Directed by the late Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a revelation in many respects for the horror genre. As a matter of fact, in this year alone, I’ve reviewed half a dozen films I could draw a direct parallel to something, somewhere in the 1974 film.
It isn’t a film I always enjoyed, although I always respected it. In-anticipation of our current topic-of-discussion, I decided to revisit the original film. I consider myself an enthusiast of the genre (I’d have to, given the sheer amount of time I’ve spent on it), but it wasn’t until a viewing this year I truly felt like I had a real appreciation for the slimy aesthetic and greasy, squirmy visuals the film offered.
Thereafter, the series has had an interesting trajectory, to say the least.
I will likely write about the series at-length later on, but, for now, I will simply say the series had been far from consistent. Hooper‘s peculiar decision (which I know some of you enjoyed) to lean towards black-comedy with the 80s sequel set the stage for a more campy Leatherface til the turn of the millennium, which saw a remake series attempt to ‘right the ship,’ so to speak.
Personally, although it has been awhile since I’ve revisited them, I didn’t mind the 2003 film or The Beginning, which I found offered, if nothing else, enjoyable slasher film entertainment. Thereafter, we had Texas Chainsaw 3D, arguably a series worst, that makes me cringe every time I think of some of its choice dialogue.
The last film released was the 2017 film Leatherface, a film that was released with a whimper. It’s heartbreaking, really, when you consider that the film was directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, whose prior directorial efforts made them feel like ideal candidates for a Texas Chainsaw film.
Like Leatherface, the series’ latest film Texas Chainsaw Massacre (… yes. We have “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, the 2003 remake “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and now “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) chose to forego a theatrical run. Only difference is, the reason is a little less sad to think about. Leatherface was more-or-less dropped and forgotten a moment after, whereas Texas Chainsaw Massacre had some marketing and general oomph behind it.
Hot off the heels of the successful Halloween and Scream relaunches, it is easy to understand why Netflix would procure streaming rights to Old Man Leathy’s latest adventure. The genre is at an upswing, and, as a long time fan, I can’t say I am at all opposed, even if I would prefer more original boogeyman be shown as well.
Directed by David Blue Garcia, with a screenplay written by Chris Thomas Devlin off an original story by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an attempt to capitalize off the success of the 2018 Halloween reboot.
I hesitated as I wrote the previous paragraph, if only because I originally wrote it was an ‘earnest attempt,’ and I realized that doesn’t reflect what I actually think about it, per se. I have read a lot of the reviews that have since been published about the film and I find myself on neither side of the extreme, but I have no misguided notion that this film is anything more than an average slasher film.
The characters are cookie-cutter, at best, a fact that isn’t at all a death sentence for this type of film. For instance, I had a lot of fun with the Friday the 13th remake and I could barely tell you the least about any of their characters (Sam from Supernatural is looking for his kidnapped sister, and that’s really all I have). This one, on the other hand, tries to shoehorn some things, none of which are outright damning to the film, but are, at worst, undercooked, and, at best, weird.
In short, the film sees a coupe entrepreneurs, who’ve bought out an abandoned town and want to auction off the properties and make a trendy, heavily gentrified area. Among them, there’re two sisters named Lila and Melody, one of which was the survivor of a school shooting, whose trauma vaguely comes into play throughout the film (this is one of those shoehorned / weird things I mentioned). As you might expect, within the ghost town, Leatherface has lived a simple life in an abandoned orphanage, and when the ruckus starts, he feels the need to join in.
As a film, I believe Texas Chainsaw Massacre has the characteristics of a genuinely enjoyable slasher film. The moments are there, that is. The violence is blood-soaked and fun, with more than a couple moments I could single out as memorable, and the cinematography was mostly on-point as well.
Sally makes her triumphant return in the film as well. You remember Sally, right? Sally Hardesty, played by Marilyn Burns. The original final girl? Well, she isn’t it. Well, technically. It’s messy. Marilyn Burns passed away about eight years ago, so, instead, they cast Olwen Fouere as Sally.
Sally’s inclusion is where the success of Halloween and the return of Laurie Strode comes into the film. In the 2018 film, Laurie Strode has become reclusive and obsessed with Michael Myers, readying herself for his eventual escape. Something that helped the Halloween film, however, firstly, was that it got Laurie Strode to come back for the film. As capable as Olwen may be as an actress, when you saw Jamie Lee Curtis, it was easier to immerse yourself in her emotional turmoil and what she experienced / was experiencing.
Secondly, Sally’s character isn’t really Laurie Strode. They’re similar, but, at the same time, very different. Although the 2018 film Halloween disregarded all prior sequels, the audience never did. The audience remembered seeing Halloween II, and remembered Halloween H20, which helped fuel the flames on Michael Myers and Laurie Strode’s feud.
As legendary of a film as the original Chain Saw film was, seeing Sally with a shotgun, hunting Leatherface feels unearned, and, furthermore, seeing it as it was portrayed in this film makes it feel like a bargain-bin knockoff of what was done in 2018’s Halloween.
The inclusion of Sally’s character overcomplicated what should have been a simple slasher film.
The truth is, as much as some may clamor for the return of old characters, the way she felt incorporated felt undercooked, half-baked, and unnecessary. Her inclusion feels so thrown in that I feel certain she was an afterthought. Had she not been included, there would’ve been more time to flesh out the sisters’ relationship and whatever they were trying to do with Melody’s trauma.
As the bodies cool and the chainsaws quieten, 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a disaster of a film. I had fun with it, and I’d offer it a soft-recommendation to slasher fans or individuals looking for what’s written on the tin – Leatherface chasing folk around with a chainsaw. It does make mistakes and, perhaps, too, makes more than a few of them. However, by the standard the series has set, I found it a considerable improvement on both Texas Chainsaw 3D and Leatherface, and, while it can’t touch 2018’s Halloween, I actually liked it marginally better than Halloween Kills. It is an average slasher film, but, by association, helps slightly raise the curve of the series overall.