I’ll self-indulgently remind longtime 5FF readers that I don’t think Chainsaw is scary.
The “making of…”, as chronicled in an instant classic Texas Monthly oral history, was way grosser, what with all that stinking slaughterhouse offal laying all over the broiling set. And all the damned hippies…
Anyway, Joe Bob is the perfect guy to look at the movie itself:
Chain Saw was the first baby-boomer horror film, in which sheltered but idealistic suburban children, distrustful of anyone over 30, are terrorized by the deformed adult world that dwells on the grungy side of the railroad tracks. There had been other films that treat rural America as a place of seething, barely-contained violence—notably Deliverance—but never one in which the distinction is so clearly made between an old America, of twisted deranged adults, and the new America, of honest right-thinking children. Hooper and Henkel had finally made their counterculture film after all. (…)
The problem with the New York critical debate was that every commentator made some kind of basic factual error about what is actually in the film. The idea that the story could take place only in Texas informed a lot of the more hysterical articles, ignoring the fact that the principal source material was from medieval German folklore and Wisconsin court archives. If you read enough of the reviews, in fact, you start to think that the scariest word in the title was neither “chainsaw” nor “massacre,” but “Texas”!
Hooper also directed Poltergeist (Briggs calls rumours that it was really Spielberg “slanderous” and explains how they got started). And here’s an early Hooper film:
Trying to flesh out a plot in a movie that had none, Hooper invented a ghostly spirit that dwelt in the basement of the house, a mysterious force that Burns eventually dubbed the “cryptoembryonic hyperelectric presence.” (It was mostly pulsating lights and spinning colors and fast-motion film—what passed for psychedelic special effects at the time.