The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Was The Horror Standard Ridley Scott Aimed For With Alien

The influence that Tobe Hooper's classic "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" has had on the horror genre cannot be overstated. The slow progression of its creepiness and horror throughout its plot is one that is difficult to effectively recreate to this day. But among the rare films that have managed to mirror this feeling of slow-moving dread and terror is "Alien," which came out five years after "Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

According to director Ridley Scott, this was not an accident. In a 2019 retrospective from The Hollywood Reporter, Scott revealed that his initial inspiration for the editing of "Alien" was, in fact, Hooper's eerie slasher film. Despite claiming that he isn't easy to scare, he admitted the movie was pretty terrifying to him.

"I watched 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' when I was prepping for 'Alien' one Saturday afternoon in the Fox studio in a small theater," he recalled. "It was horrendous, and it scared the s*** out of me."

'How do I get that scary?'

There is a big misconception about "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and how violent it actually is by today's standards. Many people, myself included, assumed that the original 1974 film was extremely gory and bloody. However, it is actually quite conservative in its depiction of violence, instead focusing more on the psychological terror that comes with a masked killer — you have a feeling that they're somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows and about to strike at any point.

After watching the film for the first time, Scott said that he felt drawn to this aspect of the film. He sought to make a movie that, while somewhat bloody, didn't need to have scenes with excessive gore throughout:

"There's a lot of people eating people and there's a lot of violence — it's tantamount to blood, I think. What's the difference, frankly? But Tobe Hooper did a [great] job, and it was my challenge to say, 'How do I get that scary?'"

It is hard to argue that he didn't succeed in making "Alien" one heck of a creepy movie. While the chestburster scene is among the most classic sci-fi/horror sequences in history, the real terror of the Xenomorph lies in the fact that it is able to infiltrate the Nostromo with little interference. It spends much of the film's running time hiding in the dark corners of the industrial ship, waiting for the right moment to strike. Without "Texas Chain Saw Massacre," it's likely that "Alien" wouldn't be as memorably terrifying as it is today.