It’s time to rev up those chainsaws because Leatherface is back, and this time he’s ready to take down some gentrifying hipsters. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film franchise is getting a new entry with the creative title Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a direct sequel to the original 1974 film premiering on Netflix this Friday, Feb. 18.
In the sequel, a group of foodie influences head to Harlow, Texas and decide that it’s the perfect town for some fusion restaurants, pretentious coffee shops, and high rent. Leatherface (now played by Mark Burham), who doesn’t care for fusion barbecue, emerges to finish his initial killing spree. Meanwhile, Sally Hardesty (now played by Olwen Fouere, taking over the role from the late Marilyn Burns), the sole survivor of the original film, has returned to town to take revenge against Leatherface and the hell he put her through.
There’s been no mention in the promos (yet) of Leatherface’s cannibalistic family, who also tortured Sally and were never that kind to Leatherface. With the exception of the first film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre will share no connection to the later films in the franchise, but that doesn’t mean that there will be no Easter eggs from the many sequels, prequels, and remakes.
To help prepare you for the return of Texas’ most grisly family here are The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films to keep that killer buzz going.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Since the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a direct sequel to this film, this one is a must-watch, and not just to understand what’s going on. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre revolutionized the horror genre. The original film followed Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), and their friends as they journey to rural Texas to check up on their grandfather’s grave. They decide to also visit their grandparent’s old homestead and, on the way, pick up a hitchhiker (never a good idea, but especially bad news in a horror movie) who promptly cuts himself and Franklin. Even though this road trip should have been ended then and there, the group ventures forward to a gas station without any gas. Again, rather than go home (as any normal person not in a horror movie would), they head to the old swimming hole and come across a dilapidated house. It’s there that they meet the notorious Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who wears a mask made out of human skin, and his family of cannibals. From there, the group tries to escape the clutches of the family, until only Sally survives—the “final girl” standing.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was originally marketed as based on real events, but it actually wasn’t—it was meant to be a critique on the sheer amount of misinformation the media spread (sadly, not much has changed). The brutal violence committed by Leatherface was intended to be a reflection of the lack of care news stations had regarding the atrocities taking place in Vietnam, though ultimately the film became notorious for the gore itself than any message behind it.
The film is credited with creating and popularizing several tropes now common in the slasher genre: hulking killers, power tools as weapons, creepy backwoods folk, and the “final” girl.
Watch it on: Fubo, Showtime, Shudder, Tubi
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
The first The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was supposed to be a satire, but since audiences didn’t pick up on this, director Tobe Hooper decided to make this very clear in the sequel. The follow-up to the original film is completely over-the-top and takes a different direction from the first. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the film begins with Leatherface murdering two high-school jocks. The whole ordeal is caught on audio tape by Stretch, a local DJ whom the jocks had called prior to the murders. The next day, Lt. “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), uncle of Sally and Franklin from the previous film, begins to investigate the case. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the winner of a local chili cook off is none other than Drayton Sawyer, the patriarch of the cannibalistic Sawyer family. You can probably guess his secret ingredient.
The deadly Sawyers learn of Stretch and her tape and decide that she needs to be silenced. Luckily for Stretch, and in one of the weirdest turns to ever happen in a horror film, Leatherface takes a liking to her. The rest of the film dives off the deep end from there, featuring a scene of Lt. Lefty trying out different chainsaws, Leatherface lovingly placing a mask of another person’s face on Stretch, and a carnival motif.
Watch it on: Apple TV, Hoopla
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Even though it didn’t receive the best reviews from critics, this remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a genuinely disturbing slasher. More of a remake than a sequel, but with nods to the original, it features a typical early-2000s cast of pretty young people, led by Jessica Biel. Under the direction of Marcus Nispel, primarily known at the time for his stylish music videos, with a writing credit by Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is sleeker but far more violent than its predecessor, and this Leatherface is flat out mean. He seems to enjoy torturing this new band of victims rather than treat them like a mundane task the way he does in the first film. Filled with meat hooks, chainsaws, and a new mask for Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre introduced a new generation to this deadly family of cannibals.
Watch it on: Netflix
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
Set four years before the 2003 remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, is part of the trend of franchise films that assume every villain needs an origin story. Here we get a tragic history of Leatherface (not that anyone asked for it), born to a meat-packing worker who dies soon after giving birth to him in the slaughterhouse. The deformed and sickly baby, named Thomas, is thrown into the trash and later found by Luda Mae Hewitt, who decides to raise him as her own. Thirty years later, mentally underdeveloped and suffering from skin disease, Thomas gets a job at the same place where his mother gave birth and, in an even darker twist, works for the foreman who discarded him all those years ago. After the horribly mismanaged plant is forced to shut down Thomas kills the manager with a sledgehammer and takes a chainsaw home with him for good measure. Charlie Hewitt, Thomas’s brother, accompanies the sheriff to arrest Thomas/now Leatherface, only to kill the sheriff and take his identity.
From there, the film follows the traditional plot of the earlier films, with a group of unwary teens stumbling into the path of this family of maniacs and suffering the gruesome consequences (including one of them getting his face cut off and becoming the inspiration for the killer’s famous nickname). While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning does garner some sympathy for Leatherface, it isn’t the most cohesive of the films and left most audiences confused.
Watch it on: Netflix
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
Thanks to the involvement of not-yet-famous actors Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, this hot mess of a movie has become a cult classic over the years. It’s difficult to categorize where exactly it falls in the franchise’s timeline, as it could be interpreted as either a loose remake of the original or yet another sequel. But that doesn’t really matter, as logic cannot (and should not) be applied here.
Zellweger plays a Jenny, a high-school student leaving prom with her date and another couple. They wind up crashing their car in the middle of nowhere (as the kids in these movies tend to do) and seeking help from exactly the wrong people, including Vilmer (McConaughey) a member of the murderous Sawyer clan. It isn’t long before Jenny and her friends are being tortured and terrorized, as you might expect. And what about Leatherface? In this film he prefers trying on different lipsticks and dresses to killing, and screams at his family when they annoy him. The family themselves are not cannibals but into human taxidermy and are part of a secret society that may or may not be connected to the Illuminati (or possibly aliens?). The film was so bizarre that neither Zellwenger or McConaughey wanted it to be released, which is why it was quietly slipped into theaters two years after filming and then buried. Until two of the cast members became big stars and fans started digging it up again. Forget Cats, The Next Generation deserves its own midnight screenings.
Watch it on: HBO Max