Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2022.
Directed by David Blue Garcia.
Starring Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Nell Hudson, Olwen Fouere, Moe Dunford, Jacob Latimore, Mark Burnham, Alice Krige, Jessica Allain, Sam Douglas, William Hope, Jolyon Coy, and John Larroquette.
After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town.
No one can accuse Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a direct sequel to the 1974 stomach-churner, of holding back on violence and gore. The issue with director David Blue Garcia’s continuation of the original terror (partnered up with screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin, crafting a story from the minds of The Evil Dead remake mastermind Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, all based on characters from Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel) is that, despite several sequences of characters hiding with the towering and relentlessly menacing freak show who is Leatherface creeping around with a blunt force object, it lacks terrorizing suspense. In its worst moments, it comes across as a cheap cash-grab from Netflix after noticing the success of David Gordon Green’s resurrection of the Halloween franchise, without understanding why moviegoers and fans are drawn to them.
The good news is that everyone involved has the wherewithal to keep the proceedings short and full of gruesome murder (the running times of the original and this requel, or whatever you prefer to call it, are both 83 minutes). The bad news is that from its in-your-face commentary on gentrification (yes, the franchise was born from political commentary but also came from a subtle place that more effectively mingled with the horror on screen), failed attempt to bring back the ultimate final girl Sally Hardesty (now played by Olwen Fouere), and poorly contextualized survivor’s guilt as a result of a school shooting for one of its protagonists, it’s evident that David Blue Garcia is striving to create something profoundly unsettling but lacks the grimy grace to pull it off. Of course, this is also nothing new; countless sequels and reboots have tried to replicate what Tobe Hooper executed, all paling in comparison to the sick and twisted documentary-like, queasy presentation of the original masterpiece.
The filmmakers seem oblivious that moviegoers weren’t just excited to see a traumatized but resourceful Laurie Strode square off against Michael Myers in a rematch, but that they were also pumped for Jamie Lee Curtis to reprise that iconic role. Not much can be done here in their defense, given that Marilyn Burns is dead. But that also begs the question, why go down that route in the first place with Leatherface if there’s no way to make it feel like anything less than trend-chasing? There’s also no blame to place on Olwen Fouere, who is trying to pull off that same vengeful warrior routine, but it doesn’t land with that same thrill. Their inevitable showdown is a non-event.
As such, if Texas Chainsaw Massacre is going to work, it’s up to the new characters (or fresh meat and faces to wear for Leatherface to wear, depending on how you want to look at it). They are a group of diverse young adult activists who intend to take over Harlow’s ghost town and rebrand it into something modern and progressive. They also have their work cut out for them, considering a Confederate flag is still hanging up on one of the buildings, which has to come down immediately as potential investors are on their way. Inside that building is an elderly woman claiming to have the deed still, that the flag reminds her of her grandson, and a relaxed Leatherface creepily watching from afar in the background.
Some heated debates occur over property ownership, leading to a heart-related health scare and a subsequent ambulance ride for the old woman, with Leatherface coming along for the ride). This causes Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) to butt heads over their actions, with the former questioning if they are doing the right thing for Harlow. Meanwhile, Melody’s younger sister Lila (Eighth Grade‘s tremendously talented Elsie Fisher) lashes out at the situation and prospect of living in a renovated Harlow, chatting it up with pro-gun Southerner Richter (Moe Dunford), who helped prepare the town for the day’s big showcase. Lila also has an unfortunate relationship with guns but is comfortable accepting and smoking cigarettes from Richter if it means pissing off Melody. It’s also worth noting that Dante has an unnamed girlfriend.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre will instantly put some off for using senseless tragedy (fictional or not) as a loose backstory for one of its heroines, but there’s also something uncomfortably painful about it that gives it an organic fit for a character in this franchise. Elsie Fisher also delivers a rousing performance and damn near elevates the movie from a series of forgettably brutal kills into a nasty socially relevant piece about overcoming trauma. She also gets a shotgun moment reminiscent of Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, so hopefully, she gets another chance to show off her survivalist chops in stronger material.
The rest of the cast is disposable and leaves no impression. One could see a better product if Texas Chainsaw Massacre had made Lila the center of this narrative, but between rivalry reunions, cringe attempts at social commentary, questionable usage of survivor’s guilt, and an emphasis on blood over scares, there’s also reason to believe this project should have been chainsawed to shreds from its inception. If nothing else, it’s a quick and digestible 80 minutes of mindless splatter, but yet another disappointment for this long-standing franchise that continuously fails to capture the sadistic authenticity of its forbearer.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com