I’m a fan, and I’d like to have a conversation : )
Texas Chainsaw is one of those great horror movies that can still clear a room, and while I was psyched for this to come up on the list and pretty disappointed by both Tom and Chris’ thoughts, I think I can understand the reasoning behind hating it. Before I get into why I love this so much first a story: many years ago my wife and I had a little horror movie marathon for our friends, friends that really weren’t into horror movies. We started with Night of the Living Dead, then Halloween, and capped the night with Texas Chainsaw. As soon as the guy in the van cuts himself everyone got uneasy, and by the time that metal slaughterhouse door slammed shut and you hear that sound, that sharp buzzing sound, everyone got up to leave.
And they didn’t get up to leave because they thought the movie was artless trash, they got up to leave because they were horrified.
Texas Chainsaw may have beget torture porn (but even there I’m not so sure, for all of killing there is very little gore, and not a lot of torture) but it also gave birth to masked freaks, groups of terrorized teenagers, explicit slasher movies, dirty low budget visuals, mute antagonists, and multiple generations of scream queens that get away in the end.
And Tom, while you did go all ad hominem on the guy who brought up the slaughterhouse/vegetarian angle, there is something to that. Tobe Hooper was making a point when he made the deaths and suffering so empty. To leatherface the kids are just pieces of meat. More animals to slaughter. That’s why that first death is so shocking. He treats that kid like he would an animal. He does not distinguish. There is something sickening about a slaughterhouse and the people who do those jobs. And these kids, to their misfortune, are in an abattoir. Leatherface is conditioned against seeing any suffering, he’s blind to it. When he picks the kid up and puts the body on a hook, he does so as he would a side of beef. He does not hear the protest. It’s horrifying. And that the whole thing happens in broad daylight makes it more so.
Leatherface is something out of a nightmare, but not from the supernatural nightmares of the 50s and 60s. It’s a very 70s kind of nightmare. A world where horror comes from actual people who do actual jobs in the real world. An industrialized and alienated nightmare. People like Hooper didn’t care about those old monster movies, or the atomic bomb. He cared about Vietnam. About the meaningless slaughter of innocents (animals and humans). About the way the minds of men can break and lead to brutal results.
We have to wait till Carpenter comes along to actually have the eyes of the killer, but with Texas Chainsaw Hooper was trying to do that, to put us in the shoes of the killer, to make us see the meaninglessness of death. We’re not supposed to be on the kids side, just like you’re not on the side of the cattle. There are no sides.
It’s a dirty, disgusting, weird, heartless, disturbing piece of trash. The best kind.