That's Pretty Fucked Up Right There, Dude

Ten Trailers to Keep You Awake #9 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

I have no memory from the first viewing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre whatsoever of the newscaster voice-over describing this “top news story”. Missed the entire speech …though I definitely remember John Larroquette’s voice-over along with the crawl.

I get the feeling I’m going to be preaching to the converted here. Probably even some of the people who (generously) read Horror Boom and aren’t horror fans have seen this trailer, and I’m willing to bet some have even seen the movie.  The trailer captures everything that made the movie a classic. If  for some really bizarre reason you’re reading this and have NOT seen the original– OK, let me get something off my chest, goddamnit.

As I was composing that last sentence, it pissed me off that I have to even type that: the original. I’d say that I’ve seen worse horror remakes, but horror fans know that’s not saying much. The remake was unnecessary and contained every torture-porn cliché in the book. They took out the grind-house elements (though stealing the flash-camera sound that makes the hair up on the back of every horror movie fan’s neck did get some asses in seats). Even with a sloppy horror movie, there should be something, some image or moment etched in your mind (even if it’s gone forever in the next 24 hours) all I remember is them fucking up the hitch-hiker scene entirely, and the now-cliche torture porn scene where a character’s friend/lover/husband is so hopelessly and painfully messed up that it passes the point of no return and they end up begging the woman they love to kill him/her.*   If Tobe Hooper wasn’t involved, they shouldn’t have permission to use the character name “Leatherface”. The prequel was surprisingly good, enough so that I purchased it with my birthday money in 2007 (OK, partially to see the Unrated cut that Netflix didn’t have, but I don’t regret the purchase one bit. You know what really sold it, though? Bringing back Larroquette for a surprise/cameo voice-over to end the movie and bring it full circle). Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (the only sequel that worked–and DAMN did it deliver) well, Tobe Hooper was involved, and lucky for me I’d just turned 18 so I could see it at a midnight showing, since they weren’t letting anyone under 18 in. My friend and I both got carded. The only entry I saw in a theater, and probably the most repeat viewings.

There!

OK, the point I started to make above, before I suddenly got all pissed off, was: if you some bizarre reason you haven’t seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but PLAN to and want to go in clean (good luck), see the movie first, then this trailer, since there’s a crazy amount of spoilers, reveals, and jump-scenes included. Hooper and his team needed to put a trailer together that would get someone’s attention enough to get a major distributor involved, and it fucking worked. I haven’t watched TCM in over five years, yet this trailer hits all the right buttons so well that it feels like five minutes (or less).

I don’t know about you, but I cannot watch this trailer without remembering the first time I saw the movie (a sign of a killer trailer, and a successfully memorable movie, if I ever thought of one). I’d worked odd jobs–ones a 13-year-old could do in the 80s, anyway–all summer, specifically to earn the money to purchase a video cassette player.  Specifically, so I could rent and watch all the horror movies I’d heard about and missed in the theater.  My also-specific mental list of the first handful I’d rent included My Bloody Valentine (the origi–GODDAMNIT!), Dawn of the Dead, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was that time of evening film-makers call “the magic hour”, basically shortly before dusk, and I sat on a pillow on the floor while my patient mom sat in a chair. The opening flashes of what first looked like spoiled meat, then different parts of a decomposing corpse, made me uneasy enough that I recall thinking maybe I should see this at some point in the future, not tonight.

The trailer brings back John Larroquette’s narration that never gets old or campy, just cooler, no matter how many times I hear it, the flashes of the corpse that freaked me out so much the first time that I didn’t even put together that it tied in with the rest of the plot,  (I have no memory from that first viewing whatsoever of the newscaster voice-over describing this “top news story”). Missed the entire speech …though I definitely remember Larroquette’s opening voice-over along with the crawl.  Human bones and chicken feathers. Sally way past the point of sanity. The almost-complete lack of a soundtrack, making the already-gritty movie feel that much more like a documentary, Leatherface picking up poor Pam as she scrambles and screams her lungs out, and carrying her inside as calmly as though he was back working at the slaughterhouse. And of course …that sound. **

Feeling nostalgic? Here’s the skin-crawling opening scenes (in HD) of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

*Not that the scene doesn’t work when done well, but if a movie relies on it, they shouldn’t have bothered in the first place. Variations that worked, off the top of my head: The Descent, Cabin Fever, and Dusk till Dawn all had very memorable, heart-breaking versions. However, all of those movies earned those scenes, and sold them so well that in most instances, when a see a poster for the movie, I remember that moment, above others. The DTV Rest Stop, not exactly a real stand-out of a movie, but at least I have that (and one other) moment, that worked well enough that I still recall it when someone brings that bleak, mean-spirited movie up.  It should be disturbing, not just depressing.

**I’ve never actually heard a flashbulb that sounds anything like that,  and now that I think of it, I hope I never do.