The recent remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – with heaps of gore, pretty teenagers and a rock video aesthetic – only went to show why Tobe Hooper’s original film was so brilliant. Rather than relying on gore, Hooper created an ever present sense of fear, dread and disgust that stayed with audiences (and, in the UK, the BBFC) for a very long time.
From these humble – yet terrifying – beginnings, the character of Leatherface has gone on to be something of a horror icon, becoming the focal point in a number of varying quality sequels and having his twisted visage on more merchandise than you can shake a sledgehammer at. In his Texas Chainsaw Massacre Companion, Stefan Jaworzyn attempts to bring the various myths and legends surrounding the franchise into some sort of focus.
Beginning with Hooper’s first forays into film making – including the psychedelic feature Eggshells – and ending with The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (a virtual remake of the original, little seen, starring Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, long before they were famous), the book takes in the long and protracted history of the original film with the BBFC and the many problems with filming the sequel. Unsurprisingly, it is the original film that comes in for the majority of the focus.
Jaworzyn structures the book with a series of soundbites, taken form interviews with various people involved with the Texas Chainsaw mythos. From Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface to the writer of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Jaworzyn has got everyone involved. Well, almost everyone. Tobe Hooper is extremely conspicuous by his absence and is only represented via previous interviews and quotes taken from press notes. It does rather take away from the book, and Hooper’s input – especially looking back at the film after more than twenty years – would have been most welcome.
For die-hard Texas Chainsaw fans, then this book will provide much interest, especially with the little regarded – and seldom written about – sequels (one of the stars of Texas Chainsaw II was Dennis Hopper, and he’s quoted as believing that he looked sillier than he ever thought he would in a film – though he might have changed his tune after Waterworld ). With plenty of facts, figures and unseen stills this’ll have the fans in rapture – but with the absence of Hooper, the book fails to be the definitive guide that the classic horror film so richly deserves.