Texas Chainsaw Massacre Review

PLOT: Melody, her entrepreneur friends, and her sister Lila come to the small town of Harlow, Texas with hopes of renovating the area. Unfortunately, their arrival ends up reawakening the deadly Leatherface, who begins to slaughter the newcomers. Meanwhile, the sole survivor of Leatherface’s original killing spree, Sally Hardesty, reemerges to take down the murderer.

REVIEW: Of all the big horror franchises featuring iconic movie murderers, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre represents one truly mixed bag. Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original film is a true classic of the genre and remains one of the best horror films of all-time but subsequent entries have never really lived up to what Hooper achieved with that movie. Sequels like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 have since gone on to become fan favorites while gaining a cult following along the way but most of them range from mediocre to downright awful. The brand saw a bit of a resurgence when the 2003 remake became a bit of a surprise hit but, once again, the films that followed saw a gradual decline in quality. By the time we got to Texas Chainsaw 3D in 2013 and Leatherface in 2017, it seemed like it was time to truly put this franchise to bed.

Proof that you just can’t keep a horror franchise down for too long, Legendary Pictures came around and swooped up the franchise’s rights to give us a brand new take on the concept. How can they possibly make us forget some of the sequels that simply didn’t work? They pull a Halloween 2018 on us and make this new film a direct sequel to the 1974 film. In other words, let’s pretend like none of the other entries actually exist. This worked for Halloween in 2018 which garnered positive reviews and big box office so it couldn’t hurt to try the very same thing with 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The key difference is that movie theaters are being skipped for this one and the film will be making its debut on Netflix, likely an easy buy for the streamer since the name recognition alone will guarantee that the target audience flocks to the platform to watch it. I’m going to co-sign that this was a smart move on their part because while the film is entertaining enough and doesn’t overstay its welcome at a slim hour and twenty-three minutes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre would likely not see the box office bonanza that Halloween did in 2018. The film lacks a certain mass appeal to attract casual moviegoers and it still falls a tad short as a legacy sequel of sorts to the original film. The connection to Tobe Hooper’s horror classic seems tacked on at best and it’s not given enough screentime to really draw you back into the 1974 film. That being said, director David Blue Garcia along with cinematographer Ricardo Diaz, create some solid tension and visuals that stick with you, and horror fans will also be happy to learn that the film does not skip on the gore. There are some truly relentless sequences of violence that have stuck with me since watching the film last week. For this alone, the film earns a recommendation for horror fans but the uninitiated may not be encouraged to take this trip to Texas.

The film certainly starts off right with John Larroquette providing his signature narration for the opening crawl of the movie as he did with the original and the 2003 remake. Soon we find ourselves with our main characters as they arrive in Harlow, Texas. There is a group of would-be victims and you learn quickly that you only really need to get to know about two of them since the rest are developed just enough to quickly dispatch them. Melody (Sarah Yarkin), is a San Francisco moneymaker who drags her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) with her on this latest business trip out of fear of leaving her alone in the city. We learn through some quickly-edited flashbacks and filler dialogue that Lila has gone through a traumatic event and Melody has some guilt about not being there for her. It’s a backstory we don’t necessarily need but it is a valid attempt to humanize both of the characters before the madness begins. Given the film’s slim runtime, it’s not long before it becomes clear that this trip was a BAD idea and they have stumbled upon something that began wreaking havoc in 1973. Hearing word that Leatherface has resurfaced in the most gruesome way possible, survivor Sally Hardesty (originally played by the late Marilyn Burns but portrayed by Olwen Fouéré in this film) springs into action to put an end to him once and for all.

Oddly enough, the Sally Hardesty bits that provide a bridge to the original film are what works the least. This is no real fault of the filmmakers since Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014 but having the role recast creates a bit of a disconnect. As a viewer, we know this isn’t the Sally Hardesty that memorably shrieked her way through some of the most iconic moments of the original movie. This isn’t like seeing the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween. Olwen Fouéré does an adequate job but the odds are against her because the fans are aware that she didn’t star in the original film. Making the Sally Hardesty aspect of the story even more problematic is that it feels extremely tacked on. After her initial introduction, she’s absent from large portions of the film and since the movie is selling itself on her return, how she’s used during the climax falls flat.

As far as the new characters are concerned, only Sarah Yarkin’s Melody and Elsie Fisher’s Lila make an impression. The rest of the young cast are merely waiting for their moment to get slaughtered. Sarah Yarkin ends up being a truly capable final girl and I’ll give her all the credit for being a trooper through what appears to have been a very messy shoot. They put this girl through the paces but she’s 100% committed and ends up giving a strong performance. Elsie Fisher, who I haven’t seen in anything since Eighth Grade, is also solid as Lila and she forms a strong sisterly bond with Yarkin that does just enough to make us root for their survival. Performers like Jacob Latimore, Nell Hudson, and Jessica Allain only registered with me because of how they died. I suppose that’s enough of a compliment in a slasher film.

The slasher aspect is where director David Blue Garcia shines. There are some intense moments of violence and gore that up the ante with each subsequent kill. Nell Hudson’s Ruth is featured during a tense scene after a police car is wrecked and she has to try and remain quiet as Leatherface cuts someone’s face off in the background. The way Garcia sets up the shot is effective and it definitely ups the tension to a ten. The film’s best moment that I’ll just dub “The Bus Massacre” will have horror fans cheering because of how truly ruthless it is. Taking a group of extras, putting them on a confined bus, and having Leatherface chainsaw his way through them while creating maximum carnage is the kind of moment you hope for in a film like this. It’s seriously an orgy of blood and flying limbs that Garcia’s camera doesn’t shy away from showing you EVERY bit of gruesome detail. It’s a scene that is bound to become a fan favorite.

Mark Burnham’s imposing performance as Leatherface is also a highlight. This is a character without much on the page so you need someone with the physicality to elicit fear and Burnham has what it takes. Just watching him chase after some of the characters elevates the pulse and I imagine that the late Gunnar Hansen would be proud of his portrayal.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre will do enough to please horror fans in the moment and it provides a rather quick time of entertainment but I don’t think it does quite enough to elevate it to the level of NEEDING to live in this world again. It’s certainly better than Texas Chainsaw 3D and Leatherface and I was never bored throughout the film but I’m not 100% convinced I need to see Leatherface do his business again. The film’s streaming success will determine where the franchise goes from here but it will need to reinvent the wheel a bit to justify another gruesome stay in the Texas heat.



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