It’s difficult for a director to reboot a franchise almost 40 years after the original installment. It’s even harder to produce a direct sequel so many decades later. However, that’s exactly what John Luessenhop set out to do with 2013’s Texas Chainsaw. To read reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear that this 3-D edition of fresh Leatherface slayings didn’t quite resonate with the masses, who described it as “subpar” and “embarrassing.” As Texas Chainsaw celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, it’s the perfect time to revisit the film and see if it was actually deserving of such criticism.
A Direct Sequel
Texas Chainsaw picks up right where 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre leaves off, with Sally (Marilyn Burns, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation 1995) narrowly escaping the insane household of the Sawyer family. Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry, The Fast and the Furious 2001) tries to peacefully deal with the Sawyers, but resident Burt Hartman (Paul Rae, True Grit 2010) and other vigilantes take it upon themselves to burn down the property. Audiences then experience a time jump and are introduced to teen Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters 2013), who learns that she inherited a house from her recently deceased grandmother, Verna Carson (Burns), the matriarch of the cannibalistic clan.
Long Lost Family
The truth comes out that she’s actually a Sawyer, but was taken in by two of the vigilantes and raised as their own. Of course, terror ensues when she travels to view the Texas property. It’s quickly revealed that Leatherface (Dan Yeager, Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens 2016) is living in the basement and basically comes with the property (I’ve made a mental note to check for that feature on Zillow from now on). Heather must not only dodge a chainsaw-welding maniac, but also Burt and his cronies, who refuse to let a Sawyer back in town. In the end, upon finding out that Heather is actually his long-lost cousin Edith, Leatherface saves her, and the two begin a weird roommate situation back at Verna’s place.
Texas Chainsaw (2013) – A Fresh Look
Overall, I don’t think Texas Chainsaw deserved such negative reviews. Are there horror cliches? Sure. Is there anything mind-blowing about the plotline? Not really. But I think it absolutely works as an interesting sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. During the opening credits, highlights from the 1974 classic — like the death of Franklin (Paul A. Partain, Race with the Devil 1975) and Sally’s bloody, hysterical escape in the back of a truck — are played, which is a really nice touch. For anyone with a fuzzy memory of the franchise, it helps them not only remember what happened but also instantly grasp what’s about to happen.
There are also many enjoyable callbacks to the original, such as the regret of picking up a devious hitchhiker, and the chilling shot of an armadillo laying dead on the side of the road. Luessenhop even got The Texas Chain Saw Massacre survivor Marilyn Burns to make a cameo appearance as Verna, who is shown penning a letter to Heather to explain her heritage and soon-to-be unique living arrangements.
The Saw Is Still Family
Regarding the plotline of Leatherface being reunited with his long-lost cousin, it drives home the overarching motto of the Sawyers — family first. It’s no secret that Leatherface is a brutal killing machine who will take down anybody…even a helpless man in a wheelchair. But it’s nice to see him show some humanity when it comes to his loved ones. In fact, my favorite moment in Texas Chainsaw is his discovery of Heather’s true identity while at the slaughterhouse.
In a way, it’s heartwarming to see him realize that he’s not alone in the world after Verna’s death. It’s also great to see Heather accept him as her only living blood relative. In fact, I found myself cheering when, during a scuffle with Burt, she kicks Leatherface’s chainsaw over to him and says, “Do your thing, cuz.” Rarely do iconic slashers like Michael Myers, Ghostface or Jason Voorhees spare the life of anyone, relative or not. His fierce protection of Heather certainly separates Leatherface from the pack without making him too much of a softie. Let’s not forget how, after this touching reunion, he saws off Burt’s hands and sends him into a moving meat grinder.
Texas Chainsaw (2013) Final Thoughts
Texas Chainsaw isn’t my favorite horror movie of all time, but I think it stands as the best installment of the newer additions to the franchise. There’s blood, guts, and gore, homages to 1974, and a fresh, unexpected side to Leatherface.