Happy Thankskilling! Having Dinner with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Posted in '70s, Horror by - November 28, 2013
Happy Thankskilling! Having Dinner with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Ah, Thankskilling – a term coined by fellow Cinema Midnight scribe, Jeremy. And this holiday-viewing suggestion comes just in time to celebrate this horrific take on the most gluttonous of American traditions.

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A family feast awaits!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – the 1974 version, not the over-stylized remake – is a quintessential Thankskilling film, primarily because of that penultimate scene of family dinner madness. For the 3 people reading this review that have not seen this film, fast-forward to the 71-minute mark if you want to witness the worst possible family get-together. While this is one of the most iconic horror films ever made, it’s the dinner scene that sticks in most viewers’ memories. While only 7 minutes in length, it feels like a tense and torturous eternity while watching it.

The first shot is of Sally, the sole survivor of the 1970’s hipsters’ fateful trip, waking up to find that she is Leatherface’s date to a cannibalistic family’s celebratory feast – a feast of friends, literally!  After many awkward attempts at conversation between doses of maniacal laughter and piercing screams, the family decides to wheel out the near-dead grandpa, so he can re-enact the glory days of being the quickest slaughterer of cows in Texas… by coming out of retirement and bashing Sally’s skull with a ball-pean hammer! Now, besides that last bit, this might have sounded like a typical Thanksgiving for you, dear reader. Then again, who am I to judge?

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I don’t think Leatherface is going home with Sally tonight.

Many of us have suffered through a Thanksgiving feast where the patriarchs of the family recall stories of old, going on and on about what it was like to live in a much simpler time. And after viewing what is arguably the most insanely documented dinner scene in the history of cinema, you’ll feel like a little whiner for complaining that grandma kept forgetting that she told you the story of how she fell off a horse in her youth.

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Be thankful you don’t have a grandpa like this. Sucking your girl’s finger one minute…

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… and then trying to kill her the next.

Plus, when you take into account the reality of how this film’s penultimate scene was filmed, you’ll give thanks that you’re not enjoying the holiday in Texas during the dead of summer, when Chainsaw was filmed. The dinner scene, in particular, was filmed in a 27-hour marathon session, in 110-degree heat, with actors wearing clothes they were never allowed to wash during filming. Real blood was spilled, while the combination of spoiled head cheese and everybody’s rank body odor lead to some genuine performances of madness.

If you’re dreading the thought of spending this day with your family, you can always give in and stuff your face with generous helpings of turkey. You’ll probably fall asleep and won’t feel a thing, no matter if you’re eating with a family of psychotic cannibals or nagging relatives badgering you as to why you have yet to reproduce. Of course, you can always nip that in the bud by laughing agreeably and inviting the family into the living room to watch this holiday favorite. Just make sure it’s after dessert so nobody loses their appetite.

Kenneth
This post was written by
Kenneth lives in the Bay Area of California, where he is currently attempting to educate and/or corrupt youthful minds, as the Film Equipment Manager at the San Francisco Art Institute. While he uses this connection to try and promote his film syllabi on Road Movie History and Film Editing Techniques, he continues to produce and direct music documentaries on independent record labels and the heavy music underground.

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