It’s hard to think of a more evocative movie title than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Everything you need to know about the movie is right there. Of course, Tobe Hooper’s horror masterpiece is genuinely terrifying and made with impeccable precision. The terror unleashed by the Ed Gein-inspired Leatherface has endured through sequels, remakes, prequels, and now a legacy sequel with Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (no The), ignoring the previous sequels for direct sequel that takes place about 45 years after the horrors of the original. The result is a wildly misguided knock off of 2018’s Halloween, repackaging a of horror’s icon and shoehorning into a dopey movie that wants to focus on trauma. However, it seems that nobody involved in Texas Chainsaw Massacre have much familiarity with trauma let alone the 1974 horror classic.
The film opens with a brief recap of the original film narrated by John Larroquette. Then we meet four young people on their way to a dusty Texas town. Dante (Jacob Latimore) and his girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) along with Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) are set to host influencers and investors for their revitalization project. Each of these characters are poorly fleshed out caricatures of the younger generation with their interest in social justice and gun control. They aren’t exactly greeted warmly by the gun-toting Texan Richter (Moe Dunford), another unimaginative caricature. As part of their massive infusion of cash into this dusty little town, Dante and Melody are forced to evict an elderly woman (Alice Krieg) still dwelling in a home that they’ve purchased. But she suffers a medical emergency and soon perishes. Her death seems to get under the skin of her bulking son, Leatherface (Mark Burnham) who, as the title promises, proceeds to go on a chainsaw massacre. But out in the distance is the lone survivor from Leatherface’s previous massacre, Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré, replacing the original’s Marilyn Burns who passed away in 2014) who has become a hardened law enforcement officer out for vengeance.
The first of Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s many glaring problems start with its script credited to Chris Thomas Devlin (from a story by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues). None of the characters are the least bit interesting or likable and, of course, mainly exist to be graphically murdered for our amusement. What perhaps is the most tasteless element of an incredibly tasteless (yet joyless) movie is the backstory for Lila, making her a school shooting survivor who must overcome her hatred of firearms. It’s absolutely grotesque to try and take one of the most pervasive and tragic elements engrained within American culture as a shorthand for this character to deal with trauma, her character arc making her effectively pro-gun towards the end. The legacy character of Sally is also clumsily handled, leading to some of the movie’s dumbest moments which is really saying quite a bit.
Even understanding that director David Blue Garcia is working with a weak script and came on board late after the original directors departed the project a week into production, the results are decidedly unimpressive. There’s plenty of gore and blood, but there’s not even the feintest hint of tension or suspense. The whole film clumsily lumbers along from uninteresting death to uninteresting death, culminating in a scene where a dozen of ill-defined supporting characters are slashed to pieces. Now I don’t want anyone to think I’m some kind of prude who loathes cinematic violence. Oh no, Buster. I am a gorehound through and through. But the only thing interesting about these kills are the competent gore effects – one of the few areas of this film that is competent – and the lack of shock or surprise to anything just winds up making them extremely boring. Speaking to this film’s issues with basic competency, there’s a scene where a character has their Achilles slashed with a chainsaw only to walk perfectly normal in the next scene – no limp or even the slightest hint of discomfort. Maybe there just aren’t any good script supervisors in Bulgaria.
The bar for Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels was already pretty low – except the original sequel with Dennis Hopper, which rocks – and yet this latest sequel can’t even clear the lowest bar imaginable. There are slight nods to Tobe Hopper’s enduring work of horror, but it often feels like nothing more than lip service. Most of all, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is like a legacy sequel made by people who only saw clips of the original on YouTube and just felt as if the title was evocative enough that they could just wing it and rip-off David Gordon Green’s Halloween. Maybe in surer hands Leatherface can unleash a new reign of terror on unsuspecting movie lovers. As it stands, this chainsaw is all out of gas.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Overall Score
A dismal, uninteresting legacy sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre features an array of uninteresting, unlikable characters being hacked to pieces in a horror film devoid of tension or suspense that amounts to nothing more than a lazy rip-off of 2018’s Halloween.