Most. Confusing. Franchise. Ever.
With Leatherface, a prequel to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, possibly maybe (who the hell even knows) being released sometime this year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Specifically, how batshit crazy and nonsensical it is. Granted, it’s nearly impossible to follow the continuities of most horror franchises (props to Child’s Play for at least making it all make sense), but the Chainsaw franchise in particular is a total mind-fuck. How do you make sense of something that makes no sense? I mean. I guess you don’t.
But I want to. I desperately want to.
I’ve spent more time than I care to admit this week trying to piece together the overall timeline of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, and with a little help from a YouTube video (embedded below) that pointed out some things I missed, I think I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally figured out the franchise’s timeline. And I’m here to tell you, dear readers, that there just plain isn’t one.
Sorry. I know that was cruel. But there isn’t!
The only real timeline here that sort of adds up and sort of makes sense is spread across three films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Texas Chainsaw 3D. They’re the only films that Tobe Hooper had anything to do with (he directed the first two and produced Chainsaw 3D), so I suppose it makes sense that they sort of share a continuity.
The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is set on August 18th, 1973, a day that claimed the lives of friends Jerry, Kirk, Pam, and Franklin; Sally Hardesty was of course the sole survivor of the cannibalistic family’s wrath. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, released in 1986, is also set in 1986, 13 years after the events of the original film. Though Tobe Hooper’s comedic sequel was a huge departure from the ’74 classic, it was very much a direct follow-up to the original – the dead body of the so-called Hitchhiker is even prominently featured as a macabre prop.
In Chainsaw 2 we meet Chop Top, who was fighting in the Vietnam War while his family was terrorizing Sally and friends, and we also meet Lieutenant Lefty Enright, the uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty. Lefty has been pursuing the family all those years on a revenge mission, and by the end of the film, it seems pretty clear that the entire family has been killed off.
As for Texas Chainsaw 3D, which picks up right after the events of the original film and then jumps ahead a few decades to the year 2012, we find out that the entire Sawyer family was wiped out by locals immediately after the 1973 killing spree. The only survivor of the massacre was Leatherface, who kills a bunch more people before being domesticated by Alexandra Daddario.
Of course, even this timeline doesn’t quite add up. If Drayton Sawyer was killed in 1973, how the hell was he alive and well in 1986? See what I mean? This shit is bananas.
Many fans view Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation as existing within their own individual timelines, and that’s really the only way to look at it. Both films feature far different versions of Leatherface and all sorts of new family members, playing out more like reboots than sequels of any kind. To further confuse matters, Chainsaw 3 opens with a narration that says W.E. Sawyer (who was possibly Leatherface or Drayton) was killed in 1981, while Next Generation notes that the family members were never found at any point in time. Another contradiction is that Chainsaw 3 makes mention of Sally having died in 1977, but in Next Generation, Sally is seen alive in a mental institution.
Neither Chainsaw 3 nor Next Generation really connect to the first two films in any way, aside from both acknowledging the events of August 1973; if you use your imagination, you can pretend that Leatherface finds new family members whenever one group is killed off, but that still doesn’t clear up all the other continuity issues. I suppose it’s worth noting that Caroline “Stretch” Williams pops up for a cameo as a news reporter in Chainsaw 3; from what I gather, she was supposed to have been reprising the role of Stretch. So there’s that, for whatever that’s worth.
And then there’s the remake and its prequel, which is a whole nother thing altogether.
Conclusion? Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a direct sequel to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but everything after that is the work of filmmakers doing their own thing with the franchise and its characters. And I kind of love that about the series. It makes no sense, but the individual installments each have their own personalities and charms. For their own reasons, I love them all.
Will Leatherface directly connect to any previous installments? We hope to soon find out.
Oh and below you can check out that video I mentioned earlier, if you’re interested.