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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Review from the Media Literacy Perspective

By Lana V LynxPublished 16 days ago Updated 13 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2024
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Official movie poster

I've audited a night course in Horror and Scifi Film from a colleague who is a great expert in both genres and who selected interesting movies for the class to watch, representative of a particular sub-genre or cultural trend of the time. I enjoyed the course tremendously, watched the films I never saw before and had a chance to participate in insightful discussions with eager and engaged students.

I've only heard about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and saw many references to it in the cultural public sphere (the Leatherface memes and the chainsaw slashing bodies). As I am not a big fan of slasher horror movies, I deliberately stayed away from it. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Using the four-dimension media literacy critique, I will try to explain why, by highlighting some of the features and qualities of the film.

1. Cognitive Dimension (What did I learn from the film?)

First of all, I've learned the story that is underlying so many modern horrors and became a foundation or starting point for many different interpretations and takes on it: the TCM franchise itself consists of nine films, multiple comics, a novel, and two video games adaptations. Since continuity is not the goal for the franchise, even the experts and fans are confused about how the units are connected. The original story is fascinating and kept me on edge in terms of who the killer is and what made him the way he was.

It became clear that he was mentally ill and protective of his territory/world, but what made him that way - we can only speculate and suggest some informed theories. One of these theories is a social commentary on the American realities of the time: the breakdown of a traditional family and perhaps a trauma associated with having no mother or motherly love in childhood. All the murderous family connections in the movie, when fully revealed, are the paternal and/or brotherly relationships.

2. Emotional dimension (How did the movie make me feel?)

As a social commentary, the movie made me depressed. There are clear references to the breakdown of the traditional family under the weight of economic changes: the grandfather losing his job at the slaughter house, the men unable to make a living in the new economic conditions of jobs leaving small towns, notable absence of the mother or motherly presence substituted by the Leatherface playing female roles in the house, etc. The general dilapidation of everything, starting with the van the future victims are traveling in and ending with the two houses where the massacre is taking place and even the cemetery vandalism as the background story are all signs of societal and economic entropy and breakdown of traditional values as the fabric of society.

And of course, as a good horror movie, it kept me on edge and scared in all the murder scenes, even though they are graphic only in the viewers' imagination.

3. Aesthetic dimension (What did I appreciate in the movie about the way it was executed?)

Overall, the film was masterfully done in terms of the camera work and lighting to create the heavy atmosphere of an impending doom. I kept reminding myself that the film came out in 1974, and the camera work in the torture-at-dinner scene was so exceptional, presenting the terror in the girl's eye (yes, one eye movement was masterfully tracked) is something that I've only seen in Clockwork Orange and is incredibly difficult to reproduce technically even today. The music, the setting, the animal and human bone "decorations" all enhanced the sense of the doom and macabre that a horror movie should evoke in the viewers. And the stench was almost palpable.

The most striking aesthetic feature of the film is that we rarely see the blood spilled or splattered or the chainsaw and other murder instruments making a contact with the human body. It's truly a slasher in the viewer's mind.

4. Moral dimension (What ethical and moral lessons does the movie teach us?)

Besides the obvious moral lesson of "no killing people," I liked the fact that it was the weak and fragile girl who survived the entire ordeal, after the torture and the long ridiculous chase that made you think the movie was a dark comedy (which, as it turns out, was the director's original intent). One of the movie theories suggests that she only survived because she was a woman and probably a blood relation of the murdering family, hence the diner scene where they set up a plate of food for her, albeit tied up to the chair, thus inviting her into their world as a woman figure they desperately needed. After all, the Leatherface had only two female face masks and was probably tired of cooking for the entire family.

I did laugh (sometimes out loud and sometimes to myself) on several occasions during the film. Thinking of it as a dark comedy was something that helped me sleep at night. Overall, I enjoyed the movie tremendously. Two thumbs up from me, someone who is still catching up on the American movie culture, having lived half of my life in the USSR.

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About the Creator

Lana V Lynx

Avid reader and occasional writer of satire and short fiction. For my own sanity and security, I write under a pen name. My books: Moscow Calling - 2017 and President & Psychiatrist

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  • Lamar Wiggins11 days ago

    Such a disturbing movie, even for me. I'm pretty sure I watched all of them with Leather Face being the favorite. Not favorite as in motivated to watch it more than once, lol. But out of them all, I felt it was written better.

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  • angela hepworth12 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! Loved the review and I love this movie.

  • Congrats on your top story.

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • shanmuga priya13 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Shirley Belk13 days ago

    Lana, I have never seen the movie and stayed away from it for the same reason as you had. Now that I've read your review, it has become less ominous to me. I probably won't go out of my way to watch it though...I'm not sure how it would benefit me. I don't think horror benefits our society and I'm not sure of the implications it might have for influencing individuals. But I do believe in freedom of speech (and movies.)

  • BrettNotGreg13 days ago

    Great analysis! Congrats on TS!

  • Congrats on your top story🎉

  • Rachel Deeming13 days ago

    Great discussion, Lana. I've never seen it. I might give it a go after your review.

  • Anu Mehjabin13 days ago

    Congrats on your top story🎉

  • Congratulations on this becoming a TS Lana! It's a great breakdown of what you took from this film! I've actually never seen it, but it sounds closer to good traditional horror which is better than the slashers we tend to see today!

  • Paul Stewart13 days ago

    I love this review, Lana. So interesting to hear about the film from a different lens....I enjoyed the film. Felt it was more comedic than its "video nasty" title would suggest. Like...it's not a patch on I Spit On Your Grave. The funny thing with horrors...even the most serious and terrifying, is that there is often elements of humour in them. It's hard to make a terrifying film, especially one with elements of crude stereotypes etc like this. But, I'm glad you found it enjoyable...because I think a lot are put off it for the reasons you have said. There are far better horros, IMO, and it is best seen as a dark comedy that tackles some societal issues and weird stereotypes lol! Great review though and congrats on this getting Top Story!

  • L.C. Schäfer15 days ago

    I have never seen it, I think I have avoided it for the same reasons you have. But you are selling me on it! I might give it a look.

  • I've not watched this movie but I know that it's based on the serial killer Ed Gein. I heard about him in a true crime podcast and his story stuck with me. And whoaaaa, there's nine movies in this franchise and they're not connected? Then I might just only watch the first one. The original always seems to be the best

  • Kodah16 days ago

    The movie was quite terrifying considering it was based on a true story, but the articular cinematics were purely formed in dark comedy as you said! This movie has been remastered a few times, but I will always stick to the original 1970 film!

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