Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Disturbing Nadir Of Humanity Is Seen In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Right off the bat, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre plainly informs its audience that this is not going to be a movie for the faint of heart. A narrator reads off a title crawl in a manner that avoids going too over-the-top while still retaining an air of menace. After this we get our first visual in the feature, the sight of dug up corpses sprawled out on top of some sort of fixture in a commentary. No jump scares or anything like that occur here, it's simply the camera panning out on this shot of this atrocity. The full horrifying nature of this visual is allowed to sink into the viewer and helps set the tone of what's to come in this motion picture.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not just intend to be a scary film, no, it intends to be a disturbing story, one that will shake anyone watching it to their very core. A group of five individuals happen to be the unlucky souls at the heart of this story, with this coterie setting off on the simple mission of spending some time at the house of the grandmother of Sally (Marilyn Burns). Near this particular residence is a small house where Kirk (William Vail) hopes to acquire some gasoline. In this humble abode resides Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and his family, a pack of psychopathic removed of remorse and make the next 12 hours a living nightmare for our five lead characters.

Something that becomes readily apparent in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is how naturalistic the five lead characters are in their dialogue-driven interactions. All of these people come across like normal human beings we've all encountered in our lives at some point. They all bounce off each other well in casual conversation and the genuine nature of the lead cast makes it all the more unsettling when something out of the ordinary enters the proceedings even before Leatherface shows up. An encounter with a hitchhiker on their ride up to Sally's grandmother place is already exceedingly perturbing since this newfound hitchhiker has an apparent unpredictable quality to him, meaning anything (even violent actions) can occur when he's around.

Tranquility briefly returns while Sally and her friends explore her grandmother's home, but it doesn't take long for brutality to re-enter the equation once Kirk enters a nearby home hoping to find gasoline. It's here that Leatherface first appears and just the way he visually enters the movie show some exceptional craftsmanship. Leatherface just enters the scene with no music or sound to signify his presence, he simply wasn't in the scene before and now he is. His entrances are frequently like that, consisting of Leatherface just lumbering into the scene with his intimidating presence in tow.

This seems to be a pretty clear move on the part of director Tobe Hooper and cinematographer Daniel Pearl to ensure that the violence in this movie is simply depicted as what it is, a horrifying thing that warps the psyche, rather than something more stylized that could remove the edge from the horrific acts Leatherface and his kin perpetrate. And if you think the sight of Leatherface chopping down the various lead characters with a chainsaw is creepy, just wait until you get to the most disturbing scene of the movie (which is really saying something) in which Sally is strapped to a chair and forced to have a dinner, of sorts, with Leatherface and his family.

Tobe Hooper keeps the camera cutting back and forth between the taunting being spewed out by repellant psychos that have kidnapped Sally and close-up shots of Sally's pupils that simulate the sensation that is going through Sally's mind, the sensation of fear and the desire to survive at all costs overtaking her psyche. It is a startling sequence whose distinct directorial vision helps give it a terrifying flavor that puts it in the top tier of horror features. Over four decades later, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still a slice of top-notch disturbing cinema.

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