In 1974, a little film called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made its theatrical debut on October 4th and the horror film etched its place in movie history by not only making a crap ton of money off its small $700,00 budget ($30.90 million to be accurate), but many horror fans label it as one of the best horror movies ever made. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t some thought-provoking and nuanced film like Get Out or The Silence of the Lambs; however, the original movie did its job by providing plenty of scares and tension, which is rare in today’s horror landscape. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s hard to get some of the images out of your head, most notably the infamous dinner scene in the first film. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre smartly focuses on suspense than gore, though it probably had more to do with Tobe Hooper trying to make it a PG film. Nevertheless, the 1974 horror film is no doubt a classic that defined a genre that wasn’t as big as it is today.
Not surprisingly, the box office success has turned this little film into a franchise, with a total of nine different Texas Chainsaw Massacre films in total. Still, from sequels to reboots, to prequels, despite the financial success that the franchise brings, none of the films have been able to match the quality that the original brought in 1974. So why does it seem like the writers have such a hard time penning another good Texas Chainsaw Massacre film? Let’s explore some of these reasons below:
The Focus On Gore
In 2021, when you go to see a horror movie you’re expecting death in the most disturbing and gory ways. In fact, seeing characters die in a grotesque manner is part of the fun in horror movies. However, an issue that’s plagued the franchise (or most horror movies in general) is the reliance on gory instead of storytelling. Luckily, we’re living in an age where storytelling is coming back to form thanks to filmmakers like Jordan Peele and Ari Aester, but too often, horror movies present us with unlikeable or worthless characters that make some of the dumbest decisions possible. Part of the movie-going experience is the emotional attachment to the world and characters that are being presented onscreen.
While not impossible, no one is expecting deep characterization within horror films; however, it would be nice to like the main characters before they’re picked off one by one. That’s easily the biggest problem with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as the film rarely gives me a reason to care about anyone on screen. The franchise doesn’t have a Sidney Prescott (Scream), a Laurie Strode (Halloween), or even a Dana or Marty (The Cabin in the Woods), meaning likable characters that you can truly root for. The original doesn’t deeply focus on their characters as well, but they do enough to at least make you care about them. The film isn’t just an unnecessary gore fest. Instead, the other films have relied on the gore factor hoping that the audiences would be entertained by the numerous ways that Leatherface can slice a man or woman in half. When your plot is thin and filled with unlikeable characters, having people slaughtered like pigs is not the answer. The franchise needs to focus on characterization and a decent plot going forward.
The Lack of Evolution
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been around for nearly five decades and its bread-and-butter has been about a crazy dude slicing up innocent strangers. The writers don’t necessarily need to get rid of that aspect; however, there needs to be some growth within the franchise that makes it feel fresh and new. The overall brand feels stale because the formula has remained the same. Take a look at the Halloween franchise, which got a nice kick in the butt by bringing back Laurie Strode and having it focus on the dynamic between brother and sister. The franchise feels new and exciting again, without having to take away the crazed man who goes on a stabbing spree aspect. I don’t know exactly how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can change the formula, but there needs to be something new that makes the product feel fresh again. The formula of having pretty and horny unlikeable teenagers has been done a million times at this point.
The Movies Are Just Bad
The first two reasons are pretty much examples of why this franchise has been going downhill since the original. Even the original stories that try to explain Leatherface’s past fail to do anything exciting or new. Like Michael Myers, one of the things that made Leatherface scary was his mystique. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dive deeper into his backstory; however, it does ruin the aura that Leatherface had before. Even then, the films fail to tell a compelling story that truly deviates from the crazed madman who kills innocent strangers. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is more so about his psycho family as we don’t learn anything new about Leatherface. While the father steals the show, the film ultimately succumbs to a typical Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. The other prequel, Leatherface, actually went more into depth about the man himself; however, the plot was pedestrian and overall boring. Yes, we do learn more about Leatherface’s past, but at the end of the day, the movie was still bad. Part of the reason why Halloween was struggling before their reboot was due to the sequels being plain bad. Before any other Texas Chainsaw Massacre film sees the light of day, the studio needs to make sure that the script is top-notch. A great film can easily revitalize the horror series; Perhaps the writers of the new Halloween movies should be hired to give this franchise the kick in the butt that it needs