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The Antagonists of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: An Analysis

Although the franchise doesn't boast numerous notable entries, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains a timeless classic and stands out as one of the finest slashers ever crafted. Its enduring terror, exceptional cinematography, and the creation of a horror icon make it an unforgettable experience.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is so influential because of its iconic antagonists. Horror wouldn’t be the same without Leatherface, not to mention the family members that have resulted in some of the most iconic horror moments. Regardless, let’s discuss these antagonists and why it’s such a unique experience in the horror world.


Still from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1947)'. Photo credit: Texas Monthly


Leatherface


Where would horror be without Leatherface? Leatherface is the central character and primary antagonist in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its various spin-offs. He embodies an unstable and cannibalistic serial killer notorious for donning masks crafted from human skin, hence his moniker.


Operating alongside his inbred family, he partakes in gruesome acts of murder and cannibalism. While his choice of murder weapons often involves an array of random tools, the chainsaw remains his favored instrument, hence the name.


Leatherface makes his chilling debut in the series' inaugural film in 1974, subsequently appearing in eight sequels and remakes. Despite taking orders from his elder family members, he stands as the franchise's primary antagonist, steering the plot of each installment and maintaining a consistent presence throughout the series.


Every horror writer aspires to create a character as iconic as Leatherface. Though remakes are more common in the horror realm than original IP, that shouldn’t discourage you from crafting a character of this magnitude. Learning more about the character can benefit your writing and lead you in a better direction.


Origin


Little is revealed about Leatherface's origins or life before his reign of terror. Gunnar Hansen, the actor behind the character in the original 1974 film, perceives Leatherface as entirely subservient to his family's will, obedient to their every command, and somewhat fearful of their authority.


Leatherface is portrayed as a big baby, driven to kill in self-defense when he feels threatened. In the initial film, Leatherface exhibits signs of nervousness when strangers intrude upon his home. This added bit makes Leatherface more than just a pure killer. You almost sympathize with him at times.


Appearance


Leatherface is a towering figure with a stout build. He features peach-colored skin and deep brown eyes. His grin reveals a set of small, discolored teeth, slightly askew, akin to Hutchinson's Teeth.


Throughout the film, he dons a white shirt paired with a yellow butcher's apron, blue jeans, black cowboy boots, and a distinctive yellow bracelet pilfered from Pam. His signature attire is completed by a sallow human skin mask covering his head, adorned with a mop of black hair, and a black tie featuring a blue stripe.


Cook


Drayton Sawyer, or The Cook, is the third antagonist in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The third antagonist is traditionally the third member of the acting ensemble. Also known as a tritagonist, the character often assumes the role of instigator or catalyst, contributing to the protagonist's plight or suffering.


Very little information exists regarding Drayton's early life. It is presumed that, like the rest of the Sawyer clan, he once labored in the now-defunct slaughterhouse located in Newt, Muerto County, before transitioning to his role at the gas station where he is encountered during the events of the initial movie.


Photo credit: IMDb


Notably, despite being identified as a sibling to Leatherface and The Hitchhiker, Drayton is considerably older than both. The original film fails to explicitly designate any villain aside from Leatherface. Notably, it omits Drayton, referred to as "The Cook," from the list of siblings, hinting instead through his demeanor that he may be intended to be their father.


Character


Throughout his appearances, Drayton emerges as a psychologically unstable figure, assuming the role of the new patriarch within the family dynamic, eagerly asserting his authority over others. Exhibiting signs of mental disorder, potentially bipolarity or multiple personalities, he demonstrates a disturbing enjoyment in the torment inflicted upon the family's victims.


However, there are moments where his demeanor shifts, revealing a more empathetic side, leading to a sense of disgust towards the atrocities committed. As the chaos intensifies, Drayton's mental state appears to deteriorate further, as evidenced by rapid fluctuations in his behavior at the dinner table.


Within mere seconds, he oscillates between bouts of laughter directed at Sally and expressions of hatred towards the unfolding events, indicating a loss of control over his faculties.


Hitchhiker


The Hitchhiker is depicted as a mentally unstable, murderous cannibal and grave robber, residing with his equally depraved family, the Sawyers, in the remote outskirts of Newt, Texas. He participates in capturing, torturing, and consuming unsuspecting travelers.


Photo credit: Bloody Disgusting


His initial appearance in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sees him walking along the road. He is picked up by a group of compassionate friends traveling through the area, who pity him due to the scorching heat.


With a sadistic and violent nature, he emerges as one of the most menacing characters in the franchise. He is characterized by erratic behavior and a lack of intelligence. The Hitchhiker, also known as Nubbins, exhibits a peculiar speech impediment and sports a prominent birthmark on the left side of his face.


Grandpa


Grandpa is the head and patriarch of the Sawyer Family, appearing prominently throughout the franchise, second only to Leatherface in terms of appearances.


Photo credit: Game Rant


As a supercentenarian, he holds a significant presence, having previously worked as a butcher and slaughterer, which implies involvement in mass murder.


Antagonists and Themes


The 1974 film dives into many themes, such as the dehumanization of individuals, the erosion of societal conventions, the harsh realities of rural existence, and the repercussions of unbridled industrialization.


It also explores the complexities of family dynamics and the unsettling realities of violence. Moreover, the film addresses the innate fear of the unfamiliar and the fragility of the human mind when confronted with extreme horrors. The best antagonists are combined with unique themes that enhance the story. Analyze these characters and what you can learn as a writer, especially if you hope to write a slasher or horror film.

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