The Saw Is Family: The Best and Worst of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

In the realm of chainsaws and Texas cannibalism, there are a couple classics, a decent remake, and many other horrendous cinematic failures. 

So, what do we think are the best and worst films in the entire Texas Chainsaw catalog? We're here to break it down, skin and bone, chili style. Which films succeeded and which failed? Which ones do fans love and hate? Find out now! Dog will hunt.

The Tasty

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The original. There is no better. 
Capitalizing on post-Vietnam fears and a lack of true horror in cinemas, Tobe Hooper's masterwork struck a sickening chord with a viewership dying for something new. The original Texas Chainsaw was the most successful of the entire franchise and by all intents and purposes launched the slasher craze that would bring us characters like Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers. Inspired by the true life tale of the cannibalistic Ed Gein, Chainsaw was a pervasive look at our own fears fed by the true horrors of vile mortality. Unlike modern genre films, this down and dirty freak show came along and revolutionized cinema for decades with a glut of terrorizing scenes embellished by Leatherface, his surreal redneck family, and the saw. As a defining moment in the establishment of horror as a tangible theatrical experience, this is a peak moment for fans of the genre as well as the absolute definition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. To this very day, the grit of real film and the direction of Tobe Hooper makes this the obvious crowning achievement for both Leatherface and the man behind the camera. Also helping kick off the idea of strong female horror archetypes, this will survive the test of time. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

After 12 long years and the commercial successes of the Friday the 13th sequels, Tobe Hooper set out to make a continuation of the Texas Chainsaw story.  Although this second part doesn't live up to the same qualities of the original, it's a strange journey with the flesh eating murderers. With a side story about a chili contest and an over the top lead role by character actor Dennis Hopper, TCM2 is its own bizarre animal. Produced by the Cannon pairing of Golan and Globus, this is the definite spawning of their eccentric brand. Hinging on absolute brutality, skull scratching scalp snacks, an underground haven of evil, and a late night radio station under chainsaw attack, this second film still gives me the heebie jeebies. To this day, this is the only movie that seems to somewhat fit into the continuity of the original Texas Chainsaw franchise. After this, it's mostly downhill. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) (remake)

At the beginning of the hard pressed remake trend came The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake starring a sweaty Jessica Biel and a who's who of early 2000's talent. Director Marcus Nispel delivers a heady retelling of the Leatherface story that would garner some financial success and a terrible prequel/sequel. Saying that this is anywhere near as good as the original would be a dire disservice to Mr. Hooper's work. However, there are many things that this got right. The scares are there. The tension is overflowing. The shadowy darkness of Leatherface's lair is creepy as hell. And the movie never tries too hard to dispel the notion that our main baddie is evil incarnate unleashed upon our reality. In this feature, Leatherface is absolutely brutal, never forgiving, and goes for the gusto with tasty slaying goodness. The final moments of this new telling of an old tale feel refreshing and gross as Biel is put through the emotional equivalent of having her soul ripped out and stomped on over and over again.

The Half Cooked

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

The third in the original trilogy is a totally different entry in the franchise. Moving to a more wooded area under the direction of Jeff Burr, this film is just a mediocre effort that stars the then unknown Viggo Mortensen. While the movie is definitely watchable, it's a far cry from the first couple and was a bombastic critical failure that even die hard fans railed against. This Leatherface flick was initially rated X by the MPAA and was trimmed down to get a domestic release. Featuring a whole new clan of Sawyer family members and a half assed story, part three is entertaining but not nearly as good as the first or second. 

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Texas Chainsaw 3D is said to be a direct sequel to the original classic. However, the writers completely destroyed the timeline and tried to connect this to its cinematic origins. With lazy writing, a strange and emotional take on Leatherface, and too many plot holes, Chainsaw 3D was more about flashing Alexandra Daddario's chest than anything else. Mangling the connectivity between this and the 1974 movie was the first major flaw as the acting and typical horror set up felt juxtaposed from every slasher flick of the last fifty years. However, despite its problematic areas, the movie is still a watchable piece of horror cheese that does a few cool things. Daddario does a bang up job creating a new sense of female empowerment in a world that's always been about gore and eerie tone. Her character Heather adds a mildly uptempo feel and a modernized take on the "final girl" type characters that always find a way to outlast evil. Her connection to the brooding bad boy in charge of the chainsaw department was at bare minimum a welcomed addition to this ever evolving, non-defined series of events. If they had straightened out the continuity issues here, it could have been a lot better. 

Look at my boobs. Keep looking.
That's what this movie is about!

The Stench of Rotten Flesh - The Worst

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger star in The Next Generation. Oddly enough, Matthew claims he didn't even remember making this movie. This series low point is a literal abomination that drags The Texas Chainsaw through the abysmal pits of theatrical hell. With an extremely limited release, a late night cable run, and a video store VHS rental, this is one of the worst movies ever released. Hitting every sour note from every trashy horror flick ever put into circulation, there is just nothing to enjoy here. This officially killed the franchise for nearly a decade until Nispel's remake went into production. 

Dear god!!! What have you done with my beloved franchise?!

The Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning (2006)

Why? Because everything needs a prequel. Aiming to cash in on the success of Marcus Nispel's reboot, Platinum Dunes decided to try and continue the trend. What a bad idea. In this age of every property requiring some kind of explanation or backstory, The Beginning came along and nearly unwound all the good that had been done in its predecessor. Giving Leatherface and the Sawyer clan an explanation and a reason to exist cheapened the experience of the film and helps destroy the mystery surrounding the iconic character and his flesh tasting family. With another Leatherface prequel currently in the works, it's going to be hard to beat this as one of the worst in the series, but they will surely try. 

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