Circa 1973, Tobe Hooper is a film student at the University of Texas at Austin. This fact alone holds a special place in my heart as my current career has been within the University of Texas System for almost eight years. UT Austin is one of the top colleges in Texas and I’m fortunate enough to see the success first hand of the students who graduate from our organization. With a screenplay in hand, writers Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel rounded up a few colleagues to embark on the incredibly daunting journey of independent film-making. Keep in mind, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was not only produced independently but was also led by college students. Anyone who has ventured into independent film-making themselves are already all too familiar with the struggle of having an idea and getting it from paper to the screen. Hooper and his crew dove in head first in the production likely not realizing the importance the film would have on the genre for decades to come. The crew’s days were long, hot, and painfully underpaid.
I sincerely admire the entire cast and crew not only for their creativity but for their dedication and effort for the film as well. Each character came with their own quirks and tied together perfectly to form a noticeably close yet peculiar group of friends. The magic only intensifies as they cross paths with a maniacal family that’s strongly bonded together with the ever powerful but amenable Leatherface character who never mutters a single word. I tip my hat to Gunnar Hansen for developing Leatherface into such a sinister and threatening individual all by the use of body language. The grotesquely visceral set design pulled it all together in an incredible way, forcing viewers to almost smell the death that surrounds the Sawyer family. The interior of the home was not the only unsettling visual of the Sawyer way of life. The home’s desolate physical location really put the cherry on top of it all. Film-goers are able to witness the bleak, isolated location and sense the dread of being stranded in a seemingly barren town. The location, characters, and circumstance of the film come together incredibly to entertain the viewer and simulate an event that could occur as a real life situation. Anyone who says they wouldn’t be afraid if they were stranded in the middle of nowhere is either a liar or a serial killer themselves.
Fast forward to 2018, nearly 44 years after its release, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is still discussed and praised on a daily basis. There’s no doubt that this student made film changed the lives of not only the cast and crew but the lives of those who support and appreciate independent film-making. For me, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre will always have my love and respect as a beautifully terrifying piece of horror film history.
In remembrance of:
January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017
March 4, 1947 – November 7, 2015
May 7, 1949 – August 5, 2014
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