The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

No, I still don’t like this. This was, from memory, one of the first films I rented on DVD when I got my first player in 2003, and obviously at that time I knew of the film, knew of its place within the horror genre history, had done since I was in my teens. Never actually seen the film itself. And I still understand the position it occupies, the cheap little indie production that helped rewrite the rules of horror in the mid-70s, driving it towards the slasher trend (right down to the “final girl”) that would start to proliferate later that decade, and being a cause celebre for years afterwards despite not actually being that explicitly violent; Tobe Hooper’s expectation that the film would be rated PG was ludicrous, but the X rating the MPAA first slammed it with was equally absurd. The title arguably leads you to expect something that the film then doesn’t exactly deliver (there being exactly one actual death by chainsaw); it’s been argued somewhere that the film is made to seem worse than it actually is, and I suppose there’s that, but there’s also the exploitation aspect at work, films of this sort never really delivering on their promised horrors… still, the film’s success apparently demonstrates that if your title is sufficiently exploitative then no one will worry too much that it’s hardly accurate. So yeah, I get the historical importance of the film and all of that… I just don’t get the film itself. I don’t really know why, either; it’s competently made, looks pretty swell for something shot on 16mm colour reversal stock (the DVD benefits from the 16mm negative being used rather than a 35mm blowup), use of sound is more interesting than I previously realised, well enough acted, all of that. Rough and ready, but you can’t really accuse it of being poorly made. I still don’t like it.

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