New Release Birb: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

One would think that it would have to be somewhat of a challenge to tarnish the legacy of a horror franchise that dates back nearly fifty years. Yet somehow, 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre just did the unthinkable.

By Sean Blanford

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read the byline of this review, and you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, that’s a lofty statement to make.” Maybe it is, and perhaps it isn’t. There’s the possibility that I’m just being hyperbolic, that horror films should be about the kills and the gore, and that the audience shouldn’t expect greatness and should have a good time. With any horror franchise, I might agree with you. Yes, I realize that this is the same series that gave us 1995’s The New Generation and 2013’s venture into 3D, but this feels different. 2018’s Halloween showed how you could have an outstanding new vision of continuing a franchise while ignoring the original sequels that came before it (even though 2021’s Halloween Kills did that film zero favors). Just last month, 2022’s Scream put the idea of the requel into our heads and did a fantastic job doing one of their own. This now leads us to where we are today. The decision of whether or not you agree with the statement I made is 100% up to you, and I understand if you don’t, but in my eyes, this is nothing more than the lowest of lows. It’s not so bad, it’s good. It’s not just plain bad. 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is anger-inducing.

Let’s get the positives out of the way first because for how much I’m not too fond of this movie, there were some compelling elements to it. First, the initial premise is somewhat interesting in how four unsuspecting young adults move to the almost-deserted Texas town of Harlow to escape the crime and division of big city life to create a modern utopia of their own. They’re not exactly welcomed in with open arms, as the few locals that are left see this as unnecessary gentrification. To varying degrees of interest, they are played by Elsie Fisher and Sarah Yarkin as sisters Lila and Melody, Jacob Latimore as Melody’s business partner Dante, and Nell Hudson as Dante’s girlfriend Ruth. The main crux of why Melody wants to escape with Lila is due to a traumatic incident that happened to Lila that haunts her to this day. Secondly, there is plenty of Grade-A kills to make gorehounds happy and the squeamish cover their eyes in fear. For the most part, this is a genuinely scary movie in terms of how effective they make Leatherface a genuinely evil monster. With someone like Fede Alvarez producing and co-writing the story, a man who had a hand in two of my favorite horror films of the last decade in 2013’s Evil Dead and 2016’s Don’t Breathe, that this element shouldn’t be a surprise. These two previous points, plus the fact that the film is only 83 minutes, including the credits, is where the good news ends.

To say that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a mess of a film would be an understatement. You have such a modern visionary of horror like Fede Alvarez at your disposal, you bring back John Larroquette for his now-iconic voice work and a legacy character in reviving Sally Hardesty from the original film (with Irish actress Olwen Fouéré playing the role Marilyn Burns made famous). Sadly, at the end of it all, it’s just another mediocre sequel capped off by one of the worst third acts of a film I have seen in quite a while. By the time the fantastic bus massacre sequence occurred, you are only fifty-seven minutes in, and now the story must decide on how to pad the runtime to make the film anywhere near feature-length. What they could have done was dive into more of the backstory of how Leatherface ended up in the Harlow orphanage after the events of the 1974 original or given us more detail on what Sally Hardesty has been up to instead of a disposable line about how she was a retired Texas Ranger. Or maybe two minutes explaining why Leatherface is hiding a chainsaw in the walls of said orphanage. Instead, we are hosted to one mind-boggling decision after another by all our final characters involved. I will give some leeway to bad choices made by characters in horror films, and I will even be okay with a character or two surviving a brutality that no one would in the real world. However, the final twenty minutes is just asking too much of your patience, with a last thirty seconds that, and I’m putting this mildly, does such a second-rate, ham-fisted ripoff of the original ending that I audibly cursed at the television when the credits began to roll.

My love for the 1974 Tobe Hooper film knows no bounds. It is one of my favorite horror films of all time because of what it did for the genre on such a low budget. That being said, given the talent involved in front of the camera and in Fede Alvarez in particular as someone behind it, there is no reason why Texas Chainsaw Massacre needed to be this bad. It should have been no less than good, but instead, you’re left asking two glaring questions: who is this for, and why should this exist. Sadly, there is no good answer for either.

GRADE: 0.5/5 (F)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is available to stream on Netflix as of February 18th. It is Rated R for strong, bloody horror violence and gore, and for language.

Author: Sean Blanford

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