"Devil's Advocates: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" Book Review
Written by James Rose
2013, 114 pages, Reference
Released on Feburary 8th, 2013
In the interest of full disclosure: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my favourite movie of all time. Not just my favourite backwoods cannibal movie, or even my favourite horror movie (which it is) but my favourite movie of all time. Something about Tobe Hooper's classic struck a chord with this young horror movie fan – a chord which reverberates no less, even now. Critical faculties be damned, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre can do no wrong. With that in mind, I'm perhaps a less forgiving audience than most when it comes to any flaws that James Rose's Texas Chain Saw Massacre may have.
Thankfully, with its Saw and Witchfinder General books, Devil's Advocates has proven itself more than capable of producing impassioned, intelligent analyses of genre cinema, obvious and otherwise. Witchfinder General and The Texas Chains Saw Massacre may seem like easy choices, but who would have earmarked Antichrist as a candidate for a book of its own? Thankfully, Rose's Texas Chain Saw Massacre does not let the side down.
Like the other books in the series, it's in-depth, elegant, focused and with a remarkable attention to detail. Rose, an obvious fan and scholar of all things Chain Saw writes with clarity and intelligence. If it seems a little obvious at times, that's only because so many books and love letters have already been written on the subject that there's little left to say. My own version of this book would merely have been one long gush – a little like the first paragraph of this review.
The book kicks off with a short history of Tobe Hooper and his career previous to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (promising) before moving onto the story of the film's troubled shoot (poor Marilyn Burns) and a synopsis and analysis (poor Sally). The tale of Hooper's career post-Chain Saw makes for less cheerful reading – although I maintain that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an underrated gem, as is Jeff Burr's Leatherface.
Unlike the Saw and Witchfinder General books, this one spends a little too much time recapping the plot. While Rose does provide a hefty dose of analysis and criticism, the fact that it does so as part of a synopsis causes a few pacing issues and affects the overall flow. Surely those reading this book will be intimately familiar with the film anyway? It feels unnecessary and less engaging than it should. As the latter half of the book tackles Freud and The Uncanny, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is left feeling a little dry, like a University textbook. These are fairly minor criticisms though – as a devotee of the movie, I enjoyed this book and the opportunity it offers to revisit an old favourite from a new perspective. Like the other books in the series, it's well presented, cleanly bound and with some lovely pictures to accompany the text. It's a fine addition to any genre bookshelf.
Like any good film criticism/appreciation book, it leaves you wanting to revisit the movie as soon as possible. Devil's Advocates are quickly becoming the go-to guys for intelligent, easily digestible film criticism.
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