Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Who will survive and what will be left of them?

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a seminal slasher film by Tobe Hooper, based on the "true" story about a group of teenagers traveling through rural Texas, who happen upon a secluded old house inhabited by the world's most horrifying family — in particular a disturbed young man with an interest in leather masks and amateur butchery. The film was released in 1974.

Hooper initially took his inspiration for the film from the real-life serial killer Ed Gein (who was also the inspiration for Psycho's Norman Bates, and later for Buffalo Bill of The Silence of the Lambs) and based the character Leatherface on him.

The film was produced on a budget of $140,000, and Hooper cast mainly unknown actors from the local Texan population. When it was completed, Hooper struggled to find a distributor, due to the graphic depictions of violence (although the film is not nearly as bloody as its reputation suggests.) The movie was ultimately rated R, instead of the PG rating Hooper had intended.

Despite the controversy it caused, the film was a success and spawned a franchise.

"The Texas Trope Massacre":

  • Abusive Parents: The Old Man is the parental figure to Nubbins and Leatherface (since the actual parents are sitting upstairs mummified) and he beats both of them. When Leatherface assures him that all the teenagers are dead and can’t go to the police, he beats Leatherface anyway for ruining the door.
  • Acrofatic: Leatherface keeps up with Sally (who is sprinting as fast as she can) despite being 6'7, well over 300 pounds, and carrying a chainsaw.
  • Alter Ego Acting: Leatherface has 3 personalities depending on which outfit he’s wearing. There’s his normal mask and apron which he uses while cutting meat and chasing people. There’s his old lady and dress outfit which he wears while cleaning up and greeting his returning family. Finally there’s his makeup mask and suit that he wears for dinner with the family.
  • Axe Before Entering: Leatherface cuts his way through a door to get Sally. His own door.
  • Bad Samaritan: When it seems that Sally has made it into safety from Leatherface in the gas station, its owner binds and gags her, stuffs her in a bag and brings her to his family's house.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sally makes it out alive and the killers will probably be caught, but everyone else is dead and there's no way she'll be mentally well after all she's been through.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For the most part, exceptions being the harm done to hands and Hitchhiker's death.
  • Bury Your Disabled: The wheelchair-bound Franklin gets a chainsaw into his guts. And if the sequel says anything, looks like he also got it to the face too.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor Franklin just can’t catch a break, besides being in a wheelchair he also rolls down a hill while trying to pee, then he gets his arm sliced by the hitchhiker’s straight razor, then he is taunted by his friends about the hitchhiker coming to get him, he also gets stuck while trying to move around the house and finally he is sliced and diced while stuck in his chair and becomes the only person killed by Chainsaw in the movie.
    Franklin: If I have any more fun today I don't think I can take it!
  • Cannibal Larder: Probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Car Fu: Nubbins gets Squashed Flat by a truck.
  • Chainsaw Good: Leatherface's weapon of choice, which he uses in the chase scenes and cutting up the captured meat. However, he actually has a higher bodycount with the sledgehammer.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Averted, compared to later slasher films. The movie has a much smaller bodycount than modern audiences are used to.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Played as straight as possible, as three of the protagonists meet their end by wandering into the maniacs' house.
  • Deus ex Machina: Sally is saved from certain doom by a passing motorist who drove down the rural road at just the right moment.
    • She's actually saved by two passing motorists, the 18 wheeler driver gets The Hitchhiker off her back (literally) and the pickup truck driver saves her from Leatherface.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are very strong parallels to the meat industry. Sally and her friends are livestock, they are led into the slaughterhouse (with the other four following after the first), they are treated with unnecessary cruelty and they are eaten. The three maniacs represent different positions in the process. The hitchhiker is the farmer who brands them (the blood on the van), Leatherface is the slaughterhouse worker who kills and butchers them and the cook only works with the final product and dislikes the killing process.
  • Drop the Hammer:
    • Leatherface bashes Kirk's and Jerry's heads in with a sledgehammer.
    • Later, Grandpa tries to kill Sally with a hammer.
  • Dumb Muscle: Leatherface
  • Evil Laugh: An entire sequence in the film just has the family laughing maniacally at the bound Sally's expense.
  • Fainting: Sally faints when she sees Grandpa sucking blood from her fingertip.
  • Fat Idiot: Leatherface is a 300 pound killer who suffers from mental retardation.
  • Final Girl: Sally.
  • Fingore: The finger slicing scene, which was actually done for real, after the blood pumping machine broke.
  • Foreshadowing: The Hitchhiker talks about how the sledgehammer is a better method of killing the animals in the slaughterhouse. The first member of the group to die gets killed with a sledgehammer and it is not pretty.
    • The gas station attendant also mentions that it's a bad idea to just go into people's houses, especially since the owner might not take kindly to it. This is exactly how and why the first two deaths happen, even though the conversation was about a different house.
  • Gorn: Famously averted despite what old reviews would have you believe.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: A title so striking that it became popular to add the word "massacre" to other horror movies.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Purposefully invoked when Pam is hung on the meathook. Hooper was seeking to cut down violent content to try to get a better rating, so he opted not to show the impalement. Instead, he established her wearing a shirt with no back, emphasized the hook and showed splatters of blood in the room. As he said, "The mind fills in the gaps for you." Other scenes in the film, such as Franklin's murder, make use of this as well.
  • Grave Robbing: Hitchhiker's hobbies include unearthing corpses and making grisly art, trinkets and furniture from them.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The flashbulb of a camera never sounded so horrifying.
  • Ironic Echo: Sally tells The Hitchhiker that they can't drive him all the way home because they're in a hurry, later when she is tied up in his house he taunts her and says "I thought you was in a hurry!".
  • Laughing Mad: Sally at the end when she makes her escape.
  • No Name Given / Only Known by Their Nickname: Two of the murderers are just listed as "Hitchhiker" and "Old Man" in the credits, and as for the third, "Leatherface" is obviously not his real name. The sequel established that their names are Nubbins, Drayton, and Bubba, respectively.
  • The Patriarch: Grandpa Sawyer is treated as one, even if his best days are far over.
  • Promotion to Parent: The Old Man is not Nubbins and Leatherface’s father but he acts like it, holding a steady job, and beating them when they mess up.
  • Screaming Woman: Sally spends the the final third of the film screaming her head off.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Jerry. Perfectly understandable, given what Leatherface is about to do.
  • Sickening Crunch: Kirk's death
  • Slasher Smile: Leatherface pulls these of few times. It's little hard to see thanks to the mask but if you look closely when he licks his teeth, you can see that he smirks while doing it.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Kirk notices a cluster of Daddy Long-Legs' in a corner of a room, and is spooked.
  • Super Window Jump: Sally escapes the maniacs' house twice by jumping through a window.
  • Technical Pacifist: Maybe there's a better trope to describe it but The Old Man participates in beating, kidnapping, and torturing Sally but in his own words he "Just can't take no pleasure in killing, there's just some things you gotta do, don't mean you have to like it."
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Leatherface cuts into Franklin with the chainsaw five times, once would have been fine.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Arguably subverted, unlike most slasher films; the first of the group to die displays a morbid curiosity about the house, and tentatively enters not knowing about the killer inside. The rest understandably follow in search of their missing friends as each one disappears.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: This story is actually an amalgamation of three different elements. The famed necrophile/not-quite-Serial Killer Ed Gein, the legendary Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean and his clan (who probably never really existed) and Tobe Hooper's fantasies of mowing down shoppers at K-Mart with a chainsaw while he was trapped in the hardware department by the crush of the holiday crowds.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sally is helped by the driver of an 18 wheeler who leaves his vehicle behind, smacks Leatherface with a wrench, and runs down the road, never to be seen again.
    • In the form of foreshadowing: Once Sally reaches the gas station, Leatherface disappears all of a sudden. The station's owner is his brother.
  • Wrench Whack: A truck driver throws a wrench at Leatherface which knocks him down and makes him cut himself with his chainsaw.