Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

(Tobe Hooper, 1974)
The perfect thing to see in a sparsely-populated movie house at sunrise, because that's the ambience it evokes better than any other movie: pure, squalid human exhaustion. It's no surprise to learn that it was intended to be a comedy, because concise shtick and tricky timing effects are at the heart of it, and the hicks-from-hell that make it go are a showbiz ensemble to die for. On the other hand, there's nothing remotely comic about the dread-ridden, punishingly claustrophobic cinematography, or the calculatedly nauseating production design, or the unrelenting industrial shitstorm of a soundtrack. So if this really truly was all a fluke, then it was one of the luckiest accidents the movies ever produced - whether you want to think it out and pick it apart, or just sit there and let it engulf you, it is basically flawless. On an ideological level this is the most outrageous, lacerating class-revenge fantasy imaginable, and also the most penetrating - the hapless teens come from the same place as the crazed perps, and both are monstrous and sympathetic in baffling turns. This is no good-versus-evil boilerplate, and the happy ending is neither. Most impressively though, the movie scores these points without even requiring you to think - it simply embeds its ideas in the closest approximation of actual nightmare that I ever expect to see in a movie. The medium is the message.

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