Retro REview: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) | Square Peg in a Round Hole

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Watching recent sequels/reboots of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre you’d think that the original film was akin to Halloween or Friday the 13th, with a lone stalker haunting down nubile young teenagers – who really aren’t – and it isn’t.

And in fact, I’m not entirely sure what kind of movie Hooper was trying to make because what he ended up with I’d be reluctant to call a horror movie. And sure, it’s all sorts of weird but it never gets particularly scary, creepy or violent.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that I’m seeing this movie with 2022 eyes, and it may have seemed much creepier when it was first released.

Nowadays? It comes off more as a curiosity than anything else.

The movie – after a fantastic opening voiceover by John Larroquette – opens on a graveyard that was robbed and the…creative use made of some of the residents.

The image below is the handiwork of the Hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), the brother of Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and a budding multi-media artist though the first time we meet him he’s hitchhiking and is eventually picked up by five young people on their way through Texas.

It goes without saying that he weirds them out, and they ditch him at the earliest available opportunity.

It’s worth noting that Hooper’s depiction of the physically handicapped, in the form of Franklin (Paul A. Partain), is really dispiriting because throughout the movie he’s so helpless he doesn’t even seem capable of propelling himself in his own wheelchair.

The movie suggests a lot of things, but isn’t so good as far as follow through goes because, while it isn’t bloodless, it isn’t particularly gratuitous with the red stuff either.

In fact, it often played like a weird sort of anthropological study than any sort of horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Though what’s really surprised me is that Leatherface isn’t at all the star of the movie, in terms of actual screen time or action.

In fact, his father, listed simply as ‘Old Man’ (Jim Siedow) has more to do.

Now, Tobe Hooper (who co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Henkel) may have named the cannibalistic clan in such a bland fashion to show the banality of evil but it comes off more as not particularly caring.

That being said, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is fascinating in very peculiar ways, though as a horror movie isn’t quite one of them.

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