Just before Halloween—and just after the 49th anniversary of what was then one of the most shocking films ever released—Zefyr Lisowski looks back at the movie that upended her adolescence. Much like the movie, and much like Lisowski would eventually find, there’s beauty to be found in the harshness here.

I entered the movie wanting to be scared because I dealt with my problems at the time by being scared. Otherwise, I’d feel too needy, too vulnerable and exposed. But that which entrances us and frightens us is so often the same. I hated the South, feared being Southern myself even, but in Chain Saw, everyone talks with an accent—even the heroes. Everyone walks through the grasses, runs through hardscrabble Southern trees. It’s not whether you’re from the South or not that matters, the movie seemed to be saying: it’s what you do with it, and how you or others are hurt despite it. The South is like everywhere else: both fucked and beautiful, indefensible and resplendent at the same time.