The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ★★★★½

I just saw the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on the silver screen. What an experience. There were two things that I noticed better when watching it in cinema with good sound and picture quality.

1) The sound is not just amazing, it is quite revolutionary. Tobe Hooper does not focus on dialog but rather how the world outside constantly attacks us. The cars, the trucks... The horror that follows is just a continuation of what they (and we) experience every day in modern society. The attack of noise - noise pollution. When the horror starts, it is also the sound that play the main role. I think one could say that the sound in the film is semi expressionistic.

2) Watching this on the big screen shows how well it is filmed and especially edited. The editing is maybe the most impressive thing in this film and is one of the main reasons it manages to create such an strong atmosphere. One can see how Psycho inspired the editing here, especially the shower scene.

Another thing that I noticed when I watched the film again was how often Tobe Hooper will keep information from us. A good example is when they pick up the hitchhiker. We don't get to see what the youths in the car see, when they wonder if they should pick him up or not and when the car stops the camera is faraway from the car so most of what we see is the landscape. Then we go into the car and we see the youths in the car but not the hitchhiker. Only their reaction to him. Then finally we get to see him. By this time the youths in the car have had more chance to evaluate this freak. We are latecomers and are playing catch up after that, which makes what follows even more uncomfortable and shocking.

Most of the shock affects in this film is based on the same rule, show little, show it late and when you show it don't give the audience a change to get comfortable with the scenery or the setting. Keep them waiting and then throw them into the deep end. The first time we see leather face kill is another example of this. We have never seen him before (or heard of him). Instead of telling us what is coming, in stead of giving the first victim a chance to fight, escape or even get scared, he is knocked down by a freak with human skin for a mask. And out he goes. Now most directors would spend time to build up the suspense for the next victim. No, not Hooper. In she goes, down she goes!

This is so unusual, so brutal that we know by now that we are not any more in the safe world of horror genre. This guy is not going to play by the rules and we are not sure if good is going to win over evil today - or if we are going to have any safety net to get through this film. Genre is a safety net because we know the rules and are therefore one step ahead of the film, even though we are not conscious of it. Breaking these rules can be very upsetting for people, and was very much so for many who saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre when it first came out. Even still today it manages to unnerve people. Not many 40 year old horror films still manage to do that today.