand why. This killer shark movie understands how to take a bite out of people’s fear of the unknown deep, and perfectly preys upon our instinctual fear of predators. And while there are many scenes that could illustrate the variety of ways in which Spielberg exploits that fear, one, in particular, does so in a more understated way.

The “holiday roast” guys get a lot of play for that line, but that bit of comedy serves as merely the icebreaker for what is to follow, lulling audiences into a more relaxed state of mind. The pier scene starts off with whining, sluggishness, and a big fat hunk of meat attached to a tire — this has got to be some kind of goof. These two oafs play more like an Abbot and Costello routine than fishing masterminds with a solid plan.

It’s the perfect setup for Spielberg to start extending his cinematic tentacles into the audience’s brains, and he starts small. The shot of the hook sticking into flesh provides associating with another kind of meat, and the animal that’s been feeding on it nearby. After a clumsy toss of the bait and makeshift bobber into the receding tide, Jaws cuts back to Chief Brody, up late flipping through a book on sharks that he must have picked up from the local island library. It’s a quiet moment, but one that builds perfectly into the next phase of the scene by utilizing the power of suggestion.

Up until this point, Spielberg had shown some gruesome attacks, but not the actual perpetrator itself. He would carry on for a bit longer before the full reveal (thus letting viewers’ imaginations do the work that his fickle animatronic could not), but by having Brody peruse various photos of spooky great whites, mangled thigh wounds, and a jaw bone so big that a group of scientists can stand inside it (visually suggesting man-eating), the seed of Jaws‘ monster is planted in our minds. We can now associate gaping mouths filled with razor-sharp with that torn flesh from the coroner’s office. We can picture those dead, black eyes homing in on the kicking legs of a young swimmer. There is a face to the evil and reminders of its destructive power that makes that unseen force all the more real.

After also cleverly inserting an image of a shark with a scuba tank in its mouth as a bit of sneaky foreshadowing, Spielberg now takes his audience back to the once-amusing pier. As the two men whistle away the night, a more ominous tone sets in as a couple jerks and tugs on the tire provide a chilling callback to a certain Chrissie we once knew. In a flash, the tire is off and cruising through the water, taking chain faster than the fishermen expected. Shark attacks are abrupt and ferocious; the sheer power of the beast pulls the pier apart, sending one of the men into the water, clinging to pieces of wood for dear life.

Jaws pier end

And with those images from Brody’s book now stuck in the audience’s brain, Spielberg doesn’t need to show anything more than that piece of pier attached to a chain for everyone to know exactly what’s at stake, and letting people picture horror in their minds is a powerful way to make it stick. Few moments in Jaws are as tense as watching one helpless fisherman cheer on his tiring friend, urging him to swim faster as the broken piece of pier turns around and starts coming back. As that floating wood bears down on him, as he slips and struggles to climb to safety, Spielberg focuses on his legs — and thanks to Brody’s book, we all know how that turns out, right?

Well, it turns out that what may be the scariest scene in Jaws doesn’t actually involve anyone being killed. The fisherman is pulled from the water at the last moment, John Williams’ pounding score subsides, and the piece of pier washes innocuously up on shore. Yet despite this, Spielberg gets pulses pounding here like almost nowhere else in the film. In the end, nothing really happens in Jaws‘ pier scene, but years later it sticks out for all the various frightening things that could have happened — the attacks that occurred in theatergoers’ minds.

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31 Days of Horror

Game Boys, Ep. 167: Co-optober- Man of Medan

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It’s finally here, Halloween, and with it comes the frightening conclusion of Game Boys’ Co-optober. The Game Boys are wrapping up in spooktacular fashion reviewing the co-op designed Dark Pictures: Man of Medan. But does this game float or sink? Does it stand a ghost of a chance with Tim, who notoriously dislikes walking simulators or does this title turn the tides of his opinion in spine-tingling fashion? Find out and, of course, Happy Halloween!

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Stitcher

Follow Game Boys on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook

Email Game Boys at Gameboyscoopcast@gmail.com

Follow Tim on Twitter

Follow Ryan on Twitter

Follow Alex on Twitter

And Check Out Alex’s Work on Frightday.com!

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31 Days of Horror

Game Boys, Ep. 166: Co-optober- The Horror Genre

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Few genres, if any, are as divisive as the horror genre. Love it or hate it, horror is an important piece of media history offering content creators a means of handling the taboo and trauma in a distinct way. This week, the Game Boys truly celebrate the genre by discussing its general importance, it’s appeal, where to get started in the genre, and what to avoid. Turn out the lights and tune in!

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Stitcher

Follow Game Boys on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook

Email Game Boys at Gameboyscoopcast@gmail.com

Follow Tim on Twitter

Follow Ryan on Twitter

Follow Alex on Twitter

And Check Out Alex’s Work on Frightday.com!

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