How Tobe Hooper's Dinner Inspired One Of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Scariest Scenes

"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is all about meat. The cannibalistic Sawyer family are butchers looking to sample the delicacy of human flesh as their victims find themselves in their own personal slaughterhouse. It's almost a parody that the groundbreaking horror film takes place in beef and pork-obsessed Texas, a state known for its steaks, briskets, ribs, and all other sorts of grilled and barbecued chow. It's no wonder, then, that the horrors of eating meat was what inspired director Tobe Hooper to include such viscerally carnivorous imagery within the film.

Vegetarianism is still among the most prevalently analyzed themes among the vast literature written about "Texas Chain Saw." PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) included the film on its list of "Top 10 Movies That Make You Go Meatless," and Hooper himself said that "the heart of the film is about meat." The director turned vegetarian during production, as did Guillermo del Toro for five years after seeing the movie. All it takes is one look at the scene in which lead slasher Leatherface hangs a woman on a meat hook or smacks a man point-blank in the head with a sledgehammer to understand how the victims in "Texas Chain Saw" are merely walking, talking livestock.

About meat

In an interview with Interview Magazine, Hooper shared that the idea for the humans-as-cattle role reversal came from a night out at a restaurant, coupled with his weekly trips past a real slaughterhouse in Texas:

"I had an experience in a restaurant one time where there was a large trolley with beef being carved up, and I just transposed different images onto it. Like, what if there was a nice little cow there with a bowtie and a knife carving up humans. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years after that. And I guess on the drive from Austin to Dallas on the weekends, I'd pass this slaughterhouse. It's the same slaughterhouse that's in the movie, actually. It always disturbed me. It became a part of the psychology of the film."

These thoughts became the basis for the brutality in "Texas Chain Saw," inspiring the infamous meat hook scene and the rest of the film's parallels with the meat industry. It's a theme that connects all the way back to the beginning scenes of the film, when victim Franklin describes in detail the way butchers slaughter their eventual food. Hooper's openness about his fear and disgust at chopping up animals for food all but confirms that he intended for people to watch "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" through a vegetarian lens.