TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE REVIEW: IT IS TIME FOR LEATHERFACE TO HANG UP THE CHAINSAW FOR GOOD

You wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing there was a new installment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. In fact, many probably don’t even know that the franchise is still alive. The last film released was 2017’s Leatherface and this film only continues the confusing timeline that has plagued this series for decades. Tobe Hooper’s original has become a cultural phenomenon changing the game on not only what horror can be, but also independent films. There are many who are protective over the franchise (for better or worse) and there are those that just go along for the ride. Unfortunately, the latest installment barely makes an argument for either group. After a couple years of development hell, a director change, and dumping the film to Netflix Texas Chainsaw Massacre finally sees the light of day when it should have been left in the dark.

Horror fans are already taking on the term “requel” that was coined in this year’s Scream. A meta joke on not being a full reboot but instead a sequel that “reboots” the franchise to a new generation while still honoring the past with legacy themes and characters. There is no doubt that this is what Fede Alverez (Don’t Breathe) had in mind when he signed on as an executive producer for the film. A direct sequel to the original? Check. New cast full of generation z? Check. Obligatory legacy character? Check. How does it all go so wrong? Well, when your film is so busy focusing on the fact that there is a new movie it often misses the question of “does this even need to exist.”

Out with the old and in with the new is the name of the game when the film opens up. We have entrepreneurs Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Melody (Sarah Yarkin) who have come to the town of Harlow to gut it, sell off property to the highest bidding influencer and make it an Instagram photo op for hipsters. It is a concept that is for a moment quite comical on the state of legacy horror slashers and the notion that they continuously need revamping to stay relevant. Also, along for the ride is Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) and Melody’s younger sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) who is harboring her own trauma. Fisher was a breakout star with 2018’s Eighth Grade and while she carries some of that same innocence it is a role that is painfully underdeveloped even when saddled with a backstory that makes sense in context but feels shoved in to stay up to date with horrific current events. These new characters are full of generation z tropes that play like something you’d see on Fox News to get adults all worked up about how the “youth is destroying America.” This would work as satire if only the writing was smart enough to understand what it has on its hands.

Eventually we all know this group will find its way in front of Leatherface and his dancing chainsaw moves. By the time this does happen (and it isn’t even that deep into an already short film) there is very little to hold onto, should we be happy these obnoxious live streamers will get gutted? Do we applaud when Leatherface brutally murders many people in somewhat creative ways? And worst of all how did they manage to reintroduce famous survivor Sally (Olwen Fouere) and still have no real stakes in the matter. It can be boring to always compare new installments to the original, but something must be said about the depraved nature of the 1974 original film and how it didn’t need bloodshed to have us disturbed. While the kills may be extreme this time around it never feels frightening. Instead, its parade of killings just comes off as gratuitous even for a horror film. Slasher films may not need in depth reasons for killing, but there has to be elements of tension to fill in the gaps. Leatherface may have found a way to make yet another return, but this time around he should just hang up the chainsaw and give himself and all of us a break.

D-

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is currently on Netflix

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