How has our favorite family of psychopaths faired?

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1974:

The original of the series is another one of those films that any self-respecting horror fan has seen at least once. The film is by no means perfect, but it does do several interesting things that still resonate today.

Five idiot teenagers end up being terrorized by a family of cannibals. The plot is thin—sure, but it is effective (as you are really watching this film for the villains). An advantage to this type of horror film is there isn’t a lot of time wasted on exposition. Once our group of kids picks up a teenager—who I assume represents the average Texan—things go bad quickly.

For me, the film can be broadly broken into two major sections. The lengthy introduction and the family dinner moments (there are several chase scenes scattered within) make up the bulk of the film. The only major problem of this film is the protagonists are some of the dumbest and most unlikable people. I suppose to an extent they seemed real, but their sheer stupidity made it hard for me to empathize with them. The character Franklin, who is wheelchair bound, is systematically mocked by just about everyone in the movie. I am not sure if we were meant to empathize with him or join in on the “fun.” Worse yet, Franklin is about as deplorable as the rest of the teenagers.

By around the halfway point of the film, we are down to our sole survivor, Sally. Sally is not likable, but once it is just her. the film focus on the more interesting characters. The villains truly make this film. Even the insane hitchhiker (who is a bit overplayed) is more interesting than any of the protagonists. Where this movie ultimately pays off is the complete insanity of Leatherface and the absolute malice of the dinner scene.

In many ways, the film is funnier than it is scary. The dinner scene is absolutely nuts. Everyone screaming, yelling, and appearing on the brink of madness (with the film’s history, it is possible some of this was not acting) makes for some of the most memorable moments in film history. The plot is thin, but some of the moments you will never forget. 8.5/10

2003:

Well, it doesn’t suck.

The above line is what I have commonly said about the remake of the original. I saw the film in theaters and thought it was an okay retelling of the story. Some of the more annoying aspects of the first film are fixed, R. Lee Ermey’s devilish portrayal of the sheriff, and a bit more of a coherent opener give the film a lot of promise. For me, the first half of this film shows the possibilities that a remake can truly achieve. The second half… well, that is where some problems arise.

Instead of looking for a distant relative’s house, our heroes this time are smuggling drugs from Mexico before a hitchhiker commits suicide in their van. The film deviates from the original narrative quite a bit—granted, the first film’s narrative is quite flimsy. The additions make for a more believable story.

Even the introduction of Leatherface with his chainsaw is done well. I loved watching him burst through the door ready to rock. Unfortunately, the film declines rapidly after these high moments. Instead of an excellent and bizarre dinner treat, we get a boring chase scene. (How can one be sneaky with a chainsaw? I really do want to know). Any originality within the film is forsaken within the last 30 minutes.

The unevenness of this film makes reviewing it difficult. There are some great high points, but they are wasted by a muddled and overlong conclusion. It is probably the second-best Texas Chainsaw film, so if you are wanting some more Leatherface, this is probably a good enough film. 6.5/10

2013:

I thought this was another reboot when I ordered it to stream. To my great angst, it is not a reboot, but a direct sequel. To say that this movie is bad is an insult to bad movies. I understand that horror is seen by many as an endless bag where sequels and spinoffs can come from, but the writers really need to consider if this sort of story is necessary. The premise of the original is paper thin, and using such a thin platform as a structure to build a series is incredibly foolish.

The film opens with a standoff between authorities (with local vigilantes providing support) against Leatherface’s family. Almost immediately, things go wrong and the entire home is burned and all the members of the family are believed dead. A couple of the vigilantes kidnap a baby from the burning home to raise as their own.

Honestly, the opening is probably the best part of the film. To my surprise, they did a good job making it look like it was filmed on the same set as the original. The color filtrations and set designs were great. It is a bummer that they did not put the same care in the rest of the film.

We follow Heather (played by Alexandra Daddario) who brings her idiotic friends with her as she learns her grandmother had left her an inheritance. The film never explains how the grandmother found Heather, and leaves it at “fuck you, that’s why” early in the film.

If I have not convinced you that this movie is trying to give you the middle finger while stealing your wallet, let me provide you with proof. Our heroes pick up a hitchhiker and decide to bring him to the grandmother’s estate, because reasons. They then leave him there while they go shopping and are shocked to discover he was a thief. Seriously? How stupid does Hollywood think everyone is?

The set-up never pays off. Instead we get boring kills, minimal actions, and a misconceived attempt to humanize Leatherface. Yep, you read that right. The film tries to make Leatherface and his family of cannibals the heroes. It is neither compelling, nor interesting in any way. The acting is tired—as is everything else in this film. A cheap cash grab that relies on name only. 1/10

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