Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now available to stream on Netflix

When media outlets began reporting ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ would yet again be receiving the “requel” treatment for 2022, I felt less than enthused. Admittedly, my expectations were low; given the previous poor attempts at rebooting the franchise with 2013’s ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D‘ and 2017’s prequel ‘Leatherface‘. However, with the announcement of Fede Alvarez (director of Don’t Breathe and Crawl) as the producer, David Blue Garcia (Blood Fest) as the film’s director, and the long-awaited return of fan favorite final girl Sally Hardesty (played this time by Olwen FouĂ©rĂ©), my interest peaked. I’ll admit upon my first viewing, I enjoyed 2022’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘, enough to recently warrant a second watch. Sadly, to my dismay, the chainsaw isn’t nearly as revving this second outing.   

Characters Melody, Lila, Ruth, and Dante standing together observing an object off camera. Dante's hands resting at his sides wearing a blue and white striped polo shirt in brown pants. Short curly brown-haired Melody stares up, arms crossed below her chest in a white collard-button shirt and blue jeans. Their friend Ruth observers, hands gripping at the waist. Her hair is wavy blonde. Outfit, light denim shorts with a printed black cardigan draped over a faded purple shirt. Lila stands in the back, short brown hair rests over her right eye. She stands bored, hands resting at her sides. Her outfit feeling the warmest of all under the blazing sun as she wears a denim jacket over a black graphic tee. Her pants tight and black, strutting in her dirty red converse.
Melody (Sarah Yarkin), Lila (Elsie Fisher), Dante (Jacob Latimore), and Ruth (Nell Hudson) observing a less than inviting flag off camera.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s plot centers around Melody (Sarah Yarkin) a young businesswoman from San Francisco, as she and her friends Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Ruth (Nell Hudson) meet potential investors in attempt to reinvigorate the seemingly abandoned town of Harlow, TX and draw in modern influencers. Along the way, Melody brings her younger sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) hoping she will stay in Texas after Lila’s recent traumatic experience involving a school shooting. Unbeknownst to these characters, this isn’t quite the ghost town they think it is, as a certain face-wearing maniac has made this his home these last 48 years. Shortly following the death of his motherly patron, Leatherface (Mark Burnham) resurfaces in merciless fashion to dust off the family saw and butcher more bodies.

Where it still cuts

2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the more visually pleasing entries to the franchise. Garcia’s confidence as a director shines through as he allows for his own vision, while honoring familiarity of past installments. The cinematography masterfully utilizes shadows and lighting, accompanied by meticulous camera angles adding tones of seclusion tangled in chaos. There’s one shot in particular I’m surprised I missed during my first viewing in which we see the physical manifestation of Leatherface through actor Burnhams’ eyes. It’s subtle yet framed so effectively it left me feeling harrowingly chilled.    

Image of Leatherface standing in a field wearing a human face mask. Dark browns mixed with hues of grey skies adding chilling atmosphere. Mountains are seen in the distance adding scale to Leatherface's stature.
Mark Burnham as Leatherface in one of Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s more chilling shots.

Now, this wouldn’t be a Texas Chainsaw film without the multiple bodily mutilations splattered on screen and this entry to the franchise is no exception. The kills in this film are savage, if not more creative than its’ predecessors. Writer Chris Thomas Devlin is unabashed by the violence he brings with his script as he is able to write these kills in a way, though may not all be new, feel wholly unique in their execution. For example, in a scene, Leatherface shreds through a bus of influencers in one of the films’ more memorable moments.  The deaths are further showcased by this newly found rage brought to Leatherface, adding a ravening brutality to the character we’ve not seen since the ’03 remake. Though the carnage candy Leatherface delivers is enjoyable, my headaches with Texas Chainsaw Massacre start with his character.  

Where the saw dulls…

Let me start by saying Burnham’s portrayal of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far from bad. In fact, his performance is rather good. He’s domineering whenever on screen and visually, he looks fantastic. My issue with this Leatherface lies within the writing. Burnhams’ Leatherface is not the same character the legendary late Gunnar Hanson famously brought to life in 1974. 48 years prior we are introduced to a man with a child-like mind and instinctual violence bred into him due to years of abuse and torment by his twisted family. 2022’s portrayal removes the family, putting Leatherface front and center while also altering him into a more cunning character; he’s setting traps and utilizing enclosed surroundings to his advantage. The most noticeable difference between his 74’ counterpart is the upgrade in his strength. Whereas before, injuries slowed him down bringing whimpers and cries of pain, he now absorbs this damage, baring inhuman strength. There’s no cohesion between Hanson’s Leatherface and Burnhams.

Leatherface enclosed in a bus wearing his bloody face mask. Streaks of red running down his chin, a grimy mustard yellow apron covers his chest, while he grips his rusted chainsaw in hands. The white-blue neon lights illuminating within the bus.
a bloodied Leatherface preparing to massacre a bus load of influencers.

The next frustration I had with the film’s script involved the actual characters we follow throughout the story. In order for a horror film to draw in its’ audience, especially when it comes to slashers, it’s imperative the story provides characters to emotionally invest in. Characters we want to see survive. Unfortunately, the script lacks here as I found none of the characters to be enjoyable. Adding to this annoyance, the plot continuously bounces between who the final girl will be, Melody or Lila? The problem is, I was not provided with enough of their backstories to warrant any care for their survival. Any emotional attachment I could have developed for these characters is never explored, only vague mentions. When the story briefly touches on themes of gun violence (Lila’s school shooting) and society’s most recent trend with cancel culture, it’s done so with no sustenance then sloppily contradicts itself in the 3rd act. Dante, Ruth, and the remaining others feel like cannon fodder, just as you would expect with any Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, as their screen time is brief.  

Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s biggest failure is in the way it reintroduces legacy character Sally Hardesty. Besides 1995’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation‘s brief cameo (reprised by original late actress Marilyn Burns), her character has been mainly absent from past sequels and reboots. Aiming to please fans with her return in the form of a seasoned warrior seeking vengeance Ă  la Jamie Lee Curtis’ most recent portrayal of Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween trilogy; a promising premise that’s poorly executed. Aside from owning a farm and unsuccessfully hunting Leatherface these past 48 years, Devlin adds nothing to further progress Sally’s story, nor does the character receive ample screentime. She makes certain decisions that, I’ll be frank, utterly baffles me. Most infuriating is the final battle between Sally and Leatherface. Lasting a mere few minutes, the sequence falls flat leaving fans unsatisfied. FouĂ©rĂ© attempts her best portraying a hardened Sally, though in the end the performance suffers due to the scripts deplorable handling of the character. 

Olwen Fouéré as Sally Hardesty holding a cell phone in a bloodied right hand. Her wavy white hair flows down the sides of her shoulders as a look of anger paints across her face. She appears to be standing in a makeshift barn or shed of sorts, as beams of light creep through the cracks of the wood.
Olwen Fouéré as a hardened Sally Hardesty in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Final Thoughts

Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t the worst attempt at a sequel or reboot of the franchise. The abandoned town of Harlow brings a sense of claustrophobia and the extreme use of gore brought to the kills is satisfying. Nevertheless, the writing fails to redefine the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s legacy and move the franchise forward in any bold new directions. The main and supporting characters suffer from lack of any development and Sally’s return is abysmal. When you centralize Leatherface as the main antagonist and take away his family, we are left with just another carbon copy slasher. Any mystique or personality you had previously established with that character fades; it doesn’t work as a sequel to the original. Those seeking a bloody hack and slash ride will enjoy this film for what it is. Die-hard fans on the other hand, may ultimately walk away feeling disappointed with the wasted potential to start anew. 

For more Texas Chainsaw Massacre content, check out our episode of HauntedMTL’s: Streamin’ Demons, where we discuss Tobe Hoopers’ 1974 original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre along with IT, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. You can also stream or download the episode and many others on your favorite podcast streaming service such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, and more.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)