Saturday, November 21, 2015

Field Trip to the Texas Chainsaw House

This October, I took my first road trip through the Southwest as my wife and I drove from Las Vegas to Houston. Among our many stops along the way, I talked the missus into stopping at a little cafe in Kingsland, Texas.  Known as the Grand Central Cafe, the website shows a very quaint, modest eatery with your usual cafe fare.  I, however, wasn't as interested in the menu as I was in the fact that this house was the site of "one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history."

The Grand Central Cafe, you see, is the house where Tobe Hooper filmed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Funnily enough, while this is the original house, it's no longer at the same location where the film was shot.  Originally built in Red Rock, TX in 1909, when the house was purchased by its current owner in 1998, they dismantled it and moved it to Kingsland. According to a 2014 interview with co-owner Drew Gerencer, they don't do much to play up the fact that the house was used to film the TCM, mainly due to the fact that they didn't want their customers focused on a movie about a family of cannibals when they came in to grab a bite to eat.

That's not to say that they ignore the house's history.  The website has a section explaining the house's origins, and Gerencer mentioned that they watched TCM at the house to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary.  And they certainly don't mind when horror dorks such as myself ask to take pictures of the house, which of course I did.

As you can imagine, the house underwent extensive renovations before they opened it to the public, so much of the house was unrecognizable.  However, one element of the house was still quite familiar, and to be honest, it gave me chills.

This, of course, is the site of one of the most brutal scenes ever shot in a horror movie, and the one where we first meet one of the most iconic killers in cinema history.

Not only was this a nasty scene to behold on-screen, it was also apparently harrowing to shoot for Leatherface's portrayer, Gunnar Hansen (RIP), and even more so for co-star William Vail.  According to Hansen's memoir of the production, he got a bit carried away during a take and when he threw Vail through the door, Vail hit his head pretty badly.

While I suppose one could argue that given the amount that the house was changed, and the fact that the house wasn't even in the same location as it was when the movie was shot, that technically I haven't truly visited the site of the Sawyer's grisly deeds.  But I defy a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to walk down the foyer and not get a bad case of the willies.  I'm very happy to have made the trip, and I recommend stopping by if you're in the area.  If nothing else, the club sandwiches are outstanding and they have much stricter weapon restrictions than the Sawyers did in their day.


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