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Film Horror

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is Held Back By Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Sometimes wearing the mask of a franchise hinders your ability to slash.

As a writer, I know my strength doesn’t lie in critical pieces that give scathing looks upon stories, films, and other media that I deem bad. How can I approach Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) without bias if The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is one of my favorite films of all time? There isn’t a way for me to do that. I cannot unhinge the meat hook that Tobe Hooper lodged in my brain the first time I watched the original film, a film I saw in pieces as I flipped the channel away when I was too scared to see it as a child. As the credits rolled, I was angry. I sat watching the absolutely breathtaking end credit title cards. I said to myself that I am going to write a review trying to tear it apart but as I sit here thinking of my next idea to put on the page, I realize that this isn’t going to be what I thought it was. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) was an excellent horror movie. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) was a horrible Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie.

With the series main character being Leatherface, it is not a far reach to see that this film was wearing a mask; a mask torn from the flesh of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. But a mask is removable; underneath something you are masquerading around pretending to be, there is something else entirely. There is the mask and then there is the self. There is such a tonal difference between this film and what the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre was trying to do. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) is a film that is wearing that torn-off franchise face that is hiding a very good horror film beneath it.

For the purposes of this spoiler-filled article about the film Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022, when I am discussing the film as part of the franchise I will write it as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022. When I am separating my biases and love for the franchise to review the film upon its own merit, I will be writing the title as TCM.

TCM Review

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Mark Burnham as Leatherface. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2022 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

From the opening shots of David Blue Garcia’s TCM, audiences should be able to tell they’re going to be watching 121 minutes of some of the best-shot mainstream horror in years. Cinematographer Ricardo Diaz in unison with director David Blue Garcia create a film that so many single frames could be taken to show the specific flavor of southern fried horror films. There is a certain heat and musk to the film the entire time in the small ghost town of Harlow. The scene where we first meet the Texas Killer in the orphanage is an intimidating slasher reveal with wonderful atmosphere and lighting from Guillaume Cazabat.

The film follows a group of young adults whose primary characteristics are that of social media influencers. They say what they want and don’t care about the effects of their words. Sometimes it can come off as an anti-youth message but it is not its intended purpose. The characters are stand-ins for gentrification which is a virus that infects an area before it kills its locals by price-gouging them until they either leave for somewhere cheaper or are pushed out into the cold. At one point, a Harlow local refers to the group we meet as “Gentri-fuckers” which is a very funny turn of phrase. Gentrification is the major theme of the film that incites the violence of the film. Every act of violence in the film comes from the cruelty these teenagers show the owner of the town’s Orphanage that leads to her death. It’s a strong metaphor for the effects on locals when a group decides that they are going to overhaul a neighborhood.

From that point on, the film shows the brutality of violence that the Texas Killer can inflict. There are a number of creative kills brought down upon the influencers who descended upon the town to bid on different parts of the town like vultures tearing the remaining flesh from roadkill. If you’ve seen a neighborhood lose its culture to people looking to take advantage of them to increase housing values with a Whole Foods, you may even root for the killer. If this film is aimed towards younger audiences, it does spend a good amount of its screen time vilifying them as the force of gentrification rather than rich investors above them. That is until you see the other story thread and element of the story.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Elsie Fisher as Lila. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2022 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

Elsie Fisher’s character Lila is the survivor of a school shooting. This is where it becomes crystal clear that this is very much an American blood-soaked story. In a country that has had 92 school shootings since the year 2018, a story like this is going to land much harder for younger audiences who have to deal with the fact that at any point their place of learning can become a place of a massacre. Going to a school in a post-Columbine world, that fear was always in the back of my own mind. So seeing a survivor on screen dealing with another mass killing may be triggering for some people but cathartic for others when there is even a momentary victory. The film conflicts upon itself because the only solution it offers for the metaphor is more violence instead of another route. The film vilifies it’s protagonists as much or if not more than the actual killer in the film which muddles so much of what it is trying to say.

A major positive of the film is Colin Stetson’s score which stands on its own as a wonderful eerie album of songs that invoke fear. It goes from subtle quiet moments to loud almost industrial-sounding pieces that go along with the raw violence the film shows.

There is a lot to like in TCM from its brilliant shots, to some outstanding kills, and atmospheric southern horror but there are some conflicting ideas with its themes that leave me wondering if there was more that was cut from the film that resolved things in different ways.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) Review

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Mark Burnham as Leatherface. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2021 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 is a terrible Texas Chainsaw film. Every Texas Chainsaw film has its own unique flair and flavor which makes different ones appeal to different fans. As this film is a direct sequel, I am going to approach it from the intentions and legacy of the first film and Tobe Hooper’s own sequel. While this film does try to have something to say on its own like the original, it constantly slices off its own intentions to say anything.

In Hooper’s original film, despite what many people think, the violence that is shown is at a bare minimum until the end of the film. Instead, the film is more suggestive of the violence that occurs, quickly cutting away before most things happens so that the viewer fills in the blanks with their own mind. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 throws that entire idea through a plate glass window entirely and then stabs it to death with the broken glass. Every act of violence is visceral and in your face rather than subtle and done through the cutaway. One of the major story elements is that one of the characters is the survivor of a school shooting. While younger audiences are so accustomed to violence because of its abundance in media and the news, it could have been a chance to do as Hooper did with his film which offered a commentary on Vietnam. Where one route could have been thought-provoking to an older audience who doesn’t understand what horrors Millennials and Gen Z have had to witness since their births, the film instead goes with a “look how cool breaking bones are” and loses any weight to what it is trying to say.

While Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 is not interested in the legacy of the themes and style of the original, it sure is interested in cashing in on the idea of a requel. It takes every chance to reference the original film with a few subtle shots which I like but then it goes all out to bring back its own final girl, Sally, who was recast due to original actress Marilyn Burns death in 2014. While Olwen Fouéré’s performance is excellent, the film treats the character in such a poor fashion. There is no triumph in this film where the other requels have allowed some of the most powerful women in film to keep their agency and stay as total badasses. It’s truly disappointing how the film treats its women with one of the most infuriating endings I have seen in a horror film in some time.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Mark Burnham as Leatherface. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2021 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

Good horror and especially slashers should have some level of humor to them. The original sequel itself was more of a black comedy than it was a horror film with some truly hilarious scenes. When this film tries, it falls flat in an actual bit including poop and poking fun at cancel culture. It’s a film that doesn’t know what its own voice sounds like and doesn’t care because it’s screaming far too loud.

There is one scene where I think the film does understand one intention of the original. After the events of the first movie, Leatherface is taken in by the woman who runs the town orphanage, Mrs. Mc, who is the victim of the town’s gentrifying invaders. After Leatherface returns to the orphanage after her death, he takes one of her dresses out of the closet and sits with it and seemingly cries. Leatherface is a prime example of nature vs nurture because he was a monster created through the abuse of his family. Hooper describes him as a “big baby” who is violent in self-defence. In Mrs. Mc, he found a mother. Someone who cared for him and loved him which we see in the brief moments they have on screen. After her death, he took her face as his new mask almost as if he wanted her to be with him forever. Every act of violence takes place after her death. We see the pain he is in as he cries and puts makeup on her removed face. That doesn’t last long though because from that moment forward he becomes another hulking killer with no feeling or nuisance at all.

I went into this film wanting to like it. I wanted a film that explores Leatherface and the damage your own family can cause. But instead, I got an ultra-violent film that doesn’t know what it wants to say and swings its chainsaw at the people who may even want to like it. I hope this can be the end for Leatherface unless someone wants to actually explore the damage left in the wake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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