The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has been a movie series that’s experienced great highs and crushing lows. While surely it’s been a long running series with a lot of sequels, it’s also a series that’s been rebooted numerous times. “The Next Generation” is basically a remake of the original Tobe Hooper film set for a nineties crowd and it is god awful. It’s deliriously bad. You could almost consider it so bad it’s good, if you’re very forgiving, but in the end of the day it’s awful. It’s so awful even stars Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger have distanced themselves from it.
I got started as a critic in 2004 when I covered the Fantasia film festival for Film Threat. At the time I was pretty active on the Film Threat web board and one of the moderators, I believe it was Eric Campos, asked if I could attend the festival and write something for the magazine since I lived nearby. I must have done a good job because he let me stick around to do more stuff, mostly review indie films and write a series called “Versus” where I compared remakes with the original.
It was fun, but eventually I had to slow down because I was burnt out. I realize that “watching movies” doesn’t sound exhausting, but I always felt a deep sense of responsibility to both the readers and the filmmakers. It felt wrong to just go “This film sucks!” or “This film rocks” without exploring every little detail on screen and analyzing every aspect of the production.
Forget what Hollywood has tried to feed you, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2” is the actual sequel to Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece, and is widely embraced by horror fans as such. It’s the wacky and surreal embracing of the madness from the first film carried over from the nihilistic cynical seventies, in to the consumerist eighties, where the Sawyer family is now devoting their lives to mutilating yuppies, and going around the world selling their own brand of chili that’s made of people. Hooper’s sequel is a massive tonal departure from the more disturbing original, introducing actual nemeses for the Sawyers including Lefty, a vengeful cowboy hell bent on bringing down the Sawyers, and Stretch, a hapless DJ who becomes the unfortunate recipient of attacks by the Sawyer family when she hears them murdering two victims when one of them calls her randomly.
Forty years later and there’s still nothing like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Not a single film no matter how brutal has managed to be as unsettling and nerve rattling as Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece. It’s astonishing how Hooper’s master work hasn’t aged a day and still retains much of its raw guerilla filmmaking aura. The man and the cast suffered to make his horror thriller about maniacs in the South, and it shows through every single film cell.
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is a horror film I not only respect, but revere, if only because it bears such a realism to it that feels as if Tobe Hooper let loose a bunch of lunatics on an unwitting cast of actors. Much in the realm of Ruggero Deodato’s “Cannibal Holocaust,” there’s the sense that Hooper clings very closely to reality, and covers every single aspect of this vicious environment. You can sense the thick stifling heat, the horrific confusion and chaos, and Leatherface. Leatherface is still the wild insane rabid dog let off of his collar, free to roam as he pleases. Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface is still a terrible force of nature who spares no one, and inflicts immense punishment on the flower children.
It’s interesting to see how Tobe Hooper doesn’t just provide a flawless masterwork of horror, but also manages to depict a very rotten and disgusting environment by sight alone. Every aspect of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” feels very aged and filled with years of decay, and Hooper is a master at creating so much out of very little. Hooper’s horror film is still an iconic artifact in grade A horror filmmaking, as well as building an entire narrative around chaos and pure anxiety. From Sally’s forced attendance at the family dinner, to her insane cackling in the final scene of the film as she bathes in blood, director Tobe Hooper’s film takes on a pulse all its own that’s yet to be duplicated or rivaled to this day.
The 40th Anniversary Edition comes with four audio commentaries. There are about six hours worth of commentaries, with director Hooper sitting down with the surviving cast and crew of the film. There’s an audio commentary with Director/Writer/Producer Tobe Hooper, Actor Gunnar Hansen, and Cinematrographer Daniel Pearl, there’s a second commentary with Production Designer Robert Burns and cast members Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Paul A. Partain. There’s an audio commentary with Tobe Hooper, and finally a commentary with Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll, and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou.
“Butcher Boys” is one half “Judgment Night” and one half of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” but in an urban setting. With a rash of disappearances occurring all over the city, two groups of people find themselves lost in the ghettos of an urban neighborhood. After a prank goes awry, two young men get beaten and killed by three psychotic armed thugs. The group that inflicted the prank realize too late that they’ve come across a lethal and dangerous group of kidnappers, many of whom are taking tourists and locals hostage for nefarious purposes.
Originally I was very upset at the notion of a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” back in 2003 when it was announced. The original is so perfect as is, it’s tough to think that someone would try to top it. Thankfully the remake didn’t top it, and after watching it I realized my antipathy toward it was pointless because “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is one of the many genre classics that’s been unofficially remade almost a dozen times already. So what’s the big deal? And as much as I enjoyed the sequels, they also couldn’t quite top the original film. And Tobe Hooper was behind the second film, oddly enough.
I’ve always had this idea that the sequels to Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” were just glorified remakes of the first film. While it’s true they’re all very similar, filmmakers didn’t start to remake Hooper’s horror film until “The Next Generation.” The Hooper fueled sequel, and “Leatherface” are different films from the first film with finales that are in fact nearly identical to the end of the first film. It’s almost as if the writers never really know where to go once they’ve had their fun, and just go back to the whole dinner scene where the heroine screams bloody murder for thirty minutes. Wherein the second film in the series had poorly developed story, “Leatherface” really has little story.
So, the sequel to Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw” wasn’t the sequel. They were sequels, but perhaps there’s a parallel Sawyer family out there somewhere. Maybe there’s a Leatherface A and a Leatherface B? The stories from parts two, and three in the eighties that followed Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chainsaw” were all nonsense that–I’m presuming–were just Nam flashbacks told by a hippy or something. Maybe there were “What If?” storylines. Or perhaps they were scenarios about what became of the Sawyers after Sally managed to escape Leatherface’s clutches. In truth, it’s just hackey studio tinkering that works best if you ignore it. At this point the “Texas Chainsaw” series is more convoluted and confused than “Halloween” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.”