The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Steelbook (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Here we are with the 4K Ultra HD debut of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic has gone the route of horror films like The Evil Dead and Halloween, where plenty of releases have been provided over the years, occasionally coming with new extras. Fortunately, this 4K UHD release arrives with yet another upgrade in the video department, given the format debut, along with a variety of audio tracks ported over from previous releases, and a ton of extras for good measure. All of that said, getting to see one of the best horror films out there be treated with such respect on 4K UHD is a great way to support a film that continues to stand the test of time as a scary, shocking, and violent (but almost blood-free) story about unknowing teenagers interacting with the wrong family.



(Note: An original version of this review was published in 2014 for the 40th anniversary Blu-ray release)

The plot is relatively straightforward and well-known by anyone with a casual association with this film. During a hot summer in Texas, five friends travel in a van to visit a gravesite to investigate reports of vandalism and grave robbing. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), who proves to be a bit of a wacko. The others kick him out; however, a little later, the group stops to refuel, only to find no available gas. Still, there is a helpful gas station attendant with some information about the area. Eventually, the group finds themselves passing the time at the homestead they were going to travel to, only to find it has been abandoned. Further exploration leads to the group getting far more than they bargained for, as they discover a rather unsavory character and the rest of his kin.

I am being a bit broad with the last part of the plot description, but most know what is happening. The towering figure known as Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) does not take kindly to strangers. Whether with his bare hands or a chainsaw, this beastly human is hell-bent on stopping, capturing, imprisoning, and eventually eating anyone in his path, with the help of the rest of his family. I may not be all that scared by slasher films, but the idea of an unstoppable force doing a full sprint at me with a chainsaw is terrifying. Hooper’s film easily captures the visceral quality of the scenarios presented, along with the bizarre nature of the horrible people that make these innocents suffer.

While credit has undoubtedly been given where it is due, I want to emphasize how fantastic this film’s production quality is, given its low-budget and independent nature. Hooper, his cinematographer Daniel Pearl, and many other very exhausted crew members did their darndest to make this movie work, and they really pulled off something that has been highly influential in the decades since its release. Putting aside some elements that don’t shine as brightly (some of the acting, for example), this is a down-and-dirty horror film that gets away with a lot, despite having so little to work with.

One of the best ways to really describe its impact, in terms of the thrills meshed with the limited tools at Hooper’s disposal, is in addressing the lack of gore. When you think Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there may be an insistence on the idea that this movie is full of bloody viscera, but there really is not much, save for some minor spray you would find in PG-13 films of today and the actual blood coming from Marilyn Burns’ arms, as she runs away through various bushes for multiple takes to make the film work (she’s a true trooper for how much she had to put up with, while still turning in an excellent performance). This film is much more about the implication of violence rather than showing all the gruesome details of what is happening in Leatherface’s backroom. There is plenty of effective filmmaking to credit for this.

Honestly, there are so many more avenues I could go down in an attempt to explain the brilliance of this film, the cultural impact, and even the various theories on the themes in this film (I haven’t even mentioned the Vietnam War’s connection to all of this), but suffice it to say that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre deserves to be held up high on the list of horror greats. It is easily one of my favorites and has left a significant mark on the genre as a whole. For even more thoughts on this film and the franchise, check out our various Out Now with Aaron and Abe podcast episodes covering the movie and the series as a whole.



Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: I imagine trying to separate what works about this 4K upgrade and what’s being carried over based on the low-budget means by which this film was made will be a point of contention for those trying to nitpick whether or not this is a genuinely amazing UHD presentation. With that in mind, while Second Sight has an upcoming remastered 4K edition on the way, it’s not as though Dark Sky Films through a couple of discs in the case and called it a day. Matted to the proper aspect ratio and applying HDR, there’s plenty to praise about the prominent features found in this release. Whether it’s how the brighter and darker moments feel in this form or how the grain-heavy film can still show off the details of things like clothing or Leatherface’s mask, enough is going to properly portray the inherent griminess that’s a part of this movie’s DNA.

Depth: Depth is great. The character spacing registers as well as it needs to, which is helpful for a unique film such as this. Noting that walk up to the house or the first encounter with Leatherface certainly shows the dimensionality of the image.

Black Levels: There are some deep blacks on display here. Areas where it softens feel like more of a product of the times than what this transfer is capable of.

Color Reproduction: Given the griminess and what Hooper was working with, while the characters wear colorful clothes and other elements can pop, this is still a fairly muted picture not in need of showing off more than the primaries.

Flesh Tones: Characters shot in closeup can be seen in their sweaty glory, given all the Texas heat.

Noise/Artifacts: This is a clean-looking disc, though some stray moments containing artifacts appear. Nothing drastic though.


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD MA 7.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: It’s all great. What can I say? You can take on the full mixes that offer more height to the experience while maintaining a faithful representation of the film’s original sound. Or, you can take a listen to the 2.0 or 1.0 mixes that similarly replicate the genuine experience without feeling like much is being sacrificed beyond a full use of a surround setup.

Low-Frequency Extension: A tricky proposition given the original mix, but things go wild regarding the family’s eventual escapades.

Surround Sound Presentation: With no real traditional score, it comes down to how the ambient sounds play in the quiet moments, as well as hearing the distance of incoming chainsaws, among other major choices made for this soundtrack.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear, which certainly plays a role in deciphering what some of these wild characters have to say.


While there are a lot of supplements carried over from the previous releases of this film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘s 4K edition does a fine job of offering new material for this release, chief among them being a new feature-length documentary, as well as a very cool conversation between Hooper and William Friedkin, housed within this nicely designed steelbook package. The lack of a Blu-ray copy of the film, let alone a digital copy, is a bit irritating. However, there’s still plenty going on within this two-disc package.

Features Include:

Disc One: 4K UHD (Feature Film)

4 Audio Commentaries – These have all been carried over, but each of these tracks are well worth taking a listen to for those that want to know everything they can about this film and a wide array of other related knowledge. The tracks include:

  • Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl
  • Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Paul A Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns
  • Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper
  • Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J Carroll, and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou

Disc Two: Blu-ray (Bonus Disc)

  • New – The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (HD, 82:45) – A well-produced retrospective of the film, analyzing it from different perspectives. While, for various reasons, no one involved in the original production is featured here (we have plenty of those docs already), this film does feature filmmakers Fede Alvarez, Jamie Blanks, Marcus Nispel, and Mick Garris, along with critic Heather Wixson, Phil Nobile Jr., and Meagan Navarro, among others. Yes, there’s a lot of repeat info for fans who have heard so much about this movie, but it’s still quite entertaining.
  • New – Friedkin/Hooper: A Conversation About The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (HD, 54:09) – This 40th anniversary Q&A was filmed back when Hooper was still alive, of course, and was previously featured as a bonus DVD extra on a very limited release. Still, it’s ostensibly new as a main feature to have added on here, and it’s well worth watching, as the two filmmaker legends have a fun conversation about the film and its legacy.
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (HD, 72:49) – A fantastic retrospective documentary that goes over the film’s production and more.
  • Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (HD, 71:42) – Another excellent documentary going over the film from the perspectives of various people involved with the film.
  • A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (HD, 8:03) – Pretty straightforward but entertaining.
  • Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (SD, 17:02) – A discussion with one of the key players in the film.
  • The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozam (SD, 16:27) – An interview taken from the perspective of someone involved with some of the lesser-known aspects of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (HD, 25:23) – Presented in HD, but silently, due to missing audio. Additionally, a previous release featured even more scenes and outtakes not featured in this release.
  • Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (SD, 15:48) – Only 15 minutes, but a great piece from the actor who played Grandpa in the film, giving him the chance to be very open, honest, and explicit about his experiences with the film and its legacy since.
  • Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (SD, 10:47) – Another very good interview regarding the life on the set and the challenges of the film’s production.
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: TCS (HD, 20:19) – A tour of the areas in the film.
  • Blooper Reel (SD, 2:22)
  • Outtakes from “The Shocking Truth” (HD, 7:40)
  • Dr. W.E. Barnes Presents “Making Grandpa” (SD, 2:45) – A look at the production and makeup design when it came to Grandpa.
  • Still Gallery (HD, 2:27)
  • Theatrical Trailer and 40th Anniversary Trailers
  • TV & Radio Spots


There’s only so much I need to add when discussing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s a legendary film for various reasons and essential for any horror or film fan, given the nature of its production and what it has to offer as cinema. This new 4K UHD release is about as good as it gets, though I am anticipating what Second Sight plans to offer to counter what is presented here. With that said, as a domestic release, the film looks and sounds about as good as it can, with enough being done to improve upon what’s come before. Plus, this horror film comes with so many bonus features that dig into every aspect of how Hooper’s classic came to be. A pretty cool steelbook case rounds this whole thing out, making for a high-quality release.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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