The Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise is filled with some entertaining kills and interesting iterations on the character of Leatherface. But while the original film is a film and cinema favorite, its sequels haven’t fared much better. With Texas Chainsaw Massacre being the latest film in the franchise and the first in a new timeline, it’s time to look back at the previous films to see how they fare in terms of critical reception. Using an average of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, this article will lay out which films are a can’t miss and which can stand to be skipped.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a prequel to the 2003 remake that chronicles the beginnings of the murderous Hewitt family. The film delves into Leatherface’s early years when he is adopted by the Hewitts and learns to kill and terrorize his victims. While the film is the least liked in the franchise, it’s the first time audiences get to see how the character got his iconic face mask and gained skill in using the chainsaw as a weapon. That said, critics have claimed the film is far from great and easily skippable, and it landed at the bottom of the list at 22 percent.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is a unique entry into the series because the advertisements focus on the camp of the previous entry, but the actual film is more in the vein of the original. Loosely following up the other films, the third entry follows new members of the Sawyer family (including a young Viggo Mortensen) as they terrorize another unlucky collection of victims. However, the movie tries to cross more lines in depravity that don’t quite hit the mark. Its lack of gore is evident, and critics claimed it hindered the film’s overall impact, leaving it with a 24.5 percent score.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is the franchise’s first attempt to ignore previous entries and only follow up the original. Overall, the film maintains its iconic standard for gore and violence but has the added gimmick of 3D effects. Furthermore, the film also plays up Leatherface’s trait of being a victim, and, rather than have him turn evil, it makes him into more of an anti-hero. Boasting a 25 percent, it’s a strange, inconsistent film that doesn’t hit the mark among critics and fans but dares to be different and offer new ideas.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was initially known as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when it was made. However, the title change has since stuck with fans of the series. While it ties to the previous two films and the original, the sequel goes down its own path and further evolves the character of Leatherface. The film also marks the first film roles of both Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger. While the characters help ramp up the darkness and absurdity of the Sawyer family, it doesn’t stop the movie from becoming a mess of various plot threads that keep the film from standing strong on its own. Coming in at 33 percent, it’s a wild entry that is worth watching despite its lack of substance.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a direct sequel to the 1974 original that sees a much older Leatherface exact revenge after a group of young adults take his mother from his home, leading to her death. The film is incredibly violent and sees Leatherface as more of an independent killer rather than the errand boy of his family. However, the biggest hurdle the film faces with fans and critics is that it relies too heavily on tired tropes like bringing back classic characters. But while it comes in at 33 percent, there are some elements that fans will like and others that have remained with the series for decades.
A prequel to the original film, Leatherface is a definitive origin to Jebidiah Sawyer, aka Leatherface. It follows his story from a young man on the run to a masked serial killer and tool to his family. The film is far from perfect when compared to the original or more fan-favorite sequels. That said, structurally speaking, the film is impressive as critics claim it forgoes some gore to focus on setting the stage and letting the actors shine. It’s a classic approach to a franchise that goes against the grain, and while it may not be for everyone, coming in at 35 percent, it’s a standout nonetheless.
The 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a film that kickstarted the classic horror remake trend of the early 2000s and 2010s. The film largely offers the same story as the original film but ramps up Leatherface’s aggression. Its framing and visuals also help to give it its own style and make it not feel like just another remake of a classic, as other future films have. However, coming in at 37.5 percent, some critics still question the validity of its place in the series when such skilled filmmakers should’ve made an even more exciting continuation.
Perhaps the most outrageous of the franchise, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II was released over a decade after the original and made the humor from the original take center stage. The film still follows the antics of the Sawyer family, but rather than make audiences feel uncomfortable, it instead offers feelings of sympathy towards Leatherface for how his family treats him. There’s also more color than ever before and hilarious characters like Drayton Sawyer and newcomer Chop Top. While the film wasn’t beloved upon release, boasting a 44.5 percent, critics have noted how the story and tone continue to age well.
The original that helped kickstart the slasher genre, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows a group of young adults on the road that must survive being taken captive by the cannibalistic Sawyer family. While known for its violence, the film actually features very little gore and is capable of making its viewers feel just as uncomfortable as its victims. Leatherface also shines as the violent but misguided errand boy of the Sawyers, and overall the film does a great job of ramping up the tension and fear felt through the victims. Earning a 83.5 percent, critics have praised the film’s camerawork and acting, especially with Marilyn Burns’ Sally Hardesty, and it has become known as one of the best horror films of all time.
To see Leatherface’s adventure continue, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is streaming now on Netflix.
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