The 2022 sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre could have brought the iconic franchise back to glory, but instead, flatlined on arrival.
You cannot talk about iconic horror movie monsters without including Leatherface. The chainsaw wielding maniac remains legendary in horror cinema. Making his spine-chilling debut in 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface quickly established himself as a formidable horror movie foe. His first appearance onscreen even predates some of his contemporaries like Jason Vorhees (Friday The 13th, 1980), Michael Myers (Halloween, 1978), and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984). But just like his contemporaries, Leatherface, and the Texas Chainsaw franchise, was not immune to poorly made sequels, which severely bruised its reputation.
But with franchises like Halloween and Scream seeing renewed success with modern-day outings, there was hope that this new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie would do the same for Leatherface. Taking a page out of Halloween (2018), this new movie, simply titled Texas Chainsaw Massacre, serves as a direct sequel to the 1974 original and ignores every movie in the franchise that came before it. With Fred Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead) as a producer and the backing of Netflix, there was hope this movie could bring the franchise back to glory. But instead, the sequel missed the mark and only manages to deliver on the gore and nothing else.
A HOT MESS
Set 50 years after the original, Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of four young adults who travel to a remote town in Texas with the hopes of reviving it with their new ideas. But when the group’s idealistic actions disturb Leatherface’s home, it sets off another massacre that involves a whole lot of blood and body parts. The first big problem the movie makes is that its lead characters comes off as bland. You either don’t care about their survival or even want them to get dismembered. Once the chainsaw is revved and the killing starts, the movie doesn’t do a whole lot to make you want to care for the characters.
At the root of the story are sisters Melody (Sarah Yarin) and Lila (Elsie Fisher). But even then, they’re nothing to get excited for. Memorable characters these are not. In the film’s beginning, it’s established that Lila is a survival of gun violence and it looks like the movie might have something to say about the relevant topic. But by its end, it pulls a head scratching 180 which makes her shooting survivor background nearly irrelevant. You could probably infer a theme of the unending cycle of violence from the movie, but it’s only a surface level discussion.
The plot itself is nothing to sneeze at too. It doesn’t take long to understand the movie is about how gentrifiers from the big city are ruining rural towns. Something interesting could have come out of this, but it just falls flat with its stereotypical portrayals. Leatherface vs. gentrifiers doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting of cinema. And the ending, oh boy the ending. You’ll either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between.
DON’T DO SALLY LIKE THAT
In a potentially exciting idea on paper, Texas Chainsaw Massacre sees the return of Sally, played by Owlen Fouere as the original actress, Marilyn Burns, passed away in 2014. This time, like Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018), the original final girl is back and she’s ready to face Leatherface after spending decades of trying to find him. That in itself could have saved the movie, but the problem lay in how her character is treated in this film. Without going into heavy spoilers, they really did fumble with her return, leaving minimal pay off. Even if she wasn’t meant to be a Laurie type, how she’s depicted in the film leaves much to desire.
AT LEAST THEY GOT THE GORE RIGHT
But it’s not all doom for Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It does deliver on the gore and violence, which is one of the main reasons why people watch these films in the first place. This movie is not for the faint hearted. Once the blood starts flowing, it flows. Arms get torn off, torsos get chainsawed in two, legs get bent, and guts litter the floors. Most of the kills are well done. In particular, a scene involving a group of people and Leatherface in a bus stands out as the best sequence in the entire film. It’s pure carnage and adrenaline as Leatherface mows down over a dozen people trapped in a bus.
Director David Blue Garcia also sprinkled nice references to the original, which made for enjoyable easter eggs for fans of the franchise. The way some of the shots are set up too make for some striking scenes that capture the dread and brooding atmosphere. But that can only do so much to hide the fact that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is lacking in many departments.
NOT A GREAT START
If you’ve seen the movie, then you could tell they’re trying to use this as a jumping off point for a new set of movies. But the problem is that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a proverbial dumpster fire. The storyline is a miss, the setting is boring, and the new characters we’re supposed to root for don’t leave much of an impression. In fact, they can come off as more of as an annoyance. Aside from getting the gore right, not much else in this movie stands up well to scrutiny.
If they really decide to make more sequels, they need to go back to the drawing board to fix this mess because Leatherface deserved better. This is definitely one of those one-and-done type of movies that you only come back to just to re-watch that bus scene. Hopefully, we can get a worthy sequel in the future.