The ‘Based on a True Story’ element of this film may be a bit far fetched, but it helped this 1970s horror movie to go down in infamy as one of the classics.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenplay: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by: Pearl
Admit it, this was one of those films that you illegally watched when your parents were out becuase you had heard tale of how terrifying and bloody it was, then found yourself slightly disappointed and frustrated when you found out it actually wasn’t that bad. That couldn’t have just been me could it? This film is one of those infamous horror films that it seems everyone talks about, but for me, it was never really one of the best.
After picking up, and them promptly dumping, a strange and violent hitchhiker at the side of the road, a group of teenagers head out into the Texan countryside for a quiet and relaxing summer afternoon. On the hunt for some gasoline, they approach a strange house in the middle of nowhere and begin a stream of violent killings. The house is inhabited by a family of sadistic, cannibalistic killers and the violence culminates in probably one of the most iconic scenes in horror film history as Sally is chased down the road by a chainsaw wielding, mask wearing psycho.
This is the film that introduced the villain of ‘Leatherface’ to the horror community, and that first shot we get of him as he hits Kirk over the head, is one of the many notable scenes in this film. But given the very little time he is actually on screen during the film, it is a wonder that he got remembered at all. I mean his actions are the most shocking, and he is the dealer of most of the violence, but he never speaks outside of a few vowel sounds and really, doesn’t have a lot to do with the plot outside of his murderous intentions. So compared to his other horror film compatriots Freddy, Jason, Michael etc, his part seems a little lack lustre.
For a group of teenage actors, and for a horror movie from the 70s, the acting here I suppose isn’t that bad. It is pretty believable for the most part, and the film gets away with ramping up a good tense and scary atmosphere, without actually showing you that much blood and gore. Films of this era that tried to shock you that way end up being incrediably dated now as the technological advance we have made since then make their effects look laughable. But this films choice to leave a good deal of the violence up to the viewers imagination means that it ages surprisingly well and that the aura of suspense and eeriness isn’t ruined by shoddy effects.
But beware those of sensitive hearing, the entire last twenty minutes of the film is a lot of screaming. And I mean A lot! It gets tiresome and annoying super fast. Yes having a chainsaw weilding maniac chasing after you and trying to feed you to his terrifying looking grandpa is scary we get it. But do you need to wail at the top of your lungs constantly, on top of the sound of a chainsaw, for about twenty minutes? By the closing scene, I was about done with all the screaming, which was good, because then we get a really creepy hysterical laugh instead. And of course, that iconic closing shot of leatherface in the middle of the road with the chainsaw.
It’s not my favourite horror film by a long stretch, but I suppose it wasn’t bad. I have been on a bit of a horror binge of late, so will try and change it up a bit this week.
What are your favourite horror films new or old?