When forced to choose a favorite horror movie, which is a near impossible task, I typically end up saying either The Night of the Living Dead or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Both were defining films ahead of their time, both enjoyable in a visceral and entertaining way and equally fascinating to analyze. Although Psycho (1960) and Peeping Tom (1960) are often referred to as the first slasher films, the sub-genre didn’t really take off until The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released in 1974. It is a film that is so terrifying that audiences often mistakenly remember it as more graphically violent than it actually is. Belonging to a group of cynical and disturbing Vietnam-era horror, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has layers of depth and meaning, but none of this prevents it from simply being a thrilling viewing experience.
Directed by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows a girl named Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her friends, who travel to the location where her grandfather is buried near an old closed slaughterhouse in rural Texas. When they make the mistake of exploring a nearby house, they accidentally discover a cannibalistic family who welcome the food supply. The iconic silent Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is the muscle of the family, gathering the young co-ed victims one-by-one with the terrifying use of a chainsaw and other slaughterhouse materials.
The simplicity of the storyline is what makes the film so spectacular, giving opportunity for allegorical meaning and focus on the pure terrifying elements of horror. The first time I saw this film was on a lower quality VHS tape, which actually made the pseudo-documentary beginning of the film even more terrifying. All grown up and familiar with the source of inspiration for the film’s imagery, I appreciate the polished look of the director-approved 4K restoration and Ultra High Defintion release from Dark Sky Films. This is the best I have seen this film look and will be the go-to viewing choice for me watching this movie in the future.
Along with the pristine presentation of the film, the new UHD release also comes with a Blu-ray copy and plenty of incredible special features. Most of the extras are included on the Blu-ray disc, though the UHD disc does have four feature commentary tracks. The first has Hooper, Hansen, and cinematographer Daniel Pearl. Commentary number two includes Burns along with co-stars Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, and production designer Robert Burns. The third is a director’s commentary with Hooper alone, and the final commentary has Pearl along with editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Niolaou.
The Blu-ray disc includes plenty more extras, including the new feature-length documentary, The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There is also a conversation between Hooper and director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) presented by The Cinefamily, multiple featurettes about various aspects of the production, deleted scenes, outtakes, and bloopers, a still gallery and tons of promotional features. This is the greatest collection of extras I have ever seen compiled for the film, and it also comes in a fancy new metal container. There is also a reversable mini-poster included with an eye-catching back cover image to go with the original poster artwork on the front.
Entertainment Value: 10/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 10/10
Historical Significance: 10/10
Special Features: 10/10