There's an unmatched verisimilitude achieved by Hooper (rest in peace) and his cast of talented unknowns that remains paralyzingly scary to this day; yet even within the docu-drama realm the movie inhabits, moments of surreal, terrible, accomplished beauty -- landscapes, silhouettes, tracking shots -- burn in the memory. We also see precious little actual violence; Hooper prioritizes characters reacting to it.
In many respects an important and remarkable film. For me the dinner sequence at the end is one of the creepiest scenes ever made: In combining his sometimes rough camera shots from different angles with body sounds (cries of fear and vicious laughter) and an extraordinary music/soundscape (produced by self-made instruments) Hooper gives the mental and social disorder of the situation an unforgettable shape.
When I was 19 I saw 'Alien' and it messed me up. So I decided to do some exposure therapy. I watched every horror movie that I could. This movie messed me up for several days. But then I was stronger. And then I saw Evil Dead, and that messed me up. I will watch just about anything, except for 'A Serbian Film'. And so far I have not become a serial killer. How about that?
Raw and visceral filmmaking that stands the test of time and is every bit as frightening now with its 40th anniversary re-master than it was on the day it first screened. Despite a low budget, the camera work is gritty and unsettling and the sound design is pulsating, unnerving. The performances are campy and quite bizarre. The final sequence remains one of the most beautiful and terrifying endings to a horror film.
Grainy 16mm footage adds a layer of verisimilitude to what is otherwise a low-budget horror movie made on the cheap. "TCM" has lost some of the visceral power it once had over me, but it's clear the anxieties of its day - Watergate, Vietnam, energy crisis - are churning just below the surface. The film ascends into vision during its final twenty minutes, with the infamous dinner scene proving an unsettling highlight.
The greatest American horror film. Atmospheric, claustrophobic, deranged, disturbing, grimy, gritty, hallucinatory, hysterical, psychotic, sweaty, visceral--rightfully deserves its place in the Museum of Modern Art.
40th anniversary re-master. Hooper's classic defining horror film is still the stuff of nightmares. Wildly upsetting and extreme upon release it's relative tameness now does not diminish its effect on the viewer. From the first closing of the steel door to the last shot of a screaming Burns and a twirling Leatherface this is still a terrifying experience. Hooper would never live up to the promise this film suggested.
Profoundly disturbing, a fact enhanced by the raw, no bullshit approach to the storytelling and the beautiful cinematography which is, at times, paradoxically poetic. Undoubtedly, one of the best horrors ever made.