Review: ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is the worst kind of lazy horror sequel
More than any other genre, horror loves to jump on a bandwagon. If a fresh spin on a familiar format proves to be successful, then you can guarantee that countless thinly-veiled imitations will arrive in rapid succession.
Having already cannibalized the back catalogue by remaking virtually every notable property, we’ve got David Gordon Green’s Halloween to thank for the latest fad, which sees new movies disregard the entire back catalogue of sequels to craft a direct follow up to the original.
That leads us to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is now available to stream on Netflix, and it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that it’s an early contender to be named as the worst mainstream film of 2022, even though we haven’t even reached the end of February yet.
Original directors Ryan and Andy Tohill were fired shortly after the start of production, with David Blue Garcia drafted in as a last-minute replacement. Given that the version we ended up with is the laziest, most uninspired possible approach to reinventing an iconic property, it really makes you wonder how awful the first set of dailies must have been to necessitate a change.
For what it’s worth, the plot follows a group of fresh-faced entrepreneurs who descend on the ghost town of Harlow, Texas. They’ve purchased the entire town for reasons that aren’t explained very clearly, but they’ve got a busload of potential investors and residents on the way, which at least provides an easy method for shuttling a raft of disposable cannon fodder into a story set in a dusty backwater that only boasts a handful of residents.
Speaking of which, Moe Dunford’s Richter asks the youngsters if they’re starting a cult when he hears their reasons for pitching up in Harlow. It’s an interesting exchange, and could have made for a solid subplot, but it’s never mentioned again.
That’s endemic of Texas Chainsaw Massacre at a whole, which throws in a school shooting backstory used primarily for flashbacks that resolutely fails to act as character-building, potential insight onto the follies of social media and influencer culture, and the gentrification of small town America. Those are all decent ideas in practice to bolt onto a narrative revolving around a murderous local, but it’s all quickly discarded in favor of blood, guts, and gore.
Make no mistake; there’s plenty of that to be found in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. After a painfully slow first act, the brazen leads barge into a house still owned by Mrs. Mc, who claims she has a deed to the property. Essentially trying to force a resident out of the home they legally own, the old woman takes a heart attack and is instantly carted off to a local hospital.
As fate would have it, she’s been looking after Mark Burnham’s Leatherface for the last 40+ years, so when she fails to survive the cardiac incident, he snaps in brutal fashion. Once he gets back into the groove by peeling a man’s face off and wearing it on top of his own, it’s right back to Harlow for the overalls enthusiast, where he proceeds to rack up an impressive body count.
If you’re a fan of nothing but sheer gratuitous violence, then you’ll definitely be more forgiving when it comes to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Garcia has crafted an admirably no-holds-barred horror flick, and the kills become increasingly excessive as things progress, but everyone else is going to be left feeling spectacularly unimpressed.
Name a horror cliche, and you’ll find it in here somewhere. People stand around waiting to get murdered, people trip and fall over at the most inopportune moments, the ‘final girls’ execute a series of improbable escapes, and there’s the obligatory fake-out death or two to repeatedly hammer it home that there isn’t a shred of originality to be found.
A lot of the marketing has revolved around the return of original survivor Sally Hardesty, played by Olwen Fouéré due to the passing of Marilyn Burns in 2014. If you thought her involvement was a simple copy and paste of Jamie Lee Curtis’ recent return as Laurie Strode, then you’re right on the money.
In the grand scheme of things, Hardesty 2.0 contributes absolutely nothing to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She hears that Leatherface is back, puts on her best steely face, heads back to Harlow, and proceeds to do very little else. Bringing back legacy characters is forgivable if they serve a purpose, but it’s painfully clear that the decision to have 1974’s final girl play a part is driven by nothing more than a desperate attempt to cash in on the Halloween-inspired nostalgia.
It goes without saying that there’s nobody quite like Curtis’ Laurie to have ever run for their life in the history of horror, and Fouéré isn’t helped by having the most transparent arc among a roster of archetypes that could very generously be described as one-dimensional at best.
Incredibly, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is only 83 minutes from start to finish, and that includes the entirety of the credits, a twist right before things cut to black, as well as a post-credits stinger designed to drum up anticipation for another cash-grab sequel. The actual meat of the story is over and done with in little over an hour and ten minutes, but it feels like an eternity when everything that happens is a facsimile of situations, set pieces, and boneheaded character decisions that you’ve seen a thousand times before, and they’ve been done better on 999 of those occasions.
Unless you’re going in exclusively seeking a blood-soaked exercise in onscreen brutality, there’s barely anything worth recommending about Texas Chainsaw Massacre at all. Any possible depth and substance is abandoned as soon as the entrails begin flying, and you’ve got to feel sorry for erstwhile leads Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher, who try their hardest to elevate the material with a pair of accomplished performances, only to be let down by everything that surrounds them.
The long-running franchise has hardly been lauded as a bastion of cinematic excellence, but there’s a genuine case to be made that 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the worst entry in the series to date. On the plus side, there’s surely nowhere to go but up the next time Leatherface inevitably shows (somebody else’s) face.
Netflix's 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is the laziest kind of blood-soaked horror sequel, and a strong early contender to make the year's 'worst of' list.