What more can be said about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Like all other horror fans, I love the movie. I've read Gunnar Hanson's excellent book. I've watched the documentaries. Sat through the DVD suppliments. Checked out the audio commentaries. You'd think the well had been mined pretty well at this point.

But now we have The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Film That Terrified a Rattled Nation. Rather than dwell on the actual experiences of filming Chain Saw, author Joseph Lanza delves deeper into the psche of Tobe Hooper's masterpiece.

Subtitled A Cultural History, this book looks into the world in which The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was conceived, manufactured, and released. I was a pretty young kid in the 70's, and mostly preoccipied with comics, science fiction, and monster movies, but I remember a lot of the stuff discussed in the book.

Tobe Hooper had been a hippie with a movie camera, but as the peace and love era transmogrified into a time of discontent and violence, so did his sensibilities. Hooper made an experimental hippie movie called Eggshells, but he was ready for something different.

It was a time of turmoil. The hippie movement turned dark under the shadows of Manson, Altamont, Hell's Angels, and The Weather Underground. There was a president who seemed paranoid and unhinged. An increasingly unpopular war was played out across television screens. Occult and fringe beliefs were in vogue. Racial Unrest boiled hot. Serial Killers stalked the country. Porn was becoming mainstream. Fuel shortages sent shockwaves through the world. Dire warnings about devastating population explosion and the threat of running out of food terrified millions.

Then there was this dirty little production down in Texas. Merely an above-average exploitation movie, or a sign of the existing times and a portent of worse to come?

Joseph Lanza weaves a hypnotic spell in his well-researched look back at a tumultuous period in history. The documentary, Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue, covered much of the same ground, but not as eloquently or in as much precise detail.

This could have been a dry academic study, or an hysterical shock piece, but instead The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Film That Terrified a Rattled Nation is a smart, fascinating, and thought-provoking look back at a decidedly strange period in America.

Now we have an even more controversial and frightening President. Mass murderers have overtaken serial killers. Disease and unrest have reached terrifying heights. We always seem a step or two away from an apocalypse. People are at each others throats in more extreme ways than I've ever seen.

Maybe the family that turned people into barbecue in Texas isn't so terrifying anymore. Maybe they've become us. Or perhaps we've become them.

Written by Mark Sieber

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