Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Case It's Based On

The Remakes

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Movie poster: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

It took only four years to decide to try it again, with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. First released in 1994 (then edited and released again three years later), it was presented as a remake of the original. Several actors who are now stars were part of the new line-up, including Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey.

Actors: Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey
Actors: Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey

We now know Leatherface as Bubba Sawyer, a mentally slow maniac. He's gone from the original subhuman concept to a simple-minded, violence-prone member of a dysfunctional family. TCM:TNG, directed by TCM co-writer Kim Henkel, features a group of kids stranded by a car accident. They meet a woman in an office who sends her husband to assist, and he, of course, takes them to the house of horrors. Now the family is part of a larger spiritual order, with supposed ties to ancient conspiracies, and Leatherface has been updated with sex identity issues and a penchant for transvestism. The violence is unmotivated and gratuitous, and the film achieves little if anything. Zellweger and McConaughey were fortunate to recover their careers.

Another remake in 2003 fared better. Once again, it's August 1973 in Texas and five college-age kids are driving from Mexico when they get waylaid on the road. They pick up a female hitchhiker this time, who is just as demented as TCM hitchhiker — maybe more. When she shoots herself, the kids stop at a gas station, then go looking for the sheriff. That search takes two of them to a secluded house infested with violent whackos. One by one, the members of this doomed entourage are maimed or killed, usually by Leatherface, who is shown to have a disfigured face, sans a nose. That's the reason for the mask.

Only one girl survives, and in the process, she manages to seriously maim Leatherface by chopping off his chainsaw arm. The film stays true to the original vision, but updates the victimology. Yet in an age where people are growing more interested in just how bad guys like Leatherface develop into serial killers, a prequel was in order. (One critic couldn't wait for "Leatherface meets Freddy and Jason").

 

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