The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir. Tobe Hooper)
The above poster is the first movie poster for this film that I had ever seen. When I was a wee lad, there was a video store in the neighborhood near my dad’s house that had this poster, somewhat full size, and I was mesmerized by it. There was a gritty reality to the look of the poster that made me think it was real. I even remember people telling me that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was in fact a real movie. I’m pretty sure those people are the reason why I was both terrified of this movie, and why I also wanted desperately to see this movie.
I remember first watching this movie at around age seven or eight. A family friend’s son really wanted to see it, so the family rented the movie at the same video store with the movie poster. I remember being both mesmerized and horrified by the idea of someone going on a rampage with a chainsaw, which is what I was expecting of the movie, based on the descriptions that I had heard about the movie. Years later, when I would look back at the memory of watching the movie for the fist time, I could only barely remember plot details. The only moments that stood out for me were when Leatherface would chase his victims, drag them kicking and screaming into his workshop. As I got older and re-watched the movie, I would then pay attention to other details about the house, recalling that I had been in houses with the same visual texture as the house. I even spent time in rural houses that were similarly surrounded by thickets of dry trees and sharp dead grass.
The elements that initially scared me were basically the visceral elements, such as the noise of the chainsaw, the screaming, and the gory nature of the scenes. As I got older and paid closer attention to details, I was creeped out by smaller details like the actual animal bones used in the film, the behaviors of the family, and the viciousness of the family. On the outset, the family is obviously odd, and considering their living conditions and the conditions of the region, they probably smelled pretty bad. I remember as a kid that thought actually struck me one time because as a kid I had a very sensitive nose. Any smell that wasn’t perfume or soap scented would offend my nostrils. I still have a rather sharp sense of smell, but back then I could really smell someone a mile away. When thinking of the smells in the actual house, I wondered how that would amp up the terror that the characters might have felt. I know that I’m really unsettled if I’m near particularly offensive smells, so I could only imagine what the characters were going through in the film. And looking closer at how the family interacted with the rest of the world, particularly those who they felt were invading their space, I’m not surprised the lengths they went to deal with those outsiders. Although, something tells me that they were allowed to inbreed and develop their own dysfunctional house of horrors.
If you haven’t seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre yet, and you consider yourself a horror fan, give it a shot, if not to see an old man try to crack a woman’s skill with a hammer that he can barely wield.