True Horror, True Crime: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most iconic slasher films of all time and is loosely based on the crimes of Wisconsin native Ed Gein. Photo courtesy of Imdb

It’s that time of the year, when the ghouls come out to play, and fans of horror re-evaluate their favorite creepy tales. This spooky season, we’ve decided to take on the most terrifying true crime stories that have been turned into movies.

One of the most iconic slasher films in the world is the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” which has struck fear into the hearts of thousands since its release in 1973. Akin to all the best stories, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is based off true events, which makes it all the more terrifying. However, unlike “Amityville Horror” or “The Exorcist,” the story behind “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has much looser ties to reality. The film, directed by Tobe Hooper, centers on a depraved killer — nicknamed Leatherface — who trapped, tortured and killed five travelers who were passing through his small Texas town. Although the reality behind the story isn’t so closely connected, Leatherface is still an integral part of the film and is based off a real-life murderer.

Although Ed Gein, whom the character is based on, did not commit his acts of horror in Texas, the nightmarish way he stole his victims’ faces was so surreal that director Tobe Hooper knew his villain would be based on Gein. According to, Gein, a Wisconsin native, murdered his older brother Henry and two women and reportedly used their skin and body parts to make household items and masks. Gein was nicknamed “The Butcher of Plainfield,” and went down in history as one of the sickest minds in the country. Based off a story like that, it comes as no surprise that the film (and all of its subsequent remakes) used Gein’s depravity as a centerpiece for the film’s plot.

The 1973 version of the film has the perfect gore-to-plot ratio; the two balance themselves to create an exciting, twisting tale of fear. However, since the film was made over 60 years ago, it lacks some of the more advanced technological special effects, and so its harder for modern audiences to find believable. The ketchup-looking blood splatter, the quick-cuts and closeups to avoid showing fake murders, along with average acting make this film unbelievable. However, the plot, the constant jump scares and creative soundtrack make the film still worth the watch.

The 2003 version, however, was much less enjoyable. Changing the plot and over-sexualizing the characters made the film just another Hollywood remake, and, although the special effects were much better in this film, the massive amounts of blood and gore made the film, and the bad acting, hard to stomach. This film is a perfect example of how dynamic changes in character arcs and plot line can negatively impact the film. As opposed to the brother and sister duo that was present in the first film, the main character in the 2003 version was with her boyfriend. They had a much less interesting reason for being in Texas (instead of pursuing a mysterious disappearance, they were simply driving to a concert from the Mexico border), and this film fell victim to the tropes of cheesy horror films — fake jump scares, sex scenes that lead to death and a lack of compelling characters combined with subpar directing.

Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s safe to say that the concept behind the original 1973 film was tied much more closely to the true-life motivations of Gein, while the 2003 version veered off into the land of crappy remakes. Although the true crime aspect wasn’t as closely related to this True Horror, True Crime film, it’s still worth the watch because the idea of someone wearing other people’s faces is enough to make your skin crawl.