The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most famous and enduring of all horror franchises, but let’s look beneath the scary exterior.
Horror franchises don’t come much older or odder than this. The first film was released in 1974 and was heralded as a horror film to beat, and was one of the first really great slasher movies. Since then there have been six follow ups, all trying to emulate and outdo that heyday; some have taken comedy, action, thriller and even teen-rom com directions, but non have quite pipped that 1974 classic.
Surprisingly for the horror genre, the franchise has also collected a fair few famous faces, most of whom before they were famous. Dennis Hopper, Matthew McConaughey, Reneé Zellwegger, Jessica Biel and Viggo Mortensen are all key players in the franchise – some as victims, some as killers and Hopper even becoming some kind of bizarre but entertaining action hero in the third instalment.
The films start off pretty much as you might expect from a horror, with only the original group of victims dying alongside an accidental road accident. But the third film sees the use of a grenade by a good person while three Sawyer family members perish. This is continued (minus grenade) in the fifth film and by the seventh film the lead character of the movie even gets a kill in with a young woman murdering an enemy. However, this is a slight cheat as she plays both the victim and a Sawyer family member finding herself. We’re hoping that the franchise will push forward with the new storyline of the seventh film as having the next instalment from the perspective of the remodelled Sawyer family themselves would be an entirely new and unnerving reinvention.
With this, baddie-kills have risen, especially in the last two films released in 2006 and 2013. Previously baddie-kills had ranged between 2-6 but in these newest instalments this has been raised to 10 and 13 respectively. The last two films were also two of the best and their keen interest in keeping the franchise fresh with maximum gore, deaths and quick paced action has certainly paid off. Most of the TCM films show a disembodiment once of twice but the most recent outing shows five disembodiments again showing that the franchise is becoming more in line with new, shocking horror.
Although the films are getting noticeably more shocking throughout the decades, they still aren’t able to compete with new horror films that have a more modern premise – for example the Insidious duo or the ever-growing Saw franchise. According to Box Office Mojo The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films are ranked overall as the eighth highest grossing horror franchise of all time but with seven films to their name and the last films £35 million worldwide gross to date, this achievement isn’t as impressive as you may expect.
It’s safe to say this franchise has been around the block and has tried out so many different reinventions it’s hard to pin point what really makes a good TCM film. However, after watching every film close together it seems that the slow paced build up of the original won’t be returning and isn’t truly effective for modern audiences. Embracing the high-octane thriller aspects of some new horrors could be the only way to truly compete, but the monstrous Leatherface needs to once again become unconquerable as he’s easily more messed up and deadly than most of the new horror monsters of recent years.
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