The original ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ – restored on Amazon Prime

Gunnar Hansen with leatherface and chainsaw in Tobe Hooper's original 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'

The saw is family in Tobe Hooper’s brutal, brilliant debut The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) a grungy, grisly horror about a perverse Texas cannibal clan (inspired by the story of Ed Gein) and the teenagers who wander into their home (decorated in furniture constructed from human bones) and wind up on their meat hooks and in their freezer.

Shot in the cheap with a primitive look that belies the craft put into it, the film earns its garish title and notorious reputation, notably with the almost pure savagery of the film’s poster-boy Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), the devoted mute son who wields the chainsaw under a mask of human flesh. It’s unrelenting and unforgettable and its raw gore remains its strongest element. Along with Night of the Living Dead and The Last House on the Left, it ushered in the modern age of horror in the 1970s. It is one of the great transgressive American horrors and is still the film upon which Hooper’s reputation is built.

A grunge classic in its own right, with sweltering, sunburned color, gloomy interior darkness, and its own atmosphere of Southwestern Gothic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot on 16mm film and blown up to 35mm for theaters. You can tell on the 40th anniversary 4K digital transfer, which preserves the texture of film without turning the film grain into a digital grainstorm. If you’ve never seen the film, or are ready to revisit it, this is the best version you’ll find in streaming form.

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Also on DVD and Blu-ray in superb special editions with four commentary tracks. The four-disc “Collector’s Edition” includes two feature-length documentaries plus interviews, outtakes, and featurettes.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary [DVD]
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary [Blu-ray]
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

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About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.