Access and Excess in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much is made of the viscerally disturbing qualities embedded in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - human bodies are traumatised, mutilated and distorted – and the way these are matched by close and often intense access to the performers involved. Graphic violence focused on the body specifically indicates the film as a key contemporary horror text. Yet, for all this closeness to the performers, it soon becomes clear in undertaking close-analysis of the film that access to them is equally characterised by extreme distance, both spatially and cognitively. The issue of distance is particularly striking, not least because of its ramifications on engagement, which throws up various aesthetic and methodological questions concerning performers’ expressive authenticity. This article considers the lack of access to performance in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, paying particular attention to how this fits in with contemporaneous presentations of performance more generally, as seen in films such as Junior Bonner (Sam Peckinpah, 1972). As part of this investigation I consider the affect of such a severe disruption to access on engagement with, and discussion of, performance. At the heart of this investigation lie methodological considerations of the place of performance analysis in the post-studio period. How can we perceive anything of a character’s interior life, and therefore engage with performers who we fundamentally lack access to? Does such an apparently significant difference in the way performers and their embodiment is treated mean that they can even be thought of as delivering a performance?
Original languageEnglish
JournalMovie: A Journal of Film Criticism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  • Tobe Hooper
  • horror film
  • American cinema
  • Home From the Hill
  • Junior Bonner
  • Melodrama
  • Film Performance
  • post-studio Hollywood
  • Studio Hollywood
  • Classical Hollywood
  • Vincente Minnelli
  • Sam Peckinpah
  • The Body


Dive into the research topics of 'Access and Excess in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this