Time has done little to diminish this film’s ability to be creepy as fuck.
And I want to focus on that word — creepy — because in spite of it’s reputation, it’s not particularly gory. And it’s not particularly scary in the traditional sense. We don’t even get to see and hear the titular chainsaw until about halfway through the movie, and even then, only one person actually dies at the hands of the chainsaw itself. So that’s not much of a chainsaw massacre (or chain saw massacre, if the title is to be believed).
And yet the film starts with news reports of grave robbers over top of flashes of footage of those corpses. And within the first ten minutes or so, a group of teenagers have picked up a hitchhiker who’s clearly deranged. Even after he’s freaked out the inhabitants of the van and been thrown back out onto the dusty road, the sense of unmistakable dread that he brought with him lingers, not only among those in the van, but in us in the audience as well.
And I’ll admit the low-budget look and feel of much of the film helps give it that edge as well. Something about that grainy, cheap look makes it feel like you’re watching some kind of actual documentation of an event, like a snuff film or something. It makes every moment that much more tense and terrifying.
If I had one complaint about the film, it would be that the long, nighttime chase between Leatherface and Sally lasts for a bit longer than it probably needs to, and slows the pacing considerably leading into the fantastic third act.
But outside of that one minor quibble, this film remains a stunning, creepy-as-fuck, classic of the horror genre.