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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (Old School Movie Review)

Caila went to Meremac-STL for journalism and has been writing for most of her life.

The Horror Legend, Leatherface

Leatherface chasing a victim with his iconic chainsaw!

Leatherface chasing a victim with his iconic chainsaw!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Leatherface is, of course, an iconic character in the realm of horror. We have all seen the creepy skin mask, the chainsaw that he wields around carelessly, and the eerie empty fields that he runs through. He is so popular in modern horror culture that this original film has had a few reboots and remakes, as many horror movies tend to, and he is even been integrated into a horror video game of the same title as the film and newer games of today's gaming era like Mortal Kombat X (a skill using fighting game) and Dead by Daylight (a survivor horror game). Have you ever seen the original film though? I, for one, had not and had always wanted to. Never getting the chance to, late this past year, I went out of my way to watch it and did not realize what sort of horror I was in for! Be sure to check out my poll at the end of the blog to give you input on what you think about the horror movie genre characters!

The Story

The opening imagery is an indication as to what you are in for the rest of the film. It is desolate, freaky, and gives you a feeling of despair before the plot even starts. Knowing that the movie was mildly based upon the gruesome acts of the murderer, Ed Gene, makes it even more chilling to watch when beginning the film. The blanket of the careless vibes of the 1970's gives a viewer from the 2020's a bad feeling already because you immediately see that everyone is unsafe and truly want to do good for other people and have fun, almost to their own detriment. We soon see that it will be. For lack of a better term, you would think that these people are dumb, but it is the times.

Not 10 minutes into the movie, there is body horror and a little bit of gore as an insane hitchhiker that our protagonists pick up cuts into his own skin twice right in front of them. Yikes! When the, obviously, crazed man gets out of the van and wipes his blood across the back of the van where they could not see it, I could not help but feel like they were marked officially for the rest of their trip. The teenagers of the film are typical stupid teenagers. They're doing things that they probably should not be doing, having sex, drinking, smoking, or investigating things that are not their business. The teens have a handicapped friend with them in a wheelchair, who cannot really protect himself and who they tend not to care much about and is possibly the most, reasonably, scared person in the movie, so this ramps up the factor of fear for the group as a whole.

After their encounter with the crazy hitchhiker, the group decides to go to an old inhabited hotel, fearlessly. The fact that they took their friend in the wheelchair with them, who fought against the idea of going in anyway, was criminally stupid and inconsiderate. When the group comes upon more people in town, you have no proof, but you still get a bad feeling from everyone that they meet and everything they do. The scenery and the aura that the film set up is so good to create a bad atmosphere of hopelessness on the open country road.

The Killings Begin

When the bad things start, they do not stop. Not only do they not stop, but they get more and more terrifying. The scene that I never could get out of my head was the first death of one of the members of the group, Kurt. It is something that I had scene before on montages of horror villains and countdowns of the best kills in horror movies and things of that nature, but to see it in context of the movie is simply a different story altogether.

Two members of the group happens upon the house of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family. Nothing seems awry at first, but as Kurt enters the house further, he is taken out with a mallet to the head that is so random, quick, yet so powerful, that you almost feel his skull cracking yourself! Leatherface comes from behind a hidden door and just TAKES HIM OUT!!! It leaves you with your jaw on the floor and the dramatics that the actor takes to channel a seizure from blunt force trauma to the head is superbly frightening. It is always admirable what they could do in the 70's with a lesser budget than people have today with more money and the movies still are not as scary.

The quick pace of the film led the setting from broad daylight of the countryside to the dark night that could hide anything or anyone behind the corn fields. This helped the overall dread of the film, along with the dark, seedy track that played in the background of the night, I noticed. It almost sounded like buzzing in the air until something bad happened, which built the atmosphere to a painful tension. As the few teens left go out to look for the already dead teens in the nearby area, as they said that they would be back to their van shortly, you just know as a viewer that nothing good is going to come from them getting out of the van to go and check.

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When the kid in the wheelchair dies, it was almost a big middle finger to the audience in a way, because you were rooting for him to find a way to get out of the situation they were in. He is more of the audience's avatar and hope in the film than anyone else seems to be, not only because he is handicapped, but also because he is the most reasonable and less adventurous of the group. His character seems as if he would be like that even if he wasn't in the wheelchair. The character just comes across as smart! It really tells us that no one is probably making it out alive. This is where another movie troupe comes into play for the next 30 plus years: the final girl. By the time she gets away from Leatherface and gets to the gas station back to where they were the day before, I did not think that they were going to throw in a twist, but it was always in the back of my mind that the man they met at the station before could be evil and helping the family capture people who come into town. I also remembered the blood on the back of their van, which I took to be some sort of symbol for other people in town to get them.

When she is finally returned to Leatherface and his family and they have their infamous family dinner scene, you see the full picture. Not only is everyone in town probably in on who this family kills, but the family is also cannibals who preserve and make things from their victims' bodies afterwards, like furnishings. (Like the killer, Ed Gene.) The crazed hitchhiker ended up being Leatherface's brother and he still remembered the girl from yesterday that he creeped out so much. She was tied up, sweaty, dirty, her hair wild from being so frantic and he still recognized her and still held her to the words she said in the van, after everything she had been through that day. That scared me, while watching, for her character, honestly. The creep factor is built up to the brim by this point.

The entire family is insane, which is needless to say. Seeing their grandfather introduced into the movie so late was one of the bigger shockers in the film. It made my skin crawl to see an old man zombie basically, because they do not make it clear at first that he is alive. When he springs to life, it is so unexpected and scary. However, with everything going on in the movie, I think it was the perfect way for the final girl to escape, even if how she did it (by jumping out of a window and out of the house) was hysterical to see for the millionth time in a horror film after all these years, another movie troupe that this film may have begun. The family had so much going around them and were so crazed that it was their undoing for them getting their last victim, who they were marinating in fear overnight.

The End?

At some point in life, as I am sure that most have seen the character of Leatherface before, most have also seen the ending of this movie in some way or another. The ending of the film is just as awfully amazing as the rest of the film. The killer does get another victim, although it is not his final girl. Confusion and running around allow her to get away in the back of a passing pick up truck after Leatherface kills a different man who was about to help her get away in his semi-truck.

You are left with so many thoughts and questions because of the ending of the film, which I think makes it so much better, overall. By now she has been driven mad from everything she has gone through and is pretty much in the middle of nowhere in the back of a truck and probably does not know where she is going anymore. All of her friends are dead, no one, including her, knows the names of the family that kidnapped and tormented her, and murdered the other teenagers, no one will possibly find their bodies, maybe nobody will believe her because she is crazy now, and Leatherface and his family are still free to do what they want to do.

The ending shot of Leatherface whipping his chainsaw around while running through the empty field, seemingly half throwing a tantrum for her getting away, probably, and half reveling in his madness and freedom, in the hot Texas sunset background leaves you with even more dread than you started with. Texas is a huge state and seems just as barren as this movie portrays it in some areas of it, so it makes you really feel like as a viewer that you don't want to go driving around in lands you do not know about without protection, but also that Leatherface (or someone like him) could honestly be out there somewhere doing this to people or looking for people to do this to.

My Final Thoughts

The movie just ends and you're left with your own thoughts and imagination to drive you just as mad as the final girl. The cinematography and mood commits to making you feel foreboding and terror, which is admirable because loads of horror movies do not pledge allegiance to actually scaring the viewer and creating a scary atmosphere to the film, as opposed to filling it with cheap jump scares and noises. The final girl has gone crazy and the killers won, essentially. Along with its amazing background music and soundtrack, the deaths are extraordinary, and impacts the film greatly all around! The gore is a lot, but never too much. It is just enough to keep your stomach on edge and to scare you, but not so much that you could never finish it, in my eyes. Not many horror movies make me care about any of the characters and least of all the killers, but this movie did that flawlessly. I really felt like looking up the lore of this killer and the movie itself after watching it. It was a very inspired movie and it is clear why it holds a title as one of the best horror and gore films of all time. Leatherface the Killer is BRUTAL!!! It is just as clear why he is one of the best killers in the horror movie genre, as well. There may be reboots, remakes and retcons, but nothing is usually better than an original!

Actors, Actresses, and Production!

The teams of people, actors and actresses that put together the horror movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the iconic killer, Leatherface.

Actors and ActressesProduction TeamsProduction Companies

Marilyn Burns

Tobe Hooper (Director, Screenplay and Story writer, Music and Producer)

Vortex (Production Company)

Paul A. Partain

Kim Henkel (Screenplayer and Story writer)

Bryanson Distribution Company (Distribution Company)

Edwin Neal

John Larroquette (narrator)

Jim Siedow

Wayne Bell (Music)

Gunnar Hansen

Daniel Pearl (Cinematographer)

Sally Richardson (Editor)

Larry Carroll (Editor)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Old School Movie Poll

This movie is a DIAMOND!!!!!

Money, Money, MONEY!!!

This film exemplifies exactly what I mean about older movies having less of a budget back in the day and still being able to deliver what it needs to step into legendary status of whatever genre you're aiming for. This movie was made on a budget of around $140,000 and reaped almost $31 million in benefits after release. With a next to nothing budget to actually create the film, with reports being as low as only $80,000, the creators of this film have made a masterpiece! Something that was actually horrifying to watch and entertaining and leaves you on the edge of your seat! Modest budgets tend to use more imagination and innovation for the ideas and plots that come up in movies like this! It was amazing and scary experience to watch this film!

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