Like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series as a whole, the production of 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre went through some bumps. Thankfully, those bumps didn’t take anything away from the overall product or terror that it provides. It’s a huge undertaking to make a sequel to the seminal Tobe Hooper classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but the creative team behind this film, led by David Blue Garcia in his major studio directorial debut, absolutely smash this one.
In this current era of horror highlighted by Scream and Halloween (2018), the requel/legacy sequel is in vogue. Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows the blueprint set forth by those films and others in the genre. They take a new cast, mix them with some old characters, and create something that resembles a reboot but ends up being a sequel. It’s an excellent way to get new audiences invested in characters they usually wouldn’t care about and bring back older characters to fill out the narrative.
That’s really where Texas Chainsaw Massacre and those films have in common, though. While Michael Myers is brutal and violent in Halloween/Halloween Kills, Leatherface ratchets up the brutality and destruction. Think more along the lines of Evil Dead (2013), and you’ll get a better picture of the feel of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Brutality, Shocking Violence, And A Great Cast
Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows Melody, played by Sarah Yarkin, Lila, played by Elsie Fisher, Dante, played by Jacob Latimore, and Ruth, played by Nell Hudson. The premise is that they’re influencers that want a better future, so they’re building a utopia-type town in the middle of Texas. They buy this old town but don’t realize that some residents still won’t leave. One is an older woman who used to run an orphanage, played by Alice Krige. It turns out she also houses the person formerly known as Leatherface, played excellently by Mark Burnham. In addition to them, the cast includes Moe Dunford as Richter, the Texan mechanic, and handyman, who turns some stereotypes on their head. William Hope and Jolyon Coy play the Sheriff and Deputy of the town.
Sadly, Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014, so she couldn’t reprise her role as Sally in this film. Olwen Fouéré steps in and absolutely kills it as Sally in this film. She doesn’t show up until a bit into the film, but her scenes are among the film’s best bits. Mark Burnham as Leatherface provides not only a hulking body, but his expressions and body language give more to Leatherface than we’ve seen before. He’s a horrific murderer, but the backstory they provide here, even a small one, is filled with tragedy and loss. The twist of the film and the absolute screwup that the main characters make in buying the town is a great setup for why Leatherface is back.
Clutch Those Pearls Everyone
Lila’s backstory is controversial. The film juxtaposes real-life violence with the violence perpetrated by Leatherface. in one scene in particular, Lila has a flashback to a school shooting that she lived through. It’s part of the wound of her character. This choice by the filmmakers and creative team is going to be controversial. However, it’s important to remember that violence is all around us. Horror movies are born from violence committed in real life. It paints Lila as a survivor, not helpless, but one that’s broken from her experiences.
People will latch on to this, taking advantage of survivors of violence, but it’s more than that. Horror movies are supposed to be an escape from the real world, but sometimes they can make great commentary on the violence that surrounds us. Texas Chainsaw Massacre does just that.
Melody and Lila’s relationship as sisters is complicated. That relationship is the center of the story here. Lila gets brought along because Melody feels like she needs to be overprotective and overbearing with her. Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher have some great chemistry, and their performances elevate the film. In particular, the film’s third act centers on their escape from Leatherface and how they deal with the cracks in their relationship.
Shellshocked, Beautiful Visuals, A Ballet Of Blood
David Blue Garcia and his cinematic team here combined the beauty and decrepit look of rural Texas. Like the first film, those crumbling landscapes are juxtaposed with the sight of Leatherface and his trademark chainsaw. This film continues with bright neons highlighting the muted browns, blacks, and greys of the town’s color palate. It’s a visual feast, and particularly the film’s most significant scene, involving Leatherface and a group of young people on a bus, is a fountain of blood. That scene is the real showcase for this new version of Leatherface. It’s stunningly brutal, and when it’s over, you might need a break.
This film doesn’t shy away from showing every bone-crunching, every chainsaw wound, and anything else that’s certain to shock and awe. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an utterly satisfying film that gives the series a shot in the arm that’s needed in today’s horror market. It connects well to the first film but doesn’t shatter any of the mystique or aura that Hooper’s TCM has. David Blue Garcia and Fede Alvarez take something that could have been an utter mess of a movie and give horror fans exactly what they need. Leatherface has never looked this good, and it matches the fright and terror that we got all the way back in 1974.
Leatherface And Texas Chainsaw Massacre Are In Good Hands
Fede Alvarez, Chris Thomas Devlin, and Rodo Sayagues gave Texas Chainsaw Massacre a story that just works. It’s not frilly and doesn’t lean into the reasons why Leatherface is doing what he’s doing. Something snaps in his head because of a tragic accident, and he’s back to a murderous monster. That word, monster, fits Leatherface in this film incredibly well. He’s no longer human, he’s stalking victims like an apex predator mixed with Frankenstein’s monster. The two leads of the film provide a necessary edge to the narrative, and the return of Sally Hardesty’s character makes this an excellent TCM sequel.
The ending is shocking and provides something for a sequel. That might be the worst part of Texas Chainsaw Masssacre for me. Both our leading ladies get some closure and a bit of change to their characters through the experiences of dealing with Leatherface, but it cheapens the blow with the ending. Some of the characters surrounding our leads are a bit one-dimensional, but with others like “the good guy with a gun” like Richter, it blows expectations out of the water.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not f*ck around, and that connects it the best to Tobe Hooper’s original after this long. Both films are shocking and unsettling. This film is unsettling with more violence than the original, but we live in a violent and unsettling world. For those reasons and more, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a triumph of horror.
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