Despite being a fan of horror films and watched a whole lot of them over the years, I hadn’t watched anything from the hugely popular franchise of slasher films that started in 1974 called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Although I had heard of it, seen review of some of the movies and seen a couple of clips around the time they did the remake. Among the horror fanatics on Youtube, this series of movies is a huge deal and you can see many Youtubers proudly displaying their collection from this franchise. I kept wondering just what the heck is so good about this movie franchise and finally decided to check them out and lose my TCM virginity, so to speak.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) directed and produced by Tobe Hooper – Well it’s good but I am not that impressed. It’s nothing to scream and shout about. Perhaps I am being spoiled by years of watching scary & gory films and this being a film from 1974 and watching it 40 years later it doesn’t have that same affect on me. Had I watched it back in 1974 (well I wasn’t born yet but you get the idea) for the first time I would have been more impressed. And that goes for most horror flicks of that time. Movies that scared me when I was a child aren’t scary at all now. The plot is about a group of friends – Sally Hardesty, her wheelchair bound brother Franklin and their 3 friends Pam, Jerry & Kirk are traveling in rural Texas to an old family homestead after visiting the grave of their grandfather. On their way the pick up a hitchhiker – the most annoying and irritating person ever to have hitchhiked in the world since the beginning of time – who acts like a total imbecile and slashes Franklin’s arm with a straight razor for not paying for a Polaroid he took of the group without asking first. They push him out but the group is doomed. After they reach the homestead, Kirk & Pam head up to a neighbour’s house to ask for gas and are killed by Leatherface – a large man with a chainsaw. By sunset Jerry goes to look for them and is also killed by Leatherface. Finally as it is dark and they are worried, Sally & Franklin (who has a stupidly acted scene earlier, stinking up the film) go to the house to look for their friend and Frankie boy is killed but Sally manages to escape – mainly because Leatherface is too busy posturing with his chainsaw instead of killing her!
Sally makes it to the gas station a few miles down the road and asks the proprietor for help but he turns out to be the father of Leatherface and he abducts her and brings her to the house where the hitchhiker (Leatherface’s brother) is also waiting. The men torment the bound and gagged Sally while Leatherface, now dressed as a woman, serves dinner. Leatherface and the hitchhiker bring an old man, Grandpa (John Dugan), from upstairs to share the meal. Sally is tortured a bit and screams (bloody murder loudly indeed) and is able to escape as the men decide to try and make grandpa kill her but he is too weak. Leatherface and the hitchhiker give chase, but the latter is run down and killed by a passing semi-trailer truck. Leatherface kills the truck driver but Sally manages to jump into the back of a passing pickup truck, still screaming and covered in blood, while a frustrated Leatherface wave his chainsaw in anger.
The sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 took 12 years to come out, why I dunno. This time the film stars Dennis Hopper as “Lefty”, Caroline Williams as “Stretch”, Bill Johnson as “Leatherface”, Bill Moseley as “Chop Top” and Jim Siedow, who reprises the role of “The Cook”. Two rowdy young men are on the phone with the DJ of a small radio station in Texas, as they are driving in a car, when they are attacked by Leatherface using his chainsaw from a van that’s parallel to their car. Both the kids are killed (truth is they were real obnoxious assholes and deserved to be offed) and their bloody screams are recorded on tape. The DJ, Stretch, ends up contacting Lieutenant Boude “Lefty” Enright, the Hardesty’s uncle, who is still running his own investigation to find Leatherface & his family. he convinces her to play the screams on her show so the law enforcers and the people will have to listen to him. But things go wrong when Chop Top (brother of Leatherface & twin of the Hitchhiker) comes to the station at night and badly beats up Stretch’s co-worker LG while Leatherface goes after Stretch with his chainsaw. Before he can kill her, she manages to charm him and Leatherface, being a sexually repressed man, leaves her alone and smashes a lot of the walls of the station. BTW, Bill Moseley acts like a total asshole in this movie – I mean he is so shit and over the top annoying!
The brothers leave in their pickup with LG, presumed dead at this point, and drive off to their new hideout in an abandoned carnival ground decorated with human bones, multi-colored lights, and carnival remnants. Stretch calls Lefty and follows the brothers and gets trapped inside their home and is found by Leatherface but he tries to disguise her with the ripped off skin off LG’s face. She tries to escape but is caught by the Cook & Chop Top and is brought to their dinner table where they proceed to torture her for a bit. Left, with 3 chainsaws of his own, finds then and frees Stretch. After a battle, Lefty impales Leatherface in the stomach and he, Leatherface, the corpse of “Grandpa” and the Cook are apparently killed when a grenade goes off prematurely. Chop Top & Stretch, who was chasing her, escape and have a face off in carved out rock tower next to the ground. Top Chop cuts Stretch multiple times with a blade but using a chainsaw held by the mummified remains of the family’s grandmother in a ritual shrine, she cuts him and he falls to his death. Stretch is seen waving the chainsaw madly in the air, much like Leatherface, as the movie ends.
Leatherface : The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 came out in 1990 & stars Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, William Butler, and a then-unknown Viggo Mortensen. Somehow Leatherface is still alive and has a new family! No idea how that happens. Michelle & Ryan, a couple who seem to be on the verge of a breakup are driving Michelle’s dad’s car from California to Florida. On a stop at a gas station in some rural area they meet Tex who shows Ryan a different route which should shorten their trip and asks for a ride. Ryan refuses but Tex gets angry at the perverted gas station owner Alfredo who is spying on Michelle as she is using the facilities. Alfredo gets a shotgun as seemingly shoots Tex as the couple race away in the car. As night falls, Ryan and Michelle, having taken the route Tex recommended, become lost and are attacked by a driver in a truck, who throws a dead coyote on their windshield. They stop to change a flat tire when Leatherface attacks and they just about manage to escape as he rips their car. They almost crash into another truck, driven by Benny and he drives off the road to avoid hitting them. Benny offers helps but is attacked by Tinker, who has a hook hand. Benny manages to get his gun but runs into Leatherface and is attacked again. Leatherface is lured away by Sara, a young woman who’s sister was killed by Leatherface but is killed later.
Leatherface then chases Ryan & Michelle and catches Ryan whose foot is caught in a trap. Ryan yells for Michelle to run as Leatherface attacks him and she runs into a house. She is caught by Tex who is in the house with a little girl and his mother – all of them are a family, including Leatherface & the Hookhand man. Michelle is tied up to a chair and nailed on the hand as the men bring in an unconscious Ryan who they later kill. Outside the family home, Benny finds and attempts to interrogate Alfredo as he disposes of human bodies in a bag, but he is unsuccessful, eventually knocking Alfredo into the bog and leaving him to drown. Benny finds the house and sees the family torturing a screaming Michelle and he fires shots into the house. The men fight as Michelle manages to escape; Tex is killed when Benny soaking him in fuel and burning him with a lighter. Benny rushes to Michelle’s aid, stopping Leatherface from murdering her, and knocking the killer into the bog. The pair begin fighting, and Benny appears to die when Leatherface forces his head into the blade of the chainsaw. He then turns his attention to Michelle, who grabbing a nearby rock, beats him over the head with it, leaving him unconscious under the water. As daylight breaks, a recovered Benny finds a truck and catches up to Michelle but is attacked by Alfredo. Michelle shoots Alfredo in the chest with a shotgun before the pair drive away, unaware that Leatherface is revving his chainsaw some distance away.
Whew! That’s a lot of killing. I have no idea from where the new family with a bunch of characters comes from and the little girl – who the heck is she – and I’m sure that there’s bound to be more such strange family members to be revealed as I go throw the rest of the series. My ratings are 5.5, 7.5 & 6 for the first 3 movies.