One of the strengths of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is how its 16mm aesthetic gives it the aura of a snuff film. Or if that’s a bit extreme, at least it looks like something raw that you shouldn’t be watching. Every time it comes out in a new format raises the question, how good can or should Texas Chain Saw Massare ever look? A 4K played in theaters and the UHG shows the answer is simply the ability to amplify the darkness.
Once Kirk (William Vail), Pam (Teri McMinn) and Sally (Marilyn Burns) go inside the Sawyer house, the 4K really conveys wandering through darkness. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen)’s forest massacre at night is all the more terrifying. It’s not quite pitch black or you couldn’t see Sally running away but it’s able to get close in 4K.
The first half of Texas Chain Saw is in broad daylight. It maintains the sweaty ‘70s look in 4K. The grain remains there. Magic hour shots look particularly beautiful, the dusk before all hell breaks loose and the triumphant sunrise of the finale.
Over the course of several releases they’ve added surround sound to the 1974 mix. It’s noticeable from the beginning with traffic on the road. Laughter echoes through Franklin’s abandoned house and nature noises in the woods. Of course, the saw buzzes around the room.
For a movie this well covered over the last 50 years, the new 82 minute documentary on the legacy of Texas Chain Saw Massacre is quite good and thorough. Critics and filmmakers speak about the film’s influence. From a modern perspective, it gets into a more evolved perspective on the Ed Gein inspired trans subtext (or text really), including prior and subsequent influences too.
I never realized Texas Chain Saw was the first horror movie about teenagers. That’s a big deal this feature points out.
Texas Chain Saw Massacre may rival Halloween and Evil Dead for the record of prolific home video releases. I can’t vouch for every edition, but this collection of archival extras is mighty extensive. That includes four commentaries, one including Burns and two including Tobe Hooper, which are priceless since both are no longer with us. And bonus features go as recent as when Hooper was discussing the latest re-release of the film.