Alamo's Rolling Roadshow Diary: Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Alamo's Rolling Roadshow Diary: Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Jun 06, 2011

The Alamo Drafthouse is indeed the bastion of unbridled cinephile passion, but sometimes that dedication to providing the ultimate haven for movie fanatics cannot be contained within the walls of a theater. That is why the Alamo Drafthouse created The Rolling Roadshow, a mobile cinematic adventure. A gigantic inflatable screen and a truck equipped with a projector make it possible for a movie to be seen at the most exciting, film-appropriate locations imaginable. For example, it offers the opportunity to watch Jaws floating in an inner tube on a lake or see Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Or, in the case of last Saturday, see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre right next to the house were it was originally filmed.

The Alamo Drafthouse has teamed with Texas Monthly to identify the 10 Greatest Texas Films and will be hosting Rolling Roadshow screenings of each one. It would be categorically impossible to coordinate such an event without including Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre itself, in terms of production, engaged in its own tour of Texas filming in many different cities along the way. The site of most of the carnage in the film was an old farmhouse originally residing in Round Rock; just miles from my home actually. The house has since been moved some 80 miles away to Kingsland and that is where this incredible event took place.

Immediately there are those among you who are audibly posing the question as to why anyone would drive nearly an hour and a half to see a film readily available on DVD and Blu-ray; a film which that person had seen several times before, no less. As it turns out, part of the fun of the Rolling Roadshow events is the road trip. My good friend Luke and I had plenty of time to discuss the film, and movies in general as is our wont, and we were thrilled as we started to notice civilization slowly peeling away. That’s not to say Kingsland is necessarily in the middle of nowhere. But as we started to leave the big buildings and busier highways behind us, the beauty of the west Texas hill country became abundantly clear. Finally, as we got within a few miles, the volume of wide-open expanses of land increased and the roads were lined with barbwire fences. Clearly, we had reached Texas Chainsaw country.

The evening began with dinner at the Junction House, the iconic farmhouse from the film now converted into a cozy little restaurant. The experience was intensely bizarre. Here we were, sitting in the very same room wherein Sally had been tied to a chair while a near mummified old psychopath tried to bash her brains in with a hammer and we’re enjoying a delicious prime rib. I found it disturbingly appropriate that medium rare was the only option available for the temperature at which they would prepare the meat. Granted, the decorum of the house has changed dramatically since its conversion to eatery. Gone are the strewn human remains, the piles of chicken feathers, and the sundry bloodstains. It’s actually a gorgeous old house and the perfect venue for a restaurant.

The beauty of the now refurbished house lulled me into a false sense of security. At one point, forgetting briefly where we were, I walked back to the bathroom and happened to walk over a metal grate in the floor. It wasn’t until I was walking back that I realized the archway I had just stepped through had once come replete with a large metal sliding door; the door that sealed Jerry’s fate in one of the film’s most terrifying scenes. Then, upon returning to my seat, Edwin Neal, who plays the hopelessly insane hitchhiker in the film, came strolling into the room. He put his arm around a patron sitting at the opposite table and, in his creepiest voice, asked, “do you like headcheese?” I suddenly had the pressing urge to leave the Junction House; it was beyond perfect.

The stars that night, deep in the heart of Texas, were indeed big and bright and presented beautiful ambiance for the screening. The evening was warm, but not oppressively hot, and there was plenty of delicious Shiner Bock beer to cool us off. The festivities kicked off with a screaming contest for the ladies and a headcheese-eating contest for the gentlemen in the crowd. I was endlessly grateful to have already eaten. After the screening, a Q & A was held with Marilyn Burns (Sally), Edwin Neal (The Hitchhiker), Allen Danziger (Jerry), and co-writer Kim Henkel.

The print shown was far from pristine, but there was something so apt about its imperfections. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a film about a blurry memory of a horrifying event. It was also a movie made by a ragtag crew of independent filmmakers in the boiling summer sun in Texas; it’s the country-fried horror movie! So the scratches on the film and its slight discoloration felt so much more authentic and in the spirit of the production. I loved being surrounded by the echoing, nightmarish sound of chainsaws as they filled the night. It was such a trip to turn my eyes from the screen, a mere ten feet to the right, and see the very same house. You could not have asked for better conditions and I envy those in the audience who were seeing the film for the very first time in such a memorable setting.

I had always really liked The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but this may have been the screening that made me officially fall in love with it.

From left to right: Marilyn Burns, Tim League, Kim Henkel (writer), Allen Danzinger and Ed Neal.

Photo courtesy of Mary Sledd

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