Making Sense of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Series

With remakes, sequels and prequels, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a bizarre series in the annals of horror.  The question may come up at times, I have wondered myself.  What is the proper watching order for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series?  In this article, I am going to try and make sense of the series.  It is not cut and dry, for example the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was remade in 2003, the 2013 Texas Chainsaw has nothing to do with that movie, it is actually a direct sequel to the 1974 classic.  To go one step further, Leatherface (2017) is a prequel to the original 1974 film.  Which, I blame movies like Superman Returns, which skipped over Superman III and Superman IV to make their vision.  I am not a fan of this ideal.  I would rather it have been a prequel to the prequel of the remake.

Ok, lets just dig in, shall we?

In 1974, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released and then in 1986 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is released and it is 100% a direct sequel to the events of the first movie.  So, the events take place 13 years after Sally Hardesty and her friends were attacked and everyone buy Sally is killed.  The Cook, Drayton Sawyer is back, along with Leatherface and the Hitchhiker’s brother, Chop-top(steals the show).  Even, “Nubbins” is in fact the Hitchhiker from the first movie.  The events are even mentioned and Dennis Hopper’s character Lefty is looking for who killed his brother’s kid Franklin.

Now, buy the end of the TCM 2, The Cook explodes by grenade and Lefty guts Leatherface and Stretch, (Caroline Williams) kills Choptop.  So, that would be the end of the Sawyer family from the first movie.  This ends the first timeline, yeah it is over.  The entire Sawyer family is gone.  But…

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.  Why?

Well this is a great movie, but this has got to be a different family all together, perhaps somewhat related.  Some of the events of this movie are similar to the original movie and Stretch(Caroline Williams) is in the movie briefly.  It was released in 1990 as a sequel, but it is a sequel.  I would consider this another Sawyer bunch, because they are “Sawyers”.  Viggo Mortensen is Tex Sawyer and Joe Unger is “Tinker” Sawyer.  We also get the third actor to play Leatherface, RA Mihailoff.  So, maybe this is some kind of family thing, wearing skin.

There are a lot of people who say this is a soft reboot of the series, I say no, it is sequel.  The key thing to remember, the tagline of the film is, “The Saw is Family”.  That is something Drayton says in the second movie.  These are just cousins of Drayton, Nubbins, Choptop and Leatherface.  Think about your average American family.  You may live in the same state, even in the same area of cousins.  If you think deeply about this as I have, because I am a nerd, Leatherface could be something the mentally challenged person gets called.  Hiding their appearance behind the skin of other people.  Who knows.  But, there are different ways to look at it and I consider Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III the end of a trilogy.  But, take it how you see it, soft reboot, sure.  But remember, the Saw is Family.

That is only the first three movies, the fourth movie released, well, is by far the worst and yet like a car wreck, you can’t take your eyes off the movie. The Slaughter family, so this is a 100% different family from the Sawyers.  The Next Generation is technically the 4th in the series, but never called part 4.  This is a remake, it does not exist in the same universe as the first 3 movies…or does it?  It appears at the dinner table we see the corpses of the Sawyers sitting for dinner.  Yeah, so are the Slaughters related to the Sawyers?  No, of course not.  Vilmer, oh I didn’t mention Matthew McConaughey is in this one, he works for some secret society…ok…  I guess the Sawyers and Slaughters work this bizarre secret society, but at this point it doesn’t matter.  This does bring a clear connection to all 4 movies.

So, there is a timeline for the original series, the connection is the Sawyer family in all 4 movies.  The first two revolve around Drayton’s family, the third movie follows, their cousins and the fourth movie, well they are a part of the same secret society.  I personally would say the Sawyer corpses were tossed in to try to create some kind of continuity for the series.

If you want an order.  I would make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TCM 2 and Leatherface 1990 a trilogy and leave it be.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Stand Alone: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

Vilmer

2003, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is remade by Marcus Nispel.  There are many who like this movie, I do not.  But the easiest thing to remember, this and 2006’s The Beginning are all alone in the series.  A prequel and a remake.   They can be watched together.  Both movies have a pretty case and do have different views for the series.  The biggest change is the family, it is much larger and overall, they are less…insane.  A new family, the Hewitts are not all confined to the house and one acts like the local sheriff.  The hitchhiker is completely different and running from something, Leatherface seemed to be just a bit disfigured and bullied by his family.  This series is weak, not a terrifying as the original movie, even the “black comedy” elements of TCM 2 were more terrifying than R. Lee Ermey yelling.  I prefer the prequel to the remake.

So, this one is easy.  There are two movies in this series.  Neither have anything to do with the original series from 1974 – 1995.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Well, I guess we needed more Leatherface, so in 2013 we got it!  Texas Chainsaw 3D was released on the 4th day of 2013.  I remember thinking this was a sequel to 2003’s remake, which made way more sense than a sequel to the 1974 original which makes this movie problematic.  Texas Chainsaw 3D ignores TCM 2, Leatherface and the Next Generation(which is fine).  But, it takes place in 2012 or 2013, no doubt based on technology.  So, Alexandra Daddario’s character would be nearly 40, that is not the case.  One of the only great things about this movie is seeing Bill Moseley play Drayon Sawyer from the original movie.  Jim Siedow played Drayton in the first two movies and acted with Moseley in TCM 2, Moseley of course played Choptop.  Also, John Dugan who plays Grandpa in the original is back as Grandpa.  But, the rest of the movie is just a way to show off Alexandra Daddario’s body.  It is not good at all.

2017 brought the second prequel, but this time, a prequel to the 1974 movie, not the 2003 remake.  Leatherface, tells the tale of how he gains the name Leatherface and why he wears the mask.  It is bad.

By these standards, if you want to watch this trilogy.  Here is how.

Leatherface (2017)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Yeah, this was a piss poor idea and it just doesn’t work.  Mixing movies made in the last decade and a gritty film from the 1970s does not work.

I did see another breakdown where SyFy broke this down into 9 different ways to view these movies, I say there are 4.

The original trilogy, 1974, 1986 and 1990 or add 1995.  Then there is the remake series, which consists of two movies, 2006, then 2003.  Or, the idiotic way, 2017, 1974, 2013.  Which ever way do you do it, it is up to you.

The future…It doesn’t look good.  It was said in 2018 Fede Alverez of Evil Dead 2013 would produce a new Chainsaw film and Chris Devin will write the reboot.

Then there is this

In February 2020, Ryan Tohill and Andy Tohill were hired to direct the next installment.  The film’s plot will focus on a Leatherface who is now 60 years old. The story will revolve around Melody and Dreama. Melody is a “25-year old San Francisco moneymaker who drags her younger teenage sister with her to Texas on a business trip, out of fear of leaving her alone in the city”. Dreama is an amateur photographer who is wheelchair-bound and “presumably disabled”

I hope this does not happen.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is generally a mixed bag.  In my opinion, there hasn’t really been a good one since 1990.  There are many who love the remake from 2003 and well, I guess I do like the 2006 prequel to the remake.  But this may be a series that should be left alone.  If I were starved to make another, i would actually set it within the time frame of the remakes, or remake the original, in modern times, but that sounds stupid.  Leave it alone and enjoy what we have.  That is all I have to say.

Thanks for reading.

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About Ray Marek III 541 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)