In honor of Texas Chainsaw Massacre celebrating its 40th birthday (yesterday), I wanted to share my thoughts on the lovely, dearly departed, Marilyn Burns who is criminally overlooked when it comes to “Final Girls”. Sally Hardesty and her friends set forth on that trip in Texas a full 5 years before Ripley survived Xenomorphs and before Laurie Strode escaped Michael Myers.
If there’s anything we know it’s that the making of Texas Chainsaw Massacre was virtually hell on Earth. Temperatures over 90 degrees, the putrid stench of actual rotting meat and often a very volatile set was anything but a glamours life for these actors. Literal blood and sweat created the perfect environment for Burns to craft herself into the perfect “Final Girl”.
Sally Hardesty and her friends are a rare exception in the “kids go on a trip to the boonies and get killed” trope. They are all pretty likable and well meaning kids. They aren’t just walking stereotypes waiting to be killed off in a gruesome fashion. Aside from Franklin being the most annoying character in cinematic history, we really connect with this group and Sally is the most commendable. If it were me I would have left Franklin’s ass high and dry five minutes into the movie but she does her best to help Franklin along the way.
But it isn’t a sweet smile and caring disposition that makes a bad as final girl. Burns was under a lot of stress during the making of this film and it shines through in her performance. You really feel her clamoring for her life against Leatherface and his deranged family, she doesn’t falter for even a second. Hell, she jumps through TWO windows to escape and one of them is on the second floor! I’ve actually turned “Marilyn Burns” into a verb.
For example: “Laurie better start Marilyn Burnsing that shit if she wants to get out of that house!”
And lastly, there is no denying Burns’ ability to knock any scream queen out of the park at the end of TCM. Here scream coupled with her crazy eyes is almost as disturbing as the family itself. All of her anguish and pain comes through in those final moments and if she gave this kind of performance in a Steven Spielberg historical drama she would be a shoe in for at least a nomination. Criminally overlooked, Sally Hardesty easily takes the crown for Queen of the Final Girls. We all miss her dearly but she gets to live on in one of the most shocking and disturbing horror films of all time.