The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn’t really a movie that called out for a franchise. While original director Tobe Hooper himself directed a sequel of his own to augment the first’s black comedy—an element he felt viewers ignored the first time around—subsequent entries strained to find any considerable reason to exist. It’s not to say that Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees were innately franchise-worthy, either. But those movies at least exist in a temporal, cinematic realm where their existence makes sense; The Texas Chain Saw Massacre doesn’t.
While Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (the fourth entry) at least endeavors to acknowledge the two previous sequels, the franchise trajectory for the next five entries included a remake, a prequel to that remake, a direct sequel to the first, a prequel to the first, and another direct sequel to the first. Yeah. All of which is to say, if you’re looking to get revved up in anticipation for more Leatherface, his own franchise– other than the remake arguably– might not be the best place to find those thrills. Luckily, I’ve assembled five movies to watch, especially for those who catch Netflix’s sequel and find themselves squirming for more. So, do your thing, cuz’ and check these out!
5. Wolf Creek (2005)
Director Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek was controversial upon release, something both it and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre have in common. Released Christmas Day in the United States, Wolf Creek was a modest box office success. But, opening weekend audiences gave the movie a rare F Cinemascore. It makes sense, not because Wolf Creek is bad, but because, like Hooper’s Chain Saw, it’s a grim, hopeless, cinema verité style assault to the senses. John Jarratt stars as Mick Taylor, a serial killer living in the outback who murders any tourists unlucky enough to stumble across him. Wolf Creek follows three such tourists, and like Chain Saw, the movie is predicated on their suffering. They are shot, stabbed, and chased all over, a condensed display of filmic carnage that never lets up.
4. High Tension (2003)
Ending aside, High Tension is one of the early aughts’ scariest movies. Like Wolf Creek, Alexandre Aja’s imported slasher was fortunate enough to secure a wide release in the United States (with horrific dubbing, it should be noted). Similarly, it underwent considerable cuts to avoid an NC-17 rating, with several murder scenes truncated or removed from the screen entirely. Cécile de France stars as Marie, a young woman traveling with friend Alexia (Maïwenn), to Alexia’s family’s rural home for the weekend. Their first night there, a serial killer breaks in, murders the family, and kidnaps Alexia. Marie sneaks into his truck, hopeful she can stop the killer and free her friend. While the ending sucks—despite having some admittedly curious queer sensibilities—what comes before is stark, brutal, and unrelentingly terrifying. High Tension was France’s answer to Texas Chainsaw, and almost two decades later, it still holds up.
3. Eden Lake (2008)
James Watkins’ Eden Lake also has a wallop of an ending, though it packs considerably more efficacy than Aja’s High Tension. Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender star as Jenny and Steve, a couple who decide to spend the weekend near a remote lake in the English countryside. Once there, they run afoul of a group of delinquent teens whose delinquency is more than just vandalism or drinking; they’re all but homicidal. What follows is a brutal—absolutely brutal—game of cat-and-mouse as power shifts and bodies pile up. The entire conceit is predicated around violent, murderous teens. It’s a concept similarly explored in David Moreau and Xavier Palud French slasher Them. But, Eden Lake adds a terrifying veneer to the proceedings. Eden Lake is horror as nihilism, and it’s as terrifying in its backcountry slashing as Hooper’s own Chain Saw.
2. Vacancy (2007)
Vacancy’s gore quotient isn’t all that smaller than previous entries. But with a $19 million budget and stars Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale at the center, Nimród Antal’s grindhouse slasher never feels quite as horrifyingly austere as the concept implies. Wilson and Beckinsale star as David and Amy Fox, a married couple in the throes of separation who stop at a roadside motel late one evening after encountering car trouble in the mountains. The room is disgusting. Unable to sleep, the couple pop in a few of the VHS tapes present in the room. Rather than porn or Beaches, they find snuff films.
Worse still, they look to have been filmed in their room. Shot in the style of seventies grunge and abounding in more gonzo savagery than a mainstream horror release usually has, Vacancy delivers. It’s a modern update of Hooper’s Chain Saw template, a gaggle of homicidal maniacs living away from society stalking two unknown persons whose worst crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
1. Frontiers (2007)
While other entries here allude to Hooper’s work thematically or stylistically, Xavier Gens’ Frontiers is as close to an unofficial remake as anything outside the actual franchise itself. A group of criminals flee riots in Paris and escape to the countryside where they, unfortunately, stumble into an inn run by homicidal neo-Nazis. Karina Testa’s Yasmine is Frontiers’ de facto Sally Hardesty, the young woman unfortunately embroiled in the family’s perverted, violent machinations. Considerably gorier than any of Hooper’s work—it was given a limited release in the United States with an NC-17 rating—Frontiers isn’t always successful. At times, the savagery even becomes simply unpleasant. Still, for fans of Hooper’s work looking for homage that doesn’t pull any punches, Frontiers is sure to deliver.