A group of teenagers on a road trip, wait what? You've heard of plots starting off like this before? The typical Horror movie set up, yes, I know. But wait, before you get in an emotional tizzy, or decide to look on something else on the internet, let me continue. Something sets this one apart from all of the rest. This one is something to be remembered. It's insanely surreal, uncomfortable, it comes across as something you know you shouldn't really be watching, but you can't help but see where it goes.
And no, I'm not talking about the 70's clothing and hairstyles.
This film has almost a gritty, underground documentary feel and look to it. As if the events which are taking place throughout the film actually transpired, and it's unfolding it's glory right in front of our eyes. Intense and terrifying for it's time, this film is probably the most horrifying film ever made, given the time it was released. It's Breathtakingly intense, grim, uncomfortably amusing. It is genuinely and quite unapologetically frightening.
Despite its reputation, it is a remarkably bloodless film where anything visceral is either implied or delivered off screen. The movie has this way of almost convincing you that you just sat through the most sickeningly gory 87 minutes of your life, when in fact you have simply been letting your imagination do the work from behind your closed, terrified eyes. The entire atmosphere of the film can all be chalked up to the art direction, sound effects, editing, musical score (which mostly consists of clunking and clanking sounds).
Their are some great performances, too. Edwin Neil (the Hitch-Hiker), Jim Seidow (The Old Man), and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) as the Psychotic-Cannibalistic Family members. In a film this low budget and grainy, performances this real feel all the more scary. Marilyn Burns (Sally) truly gave her all, and more, to the role, as you can practically feel her decent into madness at the hands of the family.
The first time I saw it as a pretty young child on VHS, I had no idea what the hell I was watching. Things just kept happening, and happening, but in the way that this was one of those forbidden movies that most kids that age really shouldn't have seen, if anything for it's Insane ending, and all of it's implied carnage. Given the fact that it was on an almost worn out VHS tape added more effect to the whole thing too, as it almost felt like I was watching an Secret Underground film that gets passed around time to time, and you're not "in" unless you sit through this. It left an impression on me for sure.
It's a powerful film, delving into your psyche. It's a macabre, harrowing and suspenseful superbly crafted Horror film that will last a lifetime.