horror movies “based on a true story”: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The tagline says, “What happened is true.”  Tobe Hooper based this classic horror flick on serial killer Ed Gein (who has inspired several other “based on a true story” movies…).  I will examine things that are true/false based only on events in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (not the other Gein-inspired movies).

What is true:

  • Ed Gein lived on an isolated farm.
  • Ed Gein made trophies… and other stuff… out of body parts and bones: including skin lampshades, belts, and bowls made out of skulls.
  • Ed Gein did have several skin masks that he wore.
  • Ed Gein was convicted of killing and decapitating two women.
  • Ed Gein often went grave robbing (you see reports of this at the beginning of the movie)

What isn’t true:

  • Ed Gein lived in Wisconsin, not Texas.
  • The two women definitely killed by Gein were local business owners, not random teens.
  • Ed Gein lived alone after the (suspicious) death of his brother and the deaths of his parents… this was definitely not a family affair.
  • Most of the body parts found when the police raided Gein’s house were taken from graves.
  • While the bodies found were dismembered, there is no evidence that Gein used a chainsaw.

The verdict? Obviously, this is very loosely based on Gein’s murders.  This was more of a “what would happen if a VW bus full of teens happened across this guy?”  Or a, “Hey, we’ve got a guy in a skin mask!  Let’s call him Leatherface and hand him a chainsaw!”  The true elements are merely the fact that this guy existed – which I suppose is horror enough.  The plot of the teens accidentally discovering the farmhouse of horrors and being killed off is entirely fictional.

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