"You can all go to hell, Iím going to Texas." The art brut thrust is declared at once, darkness is illuminated by abrupt, dreadful flashes that unveil a crimson tableau of wired-up cadavers, "a grisly work of art." Franjuís abattoir (Le sang des bÍtes) is an olfactory presence, the inescapable foul scent picked up by a quintet of young joyriders in the midst of the "disturbing and unpredictable day" promised by the horoscope. (Paul A. Partainís pantomime of an air gun piercing through bovine skulls sets the gleeful timbre.) The terrain is a Wyeth meadow lush with rot, the crumbling manse by the barbecue shanty beckons the travelers out of the clammy van and onto the meat hooks. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is Caliban with a butcherís soiled apron, he promptly annihilates the would-be heroic couple (William Vail, Teri McMinn) and cowers in a corner, eyes darting from behind his mask of stitched human skin. "I just canít take no pleasure in killing," drawls the head of the cannibal clan (Jim Siedow), "but thereís just some things you gotta do." A ferocious redneck Theater of Cruelty, Tobe Hooperís grindhouse masterpiece abounds in snuff ambience and cacophonous trauma. Claustrophobic frames and a low-angled, prowling camera contemplate every grainy detail (the spiderís nest in the attic, a dangling stopwatch speared by a nail, chicken feathers floating around the skeletal dťcor), heightening the appalling comedy of heartland family values devouring whateverís left of the Age of Aquarius. Subtext is inseparable from Watergate/Vietnam dysfunction and anger, yet Hooperís indelible nightmare moves in its own cosmic cycle, a sky in which the blasting orange sun and the full moon give way to the capillary-cracked whites of Marilyn Burnsí dismayed eyes. DalŪís Rainy Taxi figures unmistakably in the giddy mushrooming of terror, the hillbilly's dervish roar brings back the darkness. "If I have any more fun today, I don't think I can take it!" Decades of sequels, prequels, remakes and imitations canít take away its scabrous power. Cinematography by Daniel Pearl. With Allen Danziger, Edwin Neal, and John Dugan.
--- Fernando F. Croce