Released in 1974 in the United States and banned in France until 1982, Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remains one of the greatest horror films ever made. The new opus on Netflix is the perfect opportunity to dive back into it.
It’s not the best calling card for Texas. However, nearly fifty years after its release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre still attracts as many curious people in the American state. The gas station in the film has even become one of the favorite attractions for tourists. Regardless of fashions and eras, the fury of Tobe Hooper’s classic stands the test of time.
The story is simple: five friends travel through the region in a van. They run out of gas and venture into the horizons to find some. They then discover a farm run by a family like no other. The brother, Leatherface, is a bestial and ruthless murderer. Even more reassuring: he wears the face of his victims as a mask. For the little band, it’s a one-way ticket to Hell.
From its opening, the film plays with its mockumentary style and presents this sordid story as a news item. However, despite hearsay, Chainsaw Massacre is not based on a true story. The anecdote is unusual, but the project was born in a shopping center, in the middle of Christmas time. The director, Tobe Hooper, tries to make his way through the crush and imagines wielding a chainsaw to ward off the crowd.
“Obviously I didn’t, but I kept thinking about it when I got home”, jokes the filmmaker in a meeting according to Interview Magazine in 2014, three years before his death. With his co-author Kim Henkel – 27 years old at the time -, Tobe Hooper – 30 years – infuses the screenplay with all the rage of an America damaged by the Watergate scandal and the conflicts in Vietnam – the war ends two years later.
Chainsaw Massacre is filmed during the summer of 73. The budget, ridiculous, amounts to 140,000 dollars. The feature film brings in more than 30 million. On set, the chaotic working conditions contribute to the unique tone of the film. The temperature reaches 46 degrees and the team suffocates under the scorching sun. Pushed to the limit, the actors put up with the nauseating odors of the stuffed animals installed in the set and wore the same clothes during the 32 days of filming. Hollywood glamor is still a long way off.
At its output, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – the original title of the film – is a phenomenon, especially in drive-ins. Presented at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes in 1975, it was finally banned in France until 1982. Only the publisher René Chateau managed to release it on video cassette in 1979. When it finally arrived in French cinemas, it brings together more than 600,000 spectators.
Chainsaw Massacre gives birth to eight other projects – sequels, remakes, prequels, everything goes. Unsurprisingly, none manage to capture the authenticity and madness of the original. Not even the rereading produced by Michael Bay in 2003, despite its good reception.
Avant-garde, the work of Tobe Hooper belongs to another Hollywood and a bygone proving ground. Its monstrosity, still intact, should still terrify entire generations.
Chainsaw Massacre is available on SHADOWZ and OCS platforms, as well as on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD.