Friday, January 25, 2008

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


by Chris Parcellin
1974, Rated R, 83 minutes, Vortex/Henkel/Hooper Productions

In a rural Texas community, a "family" of deranged white trash animals is slaughtering people.

The story unfolds as innocent, doe-eyed Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her annoying hippie friends are cruising along in their filthy van when they fall into the clutches of our fabulous dismembering heroes. The youngsters themselves are a bunch of whiney, self-absorbed, post-flower child punks. Believe me, when they begin dropping dead you won't shed a tear.

The real fun group here is the pack of homicidal looneys who capture them!

As you can imagine, "standing-out in the crowd" is a tall order in the most dysfunctional household since the Manson Family. But the utterly charming Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is a real showman with power tools. (The stocky lad also gets points for his cute, squeaky Mickey Mouse-sounding voice.) In a flashy gang of brutal sadists, he has "star" written all over him.

Leatherface wastes no time in killing the twenty-somethings, including wheelchair-bound Franklin (Paul A. Partain), who is the first to get a taste of the chainsaw treatment. Our man Leatherface has a neat trick of hiding behind a steel door in the rear of his house while the young pinkos wander in -- thinking the place is abandoned. Then he springs out at the stunned peaceniks and drags them back into his fabulous meatlocker/kitchen. Bon Apetit!

The only one to escape is Sally, who is probably a total loss as a human being judging by her maniacal laughing as she speeds off in the back of a pickup truck. But even her over-the-top "I've gone kooky!" act is overshadowed by Leatherface's exquisite whirling-dervish-with a-chainsaw turn in the middle of the highway as the film ends. Charisma? You bet.

"Based-on a true story," this is a black-humored, unflinching look at the Ugly American at his psychotic worst. And Tobe Hooper is at his twisted best as a writer and director on a low budget. Lord knows he's gone on to direct some real dogs, but this film possesses more true scares than the entire "Horror" section of your local videostore, or a week of "Oprah" re-runs.

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