I thought I would do something slightly different for this weeks Shocking Saturday, but still staying in the horror theme of course. I will, every now and then, look at the different icons of horror cinema and look into what it is that terrifies audiences. If in some cases the icons are part of a franchise, I will be mainly looking at the story portrayed in the original film.
The icon that I am looking at this week is one of the most famous antagonists in the horror genre, this chainsaw-wielding, Texan maniac has sent shivers down our spines since the release of the first film in the franchise in 1974. I am talking of course about Leather-Face/Bubba Sawyer (played by Gunnar Hansen) from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.Due to him suffering from a skin condition, Leather-Face grew up shunned, and, along with his family, became a cannibalistic psychopath. Slaughtering anyone he comes in to contact with, thanks to his rusty chainsaw, and in some cases removing the skin from his victims and wearing it over his own. What ever is left over is cooked and served at dinner time. Our sadistic killer lives in a rather large house, which has been lovingly decorated in various animal and human corpses – these elements largely mirror the actions of real life serial killer Ed Gein, who used to make furniture out of human remains and carry his dead mother around the house. Along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the characters Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) were based on Gein’s antics.
It is not just the fact that Leather Face is chasing you and trying to dismember you that is scary – quite frankly because he isn’t that fast – no, what should give you the chills is his lair where he drags his victims to hang them on meat hooks from the skin on their backs and then forces them to watch their friends be mutilated. His own little rec room if you will.
Leather-Face single-handedly started the slasher sub-genre, a genre which would go on to scare audiences world-wide, and include some of horror cinemas greatest achievements: Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play – to name a few. A lot of credit has to go to the special effects and make-up department, as they played a vital part in creating the horror of Leather-Face. Without his torn, bloody face, he wouldn’t have been half as scary – although the chainsaw does help to spread fear quite a lot as well.
Like with many horror icons, Leather-Face does not speak, these are the most chilling ones. With no voices being used, you can’t decipher whether or not the killer feels any remorse for their deeds, however he does let out a high-pitched shriek every now and then when he kills somebody. Whether this is in regret at what he has done, or in energetic rage and love for the murders he is committing is for the audience to figure out.So the next time you are driving down an old Texan highway, and see what appears to be an abandoned house, I would recommend carrying straight on. Unless you wish to feel the wrath of Bubba Sawyer.
A remake of the original film was released in 2003, although when compared to the original it doesn’t match up, it was still a frightfully, heart-racing flick which brought the story of Leather-Face to a new generation.
Original Film Tag Line: Who Will Survive? And What Will Be Left Of Them?
Film Franchise List:
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – 1986
Leather-Face: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 – 1990
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation – 1994
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 2003
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 2006
Texas chainsaw 3D – 2013