The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: They Don’t Make Them Like This Anymore

So, Tobe Hooper’s career has been on a downward slide since he made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974. Maybe he’s a hack that got lucky with his first theatrically released movie. Or, maybe he sold his soul at a crossroads on a dark, moonless night in exchange for a lifetime of success, only to be double-crossed and cursed to have each movie be worse than the last. Since he’s regularly referred to as Tobe “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” Hooper, I’d say it’s probably the former.

A group of friends are traveling into the netherworld of Texas back roads to visit their grandfather’s grave and take a side trip to the old homestead. They make it to the old, abandoned house and as with most young people, curiosity gets the better of them. They all eventually find their way to the neighbor’s house, where they encounter the local serial-killing cannibal family. Young people going to a scary place and getting killed- one of the staples of horror.

There are many ways a horror movie can embrace it’s genre. Some try to scare the audience with things leaping from the dark. Others try to disgust the audience by displaying an overabundance of blood and viscera. Then there are those that try to disturb the viewer, make them uncomfortable. That’s where The Texas Chain Saw Massacre falls. The furniture made of bones. The human slaughtering room. The family helping the nearly catatonic grandfather try to kill one of the girls- holding a hammer in his hand and swinging his arm for him. There’s some blood, but it’s not a splatterfest. There’s no explanation for what’s going on, no attempt made to rationalize why the family wants to kill and eat the victims. They just do. It disturbs because we can’t understand it. At the end, when the girl manages to get away, she laughs hysterically, because she, too, has a hard time comprehending everything that just happened.

The things that make the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre so great can be seen by looking at the 2003 remake, which itself is very indicative of modern horror movies. The remake was produced by Michael Bay, starred Jessica Biel, and also featured R. Lee Ermey. Most of the rest of the cast and crew were relatively inexperienced, although they did bring back the cinematographer from the original, for what that’s worth. The point being- the movie was heavily produced, with little attention payed to talent, the $9.5 million dollar budget was pretty scant for a remake of what many people consider one of the greatest horror movies ever made. So what did they rely on to retell the story? Shocks. Gore. Someone graphically shooting themselves in the head. Someone getting sawed in half, crotch to top. The girl manages to cutoff one of Leatherface’s arms- what point that serves, I know not. Then there’s also a new inane subplot about two women who’ve kidnapped a baby that the girl must rescue, which only serves to turn the girl into some kind of heroic figure, rather than an everywoman.

A story muddied up with unnecessary details, tons of gore, and slapped together for the sole purpose of making as much money as possible with the least effort- that’s today’s horror landscape. A far cry from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

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