So much has been said about Tobe Hooper’s classic 1974 film, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ that there is very little I can add to the discussion. One thing that is unmistakable is the impact it has had on our culture as a whole. Filmed for a paltry $300,000 budget, and grossing over 30 million in the domestic box office, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ was an often misunderstood slice of genuine terror that, over time, rightfully gained a reputation as one of cinema’s most effective portrayals of pure horror. Upon its release it was immediately banned in many countries and later banned in others following complaints. This phenomena is made all the more interesting when one considers that the film itself contains very little violence. The film alludes to more than it actually shows. It seems reasonable to assume that this was banned based on an evocative title and a truly visceral depiction of on-screen terror. Of course now, the ubiquitous ‘Leatherface’ has become a staple of modern culture, up there with the most famous horror villains of all time. When revisiting ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (as I have done many times) it’s fascinating to witness how horrifically effective it remains without using overt gratuity to achieve its aim. When you compare it to the recent remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or any modern horror film really) you see how truly inaffective gore is when it comes to making one feel a sense of dread. The original movie would be classified G when compared to its noughties iterations.
As decades of dialogue about ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ glut up the cultural landscape, one aspect of this movie is too seldom talked about – it’s soundtrack. Even now, nearly 40 years later, no official soundtrack for this film exists, which strikes me as an abusrdity. The soundtrack itself exemplifies low budget ingenuity and stands the test of time as one of the most effective and disquieting scores in movie history and, if you were to dissect it, probably one of the main reasons the film still manages to inflict so much terror.
It was Tobe Hooper himself, along with Wayne Bell (who helmed other sound-related duties on the film) that ‘composed’ the score to ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. The score itself is a bricolage assemblage of improvised sound collage – completely abstract in execution and horrifically effective. It proves that one doesn’t need money or even musical ability to create timeless music. Without outsourcing the score to classically trained musicians, Hooper was able to apply a perfect aural accompaniment to the film he was so familiar with. Each scrape, drone and percussive freak out contribute to an overall tapestry that only Hooper could have truly grasped.
I thought I’d do something very special for you wonderful Mondo Exploito readers today, and embed each track from the score into the post below. When I say ‘score’ I want to make it expressly clear that this only encompasses the music recorded by Hooper and Wayne Bell, not the traditional tracks that populate the film by such artists as Timberline Rose, Arkey Blue, Los Cyclones and Roger Bartlett. While these tracks fit without issue within the film, in my mind they are of little value outside this context and represent a fairly standard style of 70s country rock. What I am presenting below is purely the horrific, abstract sound explorations of Hooper and Bell.
Because Mondo Exploito isn’t a download blog, these tracks have been embedded for your listening pleasure. If you are desperate for a copy of your own, the bootleg soundtrack is out there on internet land. Hopefully one day it will be made available via official channels. So turn out the lights, and please enjoy Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell’s score to ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’:
Smell of the Slaughterhouse
Sign if the Hitchhiker
The Drive Back to the House
Jerry Finds Pam in the Freezer (Fullmoon Showcase)
At Dawn They Feast – Escape Though a Window (With Screams)
A Room of Feathers and Bones (With Screams)
And to experience the way this soundtrack was absorbed so perfectly into the film, here are the opening titles.