‘Halloween Speical’ Review: ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) (A True Horror Classic?)

texas chainsaw 1974

“It’s all the more tragic in that they were very young”

I’ve reviewed the remake of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ on my blog (click here for my review), so to balance the scales of quality I thought I’d review the original. The remake was so terrible, and reviewing it. I felt sorry for myself for watching it. The original gave me all I wanted in a horror film: it’s rough, nasty, and leaves a lot to the imagination! The remake was interchangeable with any other silly horror remake that pollutes the cinema screen. Obviously, at the time, the original Chainsaw Massacre didn’t have any competition; yet today, it still stand out as a horrific experience.

The beginning scroll gives us a little taste of what to come: it promises the ‘mad and macabre.’ Is it based on a true story? That notion in itself causes a little queasiness. Then it begins for real: snapshots of fingers, corpses, coupled with gut-wrenching noises. The origin of the noise is left to the imagation: the first full-on visual is a decaying body, with another decaying head placed in its arms. Similar to the original ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ we receive most of the back story from the radio. Corpses have been disinterred, mutilated, and stolen. It does not bode well for the group of teenagers we are shortly introduced to…

Anyone for dinner?
Anyone for dinner?

“Saturn’s a bad influence”

The teenagers even disregard the knowledge of the Zodiac. And there are omens of the slaughter to come: the invalid, Franklin, talking about the slaughter of cows, the psychotic hitchhiker who shows them pictures of slaughtered cows and cuts himself. One very appropriate statement comes from Pam: “There are moments when we cannot believe that what is happening is really true. Pinch yourself and you may find out that it is.” This is a premonition, a prediction, and advice for what’s to follow…

The eventual murders are unglamorous, quick, and static. There’s no longing look at a throat being slit, or a teenager’s guts being pulled out. Leatherface simply strikes his first victim with a hammer (twice): we see this murder from far away. The camera doesn’t zoom in to see the brains being bashed in. What’s more horrific is the parallel exploration of the house by Helen; she sees furniture adorned with polished bones: a carpet of plucked feathers and broken bones. She is the victim of the infamous ‘meat hook’ murder scene, strung up as she watches her boyfriend being sawn to pieces. Again, the ‘meat’ of the scene is left to our imagination.

You… you damn fool! You ruined the door!

More than anything, it’s the non-murder scenes that sticks in the viewer’s mind: Leatherface licking his lips whilst chasing the ‘last girl’ (of course, the last teenager left is the sweet, innocent girl), close-up of Sally screaming (the closing of her pupils the main focus), ‘Grandpa’ sucking on Sally’s blood…the most visually grotesque scene is Leatherface dropping the chain saw on his own leg: the skin splits, the blood flows free. This sticks in the mind because it’s unlike anything else in the film. At the end, we are left with both ‘good’ (Sally) and evil (Leatherface) triumphing, something that one rarely sees nowadays. Sally escapes and Leatherface simply revels in the sunrise, swinging his chain saw around. This is freedom for him. He isn’t defeated, rather invigorated by the one who got away. Sally will be marked forever by this terrible night. For Leatherface, she’s just another victim.


It’s the ambiguous ending that stands out; the horror survives another days. And what will stay with you, the viewer, is haunting images of broken bones, the images of a panic-stricken Sally screaming for her life, and that scene of a revelling Leatherface. There’s no penises cut off, no Achilles ’ heel being sliced, no impromptu brain surgery being performed. What remains is the feeling of terror permeating through the film, rather than grotesque scenes meant to make the viewer squirm, rather than be frightened. It may look rough, grainy, and filmed on an ancient camera, but that adds to the feeling of uneasiness. The modern, boring, overly gruesome horror directors of today could learn a lot from this classic…

VERDICT: 9/10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original, is a true horror classic. It embodies everything that causes a horror to be horrific. It’s what you don’t see that terrifies you the most. The film may look rough and ready, but that is part of its enduring legacy.

Is ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) a true horror classic? Leave your thoughts/comments below!

9 thoughts on “‘Halloween Speical’ Review: ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) (A True Horror Classic?)

  1. drhumpp August 26, 2016 / 12:58 am

    Chainsaw is one of the few films that I’ve seen dozens of times over the years that still has the power to unnerve me. Easily one of my favorites ever.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Peter W August 26, 2016 / 1:50 am

    Needed to edit, but I don’t know how – I meant the screaming from Sally. And “it HAS become….” Holy shit. I shouldn’t hit send without proofreading and having a few beers. I’ll start again and maybe you can delete the top comment:

    I’ve been a horror fan since I was a little kid, but the ironic thing is that I never saw this movie until I was like 19 or 20 at a party when we were all fucked up. That being said, it scared the shit out of me and I had to walk home that night terrified. The screaming from Sally in that movie can make someone lethargic get off their couch and take notice. It has become one of my favourite movies of all time. The best thing about this movie is, although there is gore and implied violence, Toby Cooper leaves space and emptiness in your mind to let your thoughts breathe and leave up to you what the ultimate horror or situation is. That is enough to make this not only horror for the eyes, but horror for your soul.


    • Hammy Reviews August 26, 2016 / 3:00 am

      Have deleted the first comment! Your mistakes have been erased!
      Yeah, there’s something to instil terror in almost every scene. But the fact that it doesn’t show you much is the most unsettling aspect of them all. It lingers in your imagination. When I saw it for the second time, I was convinced I’d seen much more gore and violence than there actually is on the screen


  3. John Charet August 28, 2016 / 2:25 am

    Great post 🙂 The subject matter is what really makes this a truly frightening horror film. Interestingly enough, some have gone so far to label it a black horror comedy as well. EIther way, the film is a horror masterpiece without a doubt. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.