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In the grand old splattered hallways of slasher horror movies, few franchises are as up and down and all around as that of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Since Tobe Hooper terrified us back in 1974 with, what is still, one of the greatest and most terrifying, raw and sadistic horror films ever made, there have been numerous attempts to match this landmark original.
Some have drawn cult fandom (Hooper’s own black comedy follow-up Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, or the Platinum Dunes 2003 remake and 2006 prequel), some continue to fiercely divide (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation), some are just plain terrible (2017’s Leatherface) or meh (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3: Leatherface) and some are rather underrated if very flawed attempts at taking the lore elsewhere while remaining somewhat true (Texas Chainsaw 3D). But now, ol’ Leatherface faces his next challenge, and most frightening…social media!
Netflix’s new addition to the franchise takes a page out of Candyman and Halloween’s book, and is a ‘requel’ or legacy sequel (whichever term you prefer), that disregards all that followed the original, and acts as a straight follow-up. In this film, the small, near empty Texan town of Harlow is being targeted by a group of Gen-Z influencers for gentrification. However, inside this dusty town sits a menacing threat that has been kept at bay for almost five decades, until this group make a grave mistake that unleashes sheer bloody madness.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) has drawn some mightily ‘top trending’ debate. Yes, it’s obviously not the 1974 film but for all the ludicrous “worst horror film ever” hyperbole, I thought this insanely bloody new film was an absolute blast. Chris Thomas Devlin’s screenplay admittedly tackles a hell of a lot (probably too much) for the 81-minute running length. What with the film’s legacy sequel motivations/character resurgences, its reflections on the divided America of today, and its unfiltered comments on the immoral vapidness of influencer culture, there is a lot of steak to cook here but also a lot to chew on, and some really admirable aspirations in play.
The reasoning for a decades-dormant Leatherface was a nice touch, and quite a crucial (and nicely subtle) element to a story that has a lot to think on…behind the jaw-dropping tidal waves of bloodshed. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is certainly the most violent and gory slasher to come along in recent years but – despite claims to the contrary – genuinely tries (and succeeds) to serve up a worthwhile story to match the viscera levels.
Produced by Evil Dead’s Fede Álvarez, his fingerprints are really felt here on the story and overall aesthetic because, like his 2013 take on Sam Raimi’s influential creation, this is a well captured brutal ballet of blood, with references to the original text (the opening narration from John Larroquette, that screeching sound effect, the chainsaw dance) as well developments into the next leg of the story.
Cinematographer turned director David Blue Garcia boldly shows no fear in approaching the nihilistic, be it in the judgmental minds of the modern generation or a cruel twist of a finale that is perfectly executed. As he also embraces the aesthetic qualities at hand to the maximum. Ricardo Diaz’s superb cinematography making the utmost use of practical sets and gore effects, as well as the atmosphere, with some incredible shots that linger in the memory. As well as a final showdown in a rundown cinema that feels to have specific relevance for the franchise’s past and future. Then there’s the score by Hereditary’s Colin Stetson, which is deranged, jittery, dark and simply perfect for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film and its legendary antagonist!
This was indeed a massacre with some of the gnarliest slasher kills in memory (see the bus scene), and plenty to think on and discuss for fans, especially in the depiction of original final girl survivor Sally Hardesty (played here with might by Olwen Fouéré, replacing the late great Marilyn Burns who originally played the role and is still credited in this film). While Mark Burnham delivers the best onscreen Leatherface since Gunnar Hansen (also credited), older and meaner, this skin mask wearing force is out for brutal vengeance and gets it. While some of the younger cast seem to have fun in toying with the conventions and perceptions of their roles, Elsie Fisher and Moe Dunford are particular stand outs. As Sarah Yarkin’s Melody is also allowed some development, which adds to the impact of the film later on.
I have not clashed so greatly with the general consensus on a film in some time but with this one I felt it was excellent and delivered on every promise made. Perhaps some internet crazed people are just ticked off at being depicted as disingenuous morons – many often are though to be fair – and don’t like a film showing them that the social media self righteous are every bit as bad as the other end of the spectrum. It’s a culture that’s more rotten than the flesh on Leatherface’s noggin, and that’s what the film gets at. Divides cost lives.
I do wish I had been able to see it on the cinema screen though, because it would have been right at home. But that aside, this new film in the series proves that Leatherface still has the ability to be a terrifying tour de force and that this series is not dead yet. Also, watch the credits, for a small treat.