REVIEW: ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is a Loves Leatherface

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre - But Why Tho

Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is near and dear to my heart. I’m a Texan and a horror fan who routinely thinks about all kinds of hell that can happen driving to my husband’s hometown in West Texas. The 2003 ultra-violent remake also stands as one of the best remakes in horror movie history. And sure, there are some duds, but everything about Leatherface and the family that kills together staying together is iconic. Whether it’s in inspiring elements in horror games like Resident Evil 7 or you know a lot of Rob Zombie’s film career, the importance of Texas Chainsaw Massacre on horror can’t be overstated.

A Netflix Original, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), is directed by Texas-based David Blue Garcia with Fede Alvarez and Kim Henkel (one of the original film’s creators) serving as producers. It’s based on a story by Alvarez and his writing partner Rodo Sayagues with a screenplay from Chris Thomas Devlin.

Opening with John Larroquette’s narration, Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a direct sequel to the 1974 classic —but in a lot of ways, it stands apart outside of bringing back the franchise’s original final girl Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré). Instead, the story centers on Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her teenage sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), and their friends Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Ruth (Nell Hudson), who head to the remote town of Harlow, Texas, to start an idealistic new business venture. But their dream soon turns into a waking nightmare when they accidentally disrupt the home of Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding sociopath whose blood-soaked legacy continues to haunt the area’s residents.

Leaning into the way true crime can become a roadside attraction, the crime that Sally survived in 1973 is everywhere. There are keychains and television shows, and it sets the stage for an awareness that builds like a legend before it’s shattered when Leatherface rears his ugly mug. What works in Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s favor is that it dances between two time periods with smart costuming and limited use of contemporary technology. This extends from the way Leatherface has become a myth and helps create a distance between the new young cast and the ghost town they enter to try and bring back to life.

This setting benefits the film’s story, which places this new group of friends in the slasher’s crosshairs while also paying homage to the original film with set replication and use of the original chainsaw. Starting with ominous and creeping, the film gets more intense, blending from the grime and surprise of 1974’s film and the ultraviolence of 2003’s remake. That said, while fans of both can find pieces to love in the kills and set designs, it’s in the thrilling transition into the third act where Texas Chainsaw Massacre shines.

Up until the third act, much of the film seems like it’s trying too hard to prove it a sequel without directly connecting it to Hooper’s work outside returning actors and treating the events of the original as historical fact. This is especially the case when Sally is introduced as a hardened badass with a grudge and a need for revenge. But she doesn’t so much. Unlike Halloween (2018), this doesn’t belong to the original final girl; instead, she just serves as connective tissue between the present and the past.

Don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic to see Fouéré as Sally (Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014), a final girl hardened by her trauma and looking to take Leatherface on instead of running away. But her screen time is so minimal that the marketing around her feels like marketing set up a false expectation, and there is so much more to understand about her character beyond the small moments we get to see.

That said, Melody and Lila are polar opposites whose sibling bickering and strengthened bond push the film forward and make the final act so intriguing. Both women hold their own on screen and are written to be anything but helpless. Starting on rocky footing, the way the two reveal their love for each other and strengthen their sisterhood helps keep the viewer engaged as Leatherface’s kills grow increasingly more intense and chaotic. There is a balance of the slow creeping horror that stalks you through a home, an unhinged chainsaw swinging across bodies indiscriminately. Ultimately it’s the balance between the tension and the chaos that keeps Texas Chainsaw Massacre entertaining. Every kill is entertaining and creative in a way that shows why we all show up for slashers.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - But Why Tho (2)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre has its issues, namely using the original more as set dressing than integral to the plot – truthfully, you can remove Sally, and you get a solid story of a new group being terrorized. In that way, this is a sequel-lite film. The connections are there, but they’re superficial at best, even if they’re cool as all hell in moments.

Additionally, not much marks the setting as Texan — especially the Confederate flag. Here, you see that racist symbol on bumpers or hats, but flags, even in the extremely racist West Texas, are not nearly as prominent or proudly displayed as the parts of the deep South. A “Don’t Tread on Me” or “Come and Take It” flag have come to mean the same thing racist “heritage” and is more prevalent in the state. Outside of an Alamo-shaped building and many references to Austin, the physical location feels more like “insert small-town South here” and less “small rural town in Texas.

That said, this love letter to a horror cornerstone has a lot to love. For a film with 50 years of history and a lot of reboots, remakes, prequel fatigue, Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a lot stacked against it. For the most part, it does a great job of standing apart from the crowded franchise while still holding onto the grimey magic that makes it a horror favorite. Ultimately, this is Leatherface’s movie. It’s his story to move where he wants to, it’s his to kill, and for some, that alone will have them excited.

With a finale that will make you go “Oh shit,” Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an excellent film for slasher fans, a weird film for fans of the original, and a split difference for those who just love the giant chaotic chainsaw swinging energy that Leatherface brings.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is streaming now exclusively on Netflix.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre
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TL;DR

With a finale that will make you go “Oh shit,” Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great film for slasher fans, a weird film for fans of the original, and a split difference for those who just love the giant chaotic chainsaw swinging energy that Leatherface brings.