I'm not sure if I first saw this as a rental or as a revival showing in Boston, but I'm glad I watched it.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of teens who decide to visit an old family grave that has fallen into disrepair and may have been vandalized. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker who cuts his own hand open and foretells a grim fate for them. When they kick him out of their van, he marks it with his blood. Eventually, the kids get where they are going and despite everything being run down and gross, seem to have a decent time. As two try to find some gas for their van, they run into an old house with generators running. The couple quickly fall to the actions of Leatherface, a big man wearing a face mask made of other people's faces. Things go downhill from there.
First, this movie is boldly unsympathetic towards the crippled as Franklin, confined to a wheelchair, is the most annoying character perhaps in the history of horror. His constant whining is somewhat justified as the hitchhiker tries to carve him up but still, man, have some dignity. The rest of the movie has some of the most disturbing and off-putting shots in cinema history as well. There is a cutaway in the old house of spiders just crawling all over each other that never fails to give me the creeps. The use of practical lighting (for the most part) ads to the feeling that you are watching a snuff film. There are scenes in this movie that really unnerve me. Grandpa and his ability to wield a hammer is one of the most horrific things I've ever seen. Tobe Hooper directed the shit out of this movie and it shows in every grimy frame.
If you can deal with people dying in really horrific ways and a final half hour that is nothing but screaming, you should check out this classic. For such a cheesy title, the horror is created in such original and striking ways that it will always be looked at as foundational for the genre.