Roadkiller

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is the first forgettable massacre in the franchise. As nothing about it really stands out. The insane comedy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is ignored in favor of straight forward horror. Forget the Lady of the Lake chainsaw wielding teaser trailer, since none of that craziness is featured here. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III does put more emphasis on a grungy 90’s Leatherface with a more grown up mind.

The uninspired plot follows a couple on the road in rural Texas. They encounter the same old unusual Texans who are obviously members of the Sawyer family. Only none of them are people we’ve seen before. There’s a voice box speaking mother figure, one who’s crazy like the hitchhiker, one with a hooked hand, a just as demented little girl, and a surprise member played by before he was famous Viggo Mortensen. The only returning member is Grandpa. Despite the size of the family, none of them overshadow the depraved Leatherface, now named Junior, as he saws through any random victim on the road.

The problem is a noticeable lack of gore. All because the movie was butched in editing just to retain an R rating. So none of the occasionally bloody kills standout. SPOILER ALERT! One half of the traveling couple, Michelle is the final girl. Along with horror icon Ken Foree as survivalist Benny. They drive off after finishing off the last Sawyer, unaware Leatherface is somehow still alive. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is as rotten as roadkill.

3. Leatherface The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3

Leatherface pulls out the chainsaw

Preceded by: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 & Followed by: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

The Cannibal Club

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the insane 12 year follow up to horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. You’d swear it was a parody if Tobe Hooper wasn’t the director. He wanted to make a black comedy since he claims it was present in the first movie. As if you couldn’t tell from The Breakfast Club inspired poster, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is completely different. As the only installment in the slasher dominated 80’s, Part 2 is over-the-top with fountains of blood.

The now named cannibalistic Sawyer family were never arrested. So a dress coat wearing Leatherface named Bubba continues to terrorize Texas with the corpse of his hitchhiker brother Nubbins. Get used to the increased gore from here on out. The cook named Drayton gets uncomfortably close to society while winning a chilli contest. The final girl is sexy disc jockey Stretch. Without the traditional slasher set up, she’s the one who investigates the family along with unhinged police officer Lefty. Before Dennis Hopper rose in popularity he was Sally and her brother’s uncle who took revenge using dual chainsaws.

But it’s the family that really takes center stage. As Leatherface is a slasher who’ll constantly be shown up by his more demented family members. Like his weirdo hippie brother Chop Top. A bizarre scene stealer with a plate in his head. If that wasn’t strange enough, then Leatherface having an impotent chainsaw after falling for Stretch is. Everything else takes place at their lair under an amusement park. Where they do the dinner scene with Grandpa all over again. SPOILER ALERT! Except everyone but Stretch is killed. Leaving her as the one flailing the chainsaw in the air. Maybe it’s the random silliness or the hillbilly feel, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 just didn’t win me over with its drastic tonal shift.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Leatherface pulls out the chainsaw

Preceded by: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre & Followed by: Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Blood(less)bath

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is arguably what truly started the modern slasher genre. It’s just that it came out in the 70’s when traditional horror movies were at their peak. What made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre really stand out, is that it’s hardly a massacre. Since there’s actually barely any blood in it. Director Tobe Hooper wanted a PG rating, but I would agree that it’s just too disturbing. Which is why Leatherface is the last of the slasher icons I ended up seeing. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is based on true events. Not really, but the grainy quality makes it feel realistic.

An early group of possibly sex-crazed teens travels to Texas. For some reason they pick up an obviously crazy hitchhiker. Then they attempt to get gas, but the proprietor tells them they’re out. So they stay at an abandoned house. Next door they’re introduced to Leatherface. A huge apron wearing, chainsaw (or mallet) wielding inbred maniac. He’s played by the hulking Gunnar Hansen and is inspired by serial killer Ed Gein. The name derives from the human skin he wears on his face. He also decorates with human bones. He’s silent like other slashers, but he does make noises since he has the mind of a child.

SPOILER ALERT! After killing her wheelchair bound brother and all her friends, final girl Sally Hardesty’s nightmare is only beginning. It turns out the hitchhiker, proprietor, and Leatherface are all part of one big cabalistic hillbilly family. A family that includes a practically dead Grandpa. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is scary because of its eerie atmosphere, uncomfortable dinner scene, and implied killings. A victim being impaled on a meat hook is disturbing whether you see it or not. Despite the title, only one person is killed by a chainsaw. In the end, a Leatherface in drag lives, flailing his chainsaw in the air as Sally escapes. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre doesn’t need gore to be disturbing.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Leatherface pulls out the chainsaw

Followed by: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Ghost of Summer Past

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer is the crappy direct-to-video sequel to I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with an even stupider title. It was made for no other reason than to mooch off of the name recognition of the previous slasher flicks. None of the original characters return, thus none of the new victims are worth talking about. They’re just pale imitations of who came before.

The Fisherman murders are now an urban legend that they use as a prank at a carnival. Resulting in the unintentional death of someone they know, them making a pact to cover it up, ominous messages being sent a year later, the killer messing with them, and bodies piling up one by one. All the same beats are there, but none of them can touch the original or even the sequel. I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer is much worse than I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

With awful editing, zero scares, uncreative kills, and turning the Fisherman into some kind of zombie ghost. Since Julie shot and killed the man behind the sliker. Even though slasher movies are perfect for franchises, I Know What You Did Last Summer is too specific to be told over and over again. I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer will always be a forgettable waste of time.

3. I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer

The Fisherman

Preceded by: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

The Fisherman

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is a slapdash sequel with a ridiculously awkward title. After the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer, there was no reason to continue other than money. Now the similarities to Scream are far more obvious, but not quite as clever. Earning a dismal 7% on Rotten Tomatoes in the process. Like Scream 2, the sequel takes place a year after the previous movie’s murders. Continuing to follow the only survivors in college. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. being the only returning leads.

Another Scream 2 similarity is adding black characters to the group of victims. Once again using fresh 90’s talent. Brandy plays Julie’s roommate and Mekhi Phifer plays her boyfriend. A new guy named Will Benson joins them on a trip to the Bahamas that they win in a competition. Although Ray is still around, he doesn’t join his girlfriend on the trip. Instead he follows them when the Fisherman resurfaces. Even with the location change, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is the exact same movie. Complete with ominous messages, very gradual kills, and another “What are you waiting for?!” type scene.

Only with more cringy dialogue and an annoying rastafarian Jack Black. So embarrassing he wasn’t even credited. Since a slasher like the Fisherman can only be one specific person, the reveal isn’t at all surprising. Same with the added twist that one of Julie’s friend’s is in league with him. Despite the sequel’s reputation, it was the only movie I ever found available. The original was very hard to find. Although I can understand fans finding enjoyment in the sequel since it’s a lot of the same thrills. Still, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer has nothing new to offer.

2. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Julie and friends try to have fun

Preceded by: I Know What You Did Last Summer & Followed by: I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer

What are You Waiting For?!

I Know What You Did Last Summer rejuvenated the slasher genre the same way Scream did just one year prior. With the same writer leaning into the youth conscious 90’s. A slasher element was added to the skeleton of a book where four friends cover up a hit-and-run. Out of all the popular slasher flicks I’ve seen, this was less about the killer and more about its hip young stars. All four celebrities are synonymous with the 90’s. You’ve got “Scream Queens” Jennifer Love Hewitt (Julie) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Helen), along with teen “it boys” Ryan Phillippe (Barry) and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Ray).

It’s because of I Know What You Did Last Summer that Gellar & Prinze have been married since 2002. Despite not being a couple in the movie itself. Instead, Julie is dating Ray and Helen is dating Barry. They’re all close friends living in a small fishing community. They start partying after attending Helen’s crown winning beauty pageant, but an unfortunate series of events ends in the presumed death of an unknown man. Rather than ruin their futures, they make the grave mistake of throwing the body in a lake. Only it ends up ruining their futures anyway. Since the guilt is too much for Julie and everyone’s broken up. That’s when they discover the ominous note “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

The movie does contain some nods and winks, but it’s not exactly self-referential. The “Hush” trailer really leaned into the comedic aspects though. Specifically the infamous “What are you waiting for?!” Even though kills can still be very brutal. After a lot of investigation, the killer is revealed to be a Fisherman. Not exactly an instant icon, but the Urban Legend inspired hook and rain slicker are threatening. I Know What You Did Last Summer can get a little cheesy, but it does balance a dark set up with bloody hallmarks.

1. I Know What You Did Last Summer

Julie and her friends cover up a murder

Followed by: I Still Know What You Did Summer

Shot-for-Shot

Psycho (1998) is the worst kind of remake. There’s nothing more pointless than a shot-for-shot remake of an untouchable classic. It’s neither clever nor creative. Even though Gus Van Sant is a capable director, I don’t know what made him think remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was a good idea. One of his reasons is proving a movie can’t be 100% recreated, but you’re still left with an inferior version in the end. There’s no point in explaining the plot, because it’s the exact same movie practically word-for-word. Granted there are changes, but that only makes it worse.

The setting is now 1998 and apart from a stray walkman or price inflation, there’s no other reason for that change. A lot of the dialogue is still nothing anyone outside 1960 would say. Another problem is the use of color. It’s one thing to shoot in color, but it’s another to use it obnoxiously. Everything is bright and colorful with most dramatic scenes taking place in broad daylight. There’s no atmosphere. However, the biggest problem is the all-star cast. Anne Heche is not Marione Crane. Nothing she says or does feels believable. Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen, Robert Forster, nobody feels natural. We know how these lines are supposed to be delivered, so it just feels off when other actors are repeating them.

But the worst casting choice is easily Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. I can’t take him seriously in a role like this. Even worse when he’s dressed like “Mother.” Most of the smaller changes surround him. Specifically having him appear more perverted while spying on Marion or having out of nowhere images flash during his two stabbing scenes. The recreation of the shower scene misses the point of the original completely. The famous theme comes in late, there’s less obscured nudity, and color removes all tension. There’s nothing you can get out of Psycho (1998) that you can’t get 10 times better in the original.

6. Psycho

Marion Crane is stabbed in the shower

Remake of: Psycho (1960)

Before Bates Motel

Psycho IV: The Beginning is both the beginning and the end of the completely unnecessary Psycho franchise. It’s either the 4th installment or the 5th if you count another made-for-TV movie I didn’t see titled Bates Motel (no, not that Bates Motel). The difference between the two, is that Psycho IV retains both an R rating and Anthony Perkins. This was Perkins final time playing Norman Bates only a few short years before his death.

Psycho IV picks up with Norman once again released from an institution. Possibly for the first time, since there’s no mention of the pointless past altering events of Psycho II and Psycho III. It wouldn’t really make sense for Norman to be released after only 4 years anyway. Norman calls a radio talk show with the unusually specific topic of sons who kill their mothers using the name Ed (as a nod to the killer that inspired him). For whatever reason Norma Bates is played by the British Olivia Hussey. There mother-son relationship is explored in uncomfortable detail made worse by bad dialogue.

There’s another shower scene, but neither of the 2 previously mentioned kills have anything to do with it. An older Henry Thomas plays his first horror character as the younger Norman Bates. He’s good in the role since the original actor was their to help, but the inevitable murder of his mother and her boyfriend is just too overdramatized. Back in the present, Norman is revealed to be married with the intention of killing his wife. Let’s just say the ending is happier than you’d expect. Psycho IV: The Beginning proves some events are better left unseen.

5. Psycho IV The Beginning

Norma dresses Norman up like a girl

Preceded by: Psycho III

Just a Little Mad

Psycho III officially falls into 80’s slasher territory. Psycho II may have been long and a bit meandering, but at least it felt somewhat original. Psycho III practically falls back into the pattern of the original movie. To the point it either recreates scenes or reuses famous quotes. One part of the sequel I wasn’t aware of was Anthony Perkins being the director. He’s no Alfred Hitchcock, but he does understand Norman Bates well by this point. Even if he’s back to being a killer driven mad by his “Mother.”

After an almost out of nowhere opening, Norman has reopened Bates Motel and hires a douchey aspiring guitarist to help out. At the same time, a nosy journalist tries to do a story on him and Norman becomes infatuated with a woman baring Marion Crane’s initials. Footage of the shower scene is shown yet again, because they still think we forgot. Maureen Coyle is a former nun who (as if required) recreates the shower scene. Only with less deadly consequences. Norman actually attempts to start a romantic relationship with her and although it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t go anywhere.

Psycho III is bloodier with more nudity and the kills have become more convoluted with an all over the place tone. There’s nothing iconic about being killed in a phone booth or on a toilet. SPOILER ALERT! Mrs. Spool isn’t Norman’s mother after all and everything the second movie did is now pointless. Just like before, Psycho III is another sequel to a classic that should have stayed buried.

4. Psycho III

Norman sits under an owl

Preceded by: Psycho II & Followed by: Psycho IV: The Beginning

Not Insane

Psycho II is desperate to recapture the success of the far superior Hitchcock classic. The sequel literally opens with the iconic shower scene. As if anyone’s forgotten about it. Why make a sequel to an untouchable black & white 1960 film 22 years after the fact (and in color)? Apparently it’s because the original author wrote a sequel 1 year prior to the film’s release. So the studio wanted to make their own film in response. Plus it was the 80’s, when any horror property could be exploited.

Psycho II does manage to bring back both Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles. Norman Bates is no longer insane and hopeful to rebuild his life. Lila Loomis (who understandably married Sam) desperately protests his release. On one hand, the idea of a reformed psycho trying to move on is interesting. Perkins manages to recapture Norman at an older age with more sympathy, but way too much time is spent on it. He meets a girl at work named Mary Samuels who predictably recreates the shower scene only with more nudity.

SPOILER ALERT! Mary is Lila’s daughter who along with her mother drives Norman insane in an attempt to re-institutionalize him. Only Mary starts to bond with Norman and a string of murders start to become real confusing. It may have worked better if there weren’t so many fake outs. Plus I don’t appreciate turning a classic character like Lila into an antagonist. Although that explanation would have been better than what they ended up with. Where a random character you completely forgot about turns out to be “Mother.” Psycho II ends right where it began, rendering the whole sequel pointless.

3. Psycho II

Norman Bates uses his shovel

Preceded by: Psycho & Followed by: Psycho III