The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: when you're wrong, you're wrong

Title The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: when you're wrong, you're wrong
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Movie reviews
When June 25, 2021

I've spent decades denigrating the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre as artless trash.  I'm not sure when I first saw it.  Probably in college, sometime around 1990.  That was also the last time I saw it..

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I gotta say Tom, I really appreciate this piece. I distinctly remember some time back when triggercut was still writing those 30 days of horror movie articles on the front page, disagreeing with the two of you about this movie. I felt like I had taken crazy pills, with the way you two just casually disregarded the movie entirely! I have seen it several times over the years, starting with one sneaky viewing from around a living room corner when I was far too young to be a viewer. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as articulate in defending things quite often, especially if I appreciate them on a gut level as I do this movie. So, I feel the world tipping slightly back onto a recognizable axis.

Oh hell yes. This movie is my jam!

In fact, one of the cruelest moments is after the gas station proprietor has tied Sally into a bag to drive her back to the windmill house.

YES! Finally. I’ve always thought the elder Sawyer was the real villain of the movie. Leatherface gets all the pop recognition due to his mask, size, and gas-powered rage, (that final shot!) but Drayton Sawyer revels in being cruel, despite his assurance that he despises killing.

Tom, I am so happy you gave it another chance. I always felt dismayed by your comments about this movie, not because everybody has to like the same things I do, but because I thought there were lots of things going on in this which made it rise above the sea of artless trash, as you called it. Glad you like it this time around.

I don’t know that I dismissed it as artless trash, but when I saw it some years ago it didn’t do much for me. (Honestly, I’ve seen very few movies in the whole slasher subgenre that do much for me.) I might have to take another look.

Wow, this is one of the best movie reviews and best mea culpas I’ve ever read.

Glad you like it Tom. The early slashers had a lots of heart and direction.

Did you watch the Dead Meat /Kill count video on this movie? James talk about the Pam shoot here. 8:41

I agree! And I’m very happy to hear Tom has come around on it. It’s been my favorite horror movie for a long time, and his review articulates why I like it far better than I ever could.

I love the comparison to, e.g., Mad Max, which is both spot on and something that had never occurred to me (although I’ve only seen the movie all the way through once).

Honestly, I feel sheepish for being so insistently/casually dismissive of it. I’m especially remembering when someone wrote into one of the podcast’s 3x3s to talk about Marilyn Burns’ hysterical laughter in the finale as the pick-up truck drives away. I’m positive I must have said something dismissive at the time, or sneered somehow. But seeing that scene now, I’m struck by the juxtaposition of her laughter and Leatherface’s frustrated twirling. They’re both in the throes of a kind of ecstatic madness at this point, and it’s precisely at this fevered pitch that the movie abruptly ends. What an astonishing choice. I feel bad for whatever dumb thing I must have said at the time.

I wonder if we could persuade @triggercut to give it another look?

Drayton Sawyer? Wha…? Where are you getting that name, because that’s NOT in Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Yeesh, am I going to have to rewatch all the sequels/reboots now? Or am I allowed to say there’s only one canonical Texas Chain Saw Massacre?

It’s really a thin veneer, isn’t it? He ends up hopping up and down and clapping his hands with glee, like a child, when his father is trying to hit Sally with the hammer. Contrast this with his first reaction to seeing there are girls in the van. He immediately turns around and insists that the boys really don’t want to poke around the area with “them girls”. It comes across as paternal concern.

I’ve had friends like @Jason_McMaster and @Kelly_Wand telling me for years I should give it another chance. I can’t believe it took me so long.

Ugh, no offense to anyone who enjoys that sort of commentary, but I cannot take this guy’s “yuk yuk” tone while talking about the movie, and especially that scene. One thing I didn’t mention in the write-up, and probably the thing I least expected when I sat down to watch it, is that I found the movie deeply disturbing. What happened to Pam is especially horrific, and the last thing I want is to listen to some YouTube dumbass yuk it up. :(

Again, no offense meant to you, @Hereafter.


Unfortunately, I think he gets his name in the second movie. Sorry, Tom. You’re going to have to slog through Dennis Hopper running around a papier-mâché tunnel festooned with Christmas lights.

None taken! I’m glad you like the movie regardless.

I’ve never actually seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Crazy, I know.

Tom will be telling us he’s wrong about Deus Ex next!

I’ve also never seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and I never expected to suddenly be potentially interested in doing so. Part of my lack of desire to do so, other than its “video nasty” reputation (a label that would be more likely to get me to see it now!), was Tobe’s foray into natural history with his movie “Crocodile” which turned out not to be very factually correct after all.

Heh, that’s actually where I gave up in that movie, with only like 20 minutes to go. I just couldn’t take it. It’s heartbreaking to see Hooper and Henkel’s sequel, 12 years later. What the heck happened?

Oh, I’ve revisited Deus Ex multiple times since the review. I pretty secure with my footing on that one!

I thought you were talking about Eaten Alive until I looked this up.

“A group of college friends are attacked by a giant man-eating crocodile while on spring break.” Yikes. He really did fall into the same artless pit as all the other folks chasing after Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s lightning in a bottle.


It was as if Archie and the gang had been ripped from the pages of orderly colorful panels, born of post-World War II Eisenhower optimism

Very tangential, I know, but I just have to pipe up with my nerdy-non-superhero-comics mention that Archie began with US involvement in WWII, not in the post-war era.

Henkel wasn’t involved in that sequel. He revisited the franchise by writing and directing Next Generation.

I remember (though if someone looks, maybe this is wrong…) that I liked parts of the movie. A lot of the long shots, for instance. There were various points in the movie where I really did like the way certain shots were set up and executed.

At least I think. :)

It’s been a while, but I remember that because it was 30 movies in 30 days, I was viewing it through a lens of how it related to other films we’d watched. Specifically, I think I remember that TCSM didn’t make me particularly care about its characters – and I remember being disappointed because I thought that it could have, and without much effort to do that, and it could have in ways that would never break up its internal rhythm.

I’m not sure I wrote it, but I what I remember now was that the movie made me feel awful. Because I didn’t care about the characters really…but then again, I also thought it was gratuitously cruel to them at times. And whether I said so at the time or not (I can’t remember, and I haven’t looked yet), I felt kind of really icked-out that my initial reaction was almost…dispassion? Like, I didn’t care about the characters at all, really, so If they’d been killed I dunno…more cleanly? Off screen? Something like that? If that’d happened, then I could continue to not care about them. But it felt cheap and gross that the only way the movie could make me feel anything about the teenagers was to murder (or torture, can’t remember) them in increasingly cruel and over-the-top ways. So, instead of making you care for this girl by sparing a couple of 30-second scenes that force you to empathize with her through dialogue, or even exchanged looks or something mild…they felt like they had to hit her with a hammer a couple of times for me to hope she didn’t die.

What’s really interesting to me here is how the movies that you and I may have seen since have colored our perceptions of this film. Of the films you mention, I’ve only seen Picnic At Hanging Rock and Mad Max, though I sure as hell have added those others to my viewing list now! But it’s interesting that you’re able to see TCSM in a different light now that you’re referencing those movies.

In the meantime, I may or may not have done a very deep dive on American drive-in rarities of the early to mid 1970s. :D Lots of gore for gore’s sake. Lot’s of kids getting high. Lots of gratuitous nudity. And without having re-watched TCSM again, I’d sort of now classify it as a part of this really weird little micro-genre of movie from the 1970s – the van/sex/shocking deaths movie. No really, there are like 5 or 6 movies like this! Hitchhikers are picked up. Drugs are consumed (usually just pot, but pot was very much demonized in these films.) Sex is had. More drugs. And then someone freaks out on their drugs and some number of teenagers is shockingly killed in the end. Fade to credits.

So I think I might at some point watch this again, but I’m first going to need to see Wake In Fright, Raven’s Gate, Razorback, etc. first, so that when I’m watching this the first thing that occurs to me isn’t a trashy exploitation movie like Pick-up.

Also, what it is about Australia and astonishing long-lensed films? John Duigan’s first film, The Year My Voice Broke (with a teenaged Noah Taylor and Ben Mendelsohn) is a fine movie – sort of an Australian Lucas but with more gravitas…but it’s like a teen coming-of-age movie as lensed by Haskell Wexler or Terrence Malick.

You probably weren’t. I prefer to think you just changed, like most people carved into meat do, or so I hope.

If I may suggest, the lack of appreciation for the camera work and other aspects might also have to do with the quality of the copy of the movie? The only time I saw it, it was so muddy and used, I didn’t even remember there being colours. Time to look for a version of the digital age.

Although now, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to watch this as anything but the Australia Chain Saw Massacre.

I can’t remember whether Tom or I were sharing files for that survey we did, but I know I watched it on 1080p digital.