ByQuinton Ridley, writer at
i love movies

I just finished the excellent TV series True Detective and all the while I couldn't help noticing the parallels with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not just the original film, but MANY of its sequels and reboots. Its seems coincidental when you think of how many tropes the TCM franchise has created in the Hillbilly Horror subgenre. True Detective was bound to borrow from it, intentionally or not. But consider that True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey and Alexandra Daddario both played in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series and the connection between both worlds seems more than accidental on the part of showrunner Nic Pizzolatto.

My theory is that True Detective writer/showrunner Pizzolatto originally conceived True Detective as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel/sequel/reboot script or fanfiction and turned it into its own original "love letter" to the Texas Chainsaw franchise. Or he simply ripped it off.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and True Detective

True Detective starts with a bizarre murder scene: a dead body has been decorated and left to be found. This idea is found in everything from Silence of the Lambs to Twin Peaks, but it originates with the opening of the original Chainsaw Massacre. As True Detective continues, our protagonists trace the murders back to three backwoods rednecks who operate out of a grungy shed for criminal business and a hidden mansion for serial killing, a clear reference to the three killers in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, the true villain is met early on when sought for help but not recognized until too late. What was alluded to in TCM is fleshed out and made concrete by True Detective: that these psychotics are protected family of corrupt state officials.

Throughout TCM and TD, we see occult symbols and ornaments made by the brothers, suggesting their madness is inspired by and for some religious evil - hillbilly voodoo. Whereas the brothers in Chainsaw rob graves, sell dead bodies as food for profit and murder unlucky motorists for fun, Detective updates its crimes to producing crystal meth, indulging in child molestation, running corrupt Christian ministries and murdering unlucky young girls for fun. The crimes are relevant to their time and place, but they are the same criminals. And the main antagonist of both families is an enormous, powerful but childlike 3rd brother who is revealed last and is responsible for all of the killing. And both trios are under the tutelage of a disgusting and inactive grandfather.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a famous and respected entry in the horror genre, so the influence can't be denied. From the cinematography to the tone of the script to the art direction, True Detective is in awe of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it is its spiritual descendant. Its the truest followup to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that we've ever received, even if its not officially in the canon. But True Detective also runs with more ideas from the Chainsaw canon.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and True Detective

TCM2 added an obsessive Texas detective (played by Dennis Hopper) who pieces together disappearances as murders in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre case, even though he is not allowed on the case, because he feels guilt in the deaths of his young nephew and niece by the "Chainsaw" killers. He is unhinged, manipulative, murderous, questioning his spiritual faith and (in a deleted scene) he has a psychedelic episode from eating a tequila worm. In the end, he kills the big childlike serial killer "Leatherface" from the first story.

TD reincarnates this character as "Russ Cohle". A Texas detective, barred from the case, who pieces together disappearances as murders. He's unhinged, manipulative, murderous, questioning his spiritual faith and has psychedelic episodes throughout his journey. He kills the big childlike serial killer and finally loses his guilt over the death of his infant daughter in an unrelated but, in his damaged psyche, connected automobile accident.

Its fair to say that having seen the original that True Detective showrunner Nic Pizzolatto has seen TCM2 and lifted its ideas.

True Detective and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

TCM: TNG was Matthew McConaughey's very first screen credit and haunted his early career because of its negative reviews and the fact that Matthew was being groomed as a Hollywood romantic lead and his agent wanted to hide the fact he convincingly played an unhinged Southern occultist and serial killer. After McConaughey established his career, he returned to his roots and played Texas madmen again in Frailty (2002), Killer Joe (2011)and True Detective (2014). So his role in the Texas Chainsaw lore as family member "Vilmer" has obviously cast a huge shadow on Matthew to this day and he probably brings the themes, characterizations and influence of the TCM series to everything he works on.

Note that TCM: TNG and TD both explore the idea that a serial killer family in the deep South are under the control and protection of shadowy officials, possibly because of blood relation, and participate in occult sacrifice, alluding by name to the Illuminati and the U.S. government. Next Generation, to my knowledge, was the first film to take the plot line of small town Southern corruption to the levels of national conspiracy, while Detective was the first to make it famous. They're linked is Matthew McConaughey. This certainly attracted him to do TD, and as executive producer of the show, he may have added elements of Next Generation to the story.

True Detective and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

TC3D is very closely related to True Detective most obviously by the actress Alexandra Daddario. But note that both TCM3D and TD are filmed in Louisiana. Both stories involve a Sheriff bending the law to protect town secrets. And most striking is the revelation in both stories that the killer lives in a beautiful mansion with a female family member as his protector, with incestuous overtones made in both stories, but clearly confirmed in True Detective. Small connections, but very worthy of mention.

Writer and Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto may be a plagiarist

from the True Detective wikipedia:

In 2012, he created an original television series called True Detective, which was sold to HBO and completed shooting in June 2013, with Pizzolatto as executive producer, sole writer, and showrunner. It premiered in January 2014, and became the most watched freshman show in the network's history. The show was critically acclaimed and was so popular the finale crashed HBO's HBO Go streaming service. Pizzolatto listed several influences on the show's first season: philosophy books such as Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Eugene Thacker's In The Dust Of This Planet, Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound, Jim Crawford's Confessions of an Antinatalist, and David Benatar's Better Never To Have Been. Pizzolatto also mentions horror authors Laird Barron, John Langan, Simon Strantzas, and Ligotti.

In August 2014, an article alleged that Pizzolatto plagiarized Thomas Ligotti's book The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror, citing eleven examples that included word-for-word quotations. HBO and Pizzolatto made statements that they considered the allegations groundless, arguing that philosophical ideas can never be plagiarized.These allegations were widely disputed by many media sources, including Laura Miller of Salon, and no claim was ever filed.

True Detective and All American Massacre

Around 2001, director William Hooper (son of Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper) produced but never finished a prequel/sequel to his father's film. Here's a blurb from TCM2 actor Bill Moseley discussing AAM:

MOSELEY: You know, I think it’s almost gotten to place where All American Massacre has been such a mystery for so long that it couldn’t possibly meet, let alone exceed, the expectations of the fans that have been waiting so long for it. It started out as a 10-minute video, kind of a backyard project by William Tony Hooper—Toby’s son—who really only just wanted to do a little 5 to 10 minute video just to show off his computer graphics skills, and he came up with the prequel/sequel to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; prequel meaning that you see Chop-top and the Hitchhiker together as twin brothers before Chop-top went off to Vietnam. Of course, it’s all told via flashback by an older Chop-top, who has been in a mental institution for ten years, and what was really especially cooler about it was that the plate was so much bigger, because, of course, 10 more years of scratching that plate can only make it bigger as the skin is peeled away.

Its interesting how the story structure is so similar to True Detective: told in flashbacks, the drastic difference in how the narrator has aged, the story of two close men before separating. Lets suppose Pizzolatto was planning to write a Texas Chainsaw Massacre story or reboot or just wanted to base a story on TCM. He would have surely researched this project and become inspired by its unique concept.


I think True Detective is one of the greatest achievements in television history and one of the best pieces of fiction in this new millennium. Its the best shot, directed, acted, written and produced thing in ages. And its clearest influence is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my favorite horror film. The parallels are strong and numerous. I'm going as far as saying that True Detective was probably imagined in the Texas Chainsaw universe at first, but changed due to the trademark. While its never been confessed, I think the clues prove that this is more than conjecture.

True Detective would not exist without The Texas Chainsaw Massacre lore and mythology. And in many ways, True Detective is the best version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre since the original. I just think fans should know where the inspiration came from.


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