Leatherface returns in David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I have to say, I have mixed feelings on how I feel about the film. When it comes to horror franchises, Texas Chainsaw isn’t exactly known for having the most reliably good movies, so it’s safe to say that I went into this movie not expecting great things. Netflix also seemed very hesitant in releasing any sort of promotional materials until the last few weeks, which usually says that a movie isn’t going to be good. Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t terrible and there were moments, in particular the middle parts, that I actually quite enjoyed. As someone who has been a fan of the Texas Chainsaw franchise for years, I am glad that the series has now gone in a somewhat more positive direction, giving me a film that I don’t downright hate.
A brief synopsis of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is that it takes place decades after the original, now in the 2020s, and features a group of gentrifiers coming to Harlow, Texas, where they accidentally disturb Leatherface, who has been in hiding since the original film. This then gets the attention of Sally Hardesty, the “Final Girl” from the original film who has been searching for revenge ever since escaping all those years ago.
One can’t help but notice the striking similarities between the plot of this film and the 2018 Halloween film, especially when it comes to the treatment of both franchises “Final Girls.” I will say though that I never felt that this movie tried to hide from me those similarities, which would’ve really frustrated me. I’m glad that this movie didn’t try to fool me. It’s undeniable the similarities between Laurie in the 2018 Halloween and Sally here and the movie knows it. But hey, it worked for Halloween so who’s to say it can’t work here, though to be honest, it didn’t work as well here unfortunately.
When it comes to the Texas Chainsaw franchise, I first saw the original when I was in middle school and while I liked it, I thought that the first half was pretty boring. I then rewatched it in high school and the second viewing made me love the movie so much more. I have seen the original numerous times, most recently it was a film that we looked at in my Horror film course. Looking at the original in this setting gave me even more respect and love for the movie as there are actually some surprising commentaries about class struggle if you really look at the film, past all the gore and horror.
I have seen every Texas Chainsaw movie except for the most recent movie before this, Leatherface. I pretty much hate every other movie in the franchise except for the 2003 remake, so I can pretty safely say that this recent film is either first or second best to the original in my eyes, which I mean doesn’t exactly say too much given the franchises track record.
Now, when it comes to this most recent Texas Chainsaw movie, you only need to watch the original, as this movie erases all other sequels, prequels, and reboots. However, I wouldn’t say that watching the original is required viewing if you want to just watch the 2022 film. The film does a pretty good job of explaining the events of the original concisely enough that you won’t be lost if you haven’t seen the original. As a lover of the original though, I still say you should watch it.
Leatherface returns to give us another massacre, this time portrayed by Mark Burnham. The iconic killer returns, and he unsurprisingly is able to deliver some pretty unique kills. I’ve seen hundreds of horror movies, probably thousands actually at this point, so the fact that I saw unique and inspired kills was awesome to see with a film released in 2022. The film also gives the audience an actually pretty reasonable and logical, at least in terms of the logic of this franchise, reason as to why Leatherface has disappeared and all the sudden has now started to kill again.
Sally Hardesty also returns, Laurie Strode style as I mentioned, and it’s actually a little difficult to say whether or not the actress playing Sally does a good job playing her. Sally’s original actress, Marilyn Burns, has sadly passed away, so instead she is portrayed by Olwen Fouéré. In this film, it’s been decades since Sally went through the traumatic events of the original, so she has changed greatly. Also, Sally is not the most distinctive “Final Girl,” and while she is popular for being one of the first, the character has never really had clear character traits, aside from the ending where she gives her iconic laugh/scream. Given the similarities to Laurie Strode, you can’t help but think that Fouéré was actually mostly inspired by Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that Sally is just an unnecessary character, as if she was taken out of the story, nothing really would change. I think if Marilyn Burns was with us and able to join the cast it would be a different story, but given that this can’t happen, I think it would’ve been best to just leave Sally alone.
The film is led however, by the sister duo of Melody and Lila, played by Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher respectively. As far as leads in horror films go, they are both likable and rootable, Lila in particular. The film dives a bit into the sister’s background and brings in a social commentary that I really did not expect the film to touch on, but Fisher in particular does a good job at selling it. Though I’ve thankfully never been in a situation like what is portrayed with the sister’s backstory, so I can’t totally speak on whether or not it was a positive portrayal. I do wish though that we spent more time with the backstory, as I think that the quick portrayal of it may leave a bad taste in some viewer’s mouths.
The three other major characters in the film are Jacob Latimore as Dante, Moe Dunford as Richter, and Nell Hudson as Ruth. While the actors do give serviceable performances, the hour and twenty-minute runtime doesn’t give room for these actors to go into much depth with their performance.
There is one scene in particular that I don’t want to spoil, but I want to give a shoutout to. It takes place on a party bus and has been shown a bit in the trailer, but I absolutely love this scene and I genuinely think it has the potential to become an iconic moment in horror. The lighting and camera views in particular are just positively amazing and I feel that the scene will be talked about for a long time to come, hopefully in as positive a fashion as I view the scene. Also, the way that social media is incorporated into this scene is just the cherry on top.
Something that really surprised me was the social commentary that the movie ended up tackling. From gun rights to school shootings to the confederate flag, these are all things that the movie tries to handle with care. While they are in the movie, they also aren’t beating you over the head with these topics, so while they make sense in the context of the movie, they never felt unnecessary to me, and they never felt like they were meant to shock you. I guess what I am saying is that they served a purpose in the movie, which is always the way you want these topics to feel.
Unfortunately, now it is time to talk about what I absolutely did not like about this movie. For starters, the beginning is really slow and boring. Thankfully it doesn’t take a ton of time to get interesting, but the first twenty minutes are definitely dull. Then you have the dreaded horror trope of characters making questionable decisions. It would be hard to have a horror movie if every character made the smartest choices, but some of these choices are particularly bone-headed and the characters making them really should know better. These decisions end up making some of the scenes that are supposed to be scary, more frustrating than anything. There are some events that happen in the last portion of the film that I think the film should not have done, but since I won’t be getting into spoilers, I can’t say it here, though I am sure you will know what I am talking about when you see it.
Overall, Texas Chainsaw Massacre has some good moments, but frustrating decisions especially with the story takes away from the experience and just makes me frustrated. It’s unfortunate that I can’t describe what these story decisions are so that I can’t totally give my full thoughts on why exactly they are frustrating, but I think when you watch the film, you will see exactly what I am talking about and may be able to draw these conclusions for yourselves. I’m glad to finally see the Texas Chainsaw franchise take a step in the positive direction though, so I am more excited now to see what may come of the franchise in the future and if Netflix has any other plans for the series.
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Joel Tapia is a contributing writer at All Ages of Geek. You can follow him on Twitter @tapioca621