The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (40th Anniversary)
40th Anniversary Blu ray review
By David Paul Hellings
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” not only changed the face of horror in 1974, but remains one of the most shocking, powerful and terrifying films ever made. Widely banned on its release, its notoriety has not diminished and this harrowing tale of a depraved Texan clan, and its chain saw wielding icon of horror Leatherface, continues to stun and disturb audiences like no other film.
This new director-supervised restoration brings new life and detail to the film and immerses the viewer as never before”.
– Synopsis via Second Sight
Two hammer blows and the slamming of a metal door. Welcome to Texas. That’s all it took to let the viewer know that they were watching a film that announced itself upon the world in 1974 as a horror never to be forgotten. Two hammer blows and the slamming of a metal door told us that we’d very much arrived at the wrong place and the wrong time and there was no escape from the horrors we were witnessing.
The late 60s and early 70s were a time of seminal horror films. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” resurrected the zombie genre and mixed in social politics to boot; Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” led the charge of ‘the Devil is back and he has plans’ brigade; followed by Friedkin’s excellent “The Exorcist” in which the battle for the life and soul of a child would result in a cinema experience that shocked and horrified mainstream audiences around the world; and Donner’s “The Omen” in which the child was the problem, not the one to be saved. But, they were still films in which mythic monsters and the supernatural were the aspects to be feared. Tobe Hooper’s low budget, 16mm “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” revealed a world closer to home and infinitely more believable: a family of inbred, psychopathic rednecks; the type of isolated, real life monsters that actually could and did exist in rural locations in the world.
The hippy minded collection of innocents that accidentally stumble upon a house of horrors was the perfect metaphor for the death of the 60s that saw its final party at Woodstock. The hopes of revolution and a better world were no more, replaced by the 70s hangover of a failing Vietnam campaign, failing economies, the rise of heroin over the 60s love of weed, the growing cynicism of the Watergate period, the darkness replacing flower power, and the death of old Imperialism as the final colonies began their march towards independence. The brave new world of the 60s had finally been revealed as the failed experiment that it was. ‘The Man’ had re-established control and the world would not be a better place for it.
The naivety of the characters in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, on a road trip through the backwaters of America, results in unimaginable terror and destruction. There is no charismatic, yet deeply troubled Norman Bates type waiting for them, only an animalistic, brutal, cannibalistic collection of damaged minds that have done this again and again. Leatherface and his family have no interest in the young liberals as anything except something to kill and chop up. There is no room for pleading your case in the hope that your life will be spared, no place for intellectual debate or begging for sympathy. These are simple minded, basic people that only just border on being human beings. These are the Ed Gein types that will not stop. That’s what makes them images of pure terror.
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is raw. Shot on 16mm, the stock adds to the gritty feel of the film, as does the minimalist sound FX – that metal door, those hammer blows. Sure, the chainsaw is terrifying, but the sound of that metal door slamming stays with you. The soundtrack is eerie and disjointed, creating an unbalanced atmosphere, a place where the insane live: a place you don’t want to go but cannot avoid. It has become the blueprint for so many horror films that followed it. The original ideas within it have becomes tropes and clichés repeated again and again. Every cabin in the woods horror steals relentlessly from “Texas”, but never as effectively.
The innocent 20somethings don’t look like models or the beautiful people of the remakes and that’s part of the beauty of the piece. They’re actors, regular looking people who chance upon a house looking for gas. They’re visiting the next house that belonged to a relative of the party. The search for gas draws two of them to the neighbouring house. An accident, an horrific accident. It’s that simple and simple is best.
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” remains one of the greatest horror films ever made. The 40th Anniversary Blu ray looks excellent. For a 40 year + old film shot in 16mm on a micro budget, the fact that it has received a 4K, director approved restoration is another validation that it is a film deserving of special treatment and attention. Forget the sequels, remakes and reimaginings, the original is the one to watch. It is as unsettling now as it was on its release.
Unforgettable, relentless, unmissable. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is one of the most important horror films ever made. This particular release must be the definitive version. Highly recommended.
Specs and Special Features:
New 40th Anniversary Restoration supervised by Tobe Hooper
New 4k transfer from the original
16mm A/B rolls
New 7.1, 5.1 and stereo mixes as well as the original mono
New audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper
New audio commentary with Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll, Sound Recordist Ted Nicolao
Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Actor Gunnar Hansen
Audio commentary with Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, and Art Director Robert A. Burns
‘Cutting Chain Saw’ with Editor J. Larry Carroll
‘Granpaw’s Tales’ with Actor John Dugan
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: TCSM
New deleted scenes and outtakes
‘The Shocking Truth’ documentary plus outtakes
‘Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of The Saw’
‘Off The Hook’ with Actor Teri McMinn
‘The Business of Chain Saw’ – with Production Manager Ron Bozman
‘House Tour with Actor Gunnar Hansen’
Tobe Hooper interview
Kim Henkel interview
Deleted scenes and outtakes, trailers,
TV and Radio spots
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 40th Anniversary Blu ray is available in the UK through Second Sight.
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld: