Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Tobe Hooper.
Starring Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Allen Danziger.

Horror, US, 83 minutes, certificate 18.

Released in the UK on Blu-ray and 4K via Second Sight Films on 10th April.


It is early 1994, late on a Friday night and my younger teenage self is watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on a scratchy pirate video. Banned outright in cinemas and on video in the UK, the film has acquired a legendary status as one of the most shocking and gruelling films ever made. Despite the grainy and scratchy quality of the film on this video cassette the film still manages to get its point across. From the opening shot of the desecrated corpses arranged artfully on a gravestone to the sun blasted journey into Hell that young Sally Hardesty goes through, it certainly feels that this is the closest you can get to watching a snuff film.


It is early 2023 and once more on a late Friday night I settle down to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this time on a sparkling 4K disc. The picture is now sharp as a pin, picking out every decayed feature on those desecrated corpses, the bone and teeth sculptures scattered everywhere and the burst blood vessels in Sally Hardesty’s eyeballs as she screams hysterically at the worst family dinner ever. The false eyelashes glued around the eye holes of Leatherface’s mask stand out more disturbingly than ever before while he runs his tongue over his jagged teeth and stares off into oblivion. It is a strength to director Tobe Hooper that he created such a film with meagre resources that it manages to still disturb on every level whether watching on a warped-out video cassette or hi-definition 4K five decades later.


Second Sight Films have pulled out all the stops and supplied us with all the bells and whistles you could ask for in this home release. Despite its many previous releases, never forget that this was a film that benefited the early DVD market enormously with its first legal UK release in 2000, this is still an essential purchase worth trading in your older discs for. It is a fact that Hooper never really came close to matching the impact of this stone-cold classic over his varied career and this release displays that truth in all of its glory. After his acid-tinged hippie drama EGGSHELLS, Hooper directed this like it was going to be the last film he ever would have a chance to make. He directs the camera around the action cleverly, guiding it in elegant swooping moves around the eerie dilapidated mansion where Leatherface and his clan reside. After the build-up of Sally and her teenage friends journeying closer and closer to their doom, the first full appearance of Leatherface in the doorway before he slams the steel door shut on himself and his first victim still feels like one of cinemas greatest statements of intent, the intent being to terrorise its audience to a hysterical level that has never really been matched since. The numerous sequels, remakes and reboots over the years, including Hooper’s own 1986 effort, have come nowhere close to the merciless power and fear that this film still manages to emanate.


Second Sight Films have ported over a large number of extras from the previous releases including the excellent documentary The Shocking Truth and interviews and audio commentaries with Hooper and various cast and crew members. Brand new features include another lengthy documentary titled The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that includes incisive commentary from a host of talking heads that will be instantly familiar from any viewers of Shudder’s recent documentary output. It offers entertaining and knowledgeable insight into the film, especially from Mick Garris who touchingly remembers his friendship with Hooper whilst being honest about the turns his career took after this film. Also included are a sturdy booklet packed with essays and a set of art cards.


The remastering work is superb giving the imagery a clear clarity whilst retaining its singular 1970’s near documentary feel and the sound of the saw roaring into life is clearer and scarier than ever while the sound of the bit with the hook, you know the one, is sickeningly fresh and disturbing like never before. An essential purchase of an essential film for both long time fans and newcomers.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans