Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

The WTF Happened to This Horror Movie series digs into the 2022 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre, produced by Fede Alvarez

Last Updated on May 28, 2024

The episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? covering Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) was Written and Narrated by Mike Holtz, Edited by Victoria Verduzco, Produced by Andrew Hatfield and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

By the year 2017, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise had already produced sequels, remakes, prequels, prequels of the remakes, a 3D sequel, and Matthew McConaughey with a cybernetic leg. But as the classic saying goes, there’s more than one way to brutally skin a live human being on a hook while they scream in pain as your grandpa watches in the corner. Now we have requels. And you can bet your face skin that the Texas Chainsaw franchise wasn’t about to miss out on those. The story of the making of this particular requel, however, involves the dawn of the Covid-19 shutdowns, fired directors and trashed footage, rumors of disastrous test screenings, and a movie that somehow managed to piss off people on both sides of the culture wars. A movie that so many of us love regardless: This is the story of just WTF Happened to Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Ahem… 2022. CAN’T WE JUST GIVE THEM THEIR OWN NAMES FOR GOD’S SAKE? Jesus.

This story, which is more messed up than the ingredients in the Sawyer Family’s award-winning chili begins in 2017 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface. The film franchise rights were held by Lionsgate at the time, who had plans to release at least five more TCM films. However, a messy release schedule that included a weird exclusive Direct TV VOD release, before ultimately becoming available on other video-on-demand platforms, led to Lionsgate losing the rights entirely. This led to Legendary Pictures swooping in and buying up the rights to the franchise. Side Note: Had this situation NOT occurred, given the recent first look deal between Blumhouse and Lionsgate… we would very possibly be looking at a Blumhouse remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre right now. Just some food for thought. Whether that food tastes like pizza or hot garbage is totally up to you.

Regardless, as of August 2018, Legendary Pictures was the proud owner of Leatherface, his family, and all of the intoxicating scents that come with them. The studio reached out to director Fede Alvarez and his frequent collaborator Rodo Sayagues, who were both fresh off their massive successes of Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe. According to Alvarez, “We said yes because, you know, we felt like there had been too many bad ones in the Chainsaw world. The audience had been disappointed too many times”. It was a match made in heaven when you consider the gnarliness of what they’d done with the gore horror/holy shit package that was Evil Dead.

Leatherface 2022

Fede was looking to get into more of a production role, however, and wanted to give other up-and-coming directors the same chance that Sam Raimi had given him with Evil Dead. Writer Chris Thomas Devlin would be hired on to write the screenplay to the story. Devlin was a complete newcomer at the time according to his IMDB but would go on to write 2023’s Halloween atmosphere-fueled Cobweb as well. Directors Ryan and Andy Tohill were hired to helm the film along with their cinematographer Angus Mitchell on the heels of the release of their 2018 film The Dig. But as many of you know they would not be the names on the poster when the film was eventually released.

Alvarez would announce on Bloody Disgusting’s Boo-Crew Podcast that Texas Chainsaw Massacre would be a direct sequel to the original (as the recent Halloween Blumhouse project had just been) and would essentially be an “Old man Leatherface” story where the character was now sixty years old. Now, I don’t have to go all Randy from Scream on you and explain what a requel is. If you’re watching this, you know. It’s where the studio tries to Men In Black the audience into forgetting all those other sequels never happened. It’s a fresh start that backs itself up to the original classic, often throwing out both baby and bathwater (meaning the better sequels in the franchises along with the Halloween Resurrections of the world) in hopes of a renewed audience interest. But this wasn’t exactly the true case with TCM 2022. Fede would later go on to clarify that in his world, all of those sequels could have taken place or not. It’s up to the viewer. He’s simply saying this is where Leatherface is all these years later. What happened between them is up to you to decide. Of this, he said “When movies do that, sometimes it feels a bit disrespectful to all the other films. Some people love Texas Chainsaw II. I love a lot of things about that movie. It’s so wacky and of its time. But the rest is such a mess canon-wise. I think it’s up to you to decide when and how the events of the other movies happen.”

So, in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022, we find Leatherface living in a crusty old orphanage in the Texas (ghost) town of Harlow and being taken care of by an older woman. We know he’s been there for a long time but she’s very clearly aware of what he is capable of. They even hid his chainsaw deep in the walls of the home. A weird choice, considering they could have just thrown it away. It’d have been hilarious to watch Leatherface have to dig out his Home Depot card and purchase a fresh one but that’s more Tobe Hooper sequel-style. But there’s no saying whether or not the serial killer has been at the orphanage the entire time or if he’s left and came back as he pleased over the years. Which opens up gaps for whatever story you want to tell in between. Very smart not only for fun canon conversations but also for where you could take the franchise from here. More on that later.

As the rollout continued, Alvarez continued to get folks pumped up for his vision of the films saying “Everything is classic, old-school gags. A lot of the approach that we had with Evil Dead. Never VFX, to do everything on camera. It’s a very old-school approach to filmmaking.” These are the things that horror fans love to hear. Nobody gets excited when someone says, “Yeah we have a TON of digital blood splatter, you guys are going to love it!”.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

If only things were so simple. At some point in the early filming stages of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022, after the film had already been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the headline from Deadline read like this: ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Bloodbath: Directors Chopped Along With Early Scenes As Pic Shuts One Week In And David Blue Garcia Takes Reins. As a fan of a franchise who has watched it go through so many… let’s call them low-quality iterations… this seemed like a death nail. They had gone all the way to Bulgaria where TCM 2022 was filmed and had scenes in the can. But when they sent some of their footage back to Legendary the studio allegedly didn’t “spark to what they saw”, parted ways with their directors and cinematographer…. and here’s the kicker… decided to not even use the material but rather to start from scratch with a brand new director, citing the old faithful “creative differences” story.

What the Hell happened? All I know is I would pay money to see that footage. How bad did it have to be for the studio to decide to burn it all down and start anew? Perhaps we’ll never know. But it’d make for a really good special feature on a physical copy of the film, should that ever exist. Still can’t believe it doesn’t. Anyway, the studio and Alvarez turned to Director David Blue Garcia and cinematographer Ricardo Diaz to save the day. Of the hire, Alvarez said, “I watched his movie Tejano and I thought it was f*cking great. I also wanted a director from Texas.”

A mess had possibly been averted with a brand new director and cinematographer up to the task, but none of this was going to matter if the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film that would focus on Leatherface the most (even more than the film actually titled Leatherface) wasn’t able to believably fulfill the physical role. They turned to actor Mark Burnham who it sounds like went through a rigorous process to get the gig, saying,  “It was a long process. I think I sent 5 tapes in. Eventually, I met with the Directors. After that Fede asked me to test in his office and I did that. I successfully passed all those benchmarks. Then the week the world shut down for the pandemic I won the job and then we were on hold for a couple of months or whatever.”

Burnham was not only tasked with the taxing physical requirements of a meaty role but was asked to embody the same character Gunnar Hansen had played many years before, only now as a sixty-year-old man. Regardless of how you feel about the final product of the film (and again, I love it). It’s hard to see an argument that Burnham didn’t do a Hell of a job. If there is a sequel, I’d love to see him reprise it.

No, the far more divisive role and performance belonged to Olwen Fouere as Sally Hardesty. The final girl of the initial film returns in pure Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween 2018 fashion for revenge. Only in this situation, the character shows up to very quickly find out that A) Leatherface couldn’t possibly care less and B) she spent all that time hyping herself up for a short-lived fight that ended with her torn asunder and thrown unceremoniously in a heap of trash. Make no mistake about it… this is Leatherface’s movie. The whole thing was and is honestly quite confusing. Was this a studio shoe-horned in character inserted via reshoots to capitalize on the success of Halloween? Or, on the other hand (and this will probably tell you how weird it all played out) was this satire of that entire ordeal? In David Blue Garcia’s words, “We wanted to honor the legacy of both the actor and the character. She sort of passes the torch to this new cast. Quite literally.” He would go on to add “I think they did a great job in the script of making her a part of this story, but not making her the main part of the story.”  It’s hard to tell what the thought process was here but in the end, we can all probably agree that it was weird as shit.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

In a much more seamless moment of nostalgia, Legendary was able to get John Larroquette to return once again for some of his classic narration to open the film. And speaking of sound, Colin Stetson was brought in to do a soundtrack and artist Bullet Shields created this strange ironic scoring but cool as Hell synth song to end the movie. Of this, Director David Blue Garcia said, “That was created as like, ‘If Leatherface had a theme song.’ You know, some of the other ’80s slasher villains have theme songs, but Leatherface has never really had one,” Garcia says. “What would that sound like? And so, we put that in there and the movie is such a downer and it ends on such a down note, that we don’t want the credits to feel like more of a downer, so it kind of goes a little more uplifting so people can smile and feel relaxed that they survived that crazy ride.”

Of the mask itself, David Blue Garcia said there was a lot of importance placed on its look, saying, “There’s a lot of R & D that went into it. I know Fede was very involved with that process. We worked with an artist who doesn’t work digitally to create things. Like, a lot of people would design the mask in like a computer nowadays using Photoshop but this guy works in clay so he’s there sculpting the thing with his hands. Kind of lends to the practical nature of our film. The spirit of our film.” The man he is speaking of would be Illusion Industries owner, Todd Tucker who told Bloody Disgusting in an interview that the character design nearly had Leatherface running around doing murder in his caretaker’s dress, saying that idea was eventually ruled out. Is it weird that I kind of want to see it? Woah, not like that! Probably. They purposefully sculpted the look of Leatherface to have a sadness to him rather than constant rage which was met with some flack from the studio, who they ultimately won over, even citing Michael Myers emotionless face. Tucker said “We were looking at it, and the guys at Legendary were like, ‘No, it’s got to be scary. It’s got to be scary.’ It’s almost like when you took Michael Myers and gave him an emotionless face. If we took Leatherface and made him look scary, then there’s nowhere for him to go from there.” And so, sad, old, Leatherface was born. And to be honest. He had me freaked out.

The special effects party didn’t stop there. This iteration of Leatherface had some amazing moments of action and gore. From the opening moment of Leatherface’s murder spree, you just knew we were in for a ride to f*cktown Leatherface would go on to snap a man’s arm and stab him repeatedly with his own severed bone, cut the face off his deceased caretaker, cut open one tourist’s stomach, slice a man from the corner of his lip to his ear, hammer the absolute bejesus out of a man’s knee and head, and dismember others in a myriad of wonderful ways. But the crown jewel of this film’s mayhem was the infamous bus scene. Finally… an actual massacre in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film was upon us. We’re all sick. You know that, right?

In this moment, Leatherface arrives at the front of the bus with all the Gen Z folks partying in typical Gen Z fashion… with their phones out… and in one moment we’re treated to a scene that delivers maximum gore, black comedy, and maybe a small observation about how stupid we all are. If the comedy here resonates with you, you likely enjoyed the Hell out of this bloodbath. It sounds like it was an even funner scene for David Blue Garcia to shoot. He embraced the anarchy, saying, I had very specific moments that I wanted to capture. But then I also just went in there with a bunch of extras, a couple of handheld cameras and a bunch of special FX guys covered head to toe in hazmat suits with blood cannons and just had them go mad, spraying blood all over the place”. Of the gore in general, Blue Garcia said, “Every shot of gore has a lot of practical in it, if not 100 percent,” he says. “But we also did have to enhance with visual effects and there’s some shots of a chainsaw going into people and cutting them in half. You need some visual effects for that. Because we’re not hiding…we’re not using old-school camera tricks for some of those shots. That’s all a really good combination of practical and visual effects. Our visual effects team spent a whole weekend just filming different types of blood and gore against green screens so they could take those physical shots and put them in the movie as well, so we weren’t using CGI blood or anything like that.

With the film in the can this time and this can not being set on fire next to Batgirl over on the Warner Bros lot… test screenings began and along with them, the next controversy in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre saga.

Rumors were all across the horror internet that test screenings had taken place and the results were horrendous. This was unfortunately very believable for a project that seemed kind of weird from the get-go. Sure, the name Fede Alvarez inspired confidence but who ever really knows what a Producer title really means? Sometimes those things are just honorary. Clearly, this is not the case with Alvarez but at the time, who knew? A lot of the complaints coming out of these alleged test screenings would be the first sign to come of an ongoing argument over the film’s intentions and meanings. With some saying the film was the latest Hollywood preach-fest trying to cram its ideals down your throats. Look, regardless of how you feel about all of that is your prerogative… but I don’t think any of us wanted that in a Texas Chainsaw film. So, it seemed like damning news. But as it turned out, this couldn’t be further from the truth (though some are still confused).

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

In terms of the test screenings, Alvarez himself set the record straight saying that the test screenings went amazing and the film scored even better than Don’t Breathe had. Alvarez and his writers also explained themselves on the issue of the film’s deeper themes which everything from gentrification to gun violence with Alvarez stating, “There’s this theme, there’s two sides of it. These people are wrong, these people are right,’ because that’s not how the world works for us. The world is a f*cking mess and there are shades of gray and there can be all sorts of characters on both sides of the story, so that’s the way we approached it. We wanted you to walk out of it and go, ‘Wait, but I still don’t have an answer! Who was right and wrong?’ Because that is the way that life works. I know that some movies do give you an answer and they take a strong point of view. For us, in something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s the most gruesome horror movie, you’ve gotta be chaotic and it cannot be preachy. It’s not school time.”

He went on to compare it to of all things, First Blood, saying “One of the big references for us was the first Rambo. You know, First Blood is you watching the movie and you go ‘Okay what is that guy bad, good?’ He killed everybody but he was pushed quite badly and still today it’s not clear”. Personally, I appreciate the nuance of all this. A lot of the world issues could be handled with more of a “both can be true” mentality. Such as the character of Richter (played believably by Moe Dunford) being painted as an asshole redneck, ending up as one of the few decent people you could root for. The fact that the character Melody (Sarah Yarkin) is super obnoxious and entitled with her stances on the world – and her friend Dante (Jacob Latimore), isn’t great, either – but her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), on the other hand, is rather sympathetic based on her experiences as a school shooting survivor.

As Alvarez said, they didn’t pick a side. And you probably got to watch someone who annoyed you die in a heinous fashion. Win-win. To Alvarez, it mirrors exactly the kind of division in America that inspired them, saying “It’s like we’re trying to put all those themes in the movie and trying to have Leatherface represent the hate that comes out of that. For me, he represents that hate that comes from fear, not the hate that’s intellectual. If you watch the original movie, he’s just like a kid that’s scared that sees these people walk into his house and suddenly are terrified, and he’s terrified of them and he doesn’t understand why they’re wearing the clothes they’re wearing and where they came from, and just starts killing them, and definitely out of some sort of fear and hate combined. So, I think it’s that Leatherface is like the product of the tensions that come out of all the themes in the movie. That was the way we see it.” Feel however you want to feel about it but it’s clear there was a lot more thought put into this than many initially gave it credit for.

Regardless, after all the hurdles Texas Chainsaw Massacre had to climb just to survive, the plan to release theatrically was scrapped in favor of a Netflix release. But that wasn’t all bad considering it debuted at number two on the Netflix global charts and was viewed by subscribers for over 29 million hours. Five days later it was still ranked number one on Netflix in multiple countries, including the United States.

So, that should spell sequel, right? After all, the film ends with Leatherface walking back to the driveway of his family home, hinting at a reunion with his family or at the very least a very bad day for whoever lives there today. Well, despite everyone involved with the project teasing fun ideas and the desire to make more TCM films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been missing without any trace for the past two years. What gives? There has been one inkling of hope for fans of the 2022 film as movie insider Daniel Richtman recently posted a possible synopsis for a follow-up, stating the upcoming installment could be titled Texas Chainsaw Legacy and feature both Leatherface and his macabre kin terrorizing a nearby gated community called Oasis Oaks. While this is just a rumor and possibility at the time of this writing, sign me the f*ck up, Steve. In Alvarez’s own words, on a potential sequel, he said, You got to go crazy with something like this; you have to be unconventional. You cannot just do a standard sequel because that’s usually when they suffer. But we’ll see. It’s really up to the audience. If they show up, there’ll be more.”

And that my friend is What The F*CK Happened to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022. Where do you stand on the requel? I know there are many who loath the film but I know just as many who seem to love it. I think of it as a flawed but entertaining, brisk, gorefest that gives Leatherface a little bit of time to shine away from his family. Some of you will no doubt give me an ole’ “F*ck you, Charlie” for saying that but that’s alright. I hope you have a great day anyway. Until next time!

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.