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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Leatherface "The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy that befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare.

The Events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." - August 18th, 1973

---From the opening narrative of the film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre---

So begins one of the most infamous, incredible, and revered horror films ever made, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie that gave the world Leatherface! The names of both the film and its most recognizable villain inspire ghoulish visions of gory slaughter and decay. There had been many savage films before 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but none quite as relentless, brutal, and honest. The bizarre world of the Sawyer family and Leatherface brands its image into anyone that has ever experienced it. Everything in this movie is as raw and brutal as the Texas sun.

The story of five young people's road trip going straight to hell turned from shocking, mainstream critically hated horror to cult phenomenon. It became one of the most successful low-budget films ever made; packing drive-ins and midnight movie shows for decades after its release. The film lives on now through home video, laser disc, and dvd. Leatherface and his crazed kin made it into three sequels, though none capture director Tobe Hooper's original feel, style, or atmosphere. A supposed remake is currently in the works (why we shall never know, it can never recapture the power of the original), assuring that the legacy of Leatherface will continue.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can now be viewed as influential. Sure, there had been psychos in horror movies before, but Leatherface can certainly be considered the first modern masked maniac, as we know them today. Norman Bates may have dressed as his mother in Psycho, but he had a persona we could easily see and identify with, on the surface that is. Leatherface wears his victim's skin, never revealing his own face, leaving the viewer to wonder who or what lives behind the dead-skin mask. This ideal would surface again and again in years to come, especially when the slasher film craze broke through. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the original crazy, rural family film. A hitchhiker was never viewed the same thereafter. An old rundown farmhouse you see off in the distance never looks the same. Did a road trip ever feel quite the same after you've seen this? Aside from the creepy sets and the director's style, reality is what really provides the horror here. There are no supernatural or occult reasons given, no old movie monsters, just a real insane family out to put food on the table. The fact that it all "looks" so real and that, unfortunately, it could happen is the most frightening aspect of the film. Leatherface is a gruesome killer, the fact that there is no real reason, except hunger, makes the events even harder to accept. The humor laced within the movie never really offsets the chills. By the end, even though Sally has escaped, the only survivor of the five youths, there really is no "happy" ending. Leatherface lives. Most of the family is still alive, hungry and waiting... somewhere. The horrors and frailty of real human life and our view on rural America are forever haunted and changed by a huge maniac wearing dried human flesh, wielding a chainsaw... Leatherface.

The beauty of the film is the simply effective plot. The opening flashbulb sequence that follows the haunting narration leads to a most effective shot of a corpse mounted to a monument. The shot of the dead armadillo just before the young people's van foreshadows their fate, if they only knew. Basically, Sally and her brother Franklin Hardesty our heading off with three friends to check on their grandfather's grave due to a rash of recent grave robbing incidents at the cemetery. After arriving and seeing that all is well, the five head off to find and old family home nearby. The first horrid event of the day soon follows, as they pick up a strange hitchhiker not long after passing a slaughterhouse. It's clearly apparent the man is crazy. He terrorizes the group by taking Franklin's pocket knife, cutting his own hand deep enough to draw plenty of blood. He also informs them on the joys and best methods of killing cattle and how to make headcheese. The atmosphere in the van becomes even tenser when he shows them a straight razor hidden in his boot. Becoming more and more disgusted and afraid, they decline the stranger's offer of dinner and his request to be dropped off at home. The weirdo then takes an unsolicited picture of Franklin and demands money. Upon their refusal to pay, he burns the photo in the van, freaks everyone out and is soon kicked out of the van, but no before cutting the wheelchair bound Franklin with his razor. Kicking, cutting at, and rubbing his own blood on the side of the van, the hitchhiker is left by the side of the road howling as the van's scared occupants haul ass away.

Low on gas and shaken from the experience, they stop at a gas station to fuel up and get directions on the old house they are hunting. A strange old man informs them that the gas tanks are dry and the tanker will be in later. He advises against looking for the place, telling them to wait around for the gas instead and enjoy some barbeque. The group decides to visit the house first then come back for gas later, a decision that will shatter their lives forever.

They arrive at the decrepit old home and explore. Kirk and his girlfriend Pam decide to look for an old swimming hole near the place. Franklin tells them where the path is to it and they head off from the others. The two find the place now dried and desolate, but Kirk hears the noise of a generator from a house just off in the distance. He gets the idea to go to the house and see about borrowing some gasoline, so they walk over. The old farmhouse yard looks cluttered, strange objects are tied, hanging from the branches of some trees. Pam doesn't like the idea or the place they've arrived at. After Kirk scares her with an old tooth he's found lying on the porch, Pam walks from the house to a nearby swing, letting Kirk go inside to talk to the owner about the gas. He never returns. He does meet someone though... Leatherface! Kirk is greeted by the menacing figure appearing from the kitchen with a small sledgehammer that he quickly uses to bash in the trespasser's skull. Pam tires of waiting for her boyfriend, going inside the house to look for him. Exploring the home, she soon realizes she has stepped into a nightmare. Bone furniture and horrid décor fill the house that will be her final resting place. Soon, she's chased down by Leatherface and hung on a meat hook. Screaming and hanging by her own unsupported weight, she sees what has happened to her friend thus far and watches as Leatherface starts up his favorite chainsaw to go to work. The steel sliding door to the gruesome kitchen slams shut, a defining moment in horror history; Leatherface has arrived.

The three remaining friends become worried and Jerry, Sally's boyfriend, leaves to go look for the wayward couple. Upon finding the terrible farmhouse, Jerry soon enters the nightmare, finding Pam's spasming body flailing out of a deep freezer. He meets Leatheface's hammer soon after, bludgeoned to death.

The sun sets and night falls, leaving Sally and her Brother confused and scared as to what has happened to their friends. Sally, no longer wanting to wait, heads out looking for her boyfriend, Franklin struggling to keep up in his wheelchair. As the two wander through the dark, dense brush, Leatherface attacks, savagely killing Franklin with repeated, brutal thrusts of the chainsaw. Sally runs, pursued by the monster through the thick underbrush until she reaches the killer's home. Franticly searching for help, she finds only death and decay before being forced to jump through a second story window. Fleeing into the night, Sally reaches the old gas station, seemingly a safe haven from her pursuer. Quickly, She realizes the truth; the old man is in on the whole thing and she is far from safe. Beaten, bound, gagged, and finally bagged, Sally is taken back to the farmhouse to come face to face with the Family. She awakens tied to a chair as the guest of honor at a gruesome feast, greeted by the hitchhiker, Leatherface, and the old man from the gas station. She sees and hears exactly how this ghoulish family operates, and she's next on the menu. Sally gets to meet the oldest member of the family in Grandpa, a former slaughterhouse worker now so old he's more dead than alive. Of course, sucking a few drops of fresh blood from Sally's cut finger helps perk up the geriatric maniac. Grandpa gets voted the honor of killing Sally. He struggles and barely lands a blow before she looses all sanity and breaks loose from her captors, crashing through one last window and out of hell, Leatherface and the hitchhiker close behind.

You could call the last few minutes "Ride, Sally, Ride", as she manages to make it to the road and flag down a trucker who luckily plows over the hitchhiker and tries to help her escape. The attempt gets stop by Latherface who attacks with the saw, but is smacked with a wrench thrown by the scrambling truck driver. Leatherface falls, the chainsaw lands on his leg, and the monster is screaming in pain and down...but not out. He's soon up in time to see Sally force a truck off the road and jump in the bed. Leatheface goes after her one last time, but it's too late as the driver hauls ass, carrying a terrified and broken Sally Hardesty to safety. Leathface dances in the film's last shot; spinning, twirling and thrashing about with his trusty chainsaw in hand. Who will be next?

Unlike later slasher films that equated sex, nudity, drugs, beer, and rock & roll with death at the hands of a masked killer, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre needs no crutch to stand on or excuses for its excesses. It simply is what it is and like most things in life involving death, they aren't many answers. The five friends here were on a noble mission at the start. They did nothing wrong, not even a foul word or exposed breast causes their suffering. They simply ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, meeting the very wrong people. Makes one wonder, where's the next real Leatherface or Sawyer family at right now? Who will be unlucky enough to find them and what will be left of them?

"Who will survive, and what will be left of them?" -the now-famous ad-line for the film that appeared on posters and video boxes.
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