Texas Chainsaw Massacre [TCM] is without a doubt one of the most profoundly disturbing films I've ever seen. It is also incredibly well made, referencing everything from the unrelenting terror of Night of the Living Dead (1968) to Hitchcock's famous shower scene from Psycho (1960). Tobe Hooper accomplishes something remarkable that modern torture porn never achieves: He shows us a portrait of humanity at its most depraved state and yet the film is relatively bloodless. Yes, people swear they see Leatherface hang that poor girl on a meat hook but look closely...it's not there. The mind fills in all the details! Brilliant! He does this again and again and again.
Like Romero before him, Hooper proves that low budget horror can be scary and disturbing as hell. He accomplishes this unending sense of dread by creating a world that none of us would wish to inhabit. The use of bones fashioned into household decorations and a mansion that is falling in on itself sets the stage. He then fills this stage with four of the most unimaginably depraved individuals to ever grace the silver screen and then lets them play a cat and mouse game with a few unfortunate souls.
I saw a documentary on this movie and the actors who worked on it got plenty of bruises and cuts while making this film. Hooper wanted realism and they took quite a beating to achieve it. Hooper also let the actors improvise quite a bit on the set so much of what you see is fresh and raw. They also filmed TCM in a Texas heat wave under horrible conditions. This further helped the actors get into character and the results of their work is unforgettable.
I REALLY warn you that this one is not for those with a weak stomach or low tolerance for violence. There really is no happy ending here. Yes, there is a "survivor" but it's hard to imagine that she would end up anywhere other than a mental institution for the rest of her life. TCM is beautifully disturbing and leaves the audience with images they will never ever forget. Just try to keep reassuring yourself "This is only a movie. This is only a movie."
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.