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Trying to Make Sense of the Ever-Confusing Texas Chainsaw Massacre Timeline | Fandom

Trying to Make Sense of the Ever-Confusing Texas Chainsaw Massacre Timeline

Eric Goldman
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Movies Streaming Horror Netflix

It may feel a bit surprising to some hearing that the 2022?Texas Chainsaw Massacre —?debuting on Netflix February 18 — is the ninth film in the series. Reaching that many installments is a big achievement to be sure, but?Chainsaw has done it over the course of a notably long stretch of 48 years, which has included some big gaps between installments. On top of that is the simple fact that, when it comes to ongoing continuity, this series is, well, more than a little jumbled.

Continuity can get wonky for a lot of long running horror series to be sure. Certainly, the Friday the 13th films have more than their fair share of big continuity errors or unexplained inconsistencies. And Halloween has become rather infamous itself for dueling timelines and multiple occasions when a new sequel essentially erased others from canon – or, to be more generous, created a new branch in a multiverse no one could have expected.

That latter situation is what has occurred with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but arguably, it*s even more egregious and difficult to sort out than Halloween. The new film is being promoted as a direct sequel to the original film – even though more than one other previous sequel has made the same claim. In addition, several other installments also are very vague when it comes to even understanding or confirming what counts from previous films in the series.

Read on for a look at all nine installments and just how much each does 每 or doesn*t 每 link up to the first film and how much many of these films sit in direct contradiction to other films released before it. Plus, the?Chainsaw films have had some very interesting cast members pop up through the years, so we*re charting that as well…

(Spoilers follow for all the films except for the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

It IS the original!

Hey, isn*t that#???

Several years before 1980s sitcom Night Court made him a star and a multiple Emmy winner, John Larroquette*s distinct voice was heard providing the opening narration to this seminal horror movie.

Director Tobe Hooper*s classic film, written by Hooper and Kim Henkel, still packs a punch with its gritty, icky 每 though not actually all that gory, despite what you may recall – depiction of a group of five young people who make a very unfortunate stop in rural Texas. The group, including the eventual lone survivor, Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her doomed brother, Franklin, encounter a demented family of cannibals, most of them unnamed, which includes the Cook?(Jim Siedow), the Hitchiker (Edwin Neal), and Grandpa (John Dugan) And then, of course, there*s Leatherface?(Gunnar Hansen), the hulking killer wearing a mask made of human skin. After she’s taken prisoner and treated to a dinner from hell with the family, Sally manages to get away, with the Hitchhiker run over by a truck while pursuing her, while Leatherface accidentally cuts his own leg open with his beloved chainsaw, before raging in fury at Sally*s escape.

The film*s documentary-like feel, which added to its unsettling nature, was reflected by marketing indicating it was based on a true story (it wasn*t), while onscreen text helped to reinforce that idea by telling us this all happened on on August 18, 1973 – a date which would sometimes need to be accounted for, for better or worse, by future films in the franchise.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Is it directly connected to the original??

Yes.

It*s the first sequel, it*s the only one Tobe Hooper was directly involved in, and it specifically connects to the characters and events of the original film, including having one of the key actors return.

Hey, isn*t that#???

Chainsaw 2 was the first of many memorable horror roles for Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects). Established star power meanwhile was provided by none other than Dennis Hopper, who kicked off a notable resurgence in 1986, beginning with TCM 2 and continuing into Blue Velvet and his Oscar-nominated work in Hoosiers, all of which opened within months of one another.

After a dozen years, Tobe Hooper returned for a film that not only brings back Leatherface (with Bill?Johnson now playing the role), but also the original film*s Jim Siedow as the Cook, here given the proper name of of Drayton Sawyer (Leatherface, we learn, is Bubba Sawyer) and provides more connections to the first film by making Hopper*s?Lt. Boude “Lefty” Enright?the uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty.

Hooper threw fans of the original for a loop with Chainsaw Massacre 2, which takes a huge tonal shift into much more graphic and grisly, yet purposefully comedic and satirical territory, feeling at home with films of the era like Re-Animator and Evil Dead 2. Lefty is technically a good guy, but he*s also about as unhinged as you might expect a revenge-fueled guy played by Dennis Hopper to be, while Moseley is a blast as Chop Top Sawyer, who is as entertaining as he is psychotic.

From a road chase backed by Oingo Boingo, to the family*s prize winning chili (the secret*s in the meat!), to Leatherface falling in love with a DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams), Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a wild and fun ride. The film*s cult audience has grown over the years, as more have come to appreciate the sublime joys of Dennis Hopper and Leatherface having a chainsaw sword fight.

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

Sort of.

This is where things begin to get tricky, as the opening narration of Chainsaw III talks about the events of the first film but then introduces notable new information about the family, saying only one of them, W.E. Sawyer, lived to see trial and was ultimately executed. Beyond begging a lot of questions about who ※W.E.§ even is (perhaps a different name for the Cook than Drayton, even as the Sawyer last name introduced in Chainsaw 2 is being used here?), it*s very hard to reconcile the information and events in Chainsaw III with what we saw occur in the second film – especially since no attempt is made to explain how Leatherface could still be alive after he had a chainsaw go completely through his stomach and out his back and then was present for a large explosion at the end of the previous film. Meanwhile, there are a couple of big Easter egg callbacks to Part 2 thrown in, including a silent cameo by Caroline Williams as a reporter and the use of the term ※The Saw is Family,§ introduced in the previous installment.

Hey, isn*t that#???

Established horror icon Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) is one of Chainsaw III*s leads, while future Lord of the Rings?hero Viggo Mortensen is the first of many familiar faces to play one of Leatherface*s family.

New Line Cinema, who*d had great success with the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, hoped to establish another ongoing horror franchise for themselves by using the Texas Chainsaw Massacre brand, producing this third film, which returned to a much more grim and intense tone after the wacky hijinks of Part 2. Going back to the original*s formula, this time out a young couple are the ones trapped by Leatherface and his family, who are all brand new characters, except for Leatherface (R. A. Mihailoff) and Grandpa (the latter of whom*s now simply a corpse they keep in their home).

Some curveballs are provided by Mortensen*s “Tex” Sawyer, a much more outwardly dashing and seemingly normal personality than we*ve seen among the family before (all the better to lure in new victims) and the eventual arrival of a survivalist named Benny (Foree) who becomes an unexpected obstacle to the Sawyers in the midst of their plans. There’s also the franchise’s first inclusion of a child, an unnamed little girl (Jennifer Banko), unnervingly living among the family and proving to be as demented and homocidal as the rest.

A box office disappointment, the film*s failure would result in New Line dropping the studio*s plans to make more?Chainsaw movies# at least for the time being.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995# and 1997)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

It*s murky!

At this point, the series was becoming comical with how much the opening narration 每 a staple thanks to the original 每 would offer conflicting information movie to movie. The Next Generation reminds us the first film*s events occurred on August 18, 1973, but this time we*re told none of the family was ever caught, even as the previous two films are clearly being referred to, rather dismissively, by mentions of ※at least two minor, yet apparently related incidents§ that happened after 1973. Given the third movie directly told us one of the family was captured, tried, and executed, it feels impossible to reconcile and feels like the intention is to essentially declare this one is the “real” sequel.

Hey, isn*t that#???

Say what you will about this film, and there*s plenty to say, but the casting was commendable, as the film*s leads are Ren谷e Zellweger (as the hero, Jenny) and Matthew McConaughey (as the primary villain, Vilmer). Both made Chainsaw 4 before their big studio breakout roles (Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, McConaughey in A Time to Kill) but there would then be an attempt to leverage the surprise star power by delaying the film*s release to best capitalize on the situation.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is something of a mess of a movie, so perhaps it*s appropriate that its release was messy as well. Originally produced under the title The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film received a tiny release in 1995, only to then go back on the shelf for a couple more years before it was re-released (though again, just barely) after some re-edits and with that new title on it.

Kim Henkel, the co-writer of the original film, returned to the series as writer and director. It feels as though he*s somewhat attempting the more broad and purposeful humor Hooper went for in Chainsaw 2, but with less artistic success – though there is amusement to be had of the ※WTF?§ variety, to be sure. Leatherface (Robert Jacks this time) is essentially incompetent in this film, unable to successfully kill anyone and at one point getting berated not just by his family but by Jenny. Henkel copies beats from the first film more than any of the other sequels had to date, but in far goofier ways. Yes, there is a dinner table scene but this time out, the family# orders pizza. Oh, and it turns out the family is being controlled by some sort of powerful, secret society, represented by a man named Rothman. Yeah, it*s weird. And we haven*t even talked about how McConaughey*s Vilmer has a mechanical leg brace controlled by TV set remote controls. Also, Grandpa*s alive again, which also makes it feel unlikely Chainsaw III’s events?can be connected to this film.

The film throws in a rather random Easter egg at the very end, with Jenny brought to a hospital where she shares a quick look with a woman being wheeled by played by Marilyn Burns, though whether Burns is specifically playing Sally Hardesty again isn*t made clear.

Given that we were four films in and there was no clear throughline, tonal consistency, or continuity, perhaps it*s not too surprising that Texas Chainsaw Massacre would next return with a total reboot.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?(2003)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

No.

It*s a remake! Acting as a huge horror trendsetter for the decade that would follow, the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre fully wipes the slate clean, once more telling the story of five unfortunate young people, on August 18, 1973, who encounter Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) and his family, here called the Hewitts.

Hey, isn*t that#???

With more money and attention behind it, and riding the end of a wave Scream began — which found many up and coming young actors doing horror films —?Chainsaw 2003 included Jessica Biel and Eric Balfour, already familiar from shows like 7th Heaven and 24, among its stars. On the family side of things, you had R. Lee Ermey, a very recognizable onscreen presence thanks to?Full Metal Jacket, which had led to many other roles in that same commanding vein – including his voice role as the leader of the plastic army men in the Toy Story films. In a crowd pleasing move,?John Larroquette was brought back as the narrator for the first time since 1974.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 kicked off what would end up being a glut of full remakes of classic horror films that would go on for several years to follow. And no wonder, given it was a big hit 每 the highest grossing film in the series both before and after. New Line Cinema was reunited with Leatherface 13 years after Chainsaw III, working with Platinum Dunes, a production company co-founded by Michael Bay. Chainsaw 2003 was Platinum Dunes* first release but hardly their last and they would go on to produce several other horror remakes, including The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The film itself, as reflected by its box office, was very well received, with audiences connecting to its notably dark and nasty vibe, as it re-told the original film*s basic story (albeit with new characters for both the victims and the family; only Leatherface is included from the original) but with glossier and gorier visuals. New Line had hoped they were getting an ongoing franchise in 1990 and that didn*t pan out, but this time, there was much more to capitalize on, even though the film*s ending 〞 in which Ermey, as the sadistic Sheriff Hoyt, is killed and Thomas Hewitt, AKA Leatherface, has his arm cut off by Biel*s lone survivor, Erin 每 presented some question marks for what would come next.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

No.

It*s a prequel to a remake!

Hey, isn*t that#???

Already known as Mia in The Fast and Furious (though she had yet to return to the series, which was currently Tokyo Drift-ing), Jordana Brewster was the lead in The Beginning, while her fellow unfortunate travelers include Matt Bomer (White Collar) and Diora Baird (Cobra Kai).?John Larroquette once more returned for a quick bit of narration at the film’s end.

A prequel to the 2003 movie, The Beginning brings back Ermey and essentially everyone who played the family in that film (Andrew Bryniarski remains the only actor to play Leatherface twice), as we see how the Hewitt family faced financial hardship in a dying town and found that murder and cannibalism were the way to fix their problems, along with Ermey’s character — now revealed to actually be named Charlie Hewitt — killing the local sheriff and impersonating him. While the main story is set in 1969, the opening depicts Leatherface*s birth in 1939 and shows how the deformed and abandoned baby was taken in by the Hewitts, while the 1969 events show him deciding chainsaws and human faces are fun additions to his look.

While still a financial success, The Beginning was not nearly as popular as Chainsaw 2003. Still, it*s a bit surprising a third film 每 presumably picking up after the events of the 2003 movie, with a one-armed Leatherface and the remnants of his family 每 wasn*t made. Though considering later Platinum Dunes horror remakes like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street got zero follow-ups, at least in this case there was this prequel and we got a specific, focused, two-film and done separate story for this convoluted franchise.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

Yes.

Though earlier installments had played a bit of a maybe/maybe not game when it came to whether they were overwriting earlier sequels, Texas Chainsaw 3D very firmly was pushed as being a follow-up the original film – one in which none of the events of any other chapter in the series would count.

Hey, isn*t that#???

A post-Percy Jackson, pre-True Detective Alexandra Daddario is both the heroine of Texas Chainsaw 3D and simultaneously another famous face who has played one of Leatherface*s family.

You have to hand it to Texas Chainsaw for beating Halloween to the punch in two ways the 2018 Halloween film would late evoke: Going back to a continuation from the original movie after a couple of films set in a totally different remake universe had been released and also deciding that the new installment is only a sequel to the very first film and nothing else. Unfortunately, Texas Chainsaw 3D wasn*t nearly as successful as Halloween*s re-launch would turn out to be.

In this film, the Sawyer family (yes, that name returns) were almost all killed by a mob following the original massacre, which is depicted in the opening.. The few survivors among the Sawyers include?Leatherface (Dan Yeager) 每 whose real name is Jedidiah “Jed§ Sawyer in this incarnation 每 and a baby who grows up to be Heather (Daddario), who is raised by adoptive parents but then finds out the truth about her roots following the death of Verna (Marilyn Burns, one of many cameos from Chainsaw franchise alums), the grandmother she never knew. Traveling to Texas to claim her inheritance, Heather discovers that she has a certain hulking, chainsaw-wielding cousin hidden away in grandma*s house.

One source of fan snark with Texas Chainsaw 3D is that it wants to be the ※real§ follow-up to the original film yet also plays fast and loose with the seemingly simplified timeline that should result in. That first movie explicitly tells you it took place in 1973, which would make Heather around 40 in the present, given the film is set in 2012. But with Alexandra Daddario only 25 during filming, a silly, frequent attempt to dodge this discrepancy is made, with the date the original massacre occurred constantly obscured or missing on newspaper articles and tombstones throughout the movie – even though we already know when it happened because the actual original told us.

Texas Chainsaw 3D was another attempt to establish a more consistent ongoing series and introduces several plot elements and characters intended for the future, including Heather and Leatherface*s unlikely alliance by the end of the film, and Scott Eastwood as their foe, the corrupt Deputy Carl Hartman. After the film failed to take off, it seemed none of that would pay off, and it didn*t, given we never saw what happened next for these characters# though the next movie would still make surprising use of the lore introduced here.

Leatherface (2017)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original??

Basically yes. Technically it’s not a ※continuation,§ given it*s a prequel, but it is meant to lead directly towards the events of Tobe Hooper*s 1974 film.

Hey, isn*t that#???

Blade*s Stephen Dorrf plays Texas Ranger Hal Hartman, with Iron Fist himself, Finn Jones, playing his deputy, Sorells. Lily Taylor (Hemlock Grove, Perry Mason) meanwhile plays Verna Sawyer, a name that may ring a bell.

There*s so many things to find oddly amusing about 2017*s Leatherface. Here we have the eighth movie in a series that is daring to use the same title as the third movie, and it*s a prequel story just two movies after a totally different prequel story set in a totally different timeline.

In this version, Jedidiah / Jed is a child in 1955, introduced as having some hesitation to get as murder-happy as his relatives when we first meet him. The story then jumps to several years later, after a teenage Jed has been institutionalized for quite some time. The film is positioned as a bit of a whodunnit; or wholeatherface, as a group of teens escape the mental hospital together, with many bodies left in their wake. One of them is actually Jed, using a different name, but we aren*t meant to be sure who among the group is destined to become the man behind the mask until the end.

Surprisingly, Leatherface goes all in on trying to create a trilogy of sorts out of itself, the original film, and Texas Chainsaw 3D. The name Jed and the character Verna come straight from Chainsaw 3D and Hal Hartman is meant to be the grandfather to 3D*s Carl Hartman, positioning the Hartmans as longtime enemies of the Sawyers. It*s like a soap opera with cannibalism!

By the end, Jed/Leatherface is revealed as the kindly “Jackson” (Sam Strike) – who inevitably becomes less kindly and more disfigured, mute, and chainsaw massacre-ing.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Does it position itself as a direct continuation of the original???

Yes# with some wiggle room.

Producer Fede ?lvarez (director of 2013*s Evil Dead) has specifically described the new movie as a ※direct sequel§ to the original. However, acknowledging the other sequels, he also told EW ※I wouldn*t say it skips everything§ and that ※I think it’s up to you to decide when and how the events of the other movies happen.” This was essentially the muddled situation for the third and fourth films too, so it’s all full circle for Chainsaw!

Hey, isn*t that#???

Eighth Grade star Elsie Fisher is among the potential new victims, as is Alice Krige (known to many as the first to play Star Trek*s Borg Queen). Making a return to the series once again, for the first time since 2006, is?John Larroquette as the narrator.

And now we arrive at the newest Chainsaw Massacre film, which is set in the present day and involves two sisters and their friends stumbling upon Leatherface (Mark Burnham). They also encounter Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fou谷r谷, taking over the the late Marilyn Burns), who makes her first true return to the series in a manner which evokes Halloween 2018, as the trailers indicate Sally has been preparing for a rematch with Leatherface this whole time. With the original film once more part of the history, Leatherface has to be at least in his 70s by this point, so you have to give the guy credit for still being so dedicated to doing what he loves.

This is the third follow-up in the series to have a title that is very easy to mix up with the original, especially if you*re not paying attention to whether a ※The§ is present or whether Chainsaw is one or two words. And, of course, it continues the proud tradition in the series of being confusing as far as whether it can incorporate the events of other films beyond the first into its timeline. Leatherface, you*re a hard guy to make a chronology for, but you sure do swing a chainsaw well.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) premieres February 22 on Netflix.

Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.