The Real Texas Chainsaw Massacre Story
Photo: Jesse Grant/WireImage (Getty Images)
Even if you’re not a huge horror film fan, you’ve probably heard of one of the most famous movies in the genre – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was released way back in 1974. The film basically started the entire genre of slasher movies and gave us some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. However, the most puzzling element of the entire film is the initial claim that the events depicted in it were true. How could something so gruesome and appalling be real? Well, we’ve decided to look into the matter and offer you some undeniable facts. Let’s begin.
First of all, let’s take a look at the story in the film. The plot involves a group of friends who travel to a distant place to visit an old family graveyard and investigate the vandalism claims. On their way, they encounter a couple of weird characters, including a hitchhiker, a gas station proprietor and, ultimately, the Leatherface, a serial killer who murders them one by one. As the title of the film suggests, the murderer uses mainly a chainsaw as his weapon of choice. Although it initially got some mixed reviews, in time, this movie became a cult classic that introduced a whole new meaning to the word horror. What made it even more exceptional was the fact that the director, Tobe Hooper, worked on what could be called a shoestring budget of only $300,000. Furthermore, due to its excessive graphic content, Hooper struggled to find the distributors willing to give his film a chance. Considering how it earned more than ten times its budget, it is obvious that they’ve made a huge mistake.
With such a low budget, the director and the crew had to be very creative to do some of the scenes in the film, which is why there are a lot of either creepy or weird stuff associated with the film. So, for example, in one scene, the character Sally’s finger was supposed to be cut so that the oldest member of the cannibalistic family could munch on it. Because they simply couldn’t get it to work any other way, the actress let them cut her for real, shedding her blood for this movie, quite literally. That doesn’t sound too bad when you consider the fact that most of the crew got injured in one way or the other during filming because of its poor production and safety measures. Besides that, every cast member had to wear the same clothes during filming, which lasted for 5 weeks. You can only imagine how horrible filming was. Also, because of the extensive need for skeletons and various bones in the scenes, the director decided to use the real ones, since they were much cheaper.
Is Texas Chainsaw Massacre Real?
So, are the events depicted in the film real? Well, of course not. It is just a movie. That being said, Hooper did find some inspiration in the real world because we all know that reality is often much more disturbing than fiction. Some time after the film was released, Hooper confessed that the initial claim wasn’t actually the truth, but rather a statement about the society we live in. He simply felt frustrated by the lies the US government was feeding people, so he decided to contribute and show the world how ridiculous it all sounded. Hooper also felt uneasy about the number of gruesome, extremely graphic news reports about murders all across the country, because they claimed to be informative, but only really wanted to be sensationalistic.
Of course, people being people, immediately started making up rumors about the film, mostly fueled by that initial claim that they are true events. According to some, the actual murderer still lived somewhere in Texas with the rest of his cannibalistic family, waiting for some new, unsuspecting victims to cut open with his trusty chainsaw. Though we know now this simply isn’t true, the actual serial killers that were their main inspiration were no doubt chilling individuals. The first one was Ed Gein, a truly disturbed man who killed two women in the late ’50s but, even more disturbingly, dug out graves and made things from human body parts in his home. It is said that his initial idea was to find a woman who looks like his mother, peel her skin off and wear it, becoming his mother in a way (you can see how this inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho). At his home, the investigators found a number of items made from human flesh, bones, and skin, including bowls, leggings, masks, and a number of other things. Ed Gein was the very personification of horror.
An important part of Leatherface’s complexity in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 movie came from an interview with a serial killer called Elmer Wayne Henley that the director once saw. Namely, he was astonished by the calmness and determination of this extremely young (17-year-old), skinny murderer who confessed the crimes and was ready to face the consequences. What really astonished him about Elmer was the fact that he seemed to had become a fairly normal functioning human being once he was caught and there was no chance of escape. He tried to implement this dual morality into the character of Leatherface and it worked.
What do you think about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre story? Is the real inspiration behind it creepier than the movie itself?