A Legally Dodgy Halloween Costume Inspired Tobe Hooper’s Leatherface Design


One of the most disturbing conceits of “Chain Saw” is that the film’s fat butcher, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), wears a mask made of human skin. It’s a powerful image that’s been carried across nine feature films, regardless of continuity. It was also, it turns out, based on a personal true story. In an interview that Hooper gave with the Offscreen Festival in 2015, the director revealed that he personally knows someone who made a mask out of human skin, specifically meant to be worn at a Halloween party. This person was not a serial killer, but the family doctor. And, to clarify right away, the skin was obtained through ethical means. Well, maybe.

Hooper also spoke briefly about the original title of his film, which is a little less exciting but much more evocative. Hooper said:

“[The title] came later. The working title came to me when I lived in Austin and went shopping late at night. I was in the store and saw head cheese, which is quite common. But it was the first time I saw him. Looked like there were eyeballs and other nasty things. So that’s where the working title “Head Cheese” comes from.

Head cheese, for those not yet in the know, is the common name for a charcuterie terrine containing pieces of animal heads. Typically, head cheese contains tongue. It is rarer for it to contain eyeballs and brains, although this is not unheard of. Pieces of head meat are jellied and served cold or sliced ​​on a sandwich. There is no cheese in the head cheese. Anyone who has seen Head Cheese up close can understand how inspired Hooper can be.


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