This series began in 1974 and has undergone quite a few makeovers over the years. Some have worked. Most have not, but it's still a quite enjoyable ride considering the masterpiece that began the whole dance. So we will start there!
Released in 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was certainly an ambitious project by director Tobe Hooper. At the time Hooper was working as an assistant director at the University of Texas at Austin. He became familiar with the surrounding Texas woods and wanted to showcase that isolation. He rounded up some buddies, about $300,000 and made one of the most successful independent films of all time. This is it....the grandaddy of all ultra-violent (notice I did NOT say gory) films. This one will stay with you forever.
It involves 5 young people (PS one of the first films to do that)...driving in a van (refer to other parenthesis) and heading out to a desolate house to visit just because (again....refer to those prior parenthesis'). NOW....one by one our lovely kids become a little too curious and visit the "house down the hill" only to find Leatherface and his family of nutcases, the Sawyers. Of course our protagonists are all offed in various ways until we are left with poor Franklin (yep....killed) and Sally (played brilliantly by Marilyn Burns) who is tortured, chased, beaten, chased, stabbed, and chased by this brood of inbred hill folks.
This film is legendary in its rawness, its visceral nature, and its unrelenting pace. Once the action really gets going 2/3 of the way through the film....it NEVER lets up. This poor girl ain't ever gon' be right. Banned outright in several countries because of its gratuitous violence the film is now heralded as one of the most important films in cinematic history. It has been ripped, prodded, picked by directors who steal Hooper's tricks and sequencing. So many films now look to this one as inspiration....and usually never come close.
What I want to do in this blog is explore the mythology of these films and touch base on each film in the series. There is a method to my madness so bear with me. First up....the sequel.
This film was once again directed by Tobe Hooper. Released in 1986 it follows the original a decade later and involves the original family with an added brother named Chop Top. The film is half slasher/half revenge movie concerning a fast talking radio DJ named Stretch (who looks like Aunt Jackie from Roseanne) and a Texas Ranger named Lefty who is the uncle of Sally and Franklin from the first film. This film grew on me over the years. Once I took it for what it was I enjoyed it more. It plays more like a comedy than a horror film to me and I think it satirical nature was lost on audiences, although it has gained quite a cult following among fan boys. NOW ON TO LEATHERFACE....
This was "the boring one" released in 1990....it doesn't exactly follow the same characters as the original with the exception of Leatherface and is just not entertaining in the least. The film involves a couple who come across the Sawyer family and co-stars Viggo Mortenson and horror icon Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead fame. It has some cool tension in the opening scenes with Leatherface lurking around but then falls WAY FLAT fast. Why, God? MOVING ON.
Released as an independent film in 1994 with co-writer and producer of the original film Kim Henkel. Starring then unknowns Renee Zellwegger and Matthew McConaughey this movie holds the record of worst movie I had ever seen for a number of years. This film is again completely unrelated to the other pictures and has a few too many subplots that don't work....such as Leatherface as a transexual. HUH? Oooooh girl, have your roots done. WASTE. (Although we can see why Renee and Matthew went onto bigger and better things. They do a pretty good job with what they are given.)
AND NOW THE REBOOTS......
This film was a direct re-imagining of the original film released in 2003. This film is pretty cool because it introduces some awesome new characters including a mother and a CRAZY sheriff played brilliantly by R, Lee Ermey. It has everything you want in a horror movie and everything you don't want in a TCM franchise movie. First off the film is incredibly well made. The cinematography, the sequences, the acting are all rather sharp here. The action never lets up and the film in and of itself is VERY good. However, what is missing here is the grungy feeling you get watching a TCM movie. The fear of the original was brought to you in part by its "made on a dime" nature, so this slick reboot doesn't quite give you the same reaction. Unnecessary? Sure...BUT as a film on its own.....it's the best shot they could have given and is the best overall after the original.
This 2006 film is a direct prequel to the 2003 reboot. I am not quite sure why it was made except for perhaps a cash in on the growing number of prequels pervading our cineplexes these days, however all in all it is not a bad film. It's pretty violent and gory yet doesn't sustain the action that its predecessor does rendering it the lesser of the two reboots. It also delves into a "history" for Leatherface which we all know is retardation station.
And finally....our most recent entry....
I don't even know where to begin. This film is just bad. It is a 2013 direct sequel to the ORIGINAL film....yes, kids they had the balls. The rights for the Texas chainsaw mythology were bought from Platinum Dunes who produced our previous reboots by Lions Gate and Twisted Pictures (known for the Saw films).....sounds promising right? Boy was I wrong. Not only is the movie in really bad 3D, but also has some of the worst dialogue in recent memory. Such humdingers as "Do your thing, cuz." and "Welcome to Texas, mother fucker." are among the most unintentionally hilarious. Also as we open the film in flashback we are introduced to characters who are JUST THERE.....where did these women come from??? Among other atrocities this film has to offer we are subjected to the dumbest Beauty and the Beast/incest love story in recent memory. SKIP IT.
So where does all this leave Leatherface? Hopefully in your DVD player with the original 1974 picture. The rest are truly just cash ins and there's only one that matters.....we don't need to know about Leatherface or who the Sawyer family is.....we just want to be scared and the original does a damn good job at that. So watch it! If you are considering the rest, refer to this blog and ask yourself...."is this how I should waste the next 90 minutes?" Do yourself a favor and check out the big dog first.
Happy slashing big gay readers!