The year is 1973. An unknown vandal has constructed ghoulish sculptures out of human remains from the graveyards in a small Texas town. A group of college students, two girls: Sally and Pam, and three boys: Jerry, Kirk and Sally's wheelchair-bound brother Franklin are heading through the back roads of Texas en route to the grave of Sally's grandfather, one of those believed vandalized. A vile smell alerts them to the presence of a nearby slaughterhouse, and Franklin tells them about it. Against their better judgment, they stop for a hitchhiker, who acts crazily, cutting his hand open with Franklin's pen knife and subsequently slashing Franklin's arm with a straight razor before the others manage to eject him from the vehicle. He also takes a Polaroid Picture of them, and when it develops, he asks for two dollars for the picture. They refuse and he lights the picture on fire. Also, in a bizarre moment, he smears his bloody hand on their van before they can drive away.
They stop at a gas station, but the owner tells them that the tanks are empty. The girls go in for some sodas as Franklin tells the owner that they are going to his grandfather's old place. The man seems to want to discourage them from going to the house, giving them a subtle warning that the locals don't like strangers intruding on their property. After buying some barbecued food, they leave and go to the old house anyway.
Kirk and Pam go to look for a swimming hole as Jerry, Sally, and Franklin stay behind. Kirk and Pam find the water is all dried up in the swimming hole, but the sound of a running generator attracts them to a small farmhouse nearby. Kirk hopes to barter with the occupants for some gas, and they discover something odd on the property: a large canvas hides a junkyard full of vehicles, most of them intact. Kirk knocks on the door to find that there seems to be nobody home. He finds a human tooth on the front porch and gives it to Pam, who reacts in disgust and goes to sit on a yard swing. Kirk continues to knock on the door, which drifts open. Hearing a strange, inhuman squealing sound, he runs down a hall and suddenly a large menacing figure with a mask of human skin looms out at him. "Leatherface" kills Kirk with a blow to the head from a sledgehammer, dragging the squirming body through the doorway, and slams a steel door shut with an ominous bang.
Pam gets restless and enters the house looking for Kirk. She goes into the dining room and falls into a nightmarish collection of body parts and bones from both humans and animals. She sees furniture made out of human limbs, a live chicken in a small cage hanging from the ceiling, and strange decorations made out of skulls and bones. The floor is covered in bone fragments and chicken feathers. Pam is sick a little in her mouth, and begins to go into hysterics, screaming for Kirk. She gets up and lurches into the hall, just as the steel door flies open and the large man bolts out at her. He chases her and catches her just as she reaches the front porch, dragging her kicking and screaming body back into the house. Leatherface takes Pam into the kitchen and hangs her on a meathook through her upper back. In agony and shock, Pam, still alive, is forced to watch as Leatherface casually dismembers Kirk's dead body with a chainsaw.
When Kirk and Pam don't return, Jerry goes looking for them and finds the same house. Finding the blanket left behind by Pam and Kirk, he goes inside to investigate. In the kitchen there is a large chest freezer, rattling convulsively. He opens it and finds Pam inside, turning blue. She suddenly sits upright in at attempt to escape, but Leatherface jumps out and kills Jerry with the sledgehammer. Jerry collapses on the kitchen floor, and Leatherface hurls Pam back into the freezer, locking her inside.
When Jerry doesn't return, Sally and Franklin argue about going to find him. They can't leave because Jerry has the keys to the van. Sally wants to go alone to find him because she can't manage Franklin's wheelchair through the brush, but Franklin insists on going with her. As they struggle through the dark trees, Leatherface jumps out and kills Franklin with the chainsaw. Sally runs away into black darkness, but Leatherface is right on her heels. Unwittingly, Sally flees to the very house where her friends have died. She locks the front door and runs upstairs, while Leatherface saws through the wooden door. In the attic, she finds two figures sitting in chairs alongside a dead animal, one of them a dead body and the other an extremely withered old man. When Leatherface breaks through the door and runs up the stairs after her, Sally jumps out a second-story window and lands on grass.
While Leatherface relentlessly pursues her, she runs all the way back to the gas station. When she gets there, the maniac appears to have disappeared, and she finds the man who owns the station still there. While he goes to get his truck so they can escape, Sally is fascinated by a smoke pit with interestingly shaped meat in it. When the man returns, he suddenly attacks Sally with a broom, putting a large burlap sack over her head and forcing her into the truck. As he drives away with Sally, he meets a figure in the road; it is the hitchhiker who was in the van with the kids earlier. He is the brother of Leatherface and the older man who captured her.
They take Sally inside and tie her to a chair. When they remove the sack she has a moment of utter horror when she and the hitchhiker recognize one another. Leatherface and the hitchhiker bring down the withered figure of "Grandpa", and in a truly horrifying moment, they slice open the tip of Sally's finger and force it into Grandpa's mouth, while he sucks on her blood. Sally is so overcome with disgust and panic that she faints.
She wakes up at the dinner table where food has been served to her, sausages that she now realizes contains the flesh of human beings. A discussion begins when the hitchhiker says that grandpa was the "best killer who ever was" at the local slaughterhouse. Sally realizes the end is near when they force her onto her knees and place her head over a metal bucket, and Grandpa tries in vain to bludgeon her with a mallet. The hitchhiker, who has been holding her down, gets anxious when Grandpa can't finish her off (Grandpa is too weak to hold the mallet or make a killing blow) and he makes a grab for the hammer. Sally breaks free and pushes the men out of her way, leaping wildly through the dining room window.
The sun is coming up as Sally runs down the driveway of the old house. Leatherface and the hitchhiker quickly emerge from the house to give chase, Leatherface's chainsaw revving behind her. Sally emerges onto the main road with the hitchhiker right behind her, pulling at her hair. Suddenly an eighteen wheeler comes up from behind and runs down the hitchhiker. The driver jumps out and is confronted by the frantic Sally, with Leatherface right behind her. They climb back inside the truck while Leatherface tries to cut the door open with his chainsaw, but he is unable to cut through the steel. Emerging out the other side, Sally runs while the driver throws a large wrench at Leatherface's head. He falls down and cuts himself, the chainsaw digging into his own leg. The driver runs out of sight as a smaller pickup truck pulls up from the other side of the road, and makes a U-turn as Leatherface gets to his feet again despite his injury. The pickup stops for a second, giving Sally enough time to jump in the back. She shrieks at him to "Go! Go! Go!" just as Leatherface reaches the bed of the truck, which pulls quickly away, leaving him there. Sally, who is now covered in blood and looking completely deranged, laughs hysterically to herself as the pickup drives away from the scene. Leatherface is left back in the road, waving and swinging his chainsaw in the air in a morbid, mad dance of frustration.
Discuss - N/A