As the story goes, a group of friends consisting of Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), Kirk (William Vail), Pam (Teri McMinn) and Jerry (Allen Danziger) are all traveling to check on Sally and Franklin’s grandfather’s grave to investigate reports of vandalism and grave robbing. They come upon a gas station that unfortunately had no gas, and they are forced to go to the grandfather’s house without refueling. Upon arrival, Pam and Kirk quickly venture off by themselves in search of a swimming hole, but inside they come upon a house that has a working generator–which leads them to want to ask the owner if they could buy some gasoline. This is where they meet Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) who wastes no time in killing the two of them, and butchering their bodies. Curious as to why their friends haven’t returned, Jerry follows their same path and inevitably meets their same demise.
Left alone, the two siblings Sally and Franklin argue about whether it is smarter to go and search for their friends or to try and find gasoline. Franklin, who is bound to a wheelchair, is all about trying to find gasoline until he realizes that they do not have the keys. Refusing to let Sally go by herself, he joins her and the two of them are subsequently caught by Leatherface, who kills Franklin first before chasing after Sally for what felt like forever. She ends up fleeing to the nearby gas station, only to find out that the owner, Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow) is actually apart of the same cannibalistic family as Leatherface, because he brings her back to the house where the hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) from earlier in the movie is also living. We find out that they all make up a family of insane cannibals. The last thirty minutes or so of this film is just Sally screaming and fighting for her life but she ends up escaping by climbing into the back of a pick up truck, leaving Leatherface to raise his chainsaw in anger as she gets away.
Even for a 70’s slasher flick, I think there was a lot of screaming. To the point that it was like nails on a chalkboard, it lasted so long. I’ve heard that this movie was terrifying, practically all of my life. To the point, that I put it aside for so long out of fear. When I finally chose to watch it, I had hyped it up so high that I gave myself no other choice than to end up disappointed. The parts where Leatherface is butchering the individuals were undeniably chilling, but they were no more scary than other movies. There lies my final conclusions about this film; what made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) so scary wasn’t the chainsaw wielding cannibal, but in fact, the existence of his insane cannibalistic relatives. The hitchhiker being the creepiest one, Edwin Neal really did an amazing job making me uncomfortable anytime he was on the screen. He made it scary, with his unflinching portrayal of a deranged man who had no qualms about killing Sally, even mocking her the entire time she is understandably terrified.
It is undeniable that this film is a classic, and while on the surface it can seem like nothing more than your run of the mill slasher flick, I strongly believe that the horror lies in the family dynamics of the Sawyers.
What did you guys think of this one? Have you seen it, and if not, why?