“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” stars Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige, Jessica Allain, and Nell Hudson. Released on Netflix on February 18, 2022, the film has a group of teens facing the wrath of Leatherface.
The film was directed by David Blue Garcia, who also directed “Tejano”, and it is the ninth installment in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise. With the success of 2018’s legacy horror sequel “Halloween”, it was only a matter of time before another iconic killer received another revival makeover. That happens to be today as another masked murderer is gearing up for his latest bloody comeback, although not on the big screen as we expected. The one I’m talking about is none other than the chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface, who’s been slicing up innocent victims since 1974. Following the release of the prequel film “Leatherface”, Lionsgate lost the rights to the franchise due to the time it took to release the movie, resulting in Legendary Pictures acquiring them. They later put a fast track on the new “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” installment that’ll follow the same path as Blumhouse’s “Halloween” films. Instead of releasing it in theaters, however, they decided to put it on Netflix so that horror fans can watch it safely in their homes. This is another horror franchise that I haven’t watched that often. I haven’t seen the original 1974 film, the sequels, and the reboot movies that started in 2003. Although, I watched “Texas Chainsaw 3D” back in 2013, which no one wanted to discuss at all. So I was hoping that its latest installment would reinvigorate my interest in the slasher franchise. Plus, it has Fede Álvarez producing the film alongside Rodo Sayagues, both of which have been doing well with their take on the horror genre so far. Does the movie have enough terrifying moments to reignite the troubling film series in bloody fashion? Let’s find out.
The film takes place nearly 50 years after Leatherface’s killing spree in 1973. It centers on Melody (Yarkin), an entrepreneur from San Francisco. Along with her friend Dante (Latimore), her sister Lila (Fisher), and Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Hudson), Melody travels to the remote Texas town of Harlow to auction off its properties. Unfortunately, they later discover that the masked man Leatherface (Burnham) has returned to continue his killing spree. Melody and the others will have to survive his reign of terror and put an end to the madness for good. They also encounter Sally Hardesty (Fouéré), the vengeful survivor of Leatherface’s previous murders.
If you’ve seen the previous “Texas Chainsaw” films, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into in the sequel, and that is a slice-and-dice bloodbath. Since I’ve only seen “Texas Chainsaw 3D”, it isn’t that hard for me to figure that out. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” follows the same ingredients that made 2018’s “Halloween” a huge success both critically and financially. It has a plot that serves as an actual sequel to the original, plus the return of a familiar face from the horror classic despite being portrayed by a different actor. It also features some new victims for good old Leatherface to kill with his trusty chainsaw or any other dangerous object he could find. These elements, along with some promising young actors, could’ve worked wonders in putting the franchise back on track. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. What should’ve been a terrifyingly fun revival of the massacre turned out to be a run-of-the-mill and bloody mess that’s difficult to clean up.
One of the things I liked about 2018’s “Halloween” was its story. Amid that film’s frightful kills and bleak setting lies an intriguing plot involving Laurie Strode’s trauma after surviving against Michael Myers. It portrays Laurie’s journey in conquering her fear to save her family from Myers’ wrath. That alone proves that it’s not difficult to provide a good story while delivering the bloody mayhem. Director David Blue Garcia and screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin attempt to portray that same theme in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” for Elsie Fisher’s character, Lila, and Sally Hardesty. Lila is the survivor of a school shooting that left her traumatized, while Sally seeks revenge against Leatherface for murdering her friends long ago. On paper, it sounds like a solid way to reinvigorate the franchise, especially when considering its modern-day setting. On the screen, however, it felt more like an excuse to showcase some Mortal Kombat-like fatalities performed by Leatherface. They have the right tools to tell a tolerable story about trauma, but they lacked a clear understanding of why those elements work in the recent “Halloween” movie.
The storyline isn’t without a couple of bright moments, most notably the bus massacre sequence. That scene was admittedly a tad more enjoyable than the rest of the film itself. This was due to how Garcia portrayed the immense terror of a masked maniac slicing up innocent people in a closed environment. It was enough to make my heart pound, believe it or not. It’s too bad that everything else after that sequence wasn’t able to capitalize on that piece of slasher filmmaking regarding its abysmal script. Despite some promise in these moments, its gruesome presentation was quickly overshadowed by its genre cliches and specific moments that were more dumb than scary.
For the most part, the actors did the best they could to deliver some bearable performances, mainly Yarkin and Fisher as Melody and Lila, respectively. The only actor that I enjoyed the most was Mark Burnham, who succeeded in delivering the intimidating persona of Leatherface, who Gunnar Hansen originally portrayed in the original. Sadly, their performances weren’t enough to make me avoid the direction given to their characters. Aside from Lila, who seemed to be the most interesting of the bunch, the characters are just formulaic victims begging to be killed by Leatherface. Not only were they unlikable and devoid of charm, but they’re also pretty irritating based on the idiotic choices they made, especially during the second half. The appearance of Sally Hardesty from the original film was also very disappointing despite some solid work from Olwen Fouéré. If you’ve watched the movie, you might understand what I mean.
Overall, 2022’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is gruesome to a fault but also painfully insulting to those who grew up with the iconic franchise and slasher films in general. Despite its okay cast and the bus massacre sequence, the film is another disappointing and scare-free installment that further damages the face-wearing maniac’s reputation. With its poor screenplay, forgettable characters, and desire for fatalities over storytelling, the slasher sequel marks another disastrous effort from Netflix. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you might get some enjoyment out of its kills. Other than that, there’s nothing too special about Leatherface’s latest cinematic return, much like the recent ones that came before it.