Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Case It's Based On

Leatherface

Leatherface
Leatherface

In October 2006, New Line Cinema released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. A prequel to the 2003 remake of the original 1974 film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it features the childhood development and first chainsaw murder of a character known as Leatherface. Before it, there were five movies and several documentaries associated with this series. Viewers never seem to get enough.

Tobe Hooper directed the original movie for release in 1974, as well as its widely-panned 1986 sequel. The basic plot follows a group of five college students out to explore the abandoned house in Texas where the grandfather of two of them, Franklin and Sally Hardesty, once lived. They pick up a crazy hitchhiker who slashes himself and Franklin, so they kick him out of their van. Out of gas, they stop at a gas station that has none and then go to the house. Wandering to an adjacent property, two of the kids come under attack from the demented family that lives there. A large man wearing a human-skin mask kills the boy with a sledgehammer and hangs his girlfriend on a meathook. He then uses a chainsaw to cut up the boy. Their disappearance draws the others and two of them are killed as well. Sally is the lone survivor, and she manages to get out of the house, flag down a truck and leave Leatherface in the road behind, wielding his chainsaw in frustration.

Leatherface with Saw
Leatherface with Saw

A notable scene that gets replayed in some fashion in all the subsequent films is the dinner scene, where a girl (Sally, in this case) is tied to a chair and forced to watch the clan eat sausage made from her friends. A withered old man, Grandpa, has drunk her blood from a cut finger, and he returns in most of the movies, as does Leatherface. In fact, Leatherface is one of the most memorable slasher-film villains of all time, co-equal with Freddy and Jason.

The Dinner Scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Dinner Scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The film claims to be based on actual events, but this is a "false document" technique, dating back two centuries in fiction and used to heighten suspense. The idea that such an incident actually happened makes it more intriguing. Even today, viewers believe that the events in TCM are true.

An article on Wikipedia notes that Hooper devised the film's premise when he spotted some chainsaws while trying to get out of a crowded store. Supposedly it occurred to him that a running chainsaw would cut a swatch through the crowd quickly enough. The movie that revamped this idea into low-budget horror became an international sensation and is considered by some to be among the most memorable horror movies of all time. Let's next consider the story on which TCM was based. There was indeed a real serial killer who wore a skin mask, although the tale about him is not quite what many people think.

 

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