I’ve always loved “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”. The original film is a true work of art in the horror genre and a classic that has influenced countless imitators and slasher movies (many of them pointless). The use of an intense and disturbing family dynamic between cannibals and deranged individuals and a killer which is manipulated and confused by them, along with a tense and creepy rawness to it (without showing gore), makes the original film a classic and a really unique piece of work. Many sequels (but mainly reboots) were made years after the first one and while some of them are good (even great sometimes), some are mediocre and messy (with a family that keeps changing in every film). With the newest film (“Texas Chainsaw”) being released on DVD and Blu-ray (2D+3D) tomorrow, here’s my ranking of the seven films in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise from worst to best:
7. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
IMDB Synopsis: “A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; little does she know that an encounter with a chainsaw-wielding killer is part of the reward”.
This film is a mess. There’s no other way of putting it. This is a direct sequel of the original film from the 70s, and I have to say I had high hopes for this. The story has potential for a new direction in a series that has almost always use the same basic plot in its sequels/reboots. Sadly, it doesn’t really work. From the pointless script, to the wrong timeline (the film’s protagonist should be in her 40s since the original massacre took place in the 70s and the film is clearly set in 2012…Don’t even get me started on that unnecessary iPhone scene!) and the terrible acting, the movie is a disjointed mess that’s not scary or even gory enough). It’s a mess indeed, but it’s an enjoyable mess if you can see past its many flaws. It’s fun at times and the gore is decent (while not shocking or truly inventive). I appreciated the intention of giving the series a much-needed new direction, but the problem lies in the execution. Overall (and sadly), this is the worst Texas Chainsaw Massacre film yet.
6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (Original Title: The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) (1994)
IMDB Synopsis: “A group of teenagers get into a car crash in the Texas woods on prom night, and then wander into an old farmhouse that is home to Leatherface and his insane family of cannibalistic psychopaths” (They’re not even cannibals in this movie!).
First of all, I have to say this because everyone seems to loathe this film: I like this movie, I really do. This an insane, messy, hilarious horror-comedy (more of a black comedy, actually). Leatherface is in full-on drag queen mode here (which is not really that strange and I actually like it, as messy as the idea sounds, just remember how this is a killer inspired by Ed Gein and Leatherface actually wore woman’s masks in the first film), the family are not cannibals anymore (they eat pizza… seriously, they do), and a secret organization (you can actually see an “Illuminati” sign in a truck) is behind everything the psychopaths do. It’s strange and insanely weird, but It’s a really fun time and a misunderstood film. I don’t think this is supposed to be a straightforward horror movie at all. But even if it’s crazy fun, the film is never scary at all (which it should at least try to balance with the dark comedy) and the plot is just more of the same, with very forgettable teen characters (although the new family is so absurd that you can’t help but love all the craziness). It’s a mess, but what a fun mess. By the way: not even one person gets killed with a chainsaw in this movie… What a “massacre”.
5. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
IMDB Synopsis: “A California couple and a survivalist encounter the cannibal family”.
The film actually feels like a reboot (especially after the second film’s ending) more than a sequel, but it could work either way. The movie is actually solid, especially for the third film in a horror series. There’s a new family here (yet again) that’s quite interesting to watch, the gore it’s effective, there’s some dark comedy that works (with some cheesy moments that really don’t) and some scary moments and decent atmosphere. This is a fun little horror film that’s enjoyable while not truly memorable.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
IMDB Synopsis: “On one last road trip before they’re sent to serve in Vietnam, two brothers and their girlfriends get into an accident that calls their local sheriff to the scene. Thus begins a terrifying experience where the teens are taken to a secluded house of horrors, where a young, would-be killer is being nurtured”.
As a prequel to the 2003 remake, it doesn’t really work: the family’s roots are not fully explored and many explanations and reasons for the madness are truly lame and badly written. There was potential for a much bigger and deeper analysis of the family and Leatherface but they’re wasted for violence and gore most of the film. While this sounds like I may not like the film, I actually do and I think it deserves the fourth spot on the list. As a modern horror movie, it’s fun, raw, violent, very gory, dark and gritty (with a very effective performance from R. Lee Ermey), and that’s were the movie’s strength lies. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid horror movie, even if it’s not that good as a prequel to the 2003 film.