A sequel-ish, reboot-like continuation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is coming to Netflix on Feb. 18, 2022. The new movie, which differentiates from Tobe Hopper’s 1974 original by dropping that film’s “The” and connecting the “Chainsaw” is meant to be a direct sequel of that original, while not entirely dropping the continuity of the original’s sequels. If that sounds confusing, producer Fede Álvarez’s breaks it down in a new interview in Entertainment Weekly.
“When I say ‘direct sequel’ I wouldn’t say it skips everything,” the director of the 2013 Evil Dead reboot, says. “When movies do that, sometimes it feels a bit disrespectful to all the other films. Some people love Texas Chainsaw 2. I love a lot of things about that movie — it’s so wacky and of its time. But the rest is such a mess canon-wise. I think it’s up to you to decide when and how the events of the other movies happen.”
Continuity with a nearly 50-year old movie can be challenging enough. What has Leatherface, the franchise’s chainsaw-swinging murderer, been doing all this time when we see him in Texas Chainsaw Massacre? He’s “been in hiding for a long, long time, trying to be a good person,” according to Álvarez, until newcomers to his small town “awaken the giant.” Leatherface’s good deeds between murder sprees remain to be seen.
New pictures are also up of the cast, which, as has been noted on Twitter, do bear a striking resemblance to Stranger Things.
But it’s unfair to judge a movie from one still image. If anything, the timing does seem right for Leatherface to wreak havoc yet again. It’s hard to understate the impact of Hooper’s original — on the 29-year old director, the city of Austin, Texas, the possibilities of the horror genre, and moviemaking in general.
As Hooper told Texas Monthly in 2004, he didn’t originally want to make a horror movie. But with no money, no cast, and only one other unsuccessful movie behind him, an art-house project that mainly attracted the hippies who’d later become Leatherface’s targets, the director didn’t have many options. “What do you do? Horror films is about it.”
The idea for the movie came to Hooper during a crowded holiday season. “There were these big Christmas crowds, I was frustrated, and I found myself near a display rack of chain saws,” Hooper told Texas Monthly. “I just kind of zoned in on it. I did a rack focus to the saws, and I thought, ‘I know a way I could get through this crowd really quickly.’ I went home, sat down, all the channels just tuned in, the zeitgeist blew through, and the whole damn story came to me in what seemed like about thirty seconds.”
Those daydreamy 30 seconds have created a legacy that’s now over 30 years old. Perhaps a movie so quickly conceived was never meant to spawn a franchise, but that’s what happened. Hooper directed a sequel in 1986 which dropped the cinéma vérité approach for more comedic elements, and received mixed reviews. Then came Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III in 1990, which features a 32-year old Viggo Mortensen and a lot of gore, but not much else.
The franchise was eventually given a Michael Bay-backed reboot in 2003, and now it seems that every generation gets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot they deserve. For the new movie, director David Blue Garcia (Tejano) told EW that “Fede hammered, ‘Practical, practical, practical,’” and that, while shooting in Bulgaria, “there were times when I’d walk into the hotel after a day of shooting and be covered head to toe in blood.” Of course, practical effects aren’t the same as when Hooper was first shooting, and there surely will be some visual effects work on the finished product. But the goal was to deliver something visceral.
Despite not shooting on location in the Lone Star state, Garcia also intends for the movie to comment on the changing nature of Texas. Austin was once where outlaws and hippies eyed each other uneasily, coming together only for Willie Nelson concerts. Hooper’s ’70s Texas is long gone, replaced by a rapidly growing tech sector that is now considered the “biggest winner” of the COVID-19 pandemic, with workers rapidly expanding the city and driving up rent. A horror of a different breed.
In the new movie’s description provided by Netflix, “Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her teenage sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), and their friends Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Ruth (Nell Hudson), head to the remote town of Harlow, Texas to start an idealistic new business venture.”
Whether the movie’s new incarnation of Leatherface will saw techies in half remains to be seen.