Tobe Hooper is one helluva frugal director. On a minuscule budget and with the slightest amount of gore, he crafted a classic horror film that some adults still avoid like week-old beef reduced for quick sale.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hooper are legends. The movie has maintained both a status in the industry and popularity among fans of the "disturbing" film. And Hooper went on to do his part for horror by directing Poltergeist, The Funhouse and a remake of Invaders From Mars. Plus, he actually stuck around to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. (Hey, from our experience, that's fairly rare.)
A brief and slightly unnecessary description: Five teens in a van drive to visit the grave and dilapidated home of Sally and Franklin's grandfather after hearing that grave robberies are becoming an epidemic in the area. Franklin's voice is infuriating to any functioning human. They pick up a loon of a hitchhiker who has an affinity for meatpacking, knives and Polaroid. The hitcher gets kicked out after shanking Franklin. They stop for gas, but the old man attendant has no gas. He offers barbecue and warns them to stay away from old houses. The kids go on to the old house. Franklin, in a wheelchair and thus stuck on the first floor, observes some freaky and foreboding shit. Not that he tells anyone. Two kids (halter-wearing and cheek-baring Pam and her stupidly investigative beau, Kirk) wander off, and the metallic roar of Leatherface's chain saw begins to make a name for itself. The rest is, as the movie claims, history.
All kidding aside, elements of the Massacre are true genius. Combining irritating characters (Franklin, for one), familial dysfunction and film stock that perfectly conveys the desperate Texas heat, Hooper manages to offer a tension that somehow elicits sympathy for chain saw-wielding Leatherface and his victims. He also allows subtleties that enable a viewer to subconsciously surmise a connection between the three main outsiders (the freakish hitchhiker, the old man and Leatherface) the five doomed teens come in contact with on their blistering summer road trip. It's a rare thing to so efficiently connect characters using nothing more than a feeling of discomfort.
And discomfort is what makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre what it is in horror-movie culture. Spare use of blood, intense environmental conditions, desolate scenery and young ambition all amass into a work of art no less credible 30 years after its release. So, in appreciation and applause, the USA Film Festival makes it possible for die-hard fans of Hooper and the film (or those timidly avoiding it for three decades) to see it on the big screen...and with Hooper in tow.
The Inwood Theatre hosts a special Halloween-night screening complete with an introduction by the Massacre Man himself and a Q&A following the film. The Inwood Lounge transforms into the Chainsaw Lounge with Saw Cocktails, and the theater closes with midnight showings of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. It's a celebration that horror fans and supporters of the Craftsman power tool line will both get into. Besides, the movie has "Texas" in the title, so we're all actually required by state law to witness "an account of the tragedy, which befell a group of five youths." And we do mean the 1974 version. Jessica Biel can just hold on a sec while we bow to horror-master Hooper.
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