Tag Archives: Tobe Hooper

It’s All About Family – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Every horror fan seems to stumble upon this little flick, and, out of the vast array of slaughterhouse horror films, is left with an irreplaceable mark that none other can match. The movie’s not backed by a huge budget, its soundtrack is minimal at best, and it doesn’t feature any big names among its cast.

Something entirely against the grain for Hollywood standards. And yet the bloody film captivates, cuts deep, and then cauterizes the mind. It haunts the viewer long after the end credits roll. In short, the movie just works!

When you watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you are pulled in – whether you want to be or not – and made to endure the menace and the horror awaiting the character therein. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching actors but more like you’re in the thick of it with real-to-life people who are about to meet with an unfortunate end.

That’s just part of what makes this film such an ongoing success. For one thing, it’s not what people expect it to be. And that being some mindless little splatterfest.

Sure there is a lumbering chainsaw swinging murderer-butcher called Leatherface. But it’s not just about him. It’s the maniacal family of fellow ghouls who naturally adds to the macabre that made this movie legendary.

The Hitchhiker (Nubbins Sawyer)

Choosing to open your movie with a lingering shot focused on a nice oozing corpse is one helluva way to slap your audience to attention. Before the viewer even gets a chance to settle the film goes full-on grotesque, a slight sucker punch to the senses informing the viewer as to what kind of movie they’re in for. There’s no turning back now, folks. We’re in for a nasty bit of cinema and all we can do is sit back and enjoy as best we can.

I know you love it.

Turns out a string of grave robberies have been transpiring all over the county. We’re introduced to our heroes who stop by the local graveyard to see if their grandpa’s grave was among those desecrated or not. His was fine.

But the jelly-faced ugly we saw at the film’s opening was one of the unfortunate dead dudes dug up and propped up like some maniac Halloween decoration.

It doesn’t take long before we’re introduced to the ghoul responsible for the midnight graveyard monster mashing. He gets picked up on the side of the road by our cast of heroes and we all just know the shit’s about to hit the fan.

The Hitchhiker’s (Edwin Neal) scenes alone could be considered the scariest of the whole film. He’s weird, he has something all over his face, and he has all the manners of an unmedicated schizophrenic. His jittery behavior immediately sets an unsettling mood. This fucker is unstable as all Hell and now our heroes are trapped in the van with this lunatic.

It doesn’t take long before he cuts himself (to everyone’s shock), performs some kind of black magic ritual, then cuts poor Franklin’s (Paul A. Partain) arm. That’s exactly the kind of behavior that’ll get you kicked out of the car, buster! He leaves the vehicle after scaring the bejeezus out of everyone inside, but not before leaving a bloody smear on the side of the van. Why? Just to fuck with them. And it works perfectly.

Fucking fuck’ sake and Hell what was that all about? It’s just the kind of craziness we can expect out of this movie.

The Cook (Drayton Sawyer)

I love this guy! I always thought he was the dad to both Leatherface and the Hitchhiker. It just seemed obvious to me and still does if we’re being honest. But due to the dinner-time scene where the looney bin candidate (Hitchhiker) says, “he’s just the cook!” and getting a violent “QUIET” in rebuttal that causes people to think he’s just that: the cook. But in my defense, the Cook could be dad and cooking is just his thing. He doesn’t enjoy the killin’ part of things and leaves that up to both of his sons.

Makes sense to me.

There’s also the hilarious scene when Cook comes home and sees the mayhem Leatherface has done to the front door. Infuriated he hops out of the truck and indignantly yells, “Look what yur brother’s done to the door!” That sounds just like something a dad would shout. It’s also insight into the character’s psyche. Kind of a practical kind of guy. It’s hilarious how pissed he gets over property damage. It’s subtle but also a glimpse into his unhinged behavior.

Upon introduction, you wouldn’t suspect much from Cook considering he’s presented as the nice gas station owner who calmly advises the heroes not to go poking their noses into places they shouldn’t be. Later, and after one of the most hair-raising chase scenes in any movie ever, Sally (Marilyn Burns) seeks refuge back at the gas station where the kindly owner offers her shelter.

That’s where we’re shown the double-sidedness hiding behind Drayton’s crooked smile. Lo and behold he’s part of the clan and the audience is presented an alarming fact: this atrocity is county-wide. So who can you trust? Poor Sally learns there’s no one out there on her side.

Drayton smacks her around with a broom and ties her head-first into a potato sack. He traps her in his truck but then runs back into the gas station to turn off the lights first before taking off. “The cost of electricity is enough to drive a man outta business,” he reasons with his sobbing captive. Quite practical. He takes off down the road and can’t help himself and starts poking Sally a little bit with a stick. Sadism making him giggle with childish glee drooling off his face.

The role was brought to life by the one and only Jim Siedow who would return to the role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and plays pretty much the same guy. I love him. The man chews up every scene he’s in.

Grandpa Sawyer

Creepy, creepy, and fucking creepy. This old corpse of a character shouldn’t be alive and defies mortality. He looks like a dry husk. I wasn’t even really sure he was alive – and come on, it’s entirely feasible that this family of lunatics would carry down a corpse to have dinner with them – until he helps himself to some of Sally’s warm blood.

In Conclusion

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is legendary among horror fans. It’s often repeated and, in many cases, remade but there’s something special about the original, something that cannot be repeated or done over. I personally think it has to do with the impression made by the Sawyer family. It’s one of those things that came about by the correct alignment of astral bodies and a little black magic. It’s a dark miracle that the thing exists and made its way to drive-ins and living rooms for generations.

The TCM remake isn’t exactly bad. And they tried to give us a rotten family to put Leatherface in the midst of. But the Hewitts (2003) just don’t live up to the macabre nature of the Sawyers (1974). Albeit the Hewitt family is most certainly sinister but they lack the true unhinged quality the Sawyers have. Seriously the instability of the Sawyers is almost otherworldly. Their victims never know what to expect. They may invite you to a home-cooked meal made out of your best friends or they’ll gut you alive. You never know and that alone keeps you on your toes around them. They are pure psychopaths and take obscene delight in that.

Each of the characters mentioned here – in one way or another – reflects the very ghoul who inspired the lot of them, Ed Gein. Grave robbery, slaughtering pretty people, wearing stitched-together human skins, boiling skulls, and eating human flesh. They’re all ghoulish and reflect the heinous nature of Eddy boy.

I think he’d be damn proud of the lot of them!

That’s something lacking in each movie that followed the original. The family was not all that scary and only served to, well, shit just be there. The focus became more and more reliant upon Leatherface in each proceeding film. And none of them match the claustrophobic terror inspired by Tobe Hooper’s exploitation masterpiece.

I know there’s the upcoming Netflix TCM coming out soon. Looks like there is no family to back Leatherface this time around and so we’ll see how well the creepy and the grotesque work. I might not be impressed by the trailer of Leatherface pooping in the field but I’m still going to watch it. Hope it does well. I want a new good scare from TCM.

Whatever the outcome no one can take away the original film that’s proved the test of time.

Manic Out!

‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ – The Movie That Scared Me Before I Ever Watched it!

It cannot be stressed enough the impact visual images alone can have over an adolescent mind unprepared to fully process the visual overload it is suddenly forced to compute. And it can be anything. Read Marylyn Manson’s autobiography (Long Hard Road Out Of Hell) and you’ll read in grotesque detail what he and his cousin saw out of their grandpa which went on to scar them for life. Hopefully, none of us have to deal with lecherous visions of perverted grandparents like that, but, without a doubt, there could be something that you saw while you were little that left a searing brand smoking on your psyche. 

I sure did and it stayed with me for years! It helped develop my obscene taste for horror-gore and death metal music too. And though there is a macho Manic pride growling inside me to not reveal any hint of fear over anything I cannot deny the one thing that did really, really mess with my head at an early age.

I stumbled upon it while glancing through the magazine rack at a checkout line way back when. Being an avid horror/monster fan from the time I was in diapers I was eagerly skimming through a Gorezone magazine, my own little happy space when I turned the page to see a girl being hoisted up by a maniac to be hung on a rusty meat hook. 

I cannot tell you why but fuck-a-monk that got into my head! Like could it be possible for a movie – even a scary one – to go a little too far? I was only eight at the time so I hadn’t explored the gorier side of horror yet. This single image alone alerted me to a side of horror I was unaware of. Something that felt genuinely dangerous.

I was a stupid kid so cut me a little slack.

I didn’t know a thing about cannibalism at that age so I was unaware she was going to be that evening’s main course. I just knew what followed was going to be terrible for her. I later learned about people eating people being an actual thing and – again – that fucked with my head a little more. I didn’t know people did that. In fact, I wasn’t aware that was even possible! 

But one thing that did cross my mind while staring wide-eyed at that macabre image was how very taboo this was. Like I was going to get into trouble just for looking at it. That girl, someone young, pretty, and very helpless, about to hang in agony on that hook. They can’t put that kind of stuff in movies, could they? I closed the magazine and with some newfound trauma stood silently waiting for my aunt to finish up so we could leave. 

What kept repeating around in my head was, That must be the scariest movie ever.

Years Pass

Long story short my parents decided to become missionaries when I was in 4th grade so I ended up spending the next 15 years in St. Petersburg, Russia. I loved it if we’re being honest. The horror and metal scene are both strong in the city, at least when I lived there. Once a year we would travel over to Helsinki, Finland where I would go to comic shops and books stores and load up on comics, figures, magazines, and books.

While skimming the magazines I got hold of a horror mag and, well wouldn’t you know, there was a huge piece on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bear in mind I was about seventeen at this time and was still trepid over the fucking movie without ever even seeing it.

Out of obsidian curiosity, I poured over the lengthy article, soaking in each and every grizzly detail, and learned about the puking hot despicable conditions the actors put themselves through.

How Gunner Hanson stank to high heaven and made people sick due to the odor when he was around. Because no one would wash the costumes! And filming under the glaring heat of a Texan sun inside a humid shack lacking any AC was entirely unbearable. 

Sally’s finger really did get cut open to feed Grandpa because actor Gunner Hanson just had enough. And, shit, I can’t blame him. Conditions were disgusting, hot, uncomfortable, and it played through on film fantastically. 

Considering how I hadn’t seen the movie yet I was bewitched by all the details. And then I read it was based on a true story – and not knowing much about Ed Gein at the time – I closed the magazine and let that bit of obscene info sink in. My teenage brain really thought this shit happened! Whatever dread I may have already established in my mind over this little film increased tenfold! 

Oh but that’s not all. For whatever reason when I was seventeen it was totally all about TCM! Day after reading that magazine article I was out and about looking around the Helsinki flea market where I saw a clamshell copy of – yeah you already know – TCM. I was also too chicken shit to buy it. You may all laugh at me. I was seventeen and stupid. Something I rapidly got over while pouring through all the Video Nasties I could later find.

However, I did return back to Russia entirely pissed with myself for not buying the fucking movie. And for some reason it was not at all easy to find a copy of some movies – Last House On The Left, I Spit On Your Grave, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were almost all impossible to find. And there were no streaming services like Shudder or eBay to order hard-to-find movies. And that’s what made me kick myself over not getting the film. 

A whole year passed before I found myself in Helsinki again and back at the flea market. It was there, the clamshell video of TCM. I swear it was waiting on me like some malevolently patient stalker. My celluloid devil at the crossroads. I had to buy it this time and took the movie back home and watched it that very night. Lights were off and I was in bed watching truly the scariest movie I had ever seen up till that point. 

I don’t need to tell you how great the movie is or the merits of its scares. It works. Still to this day it works. It plays out like a demented dream and allows ghastly visuals to tell a simple story.

One thing the remakes and succeeding movies never quite manage to capture is the hellish simplicity of just letting scary images progress a story. It’s so simple but chillingly effective. The movie starts off with a corpse and it concludes with the ravings of a blood-drenched lunatic.

Added to the macabre images is a soundtrack of grating metal objects, static akin to a geiger counter, and shrill moans. It’s not at all traditional and fits perfectly into the strange and demented story of Leatherface and his family. It’s been said before but it really does feel like you’re watching a grotesque documentary.

Even though I had this film hyped up in my head I was not at all disappointed when I finally watched it. It did give me chills, like what the fuck is with the chicken in the parakeet cage? Weird shit like that just weirded me out and made me love the movie more and more. 

Joe Bob Briggs calls it the best movie ever made and he might be right. It’s certainly one that scared me years before I ever even watched it. It’s a dirty little product of its time and was influential in establishing the slasher genre. 

Future Past of Chainsaw

Gun Media, the guys behind that little Jason game I’m always yammering on about (check here), have gone and done it again by bringing fans TCM to play. The game is one of the most highly anticipated games among horror fans today as we wait for the chance to traverse the dangerous backwoods of Texas and, oh please let it be, become Leatherface and chase down stupid little fucks with a roaring chainsaw. 

So the legacy of Leatherface isn’t slowing down. And sure the franchise as a whole isn’t all that amazing but the first film alone is more than enough to keep fans screaming and scared. If you’ve never seen that original film it’s high time we fixed that. Grab a beer and turn the lights off as you cozy in for some Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And if you scream a little well that’s ok. 

Manic out! 

Remembering Tobe Hooper’s TV Version of ‘The Funhouse’

Remember back in the day when you relied on a boxed TV with rabbit ears for entertainment purposes? You know, the kind where you had to adjust the antennas for that perfect reception with the smallest amount of static? With just the right amount of ominous static and bonus scenes that I never saw again until twenty years later; this, my nostalgic nuggets, is how I first viewed The Funhouse.

It was an early rainy Saturday afternoon in 1988. After a glorious morning filled with two bowls of Yummy Mummy cereal and Super Mario 2 on my highly coveted Nintendo Entertainment System, the combination of 8-bit eyes and a sugar crash began to settle in. Hence, along with the pitter-patter of the rain hitting the rooftop, it seemed like a good time to settle in with a little basic TV.

Grabbing the TV Guide, I skimmed up at the clock to see it was almost 1:00 PM and that meant Saturday afternoon movies on Vegas 33, who were pretty notorious for showcasing horror films on the weekend for us young genre aficionados. Low and behold, according to the Holy Bible of TV programming, I was just in time for a little film called The Funhouse, which I had never seen prior.


Knowing nothing other than the brief synopsis from Mr. TV Guide, it didn’t matter one bit as I was immediately suckered in through those glorious opening credits. Hypothetically speaking, the rest of the movie could have been 100% trash and I would still love it as much I do today based alone on that creepy as shit opener filled with animatronic nightmares.

Hooper’s Funhouse has become one of my top go-to comfort films. As the saying goes, “You always remember your first kiss.” Well, I remember my first time seeing Gunther; and it was creature feature love at first sight.

TV runnings of certain films tend to differ from theatrical versions with either an addition or subtraction of scenes to accommodate time slots. For example, the televised version of John Carpenter’s Halloween usually had axed or alternate scenes from the theatrical cut included in an airing. While they don’t necessarily add anything prominent to the feature, it’s still pretty fun to view an alternative variant of one of your favorite movies.  Such as with The Funhouse, as I had actually seen this full-blown, yet edited for violence gem from Hooper first.

Uploaded courtesy of Goremeister100, the clip shown below offers fifteen glorious minutes of what was seen in Hooper’s cult classic during a televised showing. Both alternate and deleted scenes are included offering a different look for Funhouse fans.  One of my personal favorite little bits may be trivial but I actually kind of prefer the televised scene of Gunther strangling the slutty fortune teller. Instead of focusing on the kill, the camera keeps panning away to those again, creepy Funhouse animatronic terrors that line the walls of the terror ride.

So now enjoy The Funhouse as I once did over 30 years ago!