Film News

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Getting a Prequel-Sequel – We Try to Figure Out What That Even Means

You just can’t keep a human skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding serial killer down.  Apparently.

Millenium Films has hired Seth M. Sherwood (a newbie with several other horror films in development) to draft a script for yet another Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the franchise’s 7th installment.  Confirming what had originally been reported by late last month, this is to be a prequel centering on the teenage years of the franchise’s central baddie, Leatherface.  With Sherwood hard at work, they’re now turning their attention to hiring a director, with one expected to join in a matter of weeks.

For the moment, the working title for this new movie is “Leatherface,” and it’ll be a sequel to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as well as a prequel to last year’s Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013).  Wait, it’s going to be a prequel AND a sequel?  How is that going to work, exactly?

Basically, Texas Chainsaw 3D was made to be a sequel to the original 1974 Chain Saw, but it features a time jump of several decades in-between films, during which time Leatherface was thought to have died but was still alive somewhere.  Sherwood’s job is to fill in that gap, and focus on Leatherface’s teenage years.   

Alexandra Daddario learning the Sawyer family tradition in Texas Chainsaw 3D

You see, Texas Chainsaw 3D picks up after the events of the 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre and begins with the townspeople of Newt, Texas gathering to rid itself of the murderous, insane Sawyer family, burning their house down (with Leatherface apparently inside) and arresting any of the surviving family members.  After the time jump, the film focuses on Heather (Alexandra Daddario – Yes, the smokin’ hot girl from True Detective) and friends returning to Newt to claim an inheritance only to discover that not only is Leatherface still alive (and slicing) he’s actually Heather’s cousin and the only real family she has left.  By the film’s end, Leatherface is actually presented in a vaguely sympathetic light, setting up a sequel focused on Heather and Leatherface as the new Sawyer family.

That sequel isn’t going to happen because though TC3D ended up grossing $47 million worldwide on a production budget of $20 million it suffered a very, very bad second week drop of 75% in the U.S.  All horror movies not named Insidious 1 or The Conjuring are subject to the dreaded second weekend plunge of doom, but even so 75% is awful, a clear indication of absolutely toxic word of mouth.

So, now they’re essentially going the origin story route (because that worked so well for Hannibal Rising).  If Bates Motel can give us Norman Bates as a teenager why not do the same for a similarly Ed Gein-inspired cinema serial killer like Leatherface, right?  There are even efforts to do the same with Jason Voorhees with a Bates Motel-like TV show currently in development, albeit with no actual network that we know of attached or even interested.

Bates Motel Cover Photo

Interestingly, there’s actually already been one of these movies called Leatherface, and that would be Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990).  Also of interest, Leatherface is what Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel originally titled their screenplay for the first movie back in 1974, although it was only a tentative title, with Head Cheese and Scum of the Earth also thrown about as candidates.  It was Warren Skaaren, eventual famed script doctor (Top Gun, Beetlejuice, Batman) but then head of the Texas Film Commission, who came up with the title Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The original Leatherface

Actually, there’s ton of cool trivia about the first Texas Chain Saw, which was made for around $100,000 and grossed over $20 million on its initial theatrical release.  For example, its Leatherface was played by Gunnar Hanson, a 300 pound Icelandic American who edited a poetry journal named Lucille and worked as a carpenter in Austin, Texas.  However, on multiple occasions this gentle giant almost legitimately killed someone, once because brownies a crew member had baked for everyone were secretly pot brownies meaning during one sequence in which Hanson was chasing a victim with a chainsaw he was completely stoned.  On another occasion, the brutal working conditions (cramped quarters, 110 degrees heat, insanely long hours) got to Hanson so much that he forgot he was playing a character, and found himself legitimately aiming to kill.  Then, once the film was finished, it was purchased for distribution by the Peraino brothers who had just made $100 million a couple years earlier with Deep Throat.  They were actually funded by the mob, and when they completely screwed everyone (producers, director, actors) out of a fair share of the Texas Chain Saw money they used physical intimidation to discourage any kind of lawsuit.

But that’s the franchise’s history, and now for its future it’s…looking to its own history.  Part of the power of the ’74 classic is that we never see Leatherface’s actual face beneath the mask, and he remains to the bitter end an unknowable killer, a far more aggressive version of the bogeyman personified by Michael Myers in the original Halloween.  Leatherface as a teenager would then seem like a side of the story we don’t really need to know, but if they insist on continuing to make these things what other angle is there to take?  It’s like a comic book in that way – if you insist on being a never-ending entity your options for periodic creative re-birth are to completely re-boot (they’ve been there, done that), re-contextualize the origin or tell it for the first time, or kill off and replace with someone new.  Are we approaching the point at which our horror icons of the 70s and 80s have simply maxed out their creative potential and used up all of their culture currency?  In this era of the haunted house/object movies what use is a leatherfaced lover of all things chainsaw?  Or will Seth M. Sherwood somehow manage to make us feel sympathy for the devil?

Take to the comments section to offer up any answers you might have.

Sources: BadAssDigest, Collider

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