Blu-ray Review: ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’

Arriving on Blu-ray this Tuesday from Dark Sky Films is the original The Texas Chain Sw Massacre, which was directed by Tobe Hooper. If you’re looking for superior sound and a hi-def transfer, it looks like you’ve come to the right place. Inside you can read David Harley’s review of the new BD release and get ready for what could be the best Blu-ray release this Halloween! The classic 1974 horror film followed five friends who are visiting their grandpa’s old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer (Leatherface) and his family of grave-robbing cannibals.
Originally conceived as a PG-rated film, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has become one of the most notorious and disturbing films of all time. It’s a true classic in every sense of the word and one of the only films genre fans are going to almost unanimously declare as flawless. It’s gotten to the point where someone mentions 1974 and the two first films that come to mind are THE GODFATHER II, the best sequel of all time, and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. There are many, many reasons one could recommend the film for, such as its iconic villains, the stark social commentary on the American family unit and just the fact that pure, unadulterated terror has never been caught on celluloid in quite the same way. However, I think that there are two elements that TCM can entirely attribute its success and devoted adoration to.

The power of suggestion employed in TCM is virtually unparalleled. This is a film that was banned in the U.K. twice and several times in Australia, all because of the mere implication of violence and gore. To this day, I still talk to people who are flat-out disgusted at the idea of watching the film, not because it’s a gritty piece of horror that has high levels of tension, but because its “one of those gory films where there are body parts flying around everywhere.” Hooper managed to employ an assortment of techniques, like unnerving sound effects and macabre sets, to give his audience the impression that they were watching something much worse than what was displayed on-screen. Leaving the proceedings up to the audience’s imagination is a powerful tool and TCM is a testament to that idea.

TCM also carries the appearance of being a documentary, having a dank, washed out look, thus making it look all the more real. It’s gritty, raw and has the distinction of being one of the only films I ever feel the need to take a shower after watching, along with HENRY. It’s also why I was worried about the Blu-Ray release.

Don May of Synapse Films re-mastered and restored TCM from the original negative for Dark Sky’s Ultimate Edition back in 2006. Some purists were more than a little upset at the crisp, new transfer. After all, it looked better than the film during its original theatrical run. And why would you want to watch a film that works partly because of its degraded presentation? I personally enjoyed the transfer and if anything, it was an interesting presentation. No more orange tint and fewer artefacts made TCM almost an entirely different film but the raw quality of the production had not changed. When I heard there was a Blu-Ray, I couldn’t imagine how much better anyone could make the new transfer look or why they would want to.

The Blu-Ray does, indeed, look better in some parts. However, it is the same transfer from the UE, in anamorphic widescreen, with a 1080p encode from the D5 master. The difference really shows where it doesn’t feel blasphemous, such as the daytime outdoor scenes. The film still shows a considerable amount of grain but again, this is a film that’s over 30 years old and not made in the best conditions. The odd purple-blue tint in the night time outdoor scenes has been carried over from the previous release and still looks a little out of place but that is likely a color correction done by Dark Sky during the remastering. Also featured on the Blu-Ray is a new exclusive bonus feature entitled Off The Hook, which is an interview with star Teri McMinn, along with all the previous features from the UE.

A Blu-Ray release of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE might sound offensive to some of you but in actuality, this is a great release for the film. It looks better in all the right places, doesn’t skimp on the extras and is a really great representation of an iconic film.

10/10 Skulls