CAST: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige, Jessica Allain, Nell Hudson, Sam Douglas, William Hope, Jolyon Coy
RUNNING TIME: 81 mins
BASICALLY…: Leatherface (Burnham) emerges from hiding to terrorise a group of idealistic teenagers…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
It’s honestly amazing how all of the sequels, prequels, remakes etc to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror phenomenon The Texas Chainsaw Massacre manage to completely distance itself from the tone, pacing, and legitimately disturbing execution of that original classic. Many of them opt for either a tonally backwards tongue-in-cheek comedic approach (which even Hooper himself was guilty of with his direction of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which sets itself in a carnival and has scenes of Dennis Hopper wielding a chainsaw or two like they’re Excalibur), or in the case of the Michael Bay-produced remakes get so far up their own lore that they forget to actually be entertaining or even scary – and don’t even get me started on whatever the hell Texas Chainsaw 3D was trying to be.
The trend unfortunately continues with director David Blue Garcia’s totally-not-confusingly-titled Texas Chainsaw Massacre (just remove the “The”, and boom: different movie, I guess), which once again sets itself so far apart from the horrifying original that it’s barely recognisable – only here, its crammed-in ties to that initial movie make it so much more blatant how much better and impactful Hooper’s original really is.
The latest in this franchise to ignore all previous sequels and call itself a direct follow-up, Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes place 50 years after the events of the original, and sees a group of young entrepreneurs – Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her younger sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Ruth (Nell Hudson) – arrive in a deserted Texas town with the hopes of transforming it into an influencer-friendly hub. They come across an elderly woman named Ginny (Alice Krige) who is still residing in the town’s orphanage, and believing she no longer has a right to be there promptly kick her out; unfortunately, Leatherface – who has somehow evaded the authorities and hidden in this building for the past number of decades – happens to declare bloody vengeance on the new young invaders, and unleashes a wave of carnage that’s probably among the goriest to date in any Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie.
Not once does David Blue Garcia’s entry know firmly what it wants to be, for it constantly flip-flops between concepts and ideas so much that you’d almost need a chainsaw to cut your way through the mess. It wants to be a straightforward slasher, but also a commentary on gentrification and online influencers, a weird message about school shootings (Fisher’s traumatised Lila is a victim of one such event, and constantly flashes back to it even when the moment doesn’t exactly call for it), and – perhaps most wasteful of all – one of those legacy-honouring “requels” that last month’s Scream pointed its finger at constantly. This comes in a largely pointless sub-plot involving Sally Hardesty, the sole survivor of the original film (now played by Olwen Fouéré, since original actress Marilyn Burns died in 2014) who here is basically a rehash of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode in the most recent Halloween sequels; she’s a toughened survivalist, obsessed with tracking down her original tormenter, and finally delivering justice after so many years – in other words, exactly what Laurie Strode was, only with far weaker writing to support her, resulting in this character being treated the same way that Strode was in the now-discontinued Halloween: Resurrection (in other words, not well at all).
Sally Hardesty is hardly the only character to get the short straw, though, for the main cast of characters in this movie range from blandly underwritten to so obnoxiously self-righteous that you actively root for Leatherface to rip them all to shreds. The young protagonists who unfortunately face Leatherface’s wrath are mostly broad and narcissistic stereotypes of the atypical Millennial/Gen-Z influencer, which would be one thing if there was anything interesting being said about that type of person, but most of the satire is lost on these people acting like entitled douchebags who stupidly antagonise some of the locals for having guns on them or waving a Confederate flag outside buildings, with little sense that we’re supposed to point and laugh at these people. Some of these characters do and say things that are so unlikeable that all of a sudden the murderous Leatherface – who here appears to have the strength and apparently indestructible energy of Jason Voorhees, a far cry from the very much human simpleton that terrified audiences back in 1974 – doesn’t seem like such a bad person to hang around. I suppose, in a way, that the point as in a lot of slashers is to have characters that you can’t wait to see get killed, but that doesn’t mean nearly every single person we’re following has to be so unbearable to constantly watch; even some of the less obnoxious characters have little distinctive personality to really stand out amidst the eye-rolling antics of their more insufferable counterparts.
That being said, the film gets a couple of points for the fact that, 1) it’s a well-shot movie, with cinematographer Ricardo Diaz getting a lot of striking imagery out of the ominous Texas landscapes, and 2) the kills themselves are actually rather entertaining to watch. Beyond the fact that they’re happening to people we desperately want to die, the gore effects in these death scenes are impressive to a point where you almost want to pause the movie to see how detailed some of them truly are; this is especially apparent in the film’s big centrepiece, a blood-soaked slaughter on a bus full of social media influencers, which features so much carnage and mayhem that it’s almost worth sitting through the rest of the rather poor material.
It’s only because of these couple of things that prevent Texas Chainsaw Massacre from being among the worst in this series (Texas Chainsaw 3D still holds that honour), but it’s still not a good movie to sit through. Sure, there are some fun kills, but not enough to warrant this obnoxious and loud – but mercifully short, at 72 minutes not including roughly 10 minutes of credits – sequel that, once again, just makes you want to watch the original instead.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an obnoxious and wasteful sequel to the 1974 horror classic which, like the numerous other follow-ups, contains few genuine traces of that film’s identity, replacing it with unlikeable characters, pointless legacy sub-plots, and uncertainty over what it wants to be which not even some fun kills can fully mask.