An old gas station is a group of teens' last stop on their way to an abandoned homestead in the famous horror film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The proprietor warns them to steer clear of their destination, but the kooky kids just don't listen.
So one by one, they end up on the business end of that title power tool and other bloody instruments wielded by the hulking killer Leatherface.
The San Antonio Express-News reports Carol LeQueux never thought she and her two teenage sons would make that same trip.
U.S. & World
Yet there she was on a cold and misty October morning, her "Chainsaw"-loving son Alex, 19, smirking by her side as she told the tale of surviving the night with her boys at one of the cabins behind what's now known simply as The Gas Station.
"This was a dream trip for him," said LeQueux, who made the pilgrimage with Alex and his brother Sam, 17, from Georgetown, Kentucky. "My mind was playing tricks on me and I heard all sorts of things. I did not go to sleep until the sun came up."
Life indeed goes on at The Gas Station, one of the original locations for that 1974 cult classic about a masked slaughterer and his not-so-choice cuts. The once moribund locale on Texas 304, literally up the road from a graveyard, now enjoys a second life as a horror-fan hot spot and barbecue pit stop.
"It's just special," said The Gas Station co-owner Lisa Rose. "When they come in here and they all light up, it's like, 'Ahhhhhh! I'm here!'"
A couple of die-hard "Chainsaw" fans from Cleveland, Lisa and her husband Roy Rose restored and reopened The Gas Station in October 2016 after its previous owner finally relented to Roy's phone requests to buy the building. The Roses now live in Bastrop, where it took them two years to bring The Gas Station back to its faded bone white glory.
The grand opening featured costumes and "Chainsaw" stars such as Edwin Neal, better known to fans as the film's loony hitchhiker. The Gas Station has since hosted other horror movie stars (Eileen Dietz, the face of the demon in "The Exorcist," appears in early November) as well as movie screenings, plus occasional "Chainsaw" buffs such as Alex LeQueux, who just have to experience the site overnight.
Though The Gas Station doesn't just deal in frights.
"We're busy," Lisa Rose said. "I cater weddings. We have car clubs that come out here. I cater funerals."
The Gas Station plays just a minor role in the original "Chainsaw." Most of the movie's carnage takes place in and around a creepy farmhouse that's home to Leatherface and his cannibalistic family, which includes the gas station proprietor and that crazed hitcher the teens picked up and ditched earlier in the film.
Nevertheless, reverence to such grisly source material reigns at The Gas Station.
As in the original movie, the overhang out front still bears a Coca-Cola sign with the motto "We Slaughter Barbecue." And colorful metal lawn chairs still greet those who pull up, just like the movie characters did in their green Ford van, a replica of which sits out by the cabins behind the station.
Also out front: a memorial bench with Leatherface's mask, chainsaw and hammer, along with small plaques honoring deceased "Chainsaw" talents, including director Tobe Hooper, Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen, and actress Marilyn Burns, who played Sally, the film's bloody survivor in bell bottoms.
As for what lurks inside The Gas Station, Leatherface looms large in a veritable Hot Topic of horror merch.
Leatherface masks stare out from behind a glass counter packed with monster movie buttons and pins, while Leatherface action figures stand on shelves alongside other articulated horror icons, including Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and the Annabelle doll from "The Conjuring" franchise. Patrons also can pick up "Chainsaw" T-shirts and lunchboxes, as well as autographed photos and other collectibles.
Then there's The Gas Station's more appetizing draw: the barbecue.
Brisket and sausage dominate the menu, with sides of coleslaw, pinto beans and potato salad.
As for any concerns about the source of said meats, The Gas Station attendant Jennifer Gross has just the quip.
"When a baby walks in, I say 'Ooh, fresh meat,'" she said. "Parents give me looks sometimes."
Like many "Chainsaw" lovers, Gross credits the film's legacy to its raw intensity and surprisingly artful execution. Sure, the title leaves little to the imagination, but the gore actually is more implied than explicit. And while the mute Leatherface steals the show, the movie's documentary-like opening narration and audio of heinous news reports hint at something, daresay, more sophisticated.
Then again, there's something timeless about the story of a journey gone horribly wrong.
"For me, (it's) road trips," said Kate Davis from Dallas, who hit The Gas Station with her fiancé Josh Young while on their way to Austin City Limits. "Being on the road and driving through towns and not knowing what's there or who you're going to run into."
"It think it's Leatherface being one of the first iconic bad guys," Young said. "That kind of set the tone for future horror movies after that."
Few could have predicted that a low-budget slasher film out of central Texas would make such a killing in pop culture, much less at the box office.
Austin native Hooper made the original "Chainsaw" for less than $150,000 with mostly unknown actors. The film would gross more than $25 million, leading to a franchise that's since grossed nearly $200 million. Installments include a 1994 sequel starring future Oscar-winners Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger and a more recent 2013 film in 3-D.
Still, there's nothing like the flick that started it all.
"The original is one of the greatest movies ever made," said Donny Veloz, who swung by The Gas Station from Katy with his wife, Megan Johnston.
Pun very much intended, the '74 "Chainsaw" has a special place in Veloz's heart. Not only is Leatherface his go-to Halloween costume, Veloz also has visited the farmhouse featured so prominently in the first film, which was in Round Rock before it was taken apart and reassembled in Kingsland. And Veloz showed "Chainsaw" to his kids when they were 7 years old, around the same age he was when he first saw it.
"I guess it's like a rite of passage, as horror films go," Veloz said.
It's hard to associate "Texas Chainsaw" with "family friendly," yet Lisa Rose stressed that the kids who come to The Gas Station have a blast. They love to take pictures with the dolls, she said, such as the child-sized versions of Michael Myers and the "Chainsaw" hitcher that share a chair. Likewise, visiting grandparents often reminisce about the first time they saw "Chainsaw" at the drive-in.
Such a warm convergence of generations was on display again inside The Gas Station, this time with horror-film fan Lindsay Liles. The Los Angeles television producer was on the road with her husband, C.R. Celona, their 18-month-old daughter Colette and Liles' father, Daniel Liles, and had always wanted to see the site.
After checking out the merchandise, the family sat for some barbecue while Colette cuddled a plush Freddy Krueger doll like a teddy bear.