Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is widely (and rightfully) considered one of the finest and most effective Horror films ever made. David Blue Garcia’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” will never reach those accolade heights.
This past January’s “Scream” coined the timely phrase “requel”, (a movie which revisits the subject matter of an earlier film but is not a remake or a linear continuation of its plot). Garcia’s current Netflix film joins the ranks of David Gordon Green’s 2018 “Halloween” and this year’s aforementioned “Scream” by crafting a film that is a sequel to the original while (not so) secretly existing as a remake of sorts, erasing previous sequels and hoping to restart a franchise.
From a story by Rodo Sayagues and Fede Alvarez, Chris Thomas Devlin’s screenplay does indeed breathe an ever-so-small bit of life into a franchise. Excusing the excellent Tobe Hooper-directed second film and the interesting and exciting third entry “Leatherface” from director Jeff Burr, the “Texas Chainsaw” series has been long muddied due to massively ridiculous sequels and a so-so remake and its own inferior origin story second film.
Opening with a new narration from John Larroquette (who narrates the opening of Hooper’s original), “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” pits a long hidden Leatherface against a group of millennials.
A group of twentysomethings have come to Harlow, Texas. They have purchased a ghost town (yeah, right), wishing to turn it into a millennial paradise.
Chef Dante (Jacob Latimore) and business partner Melody (Sarah Yarkin) oversee this ridiculous idea. Along for this adventure in futility is Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson), and Melody’s introverted sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), the traumatized survivor of a school shooting.
Ignorng the legend of Leatherface that was laid out by Tobe Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel in the original film, this latest film finds the character (Mark Burnham) 50 years later, living as an orphan with a woman (a wasted Alice Krige) who has cared for him all these years.
The charcater of Leatherface, one of the genre’s most beloved and feared villains, is botched here. His presence is no longer frightening and he lumbers along dragging his chainsaw with no substance. One of the most frightening characters in Horror film history is redered to being just another killer.
The plot becomes unnecessarily overstuffed, as Dante and Melody get into a turf war over Krige’s house, a former orphanage. Then there is the handyman (Moe Dunford) who babbles about his being a Texan and is either friend or foe to these young people and their delusional plans for the town. Add to this a party bus full of annoying investors (all too young to be such a thing) and two cops who seem to be always everywhere, and the script becomes a mess of ridiculous ideas.
As Krige’s character is thrown out of her house, this causes her to panic and die. Leatherface has been her caretaker for years and now he watches her die. So begins his latest rampage and so begins the reason most people are watching.
The film is not without a few genre charms. It is always welcome to see practical gore effects in modern Horror films and this film offers plenty. The best being the moment where Leatherface chainsaws his way through the bus of dopey partiers. It has been sometime since a genre filmmaker so gleefully splattered blood and body parts across screens and (for a genre film such as this) it is a gory delight.
Sadly, that is one the only exciting moment that exists in Garcia’s film.
Sally Hardesty (the “final girl” of the original film, returns. Now played by Olwen Fouéré (actress Marilyn Burns died in 2014), we find the character a retired sheriff now hunting (as she has all her life) for Leatherface, the monster who killed her three friends and brother.
Blatantly stealing from 2018’s “Halloween”, Sally is now a tortured badass survivalist who cannot wait to kill her attacker from all those years ago. She has her shotgun (as did 2018’s Laurie Strode in “Halloween”) and even has the long grey hair that Jamie Lee Curtis wore in her film.
It is shameful how the filmmakers tried so hard to copy Laurie Strode’s character and arc from David Gordon Green’s film, one of many examples of this film’s lack of originality.
The character is badly written and performed and holds absolutely no weight. It is not a spoiler to reveal that Sally and Leatherface do have their confrontation. Sadly, the moment is ridiculous and falls into complete goofiness.
The screenplay throws in many unneeded modern issues that don’t belong in a film called “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Gun laws, the Confederate flag, and gentrification are all brought up, but the filmmakers have nothing to say about it all, rendering their feeble attempts at social commentary completely laughable.
Apart from the gore effects and a couple of inventive kill scenes, Garcia’s film has no real energy.
Ricardo Diaz’s cinematography fails to dazzle while Colin Stetson’s score is unmemorable, and the acting goes from bad to atrocious. With each character’s actions and bad dialogue, the audience roots for Leatherface more and more.
This misguided effort is not the worst film in the series (that scarlet letter belongs to 2013’s incredibly horrible “Texas Chainsaw”), but it is not a good film.
Garcia and his screenwriters fail at almost everything (even in their rip-offs) and the film gets increasingly stupid minute by minute.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is not effective, nor is it suspenseful or scary or inventive.
What it is, is completely forgettable.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Written by Chris Thomas Devlin
Directed by David Blue Garcia
Starring Sara Larkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham
R, 81 Minutes, Netflix/Legendary Entertainment/Bad Hombre