The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the earliest slasher films, released in 1974, setting the stage for controversial and violent films that would terrify the hearts of viewers, and scare adults because of violence tarnishing the minds of youth. Regarding inspiration for the creation of such a violent film, the directors have credited the Plainfield Ghoul: Ed Gein.
Gein was a convicted serial murder, who would dismember his victims, leading to an eventual investigation after an employee of a grocery store went missing, and the discovery of bloodstains, resulting in Gein’s arrest that day after discovering he was in the store at the time of the employee going missing. When investigating Gein’s home, police found bowls made of human bone, chair covers made with human skin, and even a corset made from the skin of a woman which spanned to shoulder to waist. The items found in Gein’s home continued to be worse, even having body parts of young women.
The film takes a large portion of this inspiration in regard to props, as a large sum of the props are created from the bones of animals in order to illustrate the family’s grotesque living style, with furniture such as couches being made from animal bones.
The film takes place in midwestern America, following a group of young adults —their names do not matter as they serve to experience horrific events rather than be relatable characters—the group is on their way to investigate a gravesite which has been vandalized. After investigating the gravesite, they decide to head towards the family home but run out of gas on their way resulting in the cast being stranded by a strange house, where most of the film takes place.
After two of the group members enter the house, one of the most defining traits of the film is revealed, as they are attacked by Leatherface —the antagonist of the film— in broad daylight. Normally in horror media, daylight is treated as a safe time, yet in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no time of the day is safe from the onslaught.
The progression of the film begins to escalate as more and more of the group begin to parish in violent means, from being clubbed on the head, to being hung on a meathook and cut up with a chainsaw in the dead of night, the film pulls no punches on engaging itself in carnal carnage. Even the one member of the group who survives is constantly harmed with stab wounds, or just hit on the head with a hammer multiple times.
Leatherface’s family even appears, adding for slight touches of dark, yet horrifying comedy, mostly stemming from the brother of Leatherface who is often very excitable and then reprimanded by their stern father, as well as the dead body of their grandfather, who the family acts as though he is alive. Despite the comedic elements the family offers, they do keep up the horrific mood as they torture the only member of the group left alive psychologically.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre offers a large amount of visceral brutality, without making it disgusting, which allows for it to be a great film to enjoy the horrific holiday of Halloween with those you are close with, or alone, if you’re brave enough. Despite not having the most complex characters or story, the film makes up for it with entertainment value and frights which will last days on end.