Directed by David Blue Garcia, and starring Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Alice Krige, and Olwen Fouéré, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the latest horror movie to be added to Netflix. The film – a sequel to 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – is available to view from today, and sees Leatherface transported to the streaming service for another round of killing.
In the movie, it has been 50 years since a mysterious masked killer attacked and brutally murdered a group of teenagers in Texas. However, to this day, the killer, dubbed ‘Leatherface’, has never been caught.
But the whereabout of this long-lost murderer doesn’t seem to bother a group of four young adults, who travel to the dusty and largely forgotten town of Harlow, Texas, to take ownership of a former orphanage. The group have been buying up properties to refurbish and gentrify rundown areas, and the orphanage is their latest acquisition.
However, when they arrive in town, the group discover the property is still being inhabited by an elderly woman. She claims the orphanage is still in her name, due to a mix-up with the bank, but they are adamant she is wrong and needs to move out.
The police arrive to forcefully evict the woman, as well as her adopted son who has been living in the building under her care. But as the pair are removed and transported away from the property, the woman experiences a medical emergency, and she dies while in police care.
Watching the events unfold in the back of the police van is her son, who reacts violently to her death. But as the police soon discover, this is no ordinary man, and is instead Leatherface – the cannibal killer who disappeared five decades ago and who is now extremely distraught and pissed off.
With Leatherface back to his murderous ways, the town of Harlow is in grave danger. That is unless the residents can find an unlikely ally in Sally Hardesty – the only known survivor of Leatherface’s previous rampage.
Now before I go any further, let me set out a couple of important points to note about this new ‘Texas’ movie, which will come in handy for those who are new to this franchise. Trust me, this will help if you are a little concerned about catching up on all of the previous entries before firing up this latest one.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the ninth entry in the ongoing horror series; however, if you have not watched any of the eight previous movies, don’t worry, they are not all required viewing. With the exception of 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, none of the other films in the series are important to the events of this movie.
Films two through eight, which are either sequels, prequels, or reboots, are all jettisoned. All you need worry about is the original movie and this new one – and even then, you really don’t have to worry too much about the original film to understand this latest offering.
Similar to the Halloween films, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series has a long and complicated movie timeline that is confusing to newcomers. As such, this film has taken the wise decision to abandon almost all of what has come before, in favour of creating a new jumping on point.
And in taking further inspiration from the Halloween series (more specifically 2018’s Halloween), Texas Chainsaw Massacre brings back a former survivor to help tackle the movie’s chief villain. Sally Hardesty is dusted off for a comeback, to add a ‘sort-of’ connection to the original film.
I say ‘sort of’, because while the character is back, it is a new actress taking on the role. Marilyn Burns played the ‘final girl’ in the ’74 movie, while Olwen Fouéré plays the part for this film, due to Burns sadly passing away in 2014.
So, that’s what you need to know ahead of watching this movie; now all that’s left for me to do is to tell you if Texas Chainsaw Massacre is any good. That takes a little longer to explain, but in a condensed version: Texas Chainsaw Massacre tries, and has some good ideas, but it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
The reason Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes up short is because the movie never quite knows what it wants to achieve. It throws a lot of ideas at the screen, some of which could have helped make this film a much stronger piece, but none of the ideas are fully developed.
During its short running time – which is less than 90 minutes – Texas Chainsaw Massacre touches upon gentrification, racism, high school shootings, and cancel culture. The film features a scene centred around the Confederate flag, it spends some time highlighting the problems with ‘well intentioned’ capitalism, and it looks at survivalist trauma.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre also throws in plenty of blood and gore, a few nods to the past, and that all-important return of Sally. Although, like most things in this movie, Sally’s return proves to be a damp squib, with the film never fully utilising her character.
Those hoping for an epic showdown between Sally and Leatherface will be very disappointed. Sally gets very limited screentime, making her return somewhat pointless and anticlimactic.
And again, as with Sally’s return, there is very limited screentime for most of the other ideas that are mentioned above. Important topics are brought to the surface all too briefly, and then abandoned in favour of something else when the film realises it doesn’t really want to go into any depth with the material.
It feels very much as if the movie has been written around a checklist of hot topics, which have been ripped from the headlines and rammed into the narrative. Rather than take one talking point, and use that as the focus of the film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre peppers the whole thing with conversation starters that are surface level at best.
The only concept the film does manage to sell well is the theme of gentrification, and the idea that affluent people encroaching on small, largely forgotten towns is deeply problematic. Thematically, this links back to the original movie, and in terms of the script, this is where Texas Chainsaw Massacre is at its strongest.
In essence, the film makes it clear that Leatherface’s motivation for killing (again), comes from the idea that his now peaceful existence has been threatened by outsiders. This is something which is allowed to play out in full, and because of this, it is the one idea that works really well in this film.
But if you are sitting down to watch a movie called Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then it is possible that you are not too bothered about deep discussions, and instead just want to see plenty of gore. Well, Texas Chainsaw Massacre certainly has that.
It is fair to say that Texas Chainsaw Massacre does exactly what it says in the title. It presents a massacre, in Texas, which involves a chainsaw – pretty much on the nose really.
For the blood-thirsty audiences out there (you know who you are), the film serves up a great deal of splatter, some decapitations, and a memorable murder-spree on a bus. In a frenzied attack, Leatherface slaughters countless people in quick succession, and for those who love that sort of thing, the film caters accordingly.
I can’t fault the gore on display, or nitpick its approach to the macabre. Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t hold back and the end result is a beautiful bloodbath.
Ok, that might sound strange to non-horror fans, but this film looks really good and knows how to sell horrific scenes. Texas Chainsaw Massacre has some great shots, some of which will become iconic in the fullness of time, and this should be praised.
It is clear this film doesn’t have a huge budget, but it makes the most of what money is available, to bring some strong imagery to the screen. Even if the story falls short, the visuals don’t and some scenes are gloriously creepy and deliciously dark.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre certainly has its moments, and is serviceable enough – I expect some audiences will like it, and in time it will become a favourite amongst some fans. But it doesn’t reach the heights it is aiming for and it never zings as much as it should.
It is evident this film has been put together by a director trying to elevate the material, it’s just a shame the script isn’t a little deeper in places. To be fair, the original was hardly the work of Shakespeare, but almost 50 years on, this film should be a little stronger in the narrative department.
But like Leatherface on a killing spree, Texas Chainsaw Massacre gets in, causes a lot of horror and chaos, and gets out pretty quickly, ensuring an adequate number of scares without wearing out its welcome. I highly doubt this film will kick-start a long-running series of sequels, so I expect we will get another reboot or quasi-sequel to the original in a few years’ time, but for now it gets a pass, even if it is somewhat flawed.