As a young kid growing up in the 80s, my pipeline into the world of horror was the Fangoria/Gorezone collection that belonged to a kid who lived across the street from my grandmother. By the time I was old enough that my parents actually let me consume these movies, I had already memorized scenes upon scenes from the pages of horror mags. I desperately wanted to watch the Nightmares and the Fridays and the Halloweens. But some of the films seemed…out of reach. They seemed too dirty, too taboo, too wild, flat out too insane for me to comprehend. Which made them seem even more enticing.
King among them? Texas fucking Chain Saw Massacre.
Given that it was the mid- to late-80s, I was looking at a lot of pics and articles from TCM2, really, which made the original seem even more distant and severe. It was from the fucking 70s, after all. And, like a lot of others my age, Summer School really kicked my Chainsaw fever into overdrive.
It wouldn’t be long before I was given the go ahead to start bringing home the movies I’d drool over in the horror aisle of the video store. Still, something inside me prevented me from ever pulling Texas Chain down from the shelf. Maybe I didn’t really know if my parents would protest or not. Friday the 13th or The Gate was one thing. But this movie had the words “Chainsaw” and “Massacre” right in the title. No way, I thought, would they pay their hard-earned quarters (the video store near our house had “50 cent Tuesday” rental deals) to let me take this monstrosity home.
So I waited.
I remember one day in 1990, during a movie channel promotional weekend, seeing that TCM was on the schedule for like 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon. Fucking A. This would be my moment.
I made sure to have a fresh pack of blank VHS tapes (opening a fresh pack of tapes was such a good feeling—no putting scotch tape over these tabs) and laid on the floor in front of the TV for about half an hour in advance, just to make sure my little sister or brother didn’t stake claim.
I pressed record right as the film started. My family went in and out of the living room, going on about their normal Saturday afternoon business, stopping only here or there to make a face at the screaming, pig squeals and chainsaw buzzing that served as the soundtrack for whatever the hell it was they were doing that day.
When the credits rolled, I felt…different, somehow. Like I had become a man—how Pee Wee must have felt after his romp with Wendy in the school bus at the end of Porky’s. I watched the dubbed tape over and over and over. Eventually I upgraded to an actual VHS release, procured at the local Suncoast. And of course, a ton of disc versions would come. But whatever the format, the film has endured and been part of my life ever since. There are only a handful of movies that I really remember every detail of my first viewing, and the events leading up to it.
The special films, I remember it all.