What’s your favorite scary movie? You ask most people this, and nine times out of ten the response will be a movie from the 70’s to mid 80s. Usually it’s The Exorcist or Halloween…but in my opinion it is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I have a long, torrid history with this film and series. As a kid I had some friends who got me to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2; which is more of a dark comedy than an actual horror film. So when I finally watched the first film on the Video Treasures label (which eventually transitioned into Anchor Bay) after I conned her into buying it for me, I was shocked at what I saw. For years, I couldn’t get past the opening scene with Ed Neal as the twitchy Hitchhiker. That whole scene greatly unnerved me and I’d cut the tape off.
This had to do a great deal with me having a schizophrenic cousin whom I witnessed breaking down a few times as a kid. It was very traumatic for me. So flash forward about 14 years or so to the year 2000. My old VHS tape of TCSM had broken down and been thrown away and I decided it was time for me to finally watch it. I went on a binge of renting the entire series in one week and fell in love with it. The dark humor, anything goes attitude, and general bad ass vibe stuck with me. I have watched it more than a few times since.
The remakes pissed me off. It was overtly serious sanitized violence that completely missed the point of the originals.
Then LIONSGATE gets the idea to go back to the original series. I was on board with this. There is more that can be done with those characters. Then the trailer came out for the film and it looked absolutely dreadful. The main message of it was so all the actors could flaunt around like “Look how pretty we all are”. The reviews were horrible as well.
I wrote it off and said I’d see it at the budget theater or on DVD.
Since it’s streaming on Netflix I decided to give it a go this morning.
The opening credits are really cool. It’s set over a montage of remastered footage from the first film that is really incredible for long time fans to see. The film picks up moments after the massacre of the first film, which invalidates the continuity of the series. This irked me that the film is establishing a new continuity, but the entire series has been doing that since part 3. I decided to overlook this.
We are introduced to a whole clan of Sawyers this time around, led by Bill Moseley replacing Jim Siedow as patriarch Drayton Sawyer. The police are none too happy about the Sawyers going around killing folks and are set to arrest them. The family is going to surrender peacefully until a lynch mob rolls up and everything goes to Hell in a hand basket. The Sawyers are killed, except for a small child who is stolen from her mothers arms. The date of August 19th, 1974 goes down in the annals of Texas history.
Flash forward thirty-nine years to 2013 and we are re-introduced to the surviving Sawyer family member: 20 year old Heather (Alexandria Daddario from the similarly themed Bereavement). The time frame of the film makes no sense, so don’t question it too hard or you’ll ruin your enjoyment of the film. Yeah, it’s stupid….it’s stupid as hell, and given how much they try to tie this film into the continuity of the first it is such a grievous oversight that is almost unforgivable. Like imagine someone made a film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and had Clint Howard playing as the titular character; it’s just insulting.
It took me a while to get past this.
But once I did, I had a really good time with this film. Leatherface should be around 70 in this, and they never give his age so it’s hard to tell, but he moves like a man in his 50’s. And he is bad-ass, which is what we want from him. Dan Yeager does a good job as the elderly anti-hero. He has the same stocky body type as Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) and does his best to maintain the same type of body movements. However, sometime between 1974 and the “present” Leatherface’s autism went away along with his natural aging processes. The reasons for this are never explained. And I forgave them for this.
There is some Hatfield and McCoy type bad blood going on between the lynch mob and Leatherface that is going to be settled, and Heather has to pick a side as she discovers her legacy and runs around with tops that serve no purpose than to barely cover her breasts.
The themes of old-school Southern family loyalty is the one thing that held the series together, both original and remakes, in their weakest moments. This film expands upon those themes by updating it to a modern setting and for me, it worked. We go to horror movies to cheer on the villains, and this film gives us a great reason for doing so. If you’re not cheering on Leatherface towards the end of the film, then you have no soul.
I’m seriously hoping for a sequel.