Friday, October 30, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 30: the Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

Texas. Chainsaw. Massacre. To paraphrase the great Patton Oswalt, when you hear the title of this movie, you've already seen the whole thing in your head.

TCM is considered something of a landmark in the horror genre and regularly ranks among the "scariest horror movies of all time". I myself have seen the remake; it probably is the best example of the Freudian eros/thanatos concept- I was profoundly and deeply...moved by Jessica Biel running through the pouring rain in an inhumanly tight pair of jeans while simultaneously being terrified out of my skull by Leatherface.

As it's title would suggest, TCM is set in Texas (there's your first warning that this won't end well) and deals with a group of teens in a van (kinda like Scooby-Doo but with a guy in a wheelchair instead of a Great Dane!) who stumble upon a clan of hillbilly cannibals, including a chainsaw-wielding maniac with a mask made of human skin which gives his face an almost leather-like quality, who massacre them. But you probably could have figured that out on your own, couldn't you?

Everything I ever assumed about Texas Chainsaw Massacre turned out to be somewhat misleading. Based on hearsay and rumor and the Michael Bay produced remake, I assumed that it would be the most intense, goriest movie of all time. Director Tobe Hooper (who would go on to direct Poltergeist) was actually going for a PG rating (this was 1974, remember, before the age of PG-13) but got slapped with an R. The onscreen blood and guts is remarkably minimal; for a movie dealing with people being chainsawed to death, it's surprisingly restrained. The movie's terror comes more from our city folk fears of the violent, depraved country people and the universal phobia of being trapped and being reduced to the status of meat. That being said, the violence, while much of it is offscreen, is presented in a frank and brutal fashion; even without copious buckets of gore it is remarkably unsettling.

If there's one word to describe this movie, it might be "grisly". What more would you expect from Patrick Bateman's all-time favorite film?

Final Verdict: 83 Congos