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SYFY WIRE The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw 3D Was a Legacy Sequel Before It Was Cool

Let's look back at one of the more interesting films in the Texas Chainsaw franchise.

By Matthew Jackson

The continuity of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is a twisty thing, even by horror standards. In the nearly 50 years since Leatherface and his family made their debut, we've had one remake, two prequels, and three different movie continuities spread out across nine films. It's easy to get a little lost, for the audience and for the filmmakers. Sometimes too many restarts just bog the whole thing down and leave everyone scratching their heads.

Texas Chainsaw 3D, the seventh film in the series, arrived at a slight remove from the rest of the franchise, at the end of one of several lulls in new Chainsaw movies. The Platinum Dunes era films that included the now-fan-favorite remake in 2003 had come and gone, seven years had passed, and the new film had an opportunity to blaze its own trail, thanks to new producers and a little distance from the previous installments. So, the film did something that a lot of horror viewers would recognize much more clearly now, but didn't necessarily see for what it was right away back then: become a legacy sequel.

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Does it work? Well, not 100% of the time, but when it's really digging deep into its own personal sandbox, Texas Chainsaw 3D –– now streaming on Peacock –– is one of the most rewarding experiences in the whole franchise. 

Why Now Is a Great Time to Revisit Texas Chainsaw 3D, Now Streaming on Peacock

The setup is simple: Back in 1974, the local townspeople massacred the Sawyer family for their crimes, burning down the farmhouse where Leatherface committed his atrocities and then simply moving on, sparing only a single infant from the carnage. Years later, a small-town butcher named Heather (Alexandra Daddario) gets a letter informing her that she's actually adopted, and that her late grandmother has left her an inheritance in the form of a sprawling country mansion. So, Heather and her friends pack up the car to check it out, unaware that Leatherface is not only still alive, but has been hiding out in the house's basement for decades. 

Already, the legacy sequel setup is pretty prominent, and I'll bet you can guess where the rest of it is going once the film starts to unpack the strange history of Heather's inheritance. It's a solid setup for this kind of film, ignoring the other sequels and just driving straight ahead with a story that imagines Leatherface as a kind of lost legend, buried by time and by the locals to become something whispered about. Then the film reveals that he's not lost. He's waiting, and when he's unleashed, he'll pick up right where he left off.

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Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) wears a suit and a frightening leather mask inside a house Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013).

To make things more interesting, the film takes that weighty idea and couches it in a narrative that basically kicks off like the original, with the story of a group of teens having a good time on a road trip, then settling in for a party out in the country. The echoes are deliberate, but that does nothing to diminish the effectiveness of the formula. The ensemble cast has a good time with this setup as the walls close in and the slasher of it all starts to kick in. The real secret to the film's success, though, is Daddario, who digs into the maddening horror, then slowly starts to morph Heather's understanding of the unkind world into which she's been born, until she starts to understand what Leatherface has gone through, and maybe even considers embracing it...

That said, the film is certainly far from the perfect legacy sequel. The atmosphere is there, but the pacing doesn't always match up to it, the characters aren't as well-rounded as we'd always like (except for Heather, anyway), and the film's efforts to echo the original sometimes only serve to remind us that there are better versions of the story out there, just waiting for us to watch them. But despite these pitfalls, there's still plenty to love about Texas Chainsaw 3D. It's a legacy sequel that emerged in the time before those films started popping up all across the horror landscape, and even if it misses the mark sometimes, it's got enough to say within that strange subgenre to merit your attention, and even your enjoyment.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is now streaming on Peacock.