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Horror Education of the Week: ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’

As we Americans sit down this Thursday for a nice meal to give thanks for those around us, let us be reminded of one of the most sadistic meals to grace the silver screen.

Of course, I am talking about Sally Hardesty’s meal with the Sawyers in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

After filming in 110 degree weather for up to 16 hours a day, covered in animal blood, Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece premiered almost a year later on October 1, 1974, in Austin, Texas.

Ever since I was young, I’ve had nightmares like everyone else. The most terrifying seem to be those in which I am not able to get away from an attacker. Fleeing from the oppressor is fleeting, and quite fickle – as sometimes when finding help – it turns out to be the same person or people I am running from. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, of course, revolves around this idea with poor Sally Hardesty. The idea of a real life nightmare, and complete lack of control, is what makes TCM so damn good.

I’d love to give a valid breakdown of TCM. I truly do adore it. It’s terrifying in so many more ways than what I will present below. The Hitchhiker, Franklin in his wheelchair, the slamming of that door for the first time…

Perhaps, in the future, I can give a “Part 2” to this article.

– The film itself visually appears like a dream. The colors and motion remind me of my own nightmares.

– Like most horror films, which have nightmarish qualities, there are elements in TCM that represent a “doomed” structure that bring the evil forces.

– For TCM, it is the seemingly normal farmhouse that brings the attackers.

– The evil comes out because the structure is disturbed. Much like in dreams where you know you are not supposed to go near the house. But it’s only a dream, right? Dreams can’t hurt you…

– The watering hole and farmhouse are possibly off limits, and yet the teenagers go and disturb the area, bringing about their real life nightmare.

– The scary reality of TCM is standard. There there are sick people like that in this world. That is what is most frightening about the film.

– As crazy as it may be, TCM presents a completely valid idea: There are families of psychotics living in rural areas just waiting for young teens on road trips to fall victim to their diabolical plan.

– Writer Robin Wood made the statement that horror films have come to signify “the sense of civilization condemning itself”.

– Condemning oneself is easily broken down in slasher films.

– If someone condemns their body with sex or drugs, they deserve to be killed.

– If someone goes skinny-dipping in some slaughterhouse-running psycho’s backyard, they deserve to be killed.

– Wood actually commented once that TCM is also like a grotesque comedy.

– This is very true as Sally’s struggle to free herself as the family argues over Grandpa’s lack of ability to hold the hammer and kill Sally.

– The idea of this being humorous clicks in my mind with nightmares I’ve had where my attacker is laughing at my struggle.

– This brings us to that sick, sick meal.

– Sally awakens to the Sawyers gathered at the table with her. And as she begins to scream, they mock her. Laughing, crying out. The tension builds as we see her tear-filled eyes.

– The sickening thought that attackers do this in real life, is what is ultimately the most disturbing.

– Terrifying thought: TCM can be stripped of the fact that it is “just a movie”.

– The actual reality is that the sick nature of human beings can be as evil as Leatherface.

– After all, the character and story are based on true events that include Ed Gein.

– Edward Theodore “Ed” Gein came to light when the local police found his home was full of trophies and keepsakes made from bones and skin.

– This included: nine masks of human skin, bowls made from human skulls, human skin covering several chair seats, a belt made from female human nipples, skulls on his bedposts, a pair of lips on a draw string for a window-shade, and a lampshade made from the skin from a human face.

– Gein, who was abused by his mother growing up, was also the basis for Norman Bates.

So, as we sit down this week, let us give the ultimate thanks. The fact that if we’re terrified, most of the time we can say, “It was just a dream.”




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