Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a one of a kind movie. Stark, shocking brutal and brilliant it still has the power today to disturb and unsettle audiences with its tale of a group of unfortunate teens who stumble into the lair of a psychotic flesh eating family and there chain saw wielding son who likes to wear other peoples faces as a mask.
Since the original Leatherface has returned 6 times from Hooper’s sequel in 1986 to part 3 in 1990 to the Next Generation in 1994 staring Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey (rather than Picard and Riker) to the Michael Bay reboot in 2006 which took us back to the beginning and now once again in 2013 where we drop the massacre in Texas Chainsaw available with or without the 3D.
Each time, in every sequel, remake and reboot the writers and directors have tried to find a twist on the original idea to resell it to the audiences and this newest instalment is no exception however the opening of director John Luessenhop vision sets it up to be one of the most interesting takes so far.
As the titles roll we see the whole of Tobe Hooper’s original movie played out for us in shocking short segments as each of the original characters is mutilated and murdered by Leatherface and the insane Sawyer family.
But where the original film end Texas Chainsaw begins as Sally escapes in the back of a pick up we see a police car speeding towards the fated farm house where Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) confronts the amassed family and their friends who have fortified themselves armed and ready for all out war.
The fragile peace is broken when a gang of good ol’ boys turn up ready to wreak vigilante revenge pushing the situation to boiling point overflowing into a violent gun fight where the Sawyer family are all killed and the house of horrors is destroyed. The only survivor is a baby girl who one member of the lynch mob saves after leaving her mother to die.
From this point we move forward a couple of decades to meet the orphaned girl Heather (Alexandra Daddario) years later all grown up and suddenly discovering about her true heritage due to the inheritance of a mansion in Texas left by the grandmother she never knew she had.
Setting out to learn more about her past with some friends the gang arrives at the Sawyer house excited, enthused and ready to party. However Heather’s grandma Sawyer has left her more than just her old house, as hidden deep in the basement is a long lost relative who has been waiting a long time for revenge.
Texas Chainsaw’s opening is extremely promising and the idea of a continuation of the original film so many years later is an innovative offering. Luessenhop blends footage from the original in seamlessly with his new film and the idea of the townsfolk turning on the sick Sawyer’s is a fascinating twist playing on the ideas of justice and punishment and whether murdering a murderer ultimately makes you just as evil as them.
Sadly this interesting continuation is over all too quick and before you can saw slasher movie we are back in boring horror reboot territory as we are introduced to Heather and her clichéd friends and the banal predictable plot line that follows as they head to the house and discover Leatherface in the basement.
The obvious story line, cardboard characters and their continuingly stupid decisions make it hard to engage with anyone but as the film moves forward we realize this is in fact the point as Texas Chainsaw’s real hero is Leatherface.
As well as enjoying his gory chain saw massacre of Heather’s friends the reintroduction of the gang of hicks who killed the Sawyers and now run the town prompts the audience to see Leatherface as the victim of the piece and Heather’s alignment with him furthers this association.
Here we see the true mistake of the movie as by making this people eating mass murdering maniac a misunderstood hero (as Rob Zombie attempted in his Halloween reboot) he is no longer scary or threatening and the film becomes completely ineffective as a horror.
The barrage of remakes and sequels to the 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre have fixated on Leatherface with Texas Chainsaw being the most extreme example of this but to me the giant blood letting baby wearing another persons face was only one element of what made Hooper’s movie so scary.
Leatherface was never alone and the twisted family which included the unhinged Hitchhiker, the grotesque Grandpa and the disturbingly normal father of all the freaks played by Jim Siedow was a horrific collection of crazy made all the worse by their unity and enjoyment of killing something they saw as as normal as cooking barbecue.
If you’re a gore lover or slasher fan obsessed with Leatherface then Texas Chainsaw is the movie for you however in my opinion all this film proves like all the other movies in the Texas Chainsaw franchise is that the original was a rare and perfect horror film that will never be bettered or recreated.