Directed by David Blue Garcia
After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. (IMDB)
Leatherface is back, but has he learned his lesson after 50 years?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is one of the greatest, most terrifying and influential horror films of all times. It reputation is legendary and was a bit of a rite of passage for many of us growing up in horror, when we finally got to see it. The first time I watched it was when I was working on a National Monument park in Missouri. That in itself wasn’t a major issue, but having to walk across a corn field in the dark after watching the film, was an exercise in self restraint as I convinced myself not to run through the night screaming in panic.
I also remember being in HMV just after the film was properly realeased in the UK back in 1999 and hearing two teeange boys debating whether to buy it with comments like, “let’s get this, I’ve heard it’s well gory.”
Which it isn’t, but that is just another testament to its power and legacy. The 1974 original is a classic horror that holds almost mythical status amongst fans.
And this is where, for me, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) struggles; it trades on a legendary name, but fails to live up to the hype.
We have all the right ingredients; annoying teenagers, Leatherface, Texas, creepy locals, a chainsaw, Sally Hardesty and, unlike the original, a pretty impressive actual massacre. It just sadly lacks the tension and terror of the original. It feels weird saying this, but it just isn’t subtle enough.
A group of entrepreneurs and influencers arrive in a desolate and seemingly abandoned town to sell off properties to their friends and business partners in an attempt to turn the town into some sort of social media mecca for the 21st century. Or something like that. To be fair, that’s just a comnvenient way of getting plenty of chainsaw fodder into one place. After that, all we need is a trigger to re-introduce Leatherface. When a crazy old woman squatting in one of the buildings collapses and dies after being pressured to leave, it turns out she was mothering Leatherface and he sets out for revenge.
Cue much screaming and blood-letting as Leatherface slaughters his way through a bus full of influencers before a cat and mouse chase ensues between him and a few survivors who may be allowed to live long enough to reach the end credits.
However, all is not lost and word gets out to Sally Hardesty who has been waiting 50 years for her chance at revenge. Sally has been hardened by a life of law-enforcement and searching for Leatherface and she tools up ready to hunt him down.
Get ready for an ass-kicking.
Just perhaps not the ass you hoped.
[Spoilers – highlight to reveal]
Sally comes back to town, mean and moody, shotgun in hand; Sarah Connor with a Sheriff’s Badge. She tracks Leatherface down and, like we see in many horrors, has her moment when the monster is cornered and she could, quite easily, have blown the bastard’s head clean off, 5 times over. But she doesn’t. For some reason she gets angry with Leatherface for not acknowledging who she is and she gives him enough time to stand up, turn around, make a toasted sandwich, and check the weather before walking calmly past her to go hunt teenagers again. Getting angry because someone, who has largely been mute for 50 years, won’t say hello seems a little petulant.
It just doesn’t make sense. And I know we get these moments of hesitation in many films, but this one just grated more than others; it really did feel like the film didn’t quite know what to do at that point, other than it was too early to end.
[end of spoilers]
What the film does well is the massacre part of “Chainsaw Massacre;” a lot of people die by Leatherface’s chainsaw and the blood flows freely. And that may well be the real problem for the movie; it lacks that spiritual connection to the first film. The 1974 classic (I am ignoring the sequels for the timebeing as I haven’t seen them all and not for years) is an intense exploration of terror and is one of the few films that can still unnerve after all these years. The 2022 sequel embraces its slasher origins, but puts too much faith in the name to carry it.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) works fine as a generic slasher; you’ve got young people, a crazy old woman, the mysterious locals, a creepy setting, an evolving final-girl and buckets and buckets of gore. And, of course, you have the seemingly indestuctible lunatic who just won’t stay down. What you don’t have is the same impact of the classic film. It’s a watered down version of the original and it could have been anyone in the skin mask. There is a vulnerability to Leatherface in the ’74 movie; he can be hurt. In this update, he is a very different beast, despite having to be around 70! He can withstand an awful lot of punishment, suggesting he will just keep coming back for more. It feels like he is a different character and this is another reason why the links to the original potentially damage the film, rather than benefit it. If ’22 Leatherface was actually just some mysterious lunatic, the audience might have bought into the story a little more, rather than trying to work out how old he must be while picking people up with one hand.
As a generic slasher I think it might have done better with a 6 or 7 out of 10 for a fun ride; seeing generally unsympathetic people being cut into little pieces isn’t the worst way you can spend 90 minutes. But, by putting the TCM name on the poster you generate a lot more expectation and the poorer score on IMDB is probably a reflection of this.
Ultimately, TTCM (2022) is a decent slasher with some logic issues (if you are trapped in a police van, while Leatherface stalks outside are you going to use the radio and let him know you are alive, or try to silently get the gun off the dead cop beside you?) and plenty of gore, it just doesn’t have the same impact as the original. If you ignore the links to the ’74 movie and just watch it for what it is, you can definitely have some fun, but the squandered legacy may grate for many fans.