“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Movie Review (Netflix)

When two teens somehow get a loan from a bank that is foreclosing on most of a town in rural Texas, they bring their closest friends ahead of an online following to begin to build and somehow develop the area into a new living space. They accidentally upset a woman who hadn’t yet had her property claimed and, of course, her property is the orphanage she has run where the oldest living youth she’s cared for is Leatherface. When the lady then dies of… an illness, Leatherface seeks revenge and moves to defend his hometown.

Peek-a-boo!

THE GOOD: Production design, lighting, effective gore, cleanly shot sequences that don’t try to fake intensity, and Elsie Fisher performs a survivor of a school shooting with enough sensitivity to give merit to the throughline of her growing to defend herself. There’s about 25-30 solid minutes of footage that, if strung together in the right way, would make an interesting short that would have NOTHING to do with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Leatherface cares for the only woman he sees as family in the ways I feel he naturally would, and it gives him a bit of the pathos the character has that sets him apart from other slashers as he cry’s over her loss and does her make-up one last time.

THE NOT SO GOOD:

Buckle up.

Leatherface should be… at his youngest, 65 years old. That’s being very generous. I don’t care if they found a perfect duplicate of Gunnar Hansen, it doesn’t make it believable that this 40-year-old has more in common with Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers than with himself from years ago.

So did they… fix his teeth?

But wait.. what if this isn’t “Bubba/Junior“? What if this is another family member we didn’t know who’s just 20 years younger than the original. Per the movie, we would have no way of knowing. He moves with the stealth of Batman and the strength and invincibility of supernatural Michael Myers.

And post-credits, he walks back to the original house… but supposedly he’s been hiding form that place for fifty years? Why is it untouched? Which brings me to-

Sally Hardesty- played with careless gravitas by Olwen Fouéré, this character apparently decided to stay living in Texas, couldn’t remember where the original house was, searched for fifty years without finding it despite it being untouched, holds a polaroid (which, I believe, never existed, since in the original the hitchhiker burned the polaroid he took of them when they wouldn’t buy it) of her friends, and just… stops, after fifty years, because he doesn’t seem to remember her? So it’s not about stopping him, it’s about her trauma? If you were going to go this far, why not copy at least one scene where Jamie Lee Curtis showed the impact of her trauma (breaking down at dinner, sitting in her car with a gun crying, I don’t know…). She’s flayed and thrown through the air, nearly split into two pieces, like a ragdoll and nearly forgotten just as she arrives, and I’m sure the original actress would be so thrilled to see how “badass” the portrayal of her survivor was.

There is suggested tension from the start that the young “influencers” are “gentrifying” the Texas town. The idea is wealthy people move in, improve housing, attract business, and the current inhabitants are displaced(… all five of them). On paper, it’s a thoughtful idea to bring this to the forefront after the original has so much influence from similar struggles that seemed to bring the iconic family to cannibalism.

That family is not here anymore.

Rain… because the heat and desert of Texas is the point.

It seems concerning that these kids are bringing wealth to try and do something that could be threatening to local residents… but where is the money coming from? Is the bank taking advantage of idealistic youths? Gen Z is typically quick to action for social movements that call out disturbing practices like gentrification, so I can only imagine how it feels to be represented as insensitive, thoughtless, privileged (regardless of race or gender) idiots who can only use their phones and run rather than rush one man with a chainsaw so that at least one or two people survive that bus. (The special effects are impressive, and the nod to TCM 2 was a chuckle, but who cares that it’s happening when you reduce these people to cattle?) They also don’t bother to show more than six residents of the town (a man in a truck, a gas station owner, the old woman, Leatherface, and two police officers) and just add dialogue claiming the the other people who lived here were supposed to be gone by the time the new owners arrive. There is no effort, at all, to depict the bitter consequences of gentrification. It’s a plot device lazily slapped in to give the characters a backdrop in which to die.

And holy s*** the characters.

Honestly, I don’t feel like putting more work into discussing them than the writers did, so I won’t.

IN THE END: It seems to be the curse of most “Texas Chainsaw” sequels to try to be something reminiscent of another franchise rather than shaping its’ own identity, but at least there is usually a simple formula of a deranged family, chainsaw wielding muscle-man who wears peoples faces, and some form of twist that someone you thought was safe is actually part of the family. This movie avoided what staples existed and replaced them with two or three half-baked ideas that could be developed into completely unrelated movies.

The original developers of the “Evil Dead” and “Don’t Breathe” are credited for this movie’s story, and I wonder what aspect they started with, because it’s hard to believe the final product is something of which they’d be particularly proud. I believe the worst movies are those that show potential to be better and waste them. They showed me they understood Leatherface, then deliberately made him act against his nature. They displayed two separate ideas for making more thoughtful horror films, and wasted them as fodder to make blood splatter for fun. This is the worst sort of movie, thinking it can earn emotional sincerity while playing up campy elements at, in my opinion, all the wrong moments.

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