Going into writing this article, I hadn’t seen every installment in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. I saw the first film when I got it for Christmas from my father. Someone had stolen the copy from the video store and no where sold it. They claimed it was banned in Canada. So that Christmas I watched it as most horror fans do, I fell in love. Everyone knows the story: a group of young folk travel through Texas, meet a family of crazy red necks including Leatherface, whose hobbies include chainsaws, cannibalism, making furniture and masks (out of human remains).
Going into this I hadn’t actually seen several of the films. It has also been 10 years give or take since I last endured TCM: The Next Generation. And I have to say, some of them surprised me with how fun they were and others affirmed why I had never bothered to watch them. So let’s get to ranking the films of Leatherface, from worst to best.
Number Seven: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation It came as no surprise when I sat down to rank these films that this would rank the lowest. Re watching it again 10 years after my first viewing and it is still a complete train wreck. Let’s start with Leatherface. Based on Ed Gein who famously wore the skin of women as a form of murderous cross dressing. So it’s always been strongly implied that Leatherface might have a thing for panties. But in this we have him in full Ms. Doubtfire drag at one point and the films climax seems him dressed in a silky see through lace number completely with some poor victim’s breasts. Add to that the scene chewing by a pre-fame Mathew MacConahey and Bridget Jones herself Renee Zellwegger as the worst final girl EVER. Their names are spelled wrong but I’ve suffered enough watching them act. Throw in a random hydraulic leg for Mathew’s murderous inbred and gratuitous titty shots and you have the the worst film in the franchise.
What I really don’t understand is SPOILER ALERT the weird revelation that the Sawyers are being goaded into murdering the teens on prom night by some sort of rich benefactor/pervert whose body is covered in scarification of weird symbols and who has three giant gold rings pierced through his stomach (not his belly button). I guess it is all supposed to be some sort of ‘Illuminati’ scheme to bring people transcendence through suffering. I mean paging Martyrs! The whole thing makes Halloween’s Order of the Thorn look like a welcome addition to a franchise. The kind of film you will only ever watch in the quest to marathon all of the films from the franchise. If that’s you I salute your celluloid masochism.
Number Six: Texas Chainsaw 3D I had such low hopes going into this one that I didn’t hate it. Even though it’s full of cliches, takes a big ole crap on the legacy of one of the greatest horror films ever. I expected it to be terrible and as a result it wasn’t as awful as it could have been. I picked it up previously viewed with the sole intent of completing the set of all the films on DVD (don’t judge the OCD nerdness). What I got was a film which was gory, weird, and offered a new twist to the proceedings that while not one for the history books was something new for the franchise. I’m also morally obligated to point out that the film suffers from the threedee in that there are lots of chainsaw pointing directly at the audience moments.
Number Five: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning tells the story of how a little baby born in a meat factory grew up to wield a chainsaw and wear skin masks. The first time I tried to watch this I turned it off after the opening scene. It just smacked of everything I disliked about remakes. I rewatched it to do this list and I gotta say it’s not half bad. It has plenty of gore, expands nicely on the influences of the Vietnam war on the original film and the mythos of the franchise. Bonus points for Matt Bomer and his baby blues. And it also has a really bleak and gruesome ending which I always appreciate from a film.
Number Four: Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III Was another installment I had never seen all the way through. I really liked this one. It’s incredibly gory (and I only could get the cut version which has 4 minutes of gore excised). It builds really well on the darker comedic tone of the second installment. The addition of Ken Foree’s character who is a survivalist nut is the perfect addition to amp up the action. It acts as a nice final act in the original three films.
Number Three: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  I really like this movie. It’s definitely one of the best of the remakes that came out in the 2000s. It takes the bleak tone of the first film, the gore of the second film and presents it through the lens of ‘the modern gritty take’ which has become a dead horse which Hollywood continues to beat. My fondness for it was firmly cemented back in 2003, a full 7 years prior to the atrocity that is the Nightmare On Elm St. remake. It plays close to the beats of the original while updating stuff ever so slightly. The biggest difference being that there is no character who is handicapped. The biggest issue today with the original is Franklin so it’s good that they chose to exclude a character in a wheel chair. Not that disabled characters shouldn’t be in horror films cause they definitely should. But his inclusion in the original always seemed to stand out as a product of the time. A loud obnoxious bother who can’t do anything on his own and is defenceless and unable to run from the killer. Not the best representation. With so many movies been remade poorly, it is the kind of remake that the majority of fans can agree honors the original.
Number Two: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has a completely different tone then the first film. It is more of a hybrid of black humor and horror comedy. It has oodles of gore, laughs, and some awesome character moments. Tobe Hooper is an incredibly versatile horror director and it shows in this installment (his last in the franchise). Bill Mosley is delightfully gross and unhinged as he provides the perfect counter balance to the grunting Leatherface. Dennis Hopper and Stretch are among the best horror final girl/father figure team ups in horror (Nancy and her dad, Laurie and Dr. Loomis). It’s just a great fun movie. The kind you want to watch with friends.
Number One: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  Some franchises reach their peak in the second or third films, like Evil Dead II or Friday The 13th Part II/Part III (depending who you ask). Then there are franchises like The Texas Chainsaw where the original film stands not just above the sequels, reboots and prequels but above other horror films as well. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a master class in horror. There is actually minimal gore (it’s mostly implied or in the form of bones). It is the least gory of the films in the franchise. Yet it remains the most terrifying visceral film ever to feature Leatherface or arguably any Ed Gein inspired killers. Anyone who has seen it will attest to the moment Leatherface first appears being seared into their minds forever.