Our series highlighting something we love this week is called Thanks, I Love It.
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still the best gross body horror movie of all time, even after all these decades.
Audiences had never seen anything like the beloved slasher back in 1974. It was banned from several countries, including the UK, after receiving an X rating in America. The first Texas Chainsaw Massacre did not feature any truly graphic gore. The first feature film by director Tobe Hooper was slapped with its most explicit label available at the time, only for him to shoot it with a PG rating in mind.
After the first film's unmitigated success, Hooper got a free license to increase the bloodiness as much as he wanted in the sequels. It resulted in movies with more camp and less rancidness. The 2003 series and the upcoming 2022 remake fail to capture the original's subtle and elegant grisliness.
I don't know if we'll ever get another horror movie where you can so viscerally smell the blood, sweat, and decay wafting off the silver screen.
I am not sure if we will ever get another horror movie where you can smell the blood, sweat, and decay off the silver screen. It was a happy accident that forced Steven Spielberg to barely show the shark in Jaws, but it also revealed how much more can be done with body horror. It makes one cringe to watch torture porn. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a body horror that is closer to home.
In one of the most famous quotes on horror, the director insists that you have to send a physical sensation through and not let the audience off the hook. Leatherface casually hangs us on a meat hook by our flesh, only to ignore our screams and wander off to deal with something more pressing.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shows the difference between horror that is gross and horror that is goriness. In the modern age of gore horror, the torture of a character getting their own eyeball has an almost disassociative effect, numbing the viewer with shock value. Texas Chainsaw Massacre keeps you trapped in a mundane disgust over how fragile the human body is.
Leatherface got all dressed up for his dinner date :) Credit: Vortex
Leatherface's most gruesome kills are carried out with a club, despite the flashiness of his weapon. A single crack to the skull of Pam's boyfriend, Kirk, causes him to have a seizure like a fish out of water. It is the kind of body horror that shows how easy it is to turn us all into lifeless meat sacks, rather than showing how much can be done before we die.
Each character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is dealt with like livestock at a slaughter. Leatherface's executions are painless, with each kill lasting about five seconds. The physical altercations with Sally are almost comically awkward. Her desperation is met with little more than annoyance that this little lamb won't accept her fate of being skewered on his family's dinner table.
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" keeps you trapped in a mundane, existential disgust over just how fragile the human body you're living in really is.
There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this classic. As we learn more about real-life horror stories the cast had to go through to get that realism, it raises some important ethical questions. According to many cast and crew members, shoots often lasted as many as 16 hours and took place during an awful heatwave in Texas. Real animal corpses were used as props in the famous dinner scene. They filled the unventilated set with a stench so bad that people had to go outside and vomit.
Every showing of this movie has a strong fear factor. If we're going to re-examine Stanley Kubrick's abusive workplace behavior during The Shining, then we should also examine Tobe Hooper. We probably won't get another horror masterpiece like 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Maybe we shouldn't.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is available on Prime Video.