The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is forty years old, and I find that incredible. It still stands up well for a horror film of its age, especially when you consider it was a low budget movie to begin with.
The story is fairly simple - a small group of young people driving through rural Texas are attacked by a family of grave-robbing cannibals with a fondness for power tools. The film builds slowly, using unusual characters, imagery, sound, and camera angles to create a sense of uneasiness and dread. The set design throughout is amazing and bizarre, with household items created from random bones, feathers and skin. You can almost smell the house when you see it. Coupled with the graininess of the film stock, the movie has a rawness about it that makes you feel unclean just by watching it. It also makes clever use of background sound such as pig noises or industrial humming, rather than using background music, which makes it all the more unsettling for the viewer.
Considering the notoriety it achieved, it's surprising how little gore is shown. The film has the knack of making you believe afterwards that you've seen something far more horrific than you actually have. Don't get me wrong, it's still a brutal and frightening film. But the gruesome chainsaw, for example, is used to kill only one person, and is not shown in gory detail.
It does have its faults. One or two of the acting performances are not particularly good, for example. But the positives far outweigh the negatives, and I can understand how the movie has gained cult status over the years. Its influence can certainly be seen in horror cinema even now, forty years later.
The version I watched was the 3-disc 'Ultimate Edition' DVD set, which has a restored and remastered print, and is a massive improvement over the previous versions I had seen. It's well worth looking out for if you want to buy a copy. 5/5