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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenplay: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Año: 1974

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is, without a doubt, one of the most important and recognized horror movies. This movie takes place at the end of the 70’s decade, where horror cinema was taking a turn towards more realistic stories. As a matter of fact, this movie starts with a practically false advice about their events being based on true events, creating a realism atmosphere since before starting the movie.

In “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, a group of friends gets in route to visit the tomb of the grandparents of two of them that have been apparently desecrated. On the way there they meet a mysterious hitchhiker, with whom they have an uncomfortable moment, without them knowing that this is only the preface of what awaits them. A little later they reach an old house where a family of cannibals lives and which turns out to be their worst nightmare.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has been classified in the slasher genre, but different to many other movies in this genre, this is much deeper than what its simplicity suggests. Plenty of analysis of this movie have suggested several topics that are worked in it, but for me, the most palpable is the political, social, and economic situation in the United States in this period of time and how the cattle industry is handled.

The first thing to consider is that this movie takes place in Texas, which is possibly the state that better represents the culture of the United States and is one of the most important states in the cattle industry. Also, it takes place on the first half of the 70s decade, where the society of the United States was experimenting many political, economic and social pressures by suffering the ravages and loss of the Vietnam war and being in the middle of a strong economic recession. While I will not get into an analysis of the movie, it is interesting to see how the young people in it are represented as the hope of the United States society being brutally attacked by all the chaos and madness surrounding them.

Aesthetically this movie is a gem. The shots are as frightening as they are attractive and extremely effective. On top of that, the attention to details from the director has to be taken into account, particularly in the interior of the house. Each object is put in a smart way to send a message, it being to state something about the mental health of the family or to provoke desperation and fear in the viewer. The acting is overall correct and essential for sending the imminent danger sense through the screen. Although in parts it can be seen that these actors were inexperienced, it does not interrupt the tone of the movie. The scenes of violence are very realistic; an effort that cost that a good part of the cast suffered injuries while recording.

Something that has always caught my attention about this movie is how a lot of people remember it as a highly violent and bloody movie, while the moments of explicit violence are scarce and mainly suggested instead of shown. This is a clear example of how it is not necessary to show violent or gory images to cause terror. The realism in these scenes also help makes them uncomfortable, for example, one of the deaths is a blunt hit to the head and the victim is left convulsing on the floor until a second hit takes his life. Instead of showing gallons of blood in an unreal representation, it is preferred to show just enough to make it uncomfortable and realistic, and while they are at it, give an example at how animals are treated in the cattle industry, as this type of action was discussed at the beginning of the movie as the preferred method for killing cattle.

Another interesting point of this movie is how they use a distorted model of what in the United States is considered to be a normal family. They even present a distorted version of the dinner, an important exercise in the core of this nation. The use of these distorted versions of the family and the dinner makes that all that happens in these moments be uncomfortable, as it goes to the root of the values, but their actions are completely against what is expected. Even the appearance of the house as one that is dark and rotting represents the antithesis of what is considered normal and could be extrapolated as an epitome of the moral decay of society.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is a gem not only of horror cinema but of cinema in general. It is one of the movies that it doesn't matter how you analyze it, it is impressive and effective. If it is seen just as a simple horror movie, the images and the story alone are enough to scare anyone. If it is seen with the situation of the United States of that moment in context, a lot of deeper examples and symbolism can be found. This is one of the movies I have seen countless times and never fails to impress me.

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