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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Horror Histories Vol. 12 - How Santa Inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the very best movie about a Chainsaw Massacre that doesn’t actually show a chainsaw massacre.  That's true!  Not one chainsaw actually touches flesh in the entire runtime of the film.  For those who have never seen it, I know you don’t believe me.  You’re thinking that I’m fooling you into watching something that’s going to be super gory and gross.  I’m not though. 

Yes, a chainsaw does appear in the film, repeatedly and yes, the film is about a family of violent murderers.  No, it’s not something for everyone, but a common misconception that started in schoolyards nationwide back in the 1970’s is that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a supremely gory movie.  Instead, it gets its chills and scares from superbly measured camerawork and a phenomenal script that oozes dread.

Now, most people who love horror movies can point right away to the inspiration behind this one.  While we don’t see Leatherface and his family carving up human victims, we do see artifacts of their past deeds scattered around their house.  There are ornaments made of bones, furniture with bone decorations and that mask our villain wears definitely came from someone else’s face.  This all brings to mind a real life serial killer named Ed Gein who famously dug up graves and took trophies to make everything from furniture to clothing.  I won’t go into specifics but if you want to read something truly disturbing, check out his page on Wikipedia.

What many people don’t know is that Tobe Hooper was initially inspired by something even more horrifying than Ed Gein.

Christmas shopping.

Hooper gave an interview where he detailed what happened.  He was in the hardware department of a store and the Christmas shopping season was in full swing.  Hooper was not a fan of crowds so already, he was anxious to get out.  As his anxiety began to build, he found himself staring at a display of chainsaws.  His next thought was (and this is a direct quote), “Well, if I pick this damn thing up and start it, they’ll part like the Red Sea and I can get out of here.”

I know that's not Santa in the picture above, but it's as close as I could find.

Hooper had been looking for a horror story to film.  He was a big fan of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and wanted to make an independent feature to get his name out there.  With the realization that the chainsaw was potentially a violent and bloody weapon and not just a tool for lumberjacks, he soon started researching and writing.

See, the Holiday Season really does bring out the best in all of us, right?

If you want more horror that happens around the holidays, check out my book The Wash.  Seriously, holidays are involved.  Check it out!

See you next time!

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