The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
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Credit: Bryanston Distributing

Untangling the insane continuity of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre universe

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Sep 23, 2019

The original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a macabre classic, a work of horrific brilliance equal parts inspired and insane. Director Tobe Hooper's low-budget masterpiece details the gruesome crimes of Leatherface, a chainsaw (and sledgehammer!) wielding giant who lives with his deranged brothers (and decaying grandparents) in rural Texas. It's the perfect standalone horror film.

By the time Sally Hardesty is laughing hysterically in the back of a stranger's truck, you've witnessed a trip into hell and back. It doesn't necessarily need a sequel. That said, "need" is a word that's very rarely considered when it comes to horror franchises (or really any franchise, these days).

But even more pressing than the issue of "Do we actually need this new Chainsaw film?" is the question "How does this new Chainsaw film fit into this series' bizarrely convoluted timeline?" Because if you watch all eight Chainsaw movies, it becomes apparent pretty fast that strict continuity has never really been on the minds of the writers and producers.

But, because I'm a terrible nerd, it's definitely been on my mind. And that's why I'm here to untangle the web that is the TCM series. So if you're wondering where the Chainsaw DVD you just popped in fits into the greater Leatherface chronology, allow me to be your guide.

Okay, so while the first movie can be considered a self-contained work, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) is definitely a sequel to it. TCM 2 features multiple references to the previous film, multiple characters from the previous one (Leatherface, Cook, and the corpse of the Hitchhiker from the first film, now called "Nubbins"), and is even directed by Hooper, who returned all those years later. However, at the end of the movie, Leatherface and his brothers get killed (by grenade and by chainsaw) in the Texas Battle Land theme park. The number of Chainsaw timelines is now two.

That makes Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) a whole new universe, featuring an entirely different family and a new Leatherface ... or does it?

Leatherface wears a mechanical leg brace in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, a reference to the self-inflicted chainsaw injury that he got when he fell at the end of Part 1. That brace is missing in Part 2 (and Leatherface was killed at the end of Part 2), thus turning Part III into both a loose reboot of the franchise AND an alternate sequel to the first one in which somehow Leatherface found a whole new Sawyer family (complete with Viggo Mortenson) to hang out with.

That brings our number of Texas Chainsaw universes up to four.

Dennis Hopper in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Next, we have Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995), which, in the opening text scrawl, talks about the events of the first three films. So, from the beginning, we know it's a sequel. However, it's also an entirely different family from the ones that we see in 1/2 and 3, and they have an entirely different reason for murdering teenagers. (They're not cannibals, and even order pizzas! Oh, hey, and Matthew McConaughey's here!) So it's also in its own continuity, too.

That brings our number of Texas Chainsaw universes up to six.

In 2003, Platinum Dunes produced a remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and since that remake was super popular, the company then made a prequel to that remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, in 2006. This new remake timeline stands completely on its own, bringing our number of Texas Chainsaw universes up to seven.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Credit: New Line Cinema

After a brief hiatus, we got Texas Chainsaw 3D in 2013, which is a direct sequel to the first film that openly treats every other film in the series as hogswallop. In this film, the Sawyer family got revenge-killed after the events of the 1974 original, with the exception of Leatherface and his "cousin." So, for 40 years, Leatherface just kinda hangs out in a basement, waiting for his family to come chill with him, I guess. Texas Chainsaw universes are now up to eight.

A few years later, in 2017, a much-delayed prequel to the original film was released called Leatherface. This one was a mystery that had you trying to guess which teenage asylum escapee was gonna end up being the titular Leather buddy in the end, and it has characters that are related to those that you see in 3D. So this remains in that universe with 3D and the original 1974 film, keeping the number at eight.

Leatherface

Credit: Lionsgate Films

BUT WAIT, recent news of a Fede Alvarez-produced sequel has just popped up, with this one ALSO being a direct sequel to the original. If they go down that totally fresh and completely uncharted route, it will be the ninth Texas Chainsaw universe in a series of ... nine films. Gah'd.

So, if you don't have time to watch all nine movies, and you want to just stick to one TCM universe, here's a list of them:

1) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

2) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986)

3) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

4) Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

5) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

6) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

7) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

8) Leatherface (2017), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

9) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), untitled Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel that hasn't been made yet.

Good luck!

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