Posted by: Kristen Hicks | July 20, 2011

Texas Chainsaw Rolling Roadshow

After weeks of life getting in the way of me getting around to it, I’m finally writing my first post on the Texas films chosen by Texas Monthly and the Alamo Drafthouse as the top 10 Texas movies.

The one movie I actually managed to see as part of the Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  As a particular fan of horror and a Texan, this movie holds  a special place for me.  I’ve written about it once before and after watching many horror movies over time, a genre that tends to repeat itself often and unapolegetically revel in its tropes, this movie manages to feel 100% unique in the ways it invokes serious terror and dread in the viewer.

I made the trip to Kingsland, about an hour an a half outside of Austin, with my brother very soon after returning from a wrongheaded stint living in LosS Angeles and my first foray into the Texas hill country felt especially meaningful after some time away.  Much is said about the beauty of California and if you can pull of the grueling trek involved in getting anywhere when living in LA to get a bit outside of the city, I can see what people are referring to, but for me with my Texas ties and months of yearning to return, there was (and is) little that can compare to the rugged beauty of Texas; a beauty that can toughly maintain itself in spite of months or years of drought (although its certainly more beautiful when we get lucky and have lots of summer rain) and can fill you with pride as a symbol of the resilience of the state itself.

When we got to Kingsville, there were already a good number of people who had established their spots in front of the screen in lawn chairs and, to a lesser extent, on towels and blankets.  Having an acquaintance who works for the Drafthouse, we were able to grab a spot near the front and settle in.  We attempted to pay a visit to the Texas Chainsaw house which was situated a bit to the right of the screen, but it was closed off to most of us, to allow for those who had opted for the VIP dinner to have a peaceful (?) meal I suppose.

We stocked up on Shiner Ruby Redbird beers (my brother actually bought them out when he learned they were getting low, cause he’s that kind of guy) and took in the opening festivities: a screaming contest and a head cheese eating contest. All of this was presided over by the Alamo Drafthouse owner, a long-time lover of the movie and several of the actors from the movie including: Marilyn Burns, the original Final Girl; and Edwin Neal, the supremely creepy hitchhiker.

I have to quickly give a nod to this awesome trailer that preceded the film:

And then…the movie.  It never fails to impress, no matter how many repeat viewings I take in.  From the moment the van full of teens takes in the hitchhiker, a character unparalleled in my film experience for making me feel grimy and unsettled, the tone is set for creatively disturbing imagery and horrifying set pieces.  There are so many moments in the film that make it a distinct horror masterpiece: from a room of filled with chickens and furniture made from human bones, a girl being hung on a hook (and living in that state for far longer than I’d like to think about), Sally being tied up soon after thinking she’d successfully fled to safety and being poked at by a laughing captor as he drives her to further horrors, Sally sitting at the head of the table for the family meal, meeting Grandpa (the point where the movie becomes the most comical, while maintaining a dreadful sense of horror), the iconic image of Leatherface chasing her with a chainsaw, Sally screaming and covered in blood in the back of a truck…the list goes on.  The film that in many ways kicked off the killer horror genre of the 70’s remains easily one of, if not its most, successful entries.

After the film, we stopped into the house for a cocktail and got to see the pristine, family restaurant version of the interior (when I say “family” here, I mean something worlds away from the family of the film).  It was a fitting way to finish off the experience, a nice symbol of how we can so easily leave behind the terrors of a well crafted horror film and return to the safety of our largely un-horrific lives.

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