Nearing the 50th anniversary of the initial Texas Massacre in 1973, a group of idealistic youngsters head to the long-abandoned town of Harlow, Texas. Their plan is to auction off this town’s properties in the hopes of bringing new life to it. Things go awry when the gang encounters an elderly woman named Ginny (Alice Krige) still living in the town (unbeknownst to them) with her adopted son (Mark Burnham), who likes to lurk at the top of staircases and stare menacingly at any unlucky souls pushing their gentrification agendas.
Ginny quickly learns that maintaining ownership of her house will have to wait, when her priorities are overcome by a sudden and severe heart attack. Two local police, present due to the property dispute, throw Ginny in the back of their truck and peel off for the hospital, accompanied by one of the young’un’s named Ruth (Nell Hudson) and the aforementioned lurking lad, who maintains his general lurky-ness. Things go even more awry when Ginny croaks. In a rage, Lurking Lad kills the two cops and subsequently causes Ruth to scream and the truck to crash into a loitering piece of farming machinery.
When she wakes up, Ruth sees Lurking Lad leaning over his freshly-deceased mother, making comparatively fresher cuts around her face, since she obviously won’t be needing it any more. He then dons the slab of face, and despite my newfound fondness of the name ‘Lecter-face,’ is revealed as the very same Leatherface we saw in the first film.
The 2022 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows in the footsteps of many other recent horror flicks by confusingly having the same name as the original film in its franchise. Similarly, the film doesn’t follow the continuity of the many previous sequels and prequels for the franchise, but serves rather as its own direct sequel to the original. This is great news for anyone who, like me, has only seen the original film.
Featured alongside those characters I’ve already mentioned is Sally Hardesty, the only survivor of the original film and one of the most iconic ‘final girls’ in horror movie history. The difference here is that Sally is portrayed by Owlen Fouéré, as opposed to original actress Marilyn Burns, who passed away in 2014. Although it’s… interesting to see Sally back in action, I can’t help but feel that her reappearance is unnecessary. I thought Fouéré did a decent job with the character, considering what she was given, but ultimately the writers give her no good reason to show up in the first place.
Before watching this, I had never before considered the place horror movies have in telling important stories about house-ownership morality and gentrification in general. Let’s just say there’s a reason for that. But oh, it doesn’t stop there with the half-assed social commentary. The film proves itself aware of issues like gun violence, racism, and cancel culture, but that’s ultimately the extent of its dealings with them; it acknowledges them but forgets to bring anything actually worthwhile to the table.
One scene in particular has Leatherface staring down a group of people in a bus as they livestream him on their phones and warn him he’ll be ‘canceled’ if he tries anything. Wh… why? Why did we need this? It doesn’t even jive with the rest of the film’s tone — what is this random joke doing in the middle of an otherwise serious slasher film?
Something else we see briefly but is never fully explained is in relation to the actual Leatherface character. When his adoptive mother suffers from a heart attack, we see a glimpse of humanity in Leatherface, as he is genuinely concerned for her wellbeing. Now… if you’ve seen the first film, you’ll know that Leatherface killed those poor teens because his family was a bunch of happy ol’ cannibals, and intended to eat them. Here, the death of Ginny is used to merely justify Leatherface’s inevitable killing spree, as if a cannibalistic psychopath needed further justification in the first place.
If you think a character choice like that sounds ignorant to the original film, wait ’til you hear about the HORROR aspects of this horror film. Here’s the thing: 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre was (and still is) iconic because of its low budget and its nuance. The word ‘nuance’ may sound out of place when discussing a slasher movie, but the original film actually showed very little in the way of gore and violence. It was terrifying because it allowed audience members to fill in the blanks themselves… after all, what’s more terrifying than your own imagination? The sequel ignores ALL of this. The kills are laughably over-the-top and more silly than scary, and it consequently seems like nobody making this movie actually knows what made the original so effective.
“But Jeremy,” I hear you asking , “is there ANYTHING you liked about this movie?”
Yes. There’s a reference to The Shining at one point.
That’s about it. In one scene, Leatherface smashes a wall with a sledgehammer. The way the camera abruptly follows the swings very closely resembles the scene in The Shining with Jack Torrence swinging an axe at a bathroom door. That was nice. I liked that.
So what did we learn here today? Well… if you’re looking for a good old horror film to decompress a bit, don’t go for this one. Watch the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre… or The Shining… or really almost anything else.
Overall rating: 2/10