The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.
Title: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Runtime: 83 minutes
The third of my ’70s horror film reviews for October this year. I grew up on a healthy dose of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s horror and sci-fi, but like everyone, there are older films I’ve missed. This is another of the films I picked that I hadn’t actually seen before. Yes I know, it’s a classic, what’s wrong with me, yada yada yada. Look for more ’70s horror reviews from me this month on Cinefessions!
Story & Script
So while this is vaguely based off a real serial killer (Ed Gein), they went all out with the crazy, and overboard with the events. The story synopsis says that five friends visiting their grandfather’s house in the country are hunted and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer, and his family of grave-robbing cannibals. And yes, that’s predominantly what happens in the film, but man did it take way too long to get there, and boy did I not care at all about any of the characters before they started offing them. Other than that, it’s a pretty basic story we’ve been getting for years now, teens go out to the middle of nowhere, get kidnapped or killed by some crazies, and none, one, or some manage to escape. Really, the story and script for this aren’t why you’d watch it in the first place, but this even feels way too basic. There isn’t much development, and not much goes on for the first third of the film. It doesn’t even serve as build up, even with some of the events in the van.
This is probably the weakest part of the film for me. On top of the weak script that’s relying on shock value, the actors in this are fairly dull. The only time they really seemed to have any reaction other than “bummer dude” is when they’re getting attacked or maimed. There wasn’t any build up. Even the teasing they gave each other felt less than genuine. The family that’s off their rocker just seems weird, and while I think Leatherface is probably the most imposing, I couldn’t take him seriously with the animal sounds he was making. Mankind – yes, Mick Foley, the professional wrestler – did that brand of crazy better. Should I be expecting so much out of a low-budget, indie film? I don’t know, but after The Omen, The Exorcist and Crimson Peak, I just couldn’t get into it, and the acting was a big reason why.
While I have issues with the pacing and acting, where it does shine is in some of the choices of shots, particularly at sunset. That, and when they do finally get to using that butcher room in the back with Leatherface, it is pretty brutal and definitely made me wince a few times. When it gets down to it, they did a great job nailing the brutality but stopping just short and letting our minds fill in the rest. The problem is that there’s so much nothingness before this that it feels like a slog getting to that point.
I know I’m a bit down on this, and I realize the film was made in a very different time, but when I can point to Jaws, Alien, The Exorcist and a number of other ’70s horror films that have actual character development so I give a crap about what’s happening on screen, I can be a little more than disappointed when it’s just completely non-existent in a film that takes almost half its runtime to get anywhere. It feels like a blueprint film and one that needed some serious fleshing out.
Honestly, if I popped this on in the background and chimed in for the good bits only, I’d probably watch this again. As it stands, though, sitting down to watch this one without something else going on is not an option. If I’m feeling a need for any Texas Chainsaw Massacre action, I’m pulling out my copy of the remake to watch first.
My opinion isn’t going to be the popular one, but the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, while having its moments, just isn’t a very good film. Yes, it’s brutal in its depiction of events, but they don’t do much with the runtime to make me care about the characters who are about to be butchered. Sure, the family they run into is insane, but it’s a brief glimpse of what they could have done with it, and just didn’t fully succeed. There are some amazing shots in this, that I will give the film, but the thirty-eight years of hype surrounding this film left it completely flat for me. I was expecting to cringe at more than just two or three scenes. There just wasn’t enough here. The remake managed to hit the right pacing for me, and balance between horror, characters, and events. I can see why people love it, and can agree that it is brutal and quick in its horror, but after decades of other horror films, it just didn’t engage me.
For those that do love this film, though, the special 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray with the Black Maria semi-truck replica is available for only $39.99 on Amazon until Saturday, October 31st, 2015. This is a great deal, so get it while the getting is good!
Born the same year as Star Wars, it seems Ashe was destined to be into films with big impacts, explosions, and laser swords. With a love for sci-fi and horror, Ashe has a thing for games of both the tabletop and video variety. He is living a charmed, married life of sixteen years, along with several cats, a dog, and a bearded dragon. Ashe currently writes for Diehard Gamefan, covering video and tabletop games since 2008. Starting with Cinefessions just a few years ago, he has decided to tackle one of his original passions: film.