The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) (R)

It's not the story that makes "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" absolutely terrifying. In fact, it's not even the effects of the movie. There are no loud orchestra hits and sudden appearances of ghostly villains. No, instead the movie is grotesquely horrifying because of the disorder, the madness, and the confinement.
The movie starts routinely, as we've come to expect with horror moves, though this was one of the first to establish the tropes—a group of teenagers are vacationing. They are in the South, we have only the title to assume that they are in Texas. The humidity is sweltering, the temperature is almost reaching 100 degrees, the conditions aren't that pleasant.
Still, they group is traveling, revisiting the house that two of them grew up in: Sally and Franklin. Franklin is the odd man out, he's trapped in a wheelchair and he has no significant other with him. There are two couples and then him...the fifth wheel.
It doesn't take long for things to start to become disturbing. The movie's opening sequence shows us just that, in which graves are robbed and the extremities of cadavers are removed.
When the group picks up a hitchhiker next to a slaughterhouse, that's when it really starts to get nasty.
"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is surprisingly visceral, though the amount of blood shed is fairly minimal. This is a mind-twisting film—one that hardly seems fun to watch.
Here is the film's greatest strength. Most horror movies tap into the idea of the pleasure we get watching other people suffer. Maybe we just like to be scared, but there is something enjoyable seeing people get killed, particularly if they're bad people. Why do you think it's always the fornicators that get the axe first? Because we, as the audience, like to feel superior to them. The first killings always cement the villain's presence and then when it gets to characters we actually care about, that's when escapes and foiling starts to occur.
"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" has none of this. It has a collection of bad guys that are never explained and should never be explained. They exist only to frighten, compelled by a need deep within themselves.
Just plain crazy!
The film does sort of get in its own way by one-upping its own insanity. Near the end, there is a break from the scares when something happens that exemplifies the laughable "wait? what?" moment. Then again, it is juxtaposed next to some pretty gruesome scenes so for the most part we aren't laughing at the movie.
The film kills off whoever it feels like, not caring who is the purest.
Based on part by the crimes of Ed Gein, the film bills itself as completely true...a staple that would be follow in many horror films, most notably "The Blair Witch Project". It is a relief to learn that the movie's plot is entirely fictional, though only somewhat of a comfort.
The cinematography for the film is breathtaking, even through all the horrid acts of degradation. The sweeping shots are foreboding and chilling.
Shot in great length at night and during dusk and dawn, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" pretty much nails its own coffin shut as a one-time movie...I think that's what its intention was. Still, many remakes and sequels later and we still don't have the end in sight.
Some horror films shouldn't be make into franchises.
The film is frightening, the characters are grim, and I doubt if there is any hope in the movie at all. It has the same low-budget feel as Raimi's "The Evil Dead"; but none of the intense fun. For all purposes "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is supposed to scare you, and it does, though not in the way you expect.

Score: ★★★½

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