As far as organizing a canon of horror films, maybe I shouldn't have started at the tippy top with The Exorcist. I mean, anything that is added to the list from that point is certainly a step down, right?
I think not! Try this on for size...
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre...the reputation of this movie alone is enough to send people running. This film does a phenomenal job of making the viewer uncomfortable. Try looking at a meat hook or a hitch hiker the same way again, and you'll find it's not possible.
This is director Tobe Hooper's first (and arguably best) film in his long running career. The film stars Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal, and a host of others, mostly unknown. In 1976 the film won a Critics Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
The documentary style of this film and the lingering shots were the perfect way to put the viewer on edge almost immediately.
A group of teens are visiting a small town in Texas. They are checking on the grave of one of their grandfathers as there have been a recent rash of grave robbings in the area. It all begins with a hitch hiker. The man is absolutely nuts.
There are a lot of really beautiful shots in this film. Given the subject matter it's a wonder there were opportunities for such art.
The above sequence is startling. It's the first appearance of Leatherface. He comes out of nowhere and leaves just as suddenly. His total disregard for life is evident in every move he makes.
Pam discovers her fate: first the meat hook, then the freezer. The scenes in this film are almost all set up to make the viewer uncomfortable.
Marilyn Burns certainly does a great job conveying terror. Leatherface follows so closely behind Sally that the viewer is also out of breath by the time the chase is over.
Leatherface gets up close and personal during dinner. This sequence in the film is masterfully shot. Hooper gets inside of our heads by having the family tell Sally what she's in for next.
Watching Sally fear for her life can be uncomfortable. There is close up after close up of screaming characters. This film is relentless.
A passer-by aids Sally in her escape. As Sally gets away you can see that she's not fared well. She is cracking up.
Everything about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre feels dirty, makes you uncomfortable, tests your tolerances. The 83 minute film will get into your head, fuck with you, and stay there. Its reputation is deserved.
And with that I give you The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, officially canonized in the world of horror cinema.