24 October 2002 | jaywolfenstien
So I'm not part of the bandwagon
I hated this film.
I still fail to see how it, along with F13, managed to acquire a cult following. TCM is critically acclaimed for its rawness, for its brutality, and for unrelenting portrayal of a warped family based on everyone's favorite psycho Ed Gein. And granted, it has perks and high points . . . but good God, did it ever annoy the hell out of me!
Maybe I'm just sick and twisted and desensitized by violence in the entertainment mediums, but I don't sympathize with the victims solely because they're about to be slaughtered in a 16mm slasher film. The TCM family of films was the first to show me this. I did not like the characters. Although, the characters in TCM did teach me a small lesson I learned that even if I feel sympathy for someone who is physically disabled, that person can be so annoying that I'd ignore those feelings and want to see him crippled further (specifically, something to permanently incapacitate the jaw.)
"I'll cut you some slack, Franky, given the circumstance. But if you deserve a punch to the face, I don't care if you are in a wheelchair, you will get punched to the face."
Texas Chainsaw Massacre also taught me why other movies ignore the realism of having their characters not scream when they should. Sally, sweet Sally, what powerful lungs you have . . . she screams. And screams. And continues screaming. And I wanted more than anything for Leatherface to shut her up. For the love of God, end the scream before it goes on for another 30 minutes. Gramps? Please, maybe you can shut her up! Someone! Is there a competent killer in the house?
I hesitate to say Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a plot, just as I hesitate to say any slasher film has a plot. A "scenario" would be a better phrasing. It's a bit unnerving how vividly and accurately three words can describe the typical slasher scenario: "Kids. Isolated. Killer." If you need more than that, you've never seen a slasher film. If you expect more than that, you've never seen a slasher film. So I really can't criticize TCM for having any less of a plot than, say, Halloween. I *can* say the unsympathetic characters in TCM made me care that the scenario they were to enact was so threadbare.
Leatherface running around in an apron that eerily resembles a dress struck fear in me for all the wrong reasons, and I really did not need to see the cut scene on the DVD where he puts makeup and the Grandma's wig on the mask. Leatherface running through the woods with the chainsaw over his head while Sally screamed and screamed and ran, and went on way too long (much like the action films that would come 30 years later) all of went to prove that without a doorway to pop out of, Leatherface is a pansy who can't shut up one girl.
Anyway, contrary to what I had written in my original review I did revisit Texas Chainsaw Massacre with hopes that perhaps I had let expectation get in the way of seeing the movie for what it was. Also contrary to what I wrote in the original reviews, I did check out all the sequels and even the remake. While my opinion has come away from the extreme hatred I initially held for the film, it didn't come away by very much. I still more or less feel the same way: it has some nice camera work early on in the film, wonderful colors in the dusk sky, and a sweet camera move as it glides under a swing. I'm still impressed that the movie for the most part refrains from dragging out its "stalking" sequences with false scares, and that Tobe gets some kills over and done with before the audience can blink. The music has never stuck with me, nor has much else.
Revisiting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I still did not like characters, although I did find myself tolerating them a lot more. And actually, early on in the film I thought perhaps my opinion might just might have changed in the years since my last viewing. Alas, that glimmer of hope slowly faded until the bottom dropped out entirely at the sound of Sally's screams. Sally, sweet Sally, shut up already.
Oh well, looks like I'm going to continue to walk a part from the bandwagon on this one. I still feel that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is living breathing proof that shock-fest exploitation films lose their power to truly and rightly be considered classics. TCM shocked the generation who grew up on it, but I come from a different time where all of TCM's descendants have robbed it of what power it might have held that first glimpse of 16mm terror that no one had ever seen before. Now it's just the first in a long monotonous line.
In closing: There's a difference between shocks and suspense, the latter gives a film its staying power. I still hold my breath watching Psycho. I still feel a rush of anxiety hearing Benny cue up his infamous strings, and I still feel a chill run down my spine as the camera pushes in on Norman Bates. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, by contrast, has no more shocks, thus has no power over me.