The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Countdown
Seeing as how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably the ultimate serial killer film, I decided to countdown the series in the order of my favourites. Check it out- let me know which one is YOUR favourite.
1) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger & Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface.
When I was about 13 years old, I first saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my best friend. To this day, I have never had such a disturbing and haunting experience after watching a movie. It stuck with me like a bad cold, I couldn't shake it. The reason being is because most horrors (and even some thrillers) don't make you feel like you're right in that person's shoes, mainly due to the style in which they have been filmed; Tobe Hooper created a masterpiece from nothing because he made it feel real. Nowadays it's all reality television because people seem to literally want to live the lives of others, but back in 1974 Hooper made us feel like WE were the ones that were being chased by Leatherface, we were the ones stuck at the supper table with the cannibal family, we were the ones who couldn't escape the house no matter what. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre took the audience and plopped them right down next to Marilyn Burns and it made us run like hell.
One thing that helped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was that it was billed as being based on true events, and while most are quick to say "That never happened!", it does have a small basis in reality. It's not hard to find striking similarities between Leatherface/his family and the most infamous resident ever to live in Plainfield, Wisconsin- Ed Gein. I'm not going to go into great detail for those who don't know Ed Gein, but here's what I will do for you. The following is a list of items found in Gein's residence- read these and tell me if you can find a similarity or two between the fiction & non-fiction:
- four noses
- whole human bones & fragments
- nine masks of human skin
- bowls made from human skulls
- ten female heads with the tops sawed off
- human skin covering several chair seats
- Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag
- Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack
- nine vulvas in a shoe box
- skulls on his bedposts
- organs in the refrigerator
- a pair of lips on a draw string for a windowshade
**Notable mention: after his mother died, Gein decided he wanted a sex change and began collecting women's skin and making a 'woman suit' out of it all. Sound familiar?
So between the real, gritty feeling of the film and the story of Ed Gein pushing more people into the theaters to see the Massacre, Hooper had really found something that worked. Every time I watch it, I'm the one being chased with a chainsaw- it chills me to the bone. Some people look at it today and say that it's not scary, but coming from someone who never found anything too creepy about The Exorcist, I find this to be the most frightening film of all-time. I give it 5 out of 5 stars, and there isn't a single thing about this movie that pissed me off. Top notch. It's only too bad that Tobe Hooper hasn't really found success after such a great initial blast. Maybe if he'd get back to the gritty touch of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we might see another classic.
2) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Sheldon Turner
Stars: Jordana Brewster, Matthew Bomer, Diora Baird, R. Lee Ermey, & Andrew Bryniarski as Thomas Hewitt/Leatherface.
This prequel to the re-imagined Texas Chainsaw Massacre is so close to actually being my favourite, even though the remake has nothing on the original. Reason being is because it's just an incredibly well made film, in my opinion. One of the things I loved about the remake is Sheriff Hoyt, played by none other than the amazing R. Lee Ermey (most of you know him as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket), and in the prequel to that story we get to see a lot of stuff about him: how he became Sheriff, where he lost those teeth of his, why are they killing people. The latter of those is the best and tastiest part- why do they kill? The original TCM is a stand alone, unbeatable piece of cinema but one thing I always wanted to know was the reason behind the family being so depraved. In the prequel, we get to see why the family kills (I won't ruin it for you). Also, we get a fairly well written story behind the upcoming victims of the family: two brothers and their girlfriends are having a little vacation before the older brother goes back to Vietnam and brings his brother over after he has been drafted. Along the way, the younger brother gets cold feet and before we get a chance to fall further into the story of these two brothers, the action begins. A biker gang causes some trouble for the traveling foursome, and one thing leads to another when Sheriff Hoyt shows up to see what caused the accident; he then takes three of the travelers (one of them hides when Hoyt blows away a biker chick) back to his humble abode. This sets off a chain of events, one of which explains how ol' Uncle Monty lost both of his legs, and of course as I mentioned before we see Hoyt get those pearly whites knocked out. We also get a little bit of the big fat lady who was in the 2003 remake living in the trailer with that stole child- she gives us the best and funniest line of ANY of the TCM movies (the quote refers to her as the Tea Lady and of course you have to hear the way she says the line to appreciate it):
Tea Lady: I just can't stop eating those little chocolates. They are soo good!
Luda Mae: I put coconut in them!
Tea Lady: Oh sweet Jesus!
For the most part, the kills are all fairly gruesome which is a big selling point for any horror but especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The highlight for me was the killing of Leatherface's boss at the slaughterhouse, and also when he tears the tendons out of one of his victims in the basement; he also plays a part in Monty's mishap with his legs. The movie keeps up the dirty, gritty feeling that we got from the 2003 remake- this is why both of these movies are, in my opinion, excellent because they keep that real, disgusting feeling that the original film had. Even more so in these new movies, we get a dirty feeling even just looking at the screen (much like David Fincher created for an atmosphere in the movie Se7en).
**Notable mention: Lee Tergesen has a small part as the biker boyfriend of the chick Hoyt blows away. Anytime he is on screen, no matter what movie or show it is- I love it. Big fan of Lee.
This movie didn't really have anything that pissed me off, and for that I can certainly give it a 5 star rating. Check this out if you haven't seen it!
3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
**** (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Stars: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley & Bill Johnson as Leatherface 'Bubba' Sawyer.
Another film out of the series that almost hits the number one spot is the second installment, once again directed by Tobe Hooper. This time, we have a Lieutenant (played by the wonderful Dennis Hopper) who is hellbent on finding the killer(s) of all these kids in Texas. Meanwhile, a radio show host gets some audio of a murder possibly committed by the chainsaw wielding maniac himself as she gets a call in from a couple teens out causing trouble. Eventually, they get together and begin to try finding the culprits and soon enough the radio host gets attacked by them, including Chop-Top Sawyer (played by another amazing actor, Bill Moseley, who I am a huge fan of!).
The best things about this movie are Dennis Hopper, Bill Moseley, and the fact that the story is fairly solid. It's a classic model of a cop desperately seeking the truth behind a series of killings, but it takes a new twist when Hopper goes to a shop and purchases several chainsaws- because if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Nothing is better than seeing Dennis Hopper chop things apart with a 5 foot chainsaw and two small handheld chainsaws.
I give this film a 4 star rating, mainly because I just wish there was a little more backstory here. That's one thing I couldn't be satisfied with until they came out with the prequel to the 2003 remake. Other than that, I find this to be a solid entry in the series.
My only piss off:
- Leatherface is now Leatherface 'Junior' Sawyer... the only name I see fit for adding onto Leatherface is Hewitt, which is from the prequel in 2006. Everything else is just so unjustified.
4) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
**** (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Scott Kosar (based on the 1974 screenplay by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper)
Stars: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey & Andrew Bryniarski as Thomas Hewitt (Leatherface).
I never thought that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre needed to be remade, like most of the classics, but like Mick Jagger says: you can't always get what you want. However, Marcus Nispel (no, he's never really done anything worth shouting from the roof) turns in a pretty decent effort here. The biggest thing about this remake that I loved is the feel: it's a disgusting, dirty, gritty feel as if the camera lens was grimy the whole time. This is what made it feel connected to the original, for me- the tone, the atmosphere. Most of the new horror movies that come out have a lipgloss shine over it, and that's one thing that impressed me right off the bat. We get a little more out of this than we did sometimes in the original, mainly I enjoyed Sheriff Hoyt's character (played by the fabulous R. Lee Ermey) because it gave an even scarier take on the family- not only are they fucking lunatics, but they've got a Sheriff working with them.
The acting is fairly spot on in this film. Jessica Biel makes a pretty good frightened lady, Eric Balfour is someone I find to be intriguing in general (why, I do not know), Jonathan Tucker also plays a great stoner (I barely recognized him at first- I was a big fan of his due to The Black Donnellys). As I mentioned before, R. Lee Ermey is an excellent actor and he brings a terrifying role to life as Hoyt. There are a few minor roles that are also played very well, which rounds out the film as far as characters go.
The kills are all pretty gnarly! My favourite (which is actually not a kill, just a maiming) is when Andy is running through the yard where the sheets are on the clothesline, and Leatherface takes a big swing, chopping off part of his leg. Also when they pick up a hitchhiker, a female this time unlike the original film, she blows her brains out- that whole scene is pretty fucking intense!
All in all, this movie is a 4 star rating for me.
Biggest piss offs:
- The dirty, weird little kid. He served no purpose other than to lead them through a little hallway to escape the house, which could have been worked out some other way than having a stupid, inbred little kid running around. He wasn't even creepy- he looked like a hungry beaver.
- I was not a fan of Andy, his character wasn't anything special. His only redeeming point was when he decided he couldn't leave his buddy Kemper behind in the house. Other than that, he was useless.
5) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
*** (3 out of 5 stars)
Written by David J. Schow
Stars: Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, Viggo Mortensen, & R.A Mihailoff as Leatherface 'Junior' Sawyer.
The third installment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is awesome, although I only give a 3 star review because on a technical level it's nowhere near perfect. Right off the bat I wanted to see this because I saw Viggo Mortensen & Ken Foree on the bill- gnarly. The story starts out well enough, we get a couple of young people going on a road trip of sorts and all the while there are bodies being exhumed from makeshift graves in the desert along the highway. We get the ominous tone from the start, and that's usually what can make an average movie FEEL awesome. Then of course we get some creepy action going on at a rest stop along the way, where the young lady in the car gets peeped on by the attendant as she uses the washroom- to the rescue comes Viggo. Then slowly we're introduced to Foree's character and the action really lifts off. We get some truly creepy moments from Leatherface, and a fairly disturbing performance on Viggo's behalf, but other than that there is nothing that really makes this film stand out of the series. I was a big fan of Kate Hodge as Michelle- she gave a fairly balanced & natural performance as the object of the hunt for Leatherface.
Biggest piss offs:
- The climax
6) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: New Generation
* (1 out of 5 stars)
Written by Kim Henkel
Stars: Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Stevens, & Robert Jacks as Leatherface Slaughter.
This is definitely the worst of the TCM movies, yet there are still a few things I do like about it. The beginning is a fresh little bit where we see a graduation ceremony going on and some teens wander off the beaten path, when the fun really begins. We get introduced to Vilmer (played by Matthew McConaughey) who seems to have some sort of leg disability, wearing a mechanical device around his thigh and knee on one leg. Of course some kids get killed and then one girl, Renee Zellweger, ends up back in the old house all alone with a psychotic family, including a wild, mentally handicapped transvestite- our new Leatherface. That's one thing that I do enjoy about this movie is that Leatherface has even more qualities of his influence, Ed Gein. Ed used to dress up in woman skin that he had taken from victims and howl at the moon, and old Leather really howls here. Gein wanted to be a woman, and that's why I enjoy the depiction of Leatherface here because he's dressed half in womanly attire and half macabre. McConaughey's character is a little too much for me at times but definitely creepy. The story ends on too strange of a note for me, having the house turn into some weird experiment by some sort of agency which is all never really explained- we get a really creepy shot of some guy with weird brands all over his chest pierced with large hoop rings. Weird.. even too weird for Leatherface and his family. The TCM is meant to be just the simple story of the family- there is no need to take it bigger and any further than that, it's as scary as it can be.
Biggest piss offs:
- The rings on the dude's chest, like, what the hell is that? No explanations, nothing. Whack.
- Leatherface and his family now have a last name: Slaughter.
- Renee Zellweger... she's squinting all the time, and it makes me mad.
- It's like a remake but they destroyed it; at least the remake in 2003 was scary and a little disgusting, this one just stinks like rotten meat.
- The fact that Kim Henkel directed this just came to my attention, and seeing as how Kim wrote the original screenplay with Tobe Hooper it just really disappoints me to see how terrible