The "Requel." A term most commonly associated with a pivotal scene in the latest Scream film. The film describes a requel as a reboot/sequel featuring new characters connected to legacy characters. A recalibration of known franchises to get back to basics of what fans loved about them in the first place. It's becoming a popular trend in horror to go back to basics by giving a horror series a requel, making the franchise's original film the only barrier to entry. We saw it with Halloween, Candyman, and The Exorcist is getting the requel treatment this year as well. But you know what series also has one? Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hell, most of the sequels after the 1974 original have been requels. Whenever a sequel doesn't pan out as hoped, it feels like they recalibrate and do a movie that only acknowledges the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It feels like every time a TCM film drops, it somehow angers fans (Netflix's Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and as a result, we're always repeating the cycle of a new depiction of Leatherface, Texas, and his various cohorts.
After the duo of films in the 2003 reboot continuity, Texas Chainsaw began to fall out of the spotlight. The 2000s were the era of the remake, and it seemed as if every horror movie was being remade in an attempt to replace or recreate what fans loved about the original. Very rarely did these films get sequels (2003's Texas Chainsaw reboot was one of the rare ones to get a follow-up film), and the vibes were that once people had fun with a reboot, they moved on to the next. During this cycle of revisitation, Texas Chainsaw came close to falling into obscurity. After the reboot, the series changed hands, and Platinum Dunes no longer had the rights to develop a third film in the power tool-loving series. Where was the franchise heading? Would it be rebooted yet again? Would audiences get a new depiction of Leatherface? The answer was more complicated than you think.
Lionsgate was the next rights holder for the famed series, and after a few failed startups (including a film that was supposed to be directed by James Wan), they settled on Texas Chainsaw 3D. The pitch was simple: a back-to-basics installment that would serve as a direct sequel to the 1974 original film with the added bonus of being made for the 3D format, a first for the franchise. It was a winning formula: fans jaded by the 2003 reboot or the varying quality of sequels that followed the original now had a new hope with the news of Texas Chainsaw 3D.
Released on January 4th, 2013, Texas Chainsaw 3D was directed by John Luessenhop with a script by screenwriting duo Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan with Kirsten Elms. The film picks up mere moments after the ending of the original and has a town posse take vigilante justice against the cannibalistic Sawyer family in a massive shootout that ends with the iconic Sawyer house burning to the ground. This scene starts the film on a high note as eagle-eyed viewers will catch Bill Moseley portraying Drayton Sawyer, "The Cook," a role made famous by Jim Siedow, who sadly passed away in 2003. Moseley himself is perhaps most famous for his role as Chop Top in the insanity-driven Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. Also returning is John Dugan as Grandpa Sawyer, reprising his role from the original film. There's also a new unnamed member of the Sawyer family played by Gunnar Hansen, the actor who first brought Leatherface to life. With the Sawyers all murdered and the house gone, one of the vigilantes takes in an infant (with a distinct birthmark) found at the scene.
Right off the bat, Texas Chainsaw 3D has its heart in the right place. Providing closure to the original film and bringing back original actors showed audiences that the movie was out to be the definitive Texas Chainsaw sequel.
Picking up in 2012, the infant found at the scene is now a young woman named Heather, played by Alexandra Daddario (if the original was set in 1974, shouldn't she be about 38 years old? But I digress). Heather receives news that her birth grandmother, Verna Sawyer, has passed and left her an estate in Newt, Texas. Discovering that she was adopted, she does what any sane person would do, and heads out on the road to collect her inheritance and find out about her birth family. In keeping with Texas Chainsaw tradition, the group even picks up a hitchhiker along the way.
When they arrive at Newt, Heather meets Sheriff Deputy Carl (Scott Eastwood) and his father, Mayor Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), who meets her with a certain level of animosity. Unbeknownst to her and her friends, the estate also holds a dark and dangerous secret. Leatherface (Dan Yeager) is hidden in the basement, away from the world that rejected and tried to kill him. Once out of the basement, Leatherface hacks and slashes his way across town while evading the local sheriffs and eventually making his way to a heavily populated carnival. During Leatherface's rampage, Heather learns the true nature of the Sawyer family, their fate, and her origins. The town of Newt essentially executed the Sawyers without prejudice, and Carl's father was part of that vigilante posse back in 1974.
With Leatherface still trying to kill her, the events eventually come to a climactic final showdown in the local slaughterhouse. Before plunging his chainsaw through her heart, Leatherface notices the birthmark on Heather's chest and realizes she is the very same Sawyer infant from the opening of the movie. The Mayor arrives at the slaughterhouse with the intent to finally end the Sawyer family once and for all by killing Leatherface and ambushes him. But before he can throw our boy into a literal meat grinder, Heather has a change of heart and tosses him his chainsaw. Accepting him as family, she (in)famously shouts, "Do your thing, cuz"! Leatherface then forces Burt into the grinder, which amounts to the goriest death in the film (even if it is CGI).
Returning to the estate, Heather finally learns the truth of her inheritance. Her grandmother is Edith Sawyer (Marilyn Burns, who played Sally in the original movie). Edith wants Heather to take care of Leatherface, in return, he'll protect her from every threat they encounter. Finally realizing who she is, she decides to embrace her Sawyer roots, and stays with him to watch over the estate.
Texas Chainsaw 3D was ambitious for the time. Rather than be a reboot or remake, it attempted to connect to the original film in ways beyond a standard sequel. It fleshed out Texas Chainsaw into a throughline series, which had never been done before. Elements introduced in this film had connections in the 1950s-set prequel Leatherface, such as Verna Sawyer featured as a main character and the beginning of the Hartman family rivalry storyline by having her go up against rogue Texas ranger Hal Hartman. Together the three films form a connected trilogy, a rarity for the franchise. In a world where horror recalibrations are now commonplace, it's hard not to admit that Texas Chainsaw 3D may have been onto something a decade ago.