Master of cult cinema and horror filmmaking, John Carpenter is a favourite of genre fans worldwide thanks to his many lovingly crafted projects including The Thing, Halloween and The Fog. Introducing one of cinema’s first-ever slasher killers in Michael Myers in Halloween John Carpenter brought a sense of unease to every small town U.S suburb, suggesting something fantastically abnormal could be lurking in the shadows. Setting the standard for modern horror cinema, Carpenter’s film is underscored by his own, timeless creeping score.
Since then John Carpenter has continued to create horror magic and surprise fans worldwide with his unique take on the genre. Being a titan of the genre and a sage to which horror aficionados look up to, John Carpenter often voices his opinions on his favourites of the genre including the likes of George Romero, David Cronenberg and William Friedkin.
In conversation with Fader, John Carpenter revealed, however, the one film that trumps them all, stating, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an incredible movie…It’s one of the scariest movies ever”. Continuing in his plaudits of Tobe Hooper’s classic, Carpenter added, “The whole idea is scary. You really don’t see anything; it’s not explicit. But it’s what’s going on in your head that’s scary. It’s also extremely funny — it’s almost a comedy. I really loved the movie. Loved it”.
Despite the title of Tobe Hooper’s film, it will come as a surprise to those who have never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that there is actually very little on-screen violence in the film, instead preferring to ramp up the tension with a careful focus on atmosphere.
Framed as a true story upon its release in the mid-1970s, despite its near-complete fiction, the film follows two siblings and three of their friends who fall victim to Leatherface and his cannibalistic family after venturing into the baron Texas countryside. Captured on a budget 16mm camera with fine-grain, Hooper’s film manages to acquire a suffocating tone, documenting a living nightmare of raw, brutal authenticity.
Upon many of the main characters’ capture and demise, we venture into Leatherface’s family home, a desolate wooden shack with a fog of hopelessness and impending doom. The dank stench of the rotting walls wafts through the film itself and throughout a house stained with blood and dirt. It’s one of cinema’s greatest, understated pieces of set design.
There’s no crescendo, no fancy camera work or piercing soundtrack when Leatherface, a snarky, dribbling villain captures his victim, only his terrifying victorious pig squeal that sends a grotesque shockwave down the spine. His equally despicable family join him in his torture, a band of unkempt, greasy maniacs, that in one particularly horrific dinner table scene evoke an almost fantastical quality, as if they’re so repugnant and depraved that they somehow inhabit a different plane of existence, typified by a grandfather impossibly clinging to life through his wrinkled white skin.
Check out the trailer for the classic film right here.