Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Does It Hold Up?

In Does It Hold Up?, our writers tackle items from the past and compare their legacies to the harshness of modern-day hindsight.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, by far and without question, the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen.

The 1974 film follows a group of unsuspecting teens as they head to their grandfather’s old farm house and become victims of a southern cannibalistic family. It stars a handful of relatively unknown actors and actresses, most of whom are primarily known for their role in this film. It is also the directorial debut by the late, legendary filmmaker Tobe Hooper. That is where I strongly recommend you begin and end your knowledge of this film if you plan to watch this, which I strongly recommend you do.

What didn’t age well?

Well, frankly, not much. It had a low budget 43 years ago. There are certain scenes that may have looked good for the time it was made; however, now these make for some unintentional comedy. One scene comes to mind where a character is being prodded by a broomstick — that scene viewed today comes off looking incredibly fake. The intention of this scene was to maintain the terror and elevated horror that was present prior to it, but the scene came across as whimsical in its age.

There are also some characters that blow raspberries in defiance. I assume at the time this made for a more impactful show of disrespect, but now it just seems silly compared to the rest of the movie. This, however, is all nit-picking — in reality, I found myself actively looking for flaws.

What did age well?

The second the movie grabs you with its initial hitchhiker encounter, it does not let you go. Even something as simple as walking through an empty house has you caught up in a sense of dread. Hooper’s approach to horror is unflinching, unnerving, and unsettling; this movie is absolute terror and dread perfected.

There is a chase scene about two thirds of the way through the film that made me physically ill from fear. At every moment throughout the scene, I had my hands cupped around my face trying to cover my eyes, but found myself physically unable to. I felt tears trickling down my face from pure fear.

This same feeling persisted throughout the rest of film, barring that broomstick scene, and made for one the most intense movie going experiences I’ve ever had. This movie unapologetically locks you in with its minimalist gore, ear-piecing sound design, and an atmosphere that few films have achieved. The movie’s ending feels like every character earned what happened to them, which is a growing rarity in horror movies today. I had the pleasure of watching this screened at the Garneau, which is the best way to experience it. Unfortunately for you, this might not be an option available for a while. So, until then, watch it on the largest screen you have, in the darkest room and on the loudest sound system available.

It’s a shame to see where the franchise is now — a mere shadow of what this film was able to achieve. The following sequels, remakes, and reboots, at best, make you sleep with the lights on, slightly afraid of what lurks on the other side your bedroom door. This film, though, kicks down your door, grabs you from your bed, and drags you — kicking and screaming — into the night, never to be heard from again.

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