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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (And it's Sequels)

In a sombre baritone, a narrative voice preludes the events of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's actually the voice of John Larroquette, who will later become a comedic figure in Hollywood. But for now, he's just the voice that preludes the ruthless carnage that evolves.

A lumbering Volkswagen van heads down a Texas highway. Inside are a group of teenagers expecting a weekend of merriment, including Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her paralyzed brother Franklin (Paul Partain). They even do the no-no of picking up a hitchhiker (Ed O'Neal), who is obviously deranged, and after disposing of this razor-wielding fiend, they break down near an old service station.....not far from an old farmhouse. Eventually, two of the hapless teens go wandering--seperately--and find themselves upon the farmhouse mentioned. Both are brutally dispatched.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows the chain of events following those murders. Sally and Franklin attempt to search for their missing friends, only to meet up with insurmountable odds. The wheelchair-bound Franklin is killed, and Sally is subjected to horrendous terrors while being readied for cannibalism before she escapes her bonds and, evading the dreaded chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), manages to flee with an equally-terrified truck driver. Leatherface's manic chainsaw dance at the end of the film is now legend.

Tobe Hooper, who directed the original, finally delivered the long-deliberated The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II in 1986. The events of the original film are something of local lore, we're told, and on the books, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre never really happened--though unconfirmed chainsaw attacks still plague the area. But once a night-time radio disc jockey named Stretch Sitarski (Caroline Williams) intercepts a call from a pair of insipid college geeks who are on-the-air during their murder, she's determined to follow up on it. That means enlisting the help of Detective Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), who is the uncle of previous survivor Sally Hardesty.

Enright is at first unwilling to work with Stretch, but a series of confrontations finds the two within the clutches of Leatherface (Bill Johnston), as well as Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow), the mastermind of the cannibalism operation and who now markets human-flesh chili for profitable gain. The resolution finds Stretch fleeing another of Sawyer's sons (Bill Moseley), who pursues her through a maze of delapidating underground theme-park until a final, cataclysmic showdown with all parties involved. The chainsaw lands in good hands this time.

On the run...

Now the series starts to disregard consistency. Writer David Schow didn't give a damn, and neither did directer Jeff Burr, when Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III hit screens in 1990. There was zero continuity. The name "Sawyer"--mentioned for the first time in TCM II--was it. The rest of the appeal that this third stroll down the lowly backroads of Texas must come from accepting new characters and situations. And in this case, a lone car drives through the Texas wastelands. Michelle (Kate Hodge) drives, and her pal Ryan (William Butler) will soon face horrors they cannot imagine. Leatherface eschews the dark comedic touches of the previous film and takes this installment back to the horrific implications of the original, albeit with some modern-day touches. Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) remains as simultaneously sympathetic and menacing as always. All in all, a good watch, if you can forgive the series inconsistencies.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation sounds like a Star Trek title, and it disappoints as a film. Originally titled The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (like anyone's going to buy that) and shelved in 1994 after being filmed, it was only re-named and re-packaged after two of its performers achieved fame in real movies. Hence, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger should have no objections to deleting this little gem from their resumes. Here, Leatherface (Robert Jacks) has seemingly taken with yet another set of relatives, who prey upon a group of teens who experience car trouble on a deserted Texas road. What a sour note on which to (thus far) conclude the series.

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