The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974, USA)

It's hard to overstate the influence of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film was highly significant for the slasher genre as a whole, although it is not a slasher film per se. Notably, there is very little blood or gore in the film - despite its title. In fact, Tobe Hooper purposefully made the film this way to secure a PG rating from the MPAA. Despite this, the film ended up receiving an R rating. The film also faced scrutiny from the British ratings board and was banned in that country until the late 1990s. When pressed on what could be cut from the film to pass the censors, it was decided that there was nothing that could be cut. The overall tone of the film was so grim and disturbing that it would not be possible to change it by removing a few scenes.

Hooper's film is a masterpiece of tone, a tour de force of existential dread. From the opening titles, we understand the fate that is going to meet our group of friends. The film has an incredible sense of timing. At a brisk 80 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Yet there are moments in the film - particularly the dinner scene with Leatherface and family - that feel excessively long (without being boring). This prolonged tension is remarkable. Less discussed but equally important is the film's sound design. There is no actual music in the film, but instead a series of droning background noises that amplifies the sense of dread.

The film pulls you into this backwoods Texas environment and makes you believe that you are experiencing its events. It exists simultaneously within the real world and in a fantasy world. The film's suggestion of astrological elements indicates that there is perhaps something greater at work in the world of the film.


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