When it comes to the Titans of horror, four names come to mind: Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Leatherface. Each has their own particular brand and style and have all amassed large legions of fans. In regard to Leatherface, he’s been terrorizing unsuspecting victims (and audiences) for the past 48 years, resulting in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of horror’s largest franchises. On Friday, fans will once again reunite with Leatherface in Netflix’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Not a remake, this is a direct sequel to the original 1974 film, but set during modern times. With the franchise having fewer hits than misses, many wondered how this film would stack up against the rest.
It goes without saying that nothing will top the original 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I know that. You know that. That said, I believe this film is a suitable sequel to the original that still captures the horror of what makes Leatherface so terrifying. The film starts off as we meet friends and business partners Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore), along with Melody’s sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) and Dante’s girlfriend, Ruth (Nell Hudson), as they travel to the remote town of Harlow, Texas in hopes of breathing new life into a long-forgotten ghost town. However, not all goes as planned after a sudden tragedy sets into motion an unstoppable killing machine hellbent on revenge.
Taking on the role of Leatherface (RIP Gunnar Hansen) is that of actor Mark Burnham, who has no problem transforming into the chainsaw-wielding maniac, both in his performance and in his physicality. As the viewer, we are seeing everything unfold through the eyes of these four friends, but with a greater focus on the experiences of Melody and her sister, Lila. Elsie Fisher, most known for her role in the coming-of-age dramedy, Eighth Grade, and Sarah Yarkin, who most will recognize from Happy Death Day 2U, could have used a bit more chemistry in making the viewer believe they were sisters. But as individual characters, they were relatable, even when it came to Lila’s underlying trauma after a school shooting. The film really rests on their shoulders and by the end, it’s hard not to feel an emotional tug at the heart.
Rounding out the rest of the main cast is Jacob Latimore and Nell Hudson. Though their screen time is limited mainly due to the overarching story with Lila and Melody, they are no less important. I’d even go as far as to say that their specific scenes are some of the most impactful moments of the film. Taking over the role of Sally, the final girl from the original film made famous by actor Marilyn Burns (who sadly passed away in 2014) is Irish actor Olwen Fouéré. As we are seeing Sally at a much later stage in her life, it wasn’t off-putting to see another actor step into the character’s shoes.
That being said, I would have liked Sally’s story to have carried more weight. We are being re-introduced to her 45 years after she experienced the OG massacre, and in bringing her back I wish we had more of a peek into her life and what she’s experienced since the massacre. Regardless of that, Fouéré did a fantastic job in bringing this version of Sally to life and presenting her with strength and resilience.
Initially, I was skeptical of how the story would integrate not only the topic of gentrification but also millennial culture without making the storyline and dialogue cringe-worthy. But for the most part, director David Blue Garcia and writers Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues succeeded. That’s not to say that certain scenes didn’t capitalize on the millennial tropes of social media and a laissez-faire mindset, but for the most part, it deviated from those focal points by giving audiences/fans what they wanted: carnage and gore.
One can’t review a Texas Chainsaw movie without discussing the kills. And boy oh boy were those kills sweeter than a cold ice tea during a summer BBQ. Every kill is elaborately done and a feast for the eyes, if you can stomach some truly gory moments. But the most devastating blow is at the beginning. In the stillness of a wheat field surrounded by quiet. It’s brutal because it feels so real. Not once does the film cut away from the cruelty, instead, it forces the viewer to watch as their life is extinguished. There is a lot of other kills that will gain far more attention for pushing the limits of gore, but for me, that first death really sets in motion what’s to come. Additionally, I’m convinced that one death, in particular, was an homage to a truly disturbing moment in Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake. If anyone finds out if that’s true, please let me know!
So, how does TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022) stack up? If you can temper your expectations and go in with the mindset to have fun and be scared, then you’ll have a blast. It’s not as viciously dark and disturbing as 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it’s not far from it. And, for this critic, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022) was everything I had wanted from Halloween (2018) that we did not get.
Who will survive? And what will be left of them? Find out on Feb. 18 when TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022) drops exclusively on Netflix.