Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do. In this installment, we will be taking a look at Beyond The Valley of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, as it exists, is one of the best horror sequels ever made. It is an incredibly clever deconstruction of the original that, like Gremlins 2, is so pointedly smart that it could only have been made by the same director. It’s bigger, funnier and grosser than the first, not impeding on the original’s territory by being a totally different film. Even still, it’s always interesting to see what could have been, especially in the case of a movie as iconic and influential as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Had Hooper elected to make something closer in tone to the first, what would that have looked like?
The original concept for what became The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was a pitch by Hooper and co-write Kim Henkel titled Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, an obvious riff on the Roger Ebert scripted Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Based solely on the concept alone, it’s easy to see why this original Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel never got off the ground, as it’s much larger in scope than what we originally wound up seeing. That’s saying something, too, because Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has significantly higher production value than the first.
The general idea for Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre saw the concept of a house full of cannibalistic backwoods lunatics expand to a village of cannibalistic backwoods lunatics. That in and of itself sounds worth the price of admission, though also similar to Two Thousand Maniacs and its reboot/sequel 2001 Maniacs. Though there would be many new faces, there would be some returning characters as well, in the original’s survivor Sally Hardesty (though Marilyn Burns returned to cameo in both Next Generation and Texas Chainsaw 3D, the character of Sally never appeared again) and the Hitchhiker, as well as obviously Leatherface himself.
Though we clearly see the Hitchhiker’s head get crushed at the end of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the sequel would have revealed that though severely injured and paralyzed, he was kept alive and tied to a tree, a really unnerving image in and of itself. It fits, though, with a family that clearly can’t let anything go, considering they keep ancient Grandpa around and act as though he hasn’t aged a day.
The most interesting thing about this pitch, though, is that it doesn’t appear as though it would have been much more different in tone than Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Looking at this original concept, it becomes clear that Hooper always intended to go for a more comedic direction with the sequel. He always intended for the first film to be something of a dark comedy and was saddened that audiences seemed to miss so much of the humor that he’d tried to inject to it, so he had always intended for the humor to be much harder to miss in a potential follow up.
Still, the approach to the comedy in Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sounds truly unique. In a very Tobe Hooper move, the sequel would have been a parody of a parody. In 1980, Motel Hell was released and drew heavy comparisons to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, from the roadside cannibals to the chainsaw-wielding killer. The film got away with much more overt satire than Chain Saw had and Tobe Hooper took notice. Teaming up once again with co-writer Kim Henkel, he sought to create a sort of reactionary piece to a movie that commented on—and even coasted on—the success of Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
While one director making an entire feature to spite another feature seems petty, it could have lent itself to some great tongue-in-cheek humor. Nothing about Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sounds mean-spirited. Hooper didn’t take the filmmakers to court or even accuse them of ripping off his masterpiece, instead he set out to revisit the world he created, and likely toss in some subtle digs at Motel Hell while he was at it. The approach doesn’t sound all that different from the friendly competition between Wes Craven and Sam Raimi throughout their early movies, with a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes in The Evil Dead, then Evil Dead on the TV in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Freddy’s glove then popping up in Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, each time as if to suggest “That’s not a horror movie, this is a horror movie!” In a very tongue-in-cheek way.
There’s not much info on Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre aside from what the basic setup would have been, so it’s hard to imagine exactly how Sally would have factored into the story, especially since it seems like the plot revolved around an entirely new group of travelers losing their way and succumbing to appetites of the (presumably expanded) Sawyer clan. It’s even hard to tell exactly how Leatherface might have factored into the movie. The version we see in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a very different interpretation from the original, so it makes one wonder exactly how different the character was meant to be in the first concept for a sequel that Hooper and Henkel hatched.
From the apparent change in tone, it almost sounds as if Leatherface would be just as if not more comedic than the character we saw in Chainsaw 2. With Hooper and Henkel at the helm again, we can at least imagine a world in which this sequel happened and Gunnar Hansen actually donned the mask for a second time, as that never came to pass in any of the sequels that we actually got.
At the end of the day, there’s not enough information out there to truly speculate what Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre would have been like had it actually been made. But while the sequel we got is divisive, it’s also a bold and daring entry from a filmmaker willing to comment on what had come before, but not to retread it in any way. It appears as though the early details for what would become Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 were first conceived in that original pitch, and for that reason alone Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre has earned its place in horror history.