The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 1974 Film Review (4K UHD)
In Second Sight Film’s release of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Leatherface is ready to be witnessed in 4K UHD 48 years after its original release.
In 1974, horror cinema was changed forever. Tobe Hooper, an unknown independent filmmaker from Austin, Texas, made and released the controversial The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the US. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was originally banned in many countries, such as the UK and Australia, due to extreme violence and sadistic content on screen. Hooper had dreams of becoming a successful director and wanted to make films outside of the mainstream ideas that were being made in the late 60s and 70s. Critics didn’t quite understand why someone would make something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, especially Roger Ebert, who gave the film 2 stars back in 1974.
Nearly 50 years later, Hooper’s macabre masterpiece is still being studied by critics and has gained one of the biggest cult followings of horror in history. If you want to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in all its gore and glory, Second Sight Films have released an incredible (and gorgeous!) three-disc box set, filled with extras and even a 190-page hardback book. Better yet, this release is in 4K UHD, so you won’t miss a single bit of carnage!
So, let’s go back to the beginning. Sally (Marilyn Barns), her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and her three friends Jerry (Allen Danzinger), Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn) are on a road trip to Sally and Franklin’s family’s abandoned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Whilst on the road, they perilously pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be unhinged, cutting his hand open in the back of their truck letting blood spew everywhere. Low on gas, the group’s journey has to come to a halt. They venture out of the truck together, exploring their surroundings. Pam and Kirk leave the group and go out on their own, laughing and joking. On the lookout for gas, they set foot into a seemingly stranded house. What lies inside the walls of this forsaken coop is far deadlier than anyone could ever envisage. Sally and Franklin stay with the truck, and as the night dawns upon them, it’s clear that they are not alone.
What makes The Texas Chain Saw Massacre so intriguing is that you don’t know what’s around the corner. Whilst the hitchhiker is in the back of the truck you have no clue what’s about to happen next. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat waiting for something bad to happen. Even after two rewatches this year, I’m still in shock when the hitchhiker takes a knife to his hand and cuts deep into it. It’s just so unexpected. When Kirk goes into the deserted house, you don’t jump to the conclusion that something is going to come out at him straight away. Alas, it does. Leatherface, in all his glory, is right in the doorway. Leatherface takes a hammer straight to Kirk’s skull and brutally murders him quickly. There’s no lingering or time for Kirk or Pam to explore this house; their deaths are imminent. This is why The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is such an outstanding film. It does not hold back at any point.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is devilishly horrifying. Nowadays, it’s more common to see so many gory scenes in horror films. There’s Wolf Creek, Halloween, Scream, Hostel, Saw, the list goes on. But The Texas Chain Saw Massacre stands the test of time. It’s a classic. It’s a film which is always mentioned when anyone talks about the defining horror films of all time. There’s still relevance today, especially when it comes to exploring the theme of the final girl.
Sally is arguably the first ever final girl, although some may suggest it’s Laurie from Halloween or even Lila from Psycho. To me, Sally is the first official final girl. Sally’s confrontations with Leatherface and the struggles she faces throughout the runtime make her an absolute standout. Barns is such a great actress and an ultimate scream queen. She really deserved so many more roles out of this than she ended up doing. This final girl trope, coined by Carol J. Clover, is such a prominent theme that certain films in the horror genre have (Friday the 13th, Scream, Cabin in the Woods, etc), and is when the lead girl of a friendship group is the sole survivor of a chain of brutal killings.
One thing people seem to miss when talking about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is how stunning the cinematography is. Just because it’s violent doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful too. The visuals of Pam walking up to the deadly house in her vibrant red shorts whilst the blue sky contrasts her is so stunning to look at. At the end, when Leatherface is spinning round with the sun rising behind him, the hues of the yellow sun make for such a perfect ending. No one but Sally managed to get away, but the audience gets to see Sally ride off into the sunrise and we feel content that at least we can end with such a gratifying shot. It feels so full circle too as Pam was speaking to the rest of the group about astrology and planets, and how Saturn is in retrograde. Seeing the sunrise at the end allows for new beginnings, and even if Leatherface has just been on a massive killing spree, Sally gets to escape.
If you don’t like horror, then The Texas Chain Saw Massacre won’t be for you. However, you may want to dive into The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is a new documentary produced by Second Sight Films and features exclusively in their new box set. A select group of critics and filmmakers share their stories and views on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and why it’s so important to them and to cinema as a whole. It’s insightful and puts it into perspective how much of a triumph Hooper’s 1974 film really is. If you love The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as much as I do, you won’t want to miss The Shocking Truth documentary. Released in 2000, it highlights all the work put into making the film, with anecdotes from Hooper, Barns, Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface himself!) and more. The Shocking Truth is also available as bonus material on Second Sights’ release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Alongside both of these documentaries, the limited 4K UHD Blu-ray box set comes with an abundance of new and exciting materials. A personal favourite would be the House Tour with Gunnar Hansen where he walks through the original house from the film and talks through all things Leatherface and chainsaws! You also can’t miss the deleted scenes, outtakes, and interviews with both Hooper and writer Kirk Henkel. It’s also just a pretty box set to own, with spectacular artwork and collectors’ edition cards, perfect for any DVD collector (like myself). You can order this new collectable set on Second Sight Films’ website.
In my eyes, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a perfect film. There aren’t many films in the world that I would subjectively deem as perfect (Jaws, you will always be #1), but I have to give credit where credit is due. Hooper managed to create something so daring and unique, yet so influential that would lead so many filmmakers to create their own dauntless films. It also sparked remakes, reboots and sequels to the original material. Even last year in 2022, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre gained another film into its ever-growing timeline. If in doubt of a film to watch, stick on Hooper’s original, even if you’ve seen it countless times before. It’s an unfailing sensation.
Second Sight Films’ Limited Edition 4K UHD/Blu-ray Box set of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre arrives on 10 April 2023 and will also be available on Standard Edition 4K UHD and Standard Edition Blu-ray.