Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Column


Nate Hensely, a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" fan, shows off his "TCM" collection.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 1:00 a.m.

Facts

Recommended Movies

  • Texas chainsaw massacre: the beginning RENT IT
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) BUY IT
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 BUY IT
  • Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 WATCH IT
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Next Generation WATCH IT
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake, 2003) WATCH IT
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning": Rent It
  • "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)": Buy It
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2": Buy It
  • "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3": Watch It
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Next Generation": Watch It
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake, 2003)": Watch It

Rating Key:
  • Buy It - worth adding to your personal collection
  • Rent It - worth paying money to watch
  • Watch It - worth watching for free
  • Skip It - not worth watching at all

  • Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
    It all started in 1974, with the release of a ferocious and soon-to-be notorious low budget horror movie called "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." It was a bleak, frightening tale about a group of kids who run afoul of a deranged cannibalistic rural family and the insane killer called Leatherface.
    It quickly became famous for its carnage and brutality, and became a huge success. How huge?
    "Texas Chainsaw" has become an institution, and now stands as one of the most influential horror films of all time - its characters, camera work, and story are echoed in horror movies year after year after year. And Leatherface, through several incarnations, has always maintained the same disturbing persona, and thusly has become an icon.
    Thirty two years later the franchise is still alive; after three sequels, a remake, and finally a prequel to the remake - the new release "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning."
    "The Beginning" is the best "TCM" movie in 20 years. However, that ain't saying much. In order to get everyone on the same page, let's start at the top.
  • "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) Creators Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel carved their names onto the torso of movie history with this movie, which uses the sights, sounds, and even smells of the deepest, darkest Texas badlands to convey the ultimate isolation and fear.
    What makes "TCM" work so well is that it doesn't look like a movie, it looks like a home video - and so, when the chainsaw starts buzzing and the kids start screaming, it seems more akin to a snuff movie than something you would see at the cineplex.
    Marilyn Burns stars as Sally, our heroine, and her performance goes far beyond what you would expect in such a low budget film. Near the end, she is captured by the Sawyer family, and what she endures pushes her over the edge of madness. In the close-ups of her panicked face and twitching eyes, the viewer gets the distinct feeling that we are watching a real human being going insane. This level of reality is what makes "TCM" so unforgettably brutal and haunting.
    Texas Chainsaw Trivia: The working title for this movie was "Headcheese."
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2"
    Twelve years later, the Sawyer family returns to the silver screen. A few things have changed in the meantime; running from the law, the Sawyers abandoned their creepy family home and moved into even creepier digs; the abandoned remains of theme park Texas Battle Land. They now scour the highways for victims, and use human roadkill as the secret ingredient when they enter chili cook-offs.
    This is one of the rare horror sequels that seeks to build on the original, instead of repeating it. The family is just as frightening as ever, and the raw, gritty feel of the original has been kept intact. As an added extra, we get to see Dennis Hopper in full-on crazy mode, in a chainsaw duel with Leatherface. Truly, a film for the ages.
    Texas Chainsaw Trivia: Entertainment Weekly voted "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" the second scariest film ever made, placing behind "The Exorcist."
  • "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3"
    Original creator Hooper and Henkel were not on board with this sequel, and it shows. Gone is the brutal simplicity of the original, replaced by simple brutality - which is to say there is more gore, but less fear.
    One point of interest would be Viggo Mortsensen. Yes, Prince Aragorn himself plays Tex, a cross-dressing cowboy cannibal who looks just divine in a frilly pink apron. You've come a long way, baby!
    Texas Chainsaw Trivia: This film features a custom made chainsaw engraved with the words The Saw is Family. Sadly, this chainsaw was never released for public purchase.
  • "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Next Generation" (aka "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre") Even the hardest of the hardcore Chainsaw fans (see picture) can't excuse this puzzling and awful sequel, which is hobbled by lack of rhyme, reason, or cannibalism.
    However, for the curious there are two notable reasons to see this movie - first, a very green Rene Zelwegger as the heroine. Second, and much fun, is a young Mathew McConaghay playing the twisted tow truck driver Vilmer.
  • "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (2003) Although not without its charms (in particular a wicked performance by R. Lee Ermey) this remake can best be summed up in one word - meh.
    Texas Chainsaw Trivia: The remake grossed $80 million at the box office, from a budget of $9 million. That's very profitable, unless you compare it to the original - the 1974 film grossed $30 million from a budget of $83,000, making it one of the most profitable horror films of all time.
  • "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning"
    Hooper and Henkel return for this prequel, trying to bring the franchise back to its grim and gory roots. And although this time it's the Hewett family, not the Sawyers, for the first time in two decades a "Texas Chainsaw" movie actually feels like a "Texas Chainsaw" movie.
    Once again, a carload of scruffy, good looking kids in '70s clothes run into some trouble deep in the heart of Texas. But this time, we also get to know Leatherface intimately - starting with his birth on a slaughterhouse floor, through his first day as a full fledged psychopathic killer. R. Lee Ermey returns as the sadistic Sheriff Hoyt, the man who leads the clan down the path of culinary damnation.
    The movie is shocking and brutal, as it should be. But unlike the classic "TCM" movies, "The Beginning" shows every atrocity in full, dripping detail. The original two movies left more gore to the imagination, and showed less graphic on-screen mutilation. This film has no such qualms, and displays the depravity of Leatherface and family in rich Technicolor grossness.
    It's a good flick, but not quite a great one. Take it from me - no one knows "Texas Chainsaw" quite like I do.
    High praise and caustic rebukes to Rewindcolumn@hotmail.com
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