The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is my favorite horror movie ever, but beyond some of the later (and mostly dreadful) Michael Bay-produced installments, I never bothered with the sequels. This was partially by choice, as I wanted to preserve the integrity of the original, but mostly, every time I thought about putting on Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, I decided to watch something else instead. (“Re-Animator for the 47th time? Sounds good, me.”) But this being the spookiest time of year, I decided it was time to make my way through the entire Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, from director Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic to 2017’s instantly-forgotten Leatherface and the six movies in between. This proved to be both a rewarding and unpleasant experience.
Here are three cons and three pros of watching every Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie and, by proxy, every installment in any long-running horror series.
There are 12 Friday the 13th movies. 12 Halloween movies. 10 Hellraiser movies. Nine A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Nine Saw movies. Eight The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. That is SO many movies. It’s a time-sucking commitment to marathon many of the most iconic horror series. Want to watch every Leprechaun movie, for some reason? That’ll set you back over 12 hours. This, among many other reasons, is why the Gremlins series is perfect. Two movies, both five out of five stars. Also, this guy.
It’s fun seeing famous people before they were famous. Did you know future Oscar winners Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey are in the wildly weird Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation? There’s also Leonardo DiCaprio in Critters 3, Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Adam Scott in Hellraiser: Bloodline, Jack Black in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and George Clooney in Return of the Killer Tomatoes? I’m sorry that I sat through Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, but I’m not sorry for turning into the Leo pointing meme when I saw Charlize Theron in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.
This children’s drawing of Leatherface haunts me.
If I hadn’t watched Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, I never would have been subjected to this. There’s a lesson to be learned here (don’t watch a movie where “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” comes after the semicolon).
This time last year, I was midway through watching every Best Picture winner. Did I mention I have an obsessive personality? Anyway, one of the joys of the project was seeing how movies have changed over the decades, whether through technological advances or the rising and declining popularity of certain genres. It’s impossible to imagine The Shape of Water being named Best Picture if it came out in 1988, and it’s equally difficult to picture the 1988 film that did win, Rain Man, still winning in 2018 when The Shape of Water took home the honor. Context matters and tastes change, for better and worse, and the most successful franchises adjust to shifting audience expectations. Child’s Play started as a relatively straightforward horror series, what with the slashing and murdering, but Bride of Chucky took a Scream-inspired turn towards self-referential comedy and it’s the best movie in the dang franchise. It’s fun to see the evolution.
Sitting through bad movies is — and I cannot stress this enough — bad! Think of all the canonical horror movies you (I) haven’t seen because you were (I was) busy watching Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. Once I grow attached to a TV show or movie series, I have a hard time disconnecting myself from it — it’s why I have seen all 700-something episodes of The Simpsons. It’s also why I find myself getting irrationally annoyed with confusing continuity. “Wait, what’s Leatherface’s real name in this one?” (Luckily, there are timelines to calm me down.) Horror inspires deeply loyal fans, but that loyalty is often put to the test the further you go into a franchise. That being said…
The best thing about watching a long-running horror series is that you’re (usually) guaranteed at least one very good-to-great movie. There’s a reason The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Scream, and Halloween were all turned into franchises. Sometimes there are even many good movies, like the Evil Dead trilogy or the Alien franchise (if Paul Thomas Anderson thinks it counts as horror, it’s horror). You have to deal with a lot of dreck to be a horror movie completist, but it’s worth it when something like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors comes along… bitch.