Texas Chainsaw Massacre review – Very dumb characters, but they die with style!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre review – Very dumb characters, but they die with style!

As we have learned over the past few years of Halloween movies, canon can be a loose thing when it comes to horror franchises, and the Texas Chainsaw series is no exception. The latest entry, titled Texas Chainsaw Massacre, eliminates the sequels from canon and acts as a direct follow-up to the original, which, if we’re being super picky, can also be said about pretty much every Chainsaw sequel. Each is connected to the original film, but none seem to pay much mind to one another. This fine, because in order to be a proper Texas Chainsaw movie, only a handful of things are required:

  • Leatherface
  • Texas
  • Death by chainsaw (which, to be fair, doesn’t actually occur in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre has all three of these things in bulk, but despite some commendable gore and a markedly sharp look, it doesn’t set itself apart from the rest of the bunch in any notable way, meaning that it’s a fun time even though it’s pretty shoddy by most metrics. At 81 minutes it hardly leaves enough room to invoke too passionate a response either way.

Set fifty years after the original film, in which the unfortunate Sally Hardesty and friends were attacked by Leatherface and his family of cannibalistic goons, we now find a group of young entrepreneurs entering Harlow, Texas with an eye toward renovating an abandoned strip into the next hip cultural center. Basically, some Austinites want to spread their wares deeper into the nether regions of the Lone Star State. Naturally, the locals are skeptical, but given the abandoned state of the property in question, there’s little they can do.

Oh, by the way, Leatherface and his mom(?) are amongst these locals, and after a mishap involving a lost property deed and a confederate flag, Leatherface is back in gloriously bloody action.

What follow is a series of precariously staged setpieces, populated by characters who behave in ways that are exceedingly stupid, even by slasher standards, and punctuated by some of the coolest and goriest kills in the entire franchise. So overall, it’s a mixed bag, but a good one in my book. Once you make peace with the fact that just about every character is a bit of an asshole, and that none harbor even the smallest amount of common sense, it becomes easier to avoid getting hung up on the meathook of banana-pants plotting and just enjoy the bloodshed. But if you stop and think about any single action taken by any single character at any point during the movie, it all falls apart. So don’t do that.

There’s a thematic idea woven through the film that could be interesting if the characters were more thoroughly written. The idea of rural Texas being gentrified, and the tensions inherent to such a shift leading to violence is an interesting one, as is the notion of a bunch of modern woke kids clashing with conservative Texans, but beyond the acknowledgement of a culture clash, not much is accomplished to this end. It’s not helped by the fact that the film seems unaware that most of the protagonists are a bunch of little jerks. In a lot of ways, our central group of teens reminded me of the kids from last year’s Fear Street movies in that they come across as dangerous and unhinged despite not being framed that way. In terms of setting up some human-shaped bags of blood to be ripped open by Leatherface, these odd characterizations work. In terms of caring about what happens to anyone, they don’t work at all.

Or maybe I’m just old.

There’s also some material regarding a school shooting that one of our lead characters recently survived. Beyond giving her a hesitancy around guns, and an eventual willingness to fight back, nothing is accomplished here — the concept is loosely acknowledged.

But despite the fact that the flick features multiple extremely contrived reasons for our characters to split up; beyond the fact that the “big” return of Sally Hardesty is a wet fart that carries no weight at all; despite the fact that a handful of nonsensical plot developments exist solely to serve a cool image later on, I found myself enjoying this mean little shocker quite a bit. An example of “cool imagery at the expense of logic” comes in the form of a scene which requires a character to stand up out of the sunroof of a car with self-driving capabilities, looking on helplessly in horror as the car slowly drives away from a brutal murder. It’s an awesome shot that parallels multiple images from the series at large. What is never explained is why someone with a chainsaw-wielding maniac right behind them would get into a car, activate the self-drive option, program a route, and then sit back and relax while it slowly gets on the road rather than PUNCHING THE FUCKING GAS. It would be a frustrating moment if the resulting images didn’t rock so hard. It’s a microcosm for the whole movie: dumb as hell, and also pretty kickass.

While The Texas Chain Saw Massacre will never be topped or even matched, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is exactly as good as the rest of the sequels, which is to say that it’s a solid, fun watch. Fans of the series will like it well enough, non-fans seeking a slasher will probably like it more, and film twitter will hate it. The first two groups will be correct.

Now that I think about it, if the production wasn’t trying to lean on established imagery, they could’ve just changed Leatherface’s look and called it an original slasher. Fewer people would press play in these circumstances, but those who did would be more primed to say “what a brutal little slasher” instead of “meh, it’s just another TCM sequel.”

I do understand that this had some production woes, as well as some substantial script alterations, and it shows. There are seeds of greatness here but it’s all too muddled to rise to the surface. Even so, it’s a hell of a lot of fun! It’s exactly what I needed it to be, and it delivers on every promise it makes in its marketing.

Ok, before I go, just for funsies, check out the titling conventions of this series. It’s insane:

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Suck it Fast and Furious!

Directed by David Blue Garcia

Written by Chris Thomas Devlin, Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Starring Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Jacob Latimore, Mark Burnham

Rated R, 81 minutes


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