6. Leatherface (2017)
The most recent entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise dared to try something different with the property and, while not everything came off, directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury deserve plaudits for trying something new.
Leatherface takes place in the mid-1950s, following a group of escapees from a mental health facility as they try to flee bloodthirsty lawman Hal Hartman (played with plenty of venom by Stephen Dorff). In many ways, this franchise instalment shuns the Texas Chainsaw aesthetics: the Sawyer family only really appear at the start, and throughout the entire thing you don’t actually know who Leatherface is.
Yes, Leatherface positions itself as a contemporary whodunnit, where we know that one of these violent escapees will turn out to be our favourite cannibal butcher, but we don’t know who. This guessing game keeps things fresh throughout, and while it never really soars past its direct-to-DVD aesthetics, it’s an interesting new direction for the franchise. There are some great kills sprinkled throughout, and a plot that keeps you guessing and focused – which a lot of other TCM films don’t do.
The closing five minutes are some of the best TCM moments we were offered in decades, and Leatherface proves that trying something new is always better than rehashing the old formula.
5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
The most recent entry in the Texas Chainsaw series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), gets an awful lot wrong. This straight-to-Netflix sequel to the original leans far too much on the rebooted Halloween trilogy for inspiration, billing the rematch between Leatherface and Sally Hardesty as a grudge match that we really didn’t need. It also doesn’t quite understand how Leatherface works as a character: he lacks the emotional intelligence and undeniable innocence, and too often gets used as a punchline.
Despite its misgivings, it is great fun to see this franchise soldier on. The kills are as brutal as ever, especially one notorious bus massacre that oozes gallons of blood. It is also perfectly paced, zipping through its ninety minutes without outstaying its welcome or ever lingering too much on the teen protagonists we all know won’t make it.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far from the best example of a legacy sequel, but there’s something so great about the enduring lifespan of this franchise that it doesn’t matter that not all of its narrative risks come off. It’s an easy, gory watch that at least tries to further the story in innovative ways – even if you’ll never quite gel with it entirely.
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4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Trying something new is exactly what Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company tried in 2003 when they rescued the Texas Chainsaw franchise from the jaws of horror purgatory with their reboot: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A lot of the beats from the 1974 original were kept the same – a group of teens trucking through Texas, a stirring encounter with a hitchhiker, and a cannibal family to top it off – but Marcus Nispel’s film is made most interesting by what it does differently.
The star of the show is Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey, who plays the deliciously corrupt Sheriff Hoyt. Every line of dialogue is dripping with venom and malice, and Ermey lives up to his unforgiving persona so brutally, outshining everyone else while he does.
While it does wade a little too deeply into the schlocky aesthetics of mid-2000s horror cinema, with janky CGI blood and some cringeworthy dialogue, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is certainly one of the best reboots out there – even if it doesn’t match up to the original.