Is Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the greatest ever horror movie? A case can definitely be made for it, that's for sure. Personally, if I was to consider Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho as more of a thriller than straight out horror, and if I were to eradicate (as hard as it is to do) the personal history with Wes Craven's Scream and Scream 2, then I don't see anything in the way stopping from me calling it just that. Oh, except for all the thousands and thousands of other horror films I've never seen, but that's being pedantic, isn't it?
What? Don't look at me like that!
I had a curious urge to watch Hooper's dirty, sweat-stained horror buzzer last night and so, naturally, that's exactly what I did. That's how I roll, apparently. No matter how many times I watch it I am always without fail scared half to death. Just the opening sounds of a camera twang sends shivers down my spine - and whoever had the bright idea to recycle the sound effect in the trailer for the 2003 "remake" deserves eight gold stars! - but also Daniel Pearl's dingy cinematography that knows when to pull back for empty, hope-erasing longshots as well as in tightly for sweaty, tear-soaked close ups is a riveting, captivating experience in photography. It's brilliantly effectively during the early sequences set amidst the parched Texan sun, before turning murky and cold during the long night time chase sequence that remains, perhaps, the greatest ever horror chase sequence. Marilyn Burns' as the "final girl" Sally is so committed that I have to do my darnedest to remember to breathe.
Thankfully, I'm not one of those weirdos - WEIRDOS, i tellsya! - that can't distance themselves from the film and not find interesting (to some) little bits spread about. Like how I find myself ogling William Vail as Kirk for the first half of the film (until he gets dinged on the head, of course)! Just look at him, he's gorgeous! It provides much needed levity to watch Kirk strut about in that open shirt of his. No wonder Pamela wanted to take him to the creek!
Or how about the final chase sequence outside the homestead that is full of forehead slapping moments of silliness from both the hunter and the hunted in equal measure. Why do Sally and the truck driver get out of the cabin? Why doesn't Leatherface simply lunge at Sally when he has the chance? Why can't the hitchhiker catch up to Sally with her injured body limping around at half the pace? These aren't criticism, mind you, just observations that I almost feel like I need my brain to acknowledge so I don't become a cowering shell in the foetal position in the corner of the room after each viewing. Almost like Sally up there in the ute, except with less maniacal laughter and more terrified whimpers.
While the brand of "the saw" has been somewhat diminished by constantly regurgitated sequels, prequels and remakes of varying quality, it's apparent inspiration on hundreds of movies of limited worth, and merchandise like Leatherface bobbleheads, it's still nice to know that the original still has the ability to scare the living daylights out of me. And judging from the various Twitter/Facebook comments I've received since last night, it appears many others' daylights are vanquished by one buzz of the chainsaw. I am intrigued to check out the film on blu-ray since much of the film's power comes from its raw edge. Has anybody watched it on blu-ray? I know at least one person who keeps a VHS player just for this movie and they refuse to entertain the notion of even purchasing it on DVD. Good on 'em, I say!
And, hey, if the film is good enough for Patrick Bateman... I mean, we all know he has excellent taste with "Hip to Be Square" and all that.