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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)



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There are moments in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that cut deep, no pun intended, and hit a nerve, eliciting real horror. But why is this a good thing? For want of a better explanation, there is good creepy and bad creepy. This is bad creepy. It proved skilled at sickening me and making me feel like I needed to take a shower, but it was not skilled at being entertaining while doing so. It's not suspenseful, nor is it humorous -- intentionally or unintentionally, although I started cracking jokes at the screen when my survival instinct kicked in.

And the thing is, although there is obviously technical skill here, for every scene that works as it intends to work, there are three or four more that simply irritate. The chainsaw fodder in this movie have a knack for screeching incessantly in the most grating ways, and as if that weren't enough, the soundtrack adds in artificial headache-inducing screeching to fill in the gaps. Visually, there is a similar problem: sometimes there are striking and effective visuals, but just as often the editing gets a little too self-indulgent, prolonging quickly cut sequences long after their psychological impact has worn into annoyance.

Despite its reputation, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not very gory. Its impact is largely psychological. But, while it takes an admirable talent to pull this off so effectively, does this amount to a good thing? Who wants to watch people get tortured and killed like this? I hold absolutely no respect whatsoever for the Friday the 13th series, but at least those films attempted (unsuccessfully) to generate suspense. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is just a sick, grisly exploration of death and killing.

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