The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is up there as one of the most influential horror movies of our time. It did everything that most horror movies could only attempt to do. It didn't just frighten you with cheap tricks or try and cop out just by giving you the squirmies by throwing some gore at you. It terrified you. It made you feel uncomfortable, hopeless.
And why wouldn't it? A group of teenagers are traveling to an old Texan hometown because of a recent string of graveyard robberies. Before they get to their destination, the easy-going group decides to pick up a hitchhiker. It was a depressing time due to the war, and the world should be full of peace and love, so why not?
That question is answered almost immediately as this individual clearly doesn't have all of his marbles. He doesn't quite fit the old saying 'the lights are on but nobody's home'. Seems more like 'the lights are on but the only one home is the maid that's in rehab after being released from the psych ward'. He cuts himself up nice and slow. He figures he shouldn't share unless he has enough for everyone, and starts to cut one of the teens in the van. Needless to say, they kicked him back out in the desert to walk amongst the tumbleweeds.
Eventually they all decide to stop at an old abandoned house and then go exploring. They find another house that also appears to be abandoned. It's too late once they realize just how wrong they were...
The film has its moment on the creep-o-meter with the crazy hitchhiker, but for the most part this film was pretty mild until we get hit with the terror that dwells inside the house for the first time. This film is so effective because we're right there with the victims not just by watching the screen, but we're there emotionally as well. Just as you might feel in real life, things seem pretty calm until wham, you're in the thick of it and there's nothing you can do. It feels so real. You don't realize what you've gotten yourself into until it's too late and the film conveys that feeling of hopeless dread very well.
Tobe Hooper does a wonderful job of pulling us into the reality this film tries to convey by presenting it all with a gritty and almost documentary-like look. The current generation of horror is only beginning to learn once again the effectiveness of the dark and gritty style film can have. Even so, recent dark and gritty films still seem a little too polished. I suppose the only way to truly get that feel of being genuine is to go low budget. That's why films such as this, or Halloween, have earned their title of being 'classic'. Many horror films today can't even begin to touch the movies of ole', and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a perfect example of that old black magic you don't see around much anymore.
The new transfer is probably what you all truly want to hear about. We are treated to an anamorphic transfer at a 1.78:1 ratio. The image no longer has such a 'soft' feel to it compared to prior releases. It's sharper and you can certainly notice some more detail this time around. The colors are more vivid and retain that bit of over-saturation that adds to the overall feel of the movie. A lot of the noise seen on prior releases had been cleaned up on this release as well. If you're concerned if that effects that gritty look of the film, don't be. It still retains the grain while getting rid of the excess garbage. There was a very slight tint of additional color in earlier releases that isn't apparant here. I was worried how that would effect the film as well, but surprisingly everything looks even more 'natural' than before. The tint prior was probably due to some film damage.
Dark Sky has provided us with a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. I'm usually pretty cautious going into a film with an enhanced track that features more channels, but for the most part it sounds the same, except for the scenes where Leatherface is chasing some poor, helpless victim. The chainsaw ripping through all of your speakers is a pretty nice thing to hear, yet the rest of the film is pretty much what you would expect to hear from the 2.0 or mono tracks. The 2.0 track is new, and the original mono soundtrack has been remastered. So all in all, not too much additional to the plate in how the film sounds other than the choice of having chainsaws ripping at you from every angle, but it's apparant a lot of care had been given to this film by the choices we now have.
You have two discs lapped over each other into the right panel of a pretty nice steel tin.
The first disc features a full-length commentary with Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger, and art director Robert A. Burns. Also featured is another commentary track featuring Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl, and Gunnar Hansen (who was Leatherface if you weren't aware). Both tracks are very informative. Unfortunately I was getting pretty tired of listening to how dry everyone was.
On top of these commentaries are some theatrical trailers, TV spots, and radio spots.
Disc two featuring two documentaries: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, and Flesh Wounds. You hear quite a lot of information on the first discs commentaries (quite a bit of the same on each actually), but the first documentary actually covers some additional ground in a manner not nearly as dry. The second documentary takes us through the films horror fandom, from cast and crew interview, to horror convention footage.
Gunnar Hansen, freaky Leatherface himself, takes you on a tour of the famed house. At this point though, the house has been turned into some sort of a diner affair. You have no idea how hard it is to resist making some sort of 'do they serve human?' jokes right about now.
Other than this, you get the basics such as deleted scenes, outtakes, a blooper reel, outtakes from even one of the documentaries, and a still gallery.
When this film had first been released in 1974, as the back of this tin case would tell you, 'it was attacked by churches, banned by governments, and acclaimed by only the bravest of crictics'. Of course, much of what you see in this film is outdone today by just how disgusting movies want to try and be by throwing a lot of gore in with those 'boo' scares. Unfortunately for the movies of today, what truly makes any film terrifying in the end is its plausibility. Maniac cannibal family in the middle of nowhere? Certainly not something you could rule out. Comparing to Halloween again, it's why Michael Myers was so scary originally as well. He was just a psychopath in the beginning. Making the viewer imagine themselves in some twisted yet plausible reality, or putting them in the seat of a universe that seems to be out of control, is where the real terror is at. This film deserves its 'Ultimate Edition'. How many horror films do you see get enough acclaim to warrant 180 minutes worth of bonus material when the film itself was 84 minutes? Not only that, but with all the re-releases getting thrown at us, it's not that often anymore you have to say to yourself 'OK, this is TRULY worth buying again', and this is. I recommend this release to any horror fan out there.