Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) Will Not Slash Expectations
Title: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
First Non-Festival Release: February 18, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: David Blue Garcia
Writer: Chris Thomas Devlin, Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Starring: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Olwen Fouéré
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), Dante (Jacob Latimore), his fiancé Ruth (Nell Hudson), and a bus full of idealistic young people head to the ghost town of Harlow, Texas in the hopes of revitalizing it into a Gen Z/Zillennial paradise. When Melody and co arrive to the town they stumble upon Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige) still living in a home that they are sure was foreclosed and purchased by them months ago. When they confront her, she suffers a heart attack and is rushed to a hospital. They don’t realize that her death sets off the rage of the man she’s raised in her orphanage for the past 50 years: the chainsaw wielding serial killer Leatherface (Mark Burnham).
The 2022 update of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is everything you’d expect of a clumsy yet enjoyable requel.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes multiple stabs at current issues to make this entry seem fresh. Unfortunately, none of them are given the attention they need to truly matter. Between a clunky school shooting survivor backstory, not so subtle (or original) commentary on gentrification, and a general condemnation of mismatched actions concerning social politics makes this slasher feel bloated with unnecessary and ill-fitting topical statements. Furthermore, it adds more to the unintentional comedy of the film more than anything.
A perfect storm of some of the oddest choices are cobbled together to continue one of the biggest horror franchises in history. “Try anything and you are cancelled, bro.” These are, of course, the words heard around the world [Twitter] in the middle of February 2022. Of course, this is not high art, but the dialogue is reaching farther than it has any right to do so. Much can be said about how it is meant to lampoon younger generations, but this gets lost in translation, and frustrating chainsaw mayhem, against its clumsy framing narrative.
Much of what makes the original film work so well is its gritty atmosphere, raw performances, and terrifying plot development. Unfortunately, this entry lacks all of these essential qualities. The film is lush in sleek and professional cinematography, which is great but takes away from the purpose of the film. Our main cast lacks the gravitas to pull off convincing, compelling, or even likeable performances throughout their time. It doesn’t help that the characters are written as relatively flat and irritating stereotypes of young people. Don’t even think about the unnecessary throwback character who is unceremoniously discarded by the end of the film.
It is very clear that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a good film. This review will say, however, that it is indeed a fun one. The original remains a classic that stands the test of time and will forever earn its title as one of the grittiest films ever made. It's a staple of 70s horror which will make all iterations that follow feel like a letdown. It is okay to criticize the elements that do not work, which there are plenty, while in the same breath celebrating what went well. This should be the mindset for any film, but given the significant backlash this film faced, it feels necessary to include this sentiment as a reminder.
And despite this rather scathing review, I found this Texas Chainsaw Massacre quite enjoyable. Most of this justification comes in the form of how intense the filmmakers get and ultimately the delivery of a bloody brilliant chainsaw massacre. The bus scene is revered as the standout scene from the film, for better or for worse. Some will cringe at the horrendous dialogue and character choices, but others will find joy in the sheer simplicity of Leatherface going to town on some hapless young adults in a confined space. Quite possibly the only moments in this film that are worth discussing involve the various heroines trying to allude the big guy and avoid certain death. In the end, my expectations were level with what I got by the time the credits rolled.
Light on plot and heavy on gore, the latest installment is everything one can reasonably expect going into a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. While the film awkwardly wades into some present-day politics including gentrification, school shootings, and technology in general, this 2022 adaptation is focused on more visceral storytelling. While it is punctuated with plenty of tense set pieces and over-the-top fight sequences, the narrative does get bogged down with some unsatisfying reveals and a thick layer of generously applied plot armor. If you, like me, are simply interested in watching some mindless chainsaw action on a Friday night, you’ll enjoy this entry. If not, you may find that this movie does not make the cut.
Overall Score? 6/10