Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
Pollyanna Roberts finds only a modicum of fun in Netflix’s direct sequel to Hooper’s canonical slasher and an overabundance of superficiality and missteps.
As an avid horror fan and an aficionado of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I was simultaneously excited and sceptical for Netflix’s 2022 direct sequel, set fifty years after the events of the original.
It seems that film production companies these days take the phrase ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ a little too religiously, with another Scream released earlier this year and the 12th instalment of the Halloween franchise released in October 2021. The originals are classics for a reason, which sadly means that no sequel or remake is ever going to compare. Regretfully, only the same can be said for Netflix’s most recent attempt at reviving a classic.
Set in the rural Texan ghost town of Harlow, the film follows a group of Millennial influencer-entrepreneurs attempting to rebuild and market the town as a hot, new travel destination. With a bus of potential investors enroute, the group – consisting of two sisters, Melody and Lila (Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher), and a couple, Dante and Ruth (Jacob Latimore and Nell Hudson) – only has limited time to prepare.
I understand that if I wanted sincere character development and an actual storyline a Netflix slasher is an odd place to look
What they fail to notice during their prep-work, however, is the veritable demon lurking in the town’s shadows. After the sudden death of his beloved maternal figure, Ginny (Alice Krige) – the owner of Harlow’s orphanage – caused by the young group, Leatherface (Mark Burnham) embarks on yet another bloody killing spree.
Arguably the best scene in the film occurs within the first thirty minutes – setting a high precedent that the rest of the runtime fails to ever top. With Ginny dying in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and Leatherface livid, it’s the poor, selfless Ruth who had volunteered to accompany Ginny, Leatherface and the paramedics, who is going to pay.
From start to finish, the sequence induces a fit of paranoic anxiety, ingeniously using the vehicle’s wing mirror as our sole means of keeping an eye on our relapsed viscera addict: as long as he’s visible, we’re safe. The painstaking ten minutes that followed, too, proved hopeful for the overall film.
As we witness Leatherface slicing his deceased mother figure’s face off and placing it on his own, living up to his iconic name, we’re suddenly ready for the film to really get going. Now our killer had his motive, his prey, and, most importantly, his new mask. Yet the ensuing blood bath unfurls as a kind of fever dream and all sense of story and genuinely interesting character development is smothered under the mass of warm bodies that Leatherface proceeds to pile.
The scene during which Leatherface carves his way through the newly arrived bus of influencers and investors, while making a profound comment on modern society’s propensity to Snapchat/live Tweet first and run-for-its-life second, is nothing more than an accumulation of screams, amputated limbs and a massive chainsaw. I understand that if I wanted sincere character development and an actual storyline a Netflix slasher is an odd place to look but I was at least hoping for a character that I could actually root for.
… what was the point of bringing her back? It’s a huge moment that only really serves to frustrate
I was incredibly surprised and intrigued to learn that the original film’s final girl, Sally Hardesty (played this time by Olwen Fouéré), would be making an appearance. However, the hopes that did rise quickly fell. She survived such hardship in the 1974 film – those final few moments of the original film, of her finally escaping Leatherface, still haunt me – and here she is, in 2022, with a killer who doesn’t even recognise her and who almost immediately overpowers her.
Though, yes, Leatherface kills her here fifty years later than originally intended, he still succeeds: what was the point of bringing her back? It’s a huge moment that only really serves to frustrate. Thinking back to that original story of petrified survival, I’m now left with a distinctly sour taste in my mouth. Thanks Netflix.
If you’re looking for a bit of fun for a night in, then this film does deliver. But, if you’re an actual horror fan and a lover of the original, try not to get your hopes up. While it does pay homage to parts of the original – the layout of the orphanage mirror’s the layout of the original house, for example – this film is a hack job of the proportions only achievable at the hands of that bloody butcher, Leatherface, himself. If you want my advice, stick to the original with its sense of nostalgia and an eeriness that doesn’t solely rely on blood, guts and gore.