AFTERWOREO Scream, Memory BY CORINNA NICOLAOU Iwas three years old when I walked into a room in Texas and saw a woman dangling from a meat hook. Blood dripped from her neck. Her legs made frantic, jerky searches for the ground, and her hands clamored for the top of the hook as she tried to free herself. And there was a man more of a beast lunging at her with a chainsaw. I threw back my head and wailed. The woman was screaming and our screams became a mutual cry of terror. Suddenly a man shouted, “The kid! Get the kid!” The chainsaw went silent. The woman stopped screaming. She and the beast stared at me. “For Christ’s sakes, somebody grab the kid!” A man stepped out of the shadows. It was my father. To shield me from this horror or to shield the horror from me he carried me away, my wide eyes still locked on the man and woman. He tried to explain that no one was being hurt. These are adults pretending. The blood is fake. This is a movie. Informally called “Headcheese,” the movie would, just days before its release, be renamed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My father, a twenty-four-year-old film student, recorded the cries, grunts, and roar of the chainsaw. He was the soundman who taped the unforgettable lines like “Stop that, Freddy, I’m a vegetarian,” and “Look what your brother did to the door.” But most important were the screams. My father got them down perfectly. He had been hired by writer/director Tobe Hooper, who held auditions in a room on the University of Texas campus. “Can you do crazy?” Hooper would ask each potential member of the Chainsaw cast. He asked Gunnar Hanson, who played Leatherface, two questions before giving him the role. The first was “Are you violent?” and the second was “Are you crazy?” Gunnar, sixfoot-four and bulky, had what it took to play the killer. His body filled a doorway and in high-heeled cowboy boots he would look even bigger. But Tobe couldn’t put a chainsaw in the wrong hands. The cast would have to do crazy without being crazy. The soundman Tobe really wanted was out of town, but my father could operate the equipment. When he claimed to be sane, he was hired. My father owned a A Scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre green Ford Econoline van, a college graduation gift from his parents. Tobe needed a van off-screen for hauling. He also needed it as a prop. So for the first half of the film, the young, doomed hippies drive around in our family car. Because the camera is positioned in the van, everyone who has ever seen the movie has ridden in it too. Tobe soon learned that my mother could cook well and cook big. He hired her to cater the shoot, and every day for fourteen days, she packed a large meal into her car, and we drove the twenty miles north of our home in Austin to the old house where the film was being shot. She earned $100 a week, more money than she had ever made. When we arrived on the set at lunch time, someone would yell “Cut!” and the cast and crew would spill out of the old house into the front yard to eat. On the day the dinner scene was shot, no one came to greet us. from Movie Psychos and Madmen The film’s grand finale, the scene is a long, intense interaction between every member of the Chainsaw family mummified Grandpa, the lunatic brother and father, Leatherface and the sole surviving young hippie, Sally, who is horrified and attempting to escape. As the film was shot almost entirely in sequence, dinner was both the end of the movie and the end of the shoot. Dinner takes place around a long table in the main room of the house. Bright lamps were crammed into the room. Every window was covered with a heavy blanket to create the look of night. There was no airconditioning, no cross breeze. As psychokillers go, Leatherface was practical. Not one piece of any victim was ever wasted: he turned all edible parts into sausage and headcheese \(and even peeled off faces to cheese and sausage on the table began to stink. When there was no fresh meat to re 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 5, 1999
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