When it comes to transgressive cinema, few genres are as controversial as horror cinema. Traditionally considered to be a subversive presence within the public imagination, many films such as Cannibal Holocaust, A Serbian Film and The Last House on the Left have been subjected to all kinds of censorships and bans.
Despite the fact that these influential horror films are sidelined by government policies, powerful art always endures the test of time. In the case of these notorious cinematic projects, they are often rediscovered by younger generations of audiences who revitalise their legacies and transform them into cult classics.
One such American horror masterpiece was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a well-known work by Tobe Hooper which was banned in multiple European countries like the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Sweden, Norway among others. Even outside Europe, Hooper’s work was outlawed in places such as Brazil and Singapore.
“It was banned for 25 years,” Hooper reflected in an interview, talking about the UK ban. “But, you know, there’s relatively little blood in the film. When Pam is hanged on the meat hook, you don’t see penetration. You don’t see blood splatter. There is the shot, when she’s holding on to the hook, and the camera pans down her body, and she’s over this washtub.”
At the time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was criticised for its excessive violence even though many critics pointed out that the film’s brand of gore did not incorporate the use of blood. Acclaimed horror film critic Robin Wood also named it among the few cinematic works which actually construct the surreal quality of a nightmare.
Commenting on the lack of blood in the film, Hooper explained: “There’s no blood running from her body into the tub, but you know what the tub is for. And a lot of people swear that they saw blood, because they know what it’s for. And the washtub comes out again later so as not to ruin the carpet when they’re in the dinner scene.”
Routinely cited as one of the scariest films ever made, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an essential work for many horror fans. While some scholars have noted that it uses the misogynistic frameworks of exploitation cinema, Hooper’s film has managed to remain in the public consciousness mainly due to its ability to shock modern audiences as well.