Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

*Review contains possible slight spoilers*

If you’ve seen Scream (aka Scream 5, aka Scream 2022) you’ll be familiar with the term “requel”. It’s when the new instalment in a franchise qualifies as both a sequel and reboot of the original series (I think). 2018’s Halloween successfully managed this by creating a new trilogy while serving as a direct sequel to the original movie. David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre looks to emulate this formula, in more ways than one, with a new entry to the series that follows on from the original. While the return of Michael Myers was warmly received, can the same be said for Leatherface?

It’s been almost fifty years since Leatherface (originally played by Gunnar Hanser, now by Mark Burnham) and his family tortured Sally Hardesty and her friends. Since then he’s left the farm and is living in the orphanage he was apparently raised in. While he seems quite content to live out his days with his adoptive mother, Ginny (Alice Krige), a group of young entrepreneurs have invested in the town and look to gentrify the area. After a property dispute with one of the group, Ginny becomes ill and requires hospital treatment. With no time to wait on an ambulance, the local lawmen agree to take her to the hospital. The caring individual that he is, Leatherface goes with her and is a little miffed when she passes en route. So much so he cuts her face off, wears it like a mask and embarks on a bloody killing spree. Except, this time an old friend is ready for him, having waited nearly fifty years for revenge against the face wearing maniac. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has a troubled history in terms of continuity. After four films, there was a remake followed by a prequel of the remake. A direct sequel to the first one was released then another prequel that explored Leatherface’s childhood. Technically even the fourth entry, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, ignores the events of two & three while producer Fede Alvarez doesn’t rule out the sequels as canon for the 2022 film. Confused? Maybe it’s best not to overthink it. With Texas Chainsaw Massacre (with the The dropped for clarity), Blumhouse’s Halloween influence looms large as Leatherface goes toe to toe with his first final girl, Sally, (played by Olwen Fouéré, Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014). While Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) had a major impact in Halloween, here Sally is used more of a throwaway marketing gimmick. As Leatherface’s chainsaw tears through everyone in sight, those waiting for a showdown similar to that of Laurie and Michael will be left disappointed. Which is a shame, as there was such potential to be had and as a revered actress of the theatre, it’d have been fun for Fouéré to ham it up a bit as she takes on one of cinema’s most notorious monsters. Alas, it’s a missed opportunity.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre leans heavily into the gore and it’s with the kills that the film works. At times inventive, and extremely brutal, it works as a big dumb slasher. The bus scene in particular is devilishly gruesome, including the suggestion that Letherface will halt his killings at threat of being cancelled. Where it falls down is the narrative which feels like it was produced by an algorithm designed to see what’s hot in horror just now. Requel? Check. Social commentary? Check. Nostalgia? You get the point. The film has some great set pieces but isn’t really sure how to get from A to B. Having Gen Z cannon fodder for the maniac to slaughter isn’t the issue. Even a dumb plot can be forgiven if the film can provide enough entertainment to excuse its failings. Rather than invite you to sit back and enjoy, the film keeps posing questions that it never intends to answer. Bringing Sally back is a wasted opportunity as her reunion with Leatherface is not only short-lived but adds nothing to the film except question her logic with every decision she makes, most notably, not killing Leatherface when she has the chance. Leatherface seemingly returns the favour in a similarly puzzling moment. Again, I don’t watch these films for realism but I expect the film to play by its own rules. 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre happily stays in the shallows while occasionally dipping its toe into deeper waters. It struggles to find its identity as it looks to re-establish Leatherface amongst slasher royalty. Released directly to Netflix, the sequel potential is less straightforward than checking the box office but I wouldn’t bet against it. The film’s ending teases a return to more familiar territory that makes this entry seem like a placeholder. Fun in parts, it lacks the terror of the original or the zaniness of its sequels. In the end, it’s a run of the mill slasher likely to appease and disappoint fans of Leatherface in equal abundance.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is streaming now on Netflix.

Thomas Simpson
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