Last week Tobe Hooper died at the age 74, leaving behind a legacy of innovation in horror films that indisputably began with his lurid masterpiece, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In part because of his roots as a documentarian, there’s a rawness to the film that still makes it infinitely compelling today. But, as a video essay from Ryan Hollinger points out, it’s more than just grainy footage of a man chasing hippies—Hooper masterfully structured the brief film, and it seethes with the political rage of its day.
The movie’s title and opening credits reflect public distrust of an increasingly sensationalized media, and over the film’s first half it creates a deranged landscape in which Leatherface’s violence feels normalized, even organic. Its violence is as much emotional and structural as it is graphic, reflecting the depth of Hooper’s disaffection with post-Nixonian politics and media. Even the jump-scares are worth revisiting, occurring with a sense of day-lit inevitability in some instances and as part of shockwaves of unexpected turns in others.
The video surprisingly pivots to make a case in favor of the movie’s much-maligned 2003 remake, which evolved to update the film’s scares for a new audience. Of course, that movie contained another shock to filmgoers before the credits even finished: the phrase “Produced By Michael Bay,” which still gives you cold chills just looking at it.