Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
For a popular horror franchise that has been barreling on for nearly 50 years the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films has had only a few notable entries. Of course their is Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 masterpiece that proved to be a milestone in the horror genre. The fun 1986 sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is a certified cult classic which played up the darkly comedic aspects. The 2003 remake kicked off a slew of uninspired remakes of horror classics which dominated the decade. Aside from this the various sequels, prequels, and reboots of Leatherface and his cannibal clan have been largely forgettable and strangely spread out in release which is an oddity with these types of films. Recently streaming giant Netflix decided to take viewers back to rural Texas to see if they could reignite some power in the saw with Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
A group of social media influencers have purchased a small desolate Texas town to turn into some idealized community. In the process they cause the death of an elderly resident still in the town incurring the wrath of her the hulking simpleton in her care who, surprise, surprise, is the iconic chainsaw-wielding cannibal Leatherface. Of course he picks up his old habits of hacking away young people and violently as possible.
In 2018, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and John Carpenter, were responsible for reintroducing the Halloween franchise to moviegoers with great success. They threw out all the sequels, reboots, and remakes which had come before and made this movie a sequel to the 1978 original alone with which it shares a title for some reason. They boiled everything down to the simple story of the final girl dealing with decades of trauma getting the chance to face the Boogeyman once again. I do not know if they were aware that Texas Chainsaw‘s screenwriter/producer Fede Alvarez was looking at their work and copying notes. All the story beats in this film are mostly the same except incredibly watered down made with the energy of a boomer mad about damn millennials and their Instagrams. Those expecting the revolutionary attitude and smart social commentary of the original are out of luck. Those expecting the campy dark humor of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 are equally out of luck. Even those hoping for the batcrap insanity of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation are out of luck. The ninth entry in the series never rises above the level of by-the-numbers slasher flick using the very base framework of a far superior movie. Complete with all of the worst tropes of the genre. The characters are unmemorable (legit one of them was simply dubbed “Dante’s partner” by the subtitles. Not even worthy of a name) and all of them have the intellectual prowess of a jar of mayonnaise. They even made the decision of separating Leatherface from any form of a family unit transforming the historically horrifying yet fascinating villain into a generic horror movie slasher.
I do give this new TCM credit for actually acknowledging the passage of time unlike 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D films which wanted us to believe that Leatherface’s infant cousin in 1974 would only be a 20-something a full four decades later. However, for reasons beyond the filmmakers’ control the confrontation between Leatherface and his original final girl Sally rings hollow as both Marilyn Burns and Gunnar Hansen have passed away in recent years forcing them to cast two complete newcomers to the franchise in those roles who lack that history and familiarity. While the producers, screenwriters, and director largely phone it with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, those responsible for the gore fx put in the work like crazy people as there is no shortage of blood and carnage. The centerpiece of this film is easily Leatherface sawing away at a party bus full of cringe-inducing kids armed with iPhones.
The bones are there for a good sequel to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Fede Alvarez and his team have no interest in exploring anything like that. Instead this is a standard slasher movie with little to standout aside from it’s famous brand. Horror audiences looking for great kills and buckets of blood will find this film worth their time, but those looking for anything more will no doubt be disappointed. I have repeatedly compared Texas Chainsaw Massacre to previous franchise installments and to 2018’s Halloween in this review, mostly because it has little to stand on as it’s own entity. Seemingly Alvarez liked the idea of a recognizable horror villain killing millennial stereotypes and ran with it for the brief 81 minute (how is that even movie length?) runtime of the picture.