Five kids stumble into a remote house; four never come out. This familiar scenario got a salutary jolt in Tobe Hooper's debut feature, which introduces the saw-wielding Leatherface and his equally psychopathic kin into popular mythology. Among all the period's regional horror films (Blood Feast, Night of the Living Dead, Wes Craven's Connecticut-made The Last House on the Left), this was the best-made, with a superbly controlled visual style and an electronic score that sounded like cries from Hell. Also the most remorseless. The film's second half is virtually nonstop tension for the heroine (the expertly hysterical Marilyn Burns) and the audience: a long chase through the house and its brambly surroundings, a seeming respite that brings the girl back to meet the whole family, and a dinner scene where she's meant to be the main course. If we must have gore-nography, let it be as artful as this.
Next The Exorcist, 1973