Leatherface? More like Meh-therface!
As the horror genre enjoys a period of successful requels (reboot-sequels), there would eventually be one that would completely miss the mark and ruin the streak. The only legacy the ninth entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise will have, is being that film.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) follows a group of young entrepreneurs as they travel to rural Texas to auction off buildings in an abandoned town, to create a gentrification utopia. Whilst trying to remove an old lady from a house they claim the bank foreclosed on, she suffers a heart attack and her son, Leatherface, goes on a rampage.
It’s similar on the surface to several other horror franchises that have managed to rise from the grave lately. Except this one feels like it was written by an AI, unable to come up with anything original so it Frankensteins a movie out of other horror requels. Grizzled white-haired lady from the original film back for vengeance with a shotgun? Thanks, Halloween. Metaphor about gentrification? There definitely needs to be a credit to Candyman somewhere.
What really kills the movie is how un-scary everything is. The filmmakers don’t even resort to the bare minimum of jumpscares that you’d expect in a low-quality horror flick like this, they just seem to have forgotten they were making a horror movie.
I can’t tell you how goofy it looks seeing Leatherface doing his little chainsaw dance or charging down the street and failing to catch up to an injured five-foot teenager. Perhaps they were aping Pennywise’s antics, though flat lighting and uninspired shots definitely don’t help sell any kind of intent.
What it lacks in suspense or tension, it makes up for with oodles of gore. Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes the Saw approach of showing you everything all the time, guts and all. It’s clear they want you to have a kind of sick glee watching Leatherface dice up dozens of people, but it’s all so unoriginal it starts to resemble a meat factory more than a murder spree.
Everywhere Texas Chainsaw Massacre fails, Scream 5 succeeds. Scream managed to be hilarious and insightful about the state of modern franchises without falling so deep into its meta-analysis that it couldn’t come up with its own surprises. Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s script is cringingly anti-woke in the way that only stems from laziness or deep resentment. It asks for your investment and fear but carries all the hallmarks of a satirical farce.
The grossest part of the film is that the protagonist’s arc is realising that guns are good, actually. A strange take, given she’s the victim of a school shooting on the level of Sandy Hook. Maybe if all of Gen-Z were armed to the teeth, they wouldn’t have fallen victim to chainsaw-wielding maniacs, the screenwriter seems to be saying.
I do worry about the effect this will have on the genre as a whole going forward. Prior horror requels have shot straight for the cinema as event pictures (Halloween and Scream 5 both made a killing (sorry) at the box office), so on some level they needed to be enjoyable to their core demographic.
But as a Netflix release with a brief 81-minute runtime, Texas Chainsaw Massacre requires very little investment on the part of the viewer. There also isn’t a cadre of Texas Chainsaw fans lamenting the death of the franchise – it already died about 40 years ago. I imagine it’s going to get a lot of views and very few people are going to like it, but it’s not going to have cost them enough to be too upset about it.
It’s the kind of mediocrity and passivity that Netflix has grown to be known for, and I’d hate for it to lead us back to the dark, dark days of early 21st century horror reboots. Please don’t waste your time with this one.