James Rolfe: Welcome to Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness"! This October we've been covering the history of horror films, one day at a time. We started with the black & white chillers, the monster movies and suspense thrillers. But during the 1970's there were a lot of low-budget exploitation movies being made. An exploitation movie is defined as a movie that doesn't aim for quality, but rather using main selling points such as sex and violence. Movies like these were usually shown late at night and as double features in what they called 'grindhouse theaters'.
And now we come to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" – a true horror movie in terms of the word 'horror'. One thing that this movie is not is a 'gore-fest'. Despite its title there aren't many chainsaw deaths and not as much blood as you'd expect. The reason why it's so effective at terrifying its audience is due to many things.
One; it has a realistic look where being outdated actually helps. In "American Movie" Mark Borchardt says that 'it reminds you of something you'd see in science class' and I think I know what he means. It has this old grainy look, the camera work is really raw. It almost have a documentary feel and it begins with a text and stock sounding narrator which sets you in the right mood that what you're watching is a true story. In reality it was only loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein, the same guy "Psycho" is based on.
Another thing that makes the movie so effective is its location; a deserted area in Texas. It creates a scary atmosphere where nobody can help and you can't trust anybody you meet. A group of friends arrive during a road trip. They pick up a hitchhiker, which is always a big mistake. Then they go check out an old farmhouse which is an even bigger mistake. The conventions may seem pretty cliché now, but the pacing here really works. Watching the movie from beginning to end is like having a nightmare – the tension just builds and builds. And the last chase scene is just incredible.
This isn't about vampires or zombies or the Devil – it's about real psychopaths. What makes this movie so scary is not about wether or not it really happened; it's that it could happen.