This movie is a classic in horror. The version I’m talking about of course is the 1974 version directed by Tobe Hopper. It would be remade a few times and have a few sequels but this one is always going to be the superior movie to me. It tells the story of some friends who get murdered in rural Texas by a family of cannibals. It’s presented as a real story, but it’s as real as “King Kong”. The story is actually modeled after a serial killer Ed Gein in Wisconsin.
Sally and her invalid brother Franklin are traveling rural Texas with three friends, Jerry, Sally’s boyfriend, Kirk and Pam. They travel to a cemetery where they heard corpses are being dug up and vandalized. They also plan on traveling to their old family homestead. Franklin goes out of his way to be an annoying asshole the whole time. The seventies must have been trusting times because they decide to pick up a hitchhiker.
He is the sort of guy who looks like he was kicked out of the insane asylum this morning because they needed the extra bed. He takes a picture of Franklin and wants money for it. When he refuses to pay he sets the picture on fire in the van and cuts himself with a straight razor then Franklin. After he starts cutting them they boot his ass to the curb. They stop at a gas station but a lazy eyed, buck toothed attendant tells them the pumps are empty.
They still proceed to the homestead which is dilapidated. They run up and down it having as much fun as young adults can in a shit-hole while Franklin sits in his wheel chair at the foot of the stairs and pouts. Kirk and Pam go try to find a swimming hole Franklin knew about but instead find another house. They go to investigate it. They knock on the door and get no answer.
Kirk sees a human molar on the porch and hands it to his girlfriend like it’s going to be a hilarious joke. She disgustedly walks away from him leaving him there alone. Then he decides to step inside. He hears a noise. Out of nowhere a huge guy with a mask made of skin, Leatherface, smashes his head with a sledgehammer and drags him into a meat locker. Pam is apparently deaf for not hearing the 250lb gorilla wail on her boyfriend with a maul. She goes to investigate.
She sees furniture made of bones and a chicken kept in a cage suspended above it. Instead of bolting out of there she stays only to be grabbed by Leatherface and impaled with a meathook. It’s starting to get late so Jerry goes to look for Kirk and Pam and finds the house. He steps inside and sees a freezer where he discovers Pam is still alive inside. But it doesn’t matter because Leatherface appears and bashes his brains in with a sledgehammer as well. Good lord. He doesn’t even need to try to look for victims. They are coming gift wrapped.
It is now dark and Franklin and Sally are by the van calling for Jerry. Sally wants to go look for him but Franklin doesn’t want to be left alone since he is handicapped. They argue for a bit until like ninja cat Leatherface leaps out and kills Franklin with a chainsaw. He then chases Sally through the woods. Marilyn Burns, the girl that plays Sally, starts to really bring it home now. She plays terror like no one I’ve ever seen.
Sally makes it to the death house and finds her way upstairs. There she sees an ancient old man and the mummified corpse of an old woman. Sally bolts out the second floor window. She runs to the gas station where she babbles to the odd looking attendant about her friends and how she is being chased. He says he is going to get help. He comes back and ties her up and drives her back to the house.
He arrives at the same time as the hitchhiker who it turns out is Leatherface’s younger brother. They taunt and torment Sally as she is tied and helpless. She is begging for her life and they laugh maniacally at her. It’s an amazingly scary scene. They bring down the old man from upstairs and cut her finger to let him drink her blood. They then say they should let “Grandpa” kill her. So they give the old man a hammer. But his grip is too weak and in all the commotion she breaks free and smashes out the window.
Free of the mad house she runs out into the street being pursued by Leatherface armed with his chainsaw and the hitchhiker with his straight razor. The hitchhicker is run over by a passing semi driver. The driver gets out to help Sally but sees Leatherface starts to run himself. When he gets chased he grabs a huge wrench from the cab of his truck and hurls it at Leatherface. It nails him causing him to fall down and the chainsaw to fall on his leg cutting him badly. He gets back up and gives chase but the trucker has split and Sally has found another passing truck and gotten in its flatbed and escaped.
The final scene is her madly laughing as she is getting away. Leatherface is doing a frustrated dance with the chainsaw. And Sally is looking back in mad terror laughing to be alive. It’s a shocking and brutal movie. I love it. I think that this movie and “Halloween” changed things for a new generation of horror. It’s worth watching if you ever want to see rural paranoia at some of its finest.