(Welcome to Where to Watch, which provides a clear and simple answer to the question, “Hey, where can I watch this thing?” In this edition: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.)
It’s the 4th of July weekend here in the U.S. of A., and nothing says Independence Day like getting together with the family for some BBQ. And no one knows BBQ like the insane, inbred, all-American cannibalistic family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Starting with Tobe Hooper‘s nerve-shredding The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (“chainsaw” wouldn’t become one word in the title until the sequels), the franchise has featured ghastly tales of unlucky people having the worst summers of their lives in the Lone Star State, with varying results. None of the sequels can touch the original, but they’re all slightly enjoyable in their own twisted ways. If you’re in the mood for a bloody, scream-filled film festival this 4th of July weekend, I’ve rounded up where you can stream or rent every Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie right now. And remember: the Saw is Family.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Where to stream: Shudder, Tubi
The first, and still the best entry, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains just as disturbing today as it was back in 1974. Part of the power of Tobe Hooper‘s horror classic is that it feels real. The grainy, low-budget quality gives the entire movie the feel of a documentary – or a snuff film. The story follows a group of youths on a road trip in Texas. After they hear about a nearby grave robbing and pick up an unhinged hitchhiker, they end up looking for a local swimming hole. What they discover instead is a house of horrors, home to a family of cannibals, including a hulking, grunting, chainsaw-wielding killer known as Leatherface. Despite its reputation, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn’t nearly as gory as you might think. But that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video
Rather than give audiences a standard retread sequel, Tobe Hooper went what could be classified as “the Gremlins 2 approach” for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. This sequel leans into gonzo humor and isn’t nearly as scary, but it’s still a hell of a watch, pitting Dennis Hopper against Leatherface and the cannibal family. Full of endless screaming, subplots about BBQ sauce, and Bill Moseley as Chop Top, a member of the family who never shuts up, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 might be a bit much for some viewers. But it has its charms.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Where to stream: HBO Max
After the weirdness of Texas Chainsaw 2, 1990s’ Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III attempts to get back to basics by more or less just remaking the first movie with different characters. It’s fine! These days, though, the movie is more known for being chopped to hell after the original cut earned a dreaded X-rating for all of its violence. The R-rated cut is still violent, but all that trimming makes several scenes a tad incoherent. Bonus: look for a young Viggo Mortensen as one of the Leatherface’s crazy kin.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Where to rent: Amazon or Vudu ($2.99), Apple TV ($3.99)
Before they became much bigger stars, Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey made the truly goofy Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Production on this one wrapped in 1994, and it was test screened that same year under the title The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. After the test screening, though, the movie vanished – only to resurface in 1997 with its new title. By that time, Zellweger and McConaughey had both become more well-known, and rumors abound that one or even both of them were so embarrassed that they tried to stop the film from ever being released. As for the film itself, it’s not very good! But it does deserve some credit for trying to change things up by introducing a genuinely batshit twist: Leatherface and his family aren’t just some random psychos. Instead, they’re being controlled by an Illuminati-like group. Yes, really.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Where to stream: HBO Max
When word broke that the original Texas Chain Saw was being remade, horror fans revolted. But you know what? The Michael Bay-produced, Marcus Nispel-directed 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is pretty damn good. It’s more or less the same story as the original: youths on a Texas road trip get terrorized. And while it’s far more slick and polished than the original, it’s the type of bleak, brutal movie that Hollywood traditionally shies away from. There’s an oppressive, hopeless atmosphere here that gets under your skin. This film also manages to introduce a memorable new character: R. Lee Ermey, playing the corrupt (and crazy) Sheriff Hoyt.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Where to stream: HBO Max
While the 2003 remake was surprisingly good, the follow-up film – the Jonathan Liebesman-directed prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – is a total bust. Dull and lifeless, this film tries to give us a Leatherface origin story but it mostly just fizzles. R. Lee Ermey, back again, injects some life here and there, but it’s not enough to save the movie.
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Where to stream: HBO Max, Peacock
Before Blumhouse’s Halloween, the 2013 Texas Chainsaw 3D tried a similar “Let’s ignore all the sequels and just make a direct sequel to the first film!” approach. This wrong-headed mess tries to paint Leatherface’s family as sympathetic, even though the first movie makes it pretty clear they’re all horrible nightmare people who want to eat human flesh. But here, they’re presented as…misunderstood? I think? In any case, a mob burns down their house, presumably killing them all. But a baby inside the house – you know, that baby that was nowhere to be seen in the original film – survives. That baby grows up to be Alexandra Daddario. To make things weirder, the original film was set in 1974 and this entry is supposed to take place in 2013. Assuming Daddario’s character was a newborn in 1974, that would mean her character is supposed to be at least 39 in this movie. But the actress was only 27 when this film hit theaters, and she looks even younger. Anyway, Daddario’s character has no idea she’s descended from the Sawyers. She eventually finds out, of course. And hey, Leatherface is still around, doing his thing.
Where to stream: Peacock
Even though the franchise tried the prequel thing once before with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, another prequel arrived in 2017. It’s Leatherface (not to be confused with Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), and it tries to twist the formula even more by showing us Leatherface as a kid. But here’s the twist: when we meet child Leatherface, he’s a seemingly normal child. He’s certainly not the mentally disabled grunting killer we meet in the first Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film then tries to explain how this normal kid turned into Leatherface, and I’m sorry, but that’s the most boring idea imaginable for this series. What made Leatherface so damn scary in that original movie was that he was an unknown monstrosity; we didn’t know who he was or where he came from, and we didn’t need to know. As of this writing, Leatherface is the last released entry in the franchise – but that’s going to change soon, as a new Texas Chainsaw film is due out sometime this year. Like Texas Chainsaw 3D, it’s meant to be a direct sequel to the original film.
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