The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ★★★★

Why does this movie work so well? There's very little structure, almost no story, and the filmmaking is strongly atypical. Instead of building suspense in traditional manners, Hooper relies almost completely on totally unexpected, completely wild shocks. The first kill comes almost completely out of nowhere, and happens so fast it's almost hard to process.

Most of the film runs at this pace, with Leatherface continually popping up out of nowhere, leading into intense sequences of violence or chasing. Almost every sequence is completely absurd, almost verging on comedy. Evil Dead follows a similar patten, and it's not really a surprise both films went for jokes with their sequels.

So what's the key, why does it work? I think the heart of what makes this film great is how organic it feels. The lack of a structure to the plot or clear visual makes the movie feel almost documentary like. Texas Chainsaw Massacre just seems to be happening in a manner that's completely unplanned. Everything is total chaos, and Marilyn Burns seems utterly terrified at all times.

Maybe it's just because the movie had such a genuinely messed up, wild production process that it came off on screen. Maybe Marilyn Burn's genuine fear that Gunnar Hansen was about to slash her with a real chainsaw is what makes it work. For me, I think it's the total lack of any self-consciousness on the part of the filmmakers or the actors. Tobe Hooper wasn't worried about making Leatherface look cool. The Cannibal family is kind of goofy looking, and very rough around the edges.

There's nothing slick about this movie, it's all completely raw and totally unbalanced. TCM has a zillion imitators, but only a few of them have been able to replicate the truly unhinged nature of this film.

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