R.I.P. Gunnar Hansen: Genre Loses Another Legend


"‘The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.’ -Narrator(John Larroquette)"

In 1974, Tobe Hooper created a film that would forever change the face of horror. In fact, Hooper created a film that would change the entire face of cinema. Hooper changed the way we would forever look at chainsaws. He changed my life.

The film was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Set in the rural roads of “The Long Horn State,” Chainsaw told the story of five youths visiting the grave plot of a recently deceased loved one. While on their journey into the hot hills of Texas, the group would infamously run into a clan of cannibalistic carnivores hellbent on claiming the lives of anyone with a little meat on their bones. One-by-one, the group is picked off until the lone survivor, Sally Hardesty, is left to fight against family muscle-man Leatherface.

Donning a mask made of human flesh, Leatherface would go on to be one of horror’s most iconic creations. With an appetite for blood only matched by the shark in Jaws, Leatherface has lived on in three sequels, a 2003 remake, a prequel to the remake, and a 3D feature set around the time of the original classic. He’s a character who’s both loved by his fans and feared by his prey. He’s a true legend of our genre and was originally brought to life by actor/author Gunnar Hansen.

Yesterday, on November 7th, Mr. Hansen passed away. Born on March 4th, 1947, Hansen would go on the make a bigger impact in the world than he ever imagined with his portrayal of Leatherface. Born in the cold depths of Iceland, Hansen brought something special to “Bubba” and helped make Leatherface a household name among horror fans.

With over 30 film appearances to his name, and the author of Chainsaw Confidential (the actor’s memoir), Hansen was a staple of the convention circuit and an outspoken, yet kind, individual. I had the pleasure of meeting the man years ago and cherish our conversation. It will forever mean the world to me.

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The world has lost another horror icon in Gunnar Hansen. After the loss of legendary filmmaker Wes Craven, this is yet another blow to our little community that I hold so dear. While we all have our place in history, and a time to go to that horror convention in the sky, it’s still sad to see Mr. Hansen go. He’ll always be in our hearts, as well as our tool sheds and butcher shops, and his memory will live on. Rest in peace Gunnar Hansen, you will be sorely missed. I’ll see you again someday, and we’ll finish that conversation we started years ago.

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