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Killer buzz: a 'massacre' unleashed nearly 30 years ago set the tone for slasher pics.

Shrieks marked its earliest screenings. Controversy too.

In 1974, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" clearly hit a vein, slashing its way into the collective psyche of moviegoers. Almost three decades later, the legend of Leatherface still breeds fear as New Line Cinema releases producer Michael Bay's remake this month.

Buzz for the original "Chainsaw" started to snowball when Variety reported that some 50 people stormed out in protest or fled to the restrooms to vomit after a theater sprung a screening on patrons who were expecting to see hijack thriller "The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3." Among the outraged were several city officials, one of whom threatened a lawsuit for "intentional inflicting of mental disturbances."

Indeed, the Variety review detailed a relentless barrage of blood, gore and cannibalism never seen before, homing in on scenes of "a girl being impaled on a meat hook" and "a wheelchair victim being disemboweled with a chainsaw." Nonetheless, the reviewer considered it well made--"for an exploiter of its type."

First-time director Tobe Hooper certainly made no apologies. "I can't stand to play the middle ground," he told Variety. "I feel that when people pay a $3 admission fee, they're entitled to at least $2.75 worth of scare and 25 cents worth of extraneous stuff. In most horror films, it's the other way around."

Bay, who considers the remake a dream project, shares those sentiments: "I just wanted to go back to the movies that I grew up with where it was real terror. Making 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' gave us the chance to make a no-holds-barred, not-joking-around nightmare onscreen."

The original pic took in $30 million--a fortune for an indie made on $140,000--and helped propel Hooper's career ("Poltergeist," "Salem's Lot"). It also spawned a cottage industry of sequels and cleared the way for other teens-in-peril pics, some that would bloom into franchises such as "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," "Scream" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Truly, it was the buzz heard 'round the world.

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Title Annotation:back story
Author:Rebello, Stephen
Publication:Variety
Date:Oct 6, 2003
Words:333
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