Some horror films, with their stylish and superior creative direction, can make murderous violence cinematically tasteful. That’s not the case here.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022), Netflix’s attempt to cash-in on the slasher-horror “requel” market, has awakened the overly critical film snob in me.
The purpose of art is to make people feel. By that metric, a film that draws out my emotions like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” does would usually be considered a success. However, I highly doubt director David Blue Garcia and writer Chris Thomas Devlin intended for me to despise their work with the same passion Mark Antony had for Cleopatra.
This cinematic disaster begins 50 years after the events of the original and superior “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” from 1974. We are introduced to two young “gentrifiers,” Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore). They travel with Melody’s sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), and Dante’s girlfriend, Ruth (Nell Hudson), to an abandoned Texas town called Harlow.
The gentrifiers plan to transform the ghost town into a hipster’s paradise by auctioning off all the buildings to fellow young city-dwellers. Their plans are halted when they encounter an elderly woman named Ginny (Alice Krige) in an abandoned orphanage. How did they discover her? One of them noticed a Confederate battle flag flying from the building’s upper story and wished to remove it to not “scare off” their investors.
Did reading that give you a gut feeling that something isn’t right? Good, because this is a ridiculous angle for the story to begin with.
In the United States, Black households and other racial minorities have historically faced gentrification on massive scales in the U.S.’s urban centers. This film decides to reverse that role, with a Black man gentrifying some “poor white woman’s community.” Ginny screams and cries about “always living there,” and how the Confederate battle flag “belonged to her family” and represents her “heritage.”
While the “what if the roles were reversed” angle is tactless and stupid, the acting is worse. Every performance in this scene and throughout the whole film is uninspired, unserious and borderline satirical.
Did I expect performances on the level of Javier Bardem from “No Country for Old Men” in a cheap slasher? No. However, these performances are so hollow you feel them absorbing your soul.
After Ginny collapses from a heart attack, the villain is revealed and Leatherface comes to her aid, accompanying Ruth and the paramedics to the hospital with Ginny.
Back in Harlow, more untalented actors are bussed in to begin bidding on the buildings. Lila befriends the local mechanic named Richter (Moe Dunford), who is overly aggressive to the city dwellers. During their conversation, we get another odd reference to modern U.S. culture: Lila survived a school shooting.
Is it too much to ask that serious, real-life topics are kept away from shallow garbage like this when it clearly lacks the depth and emotional complexity needed to do them justice? This is a cheap horror flick, not “There’s Something Wrong with Kevin.”
As Ginny is taken to the hospital, she succumbs to her heart attack and dies, which sends Leatherface into a violent rage. Leatherface attacks and kills the paramedics, before cutting off Ginny’s face, donning it, then killing Ruth. At last, the titular massacre begins.
The violence in this film is over-the-top. Some horror films, with their stylish and superior creative direction, can make murderous violence cinematically tasteful. That’s not the case here. Instead, we are forced-fed 90 minutes of cheap gore porn designed to make you grimace.
While the bloodshed begins, we learn about a character from the original film, Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré). Her character arc is identical to Laurie Strode from the recent Halloween “requels.” She survived the attacks in the 1970s, and now, she wants to kill Leatherface once and for all.
This is the uninspired crap I’m talking about. The film was clearly greenlit to capture some of the success David Gordon-Green’s Halloween “requels” had, so they blatantly stole a character arc from those films. Unlike Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Hardesty is worthless and dies due to her own (or the writer’s) stupidity.
The rest of the film plays out just as you would expect, an almost carbon-copy of the Halloween “requels.” Leatherface moves through Harlow and begins to systematically murder all the city dwellers.
For whatever reason, the writers decided to critique “Gen Z” culture, or at least what they imagined it was. In one bloody scene, Leatherface boards the bus of city-dwellers. They all pull out their phones and livestream the killer, threatening to “cancel him” if he does anything. The scene plays out how you’d expect for a film with “massacre” in the title.
It feels the writers have contempt for this generation they are satirizing, but it’s such a weak argument. Their “understanding” of Gen Z probably comes from watching nothing but PragerU YouTube videos during two years of COVID-19 quarantining. Much like PragerU, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fails because it critiques a strawman that doesn’t exist.
I suspect this film was created to capitalize on the “requel” trend, and the creators, who are new to Hollywood, hope this is a stepping stone to real creative projects. I hope they get those projects so they never have to make anything like this Godforsaken film again. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” isn’t just bad. It’s a blemish on cinema, and a slap in the face to both audiences and artists.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022) is rated R and is currently streaming on Netflix.