When I think of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, gentrification, social media and capitalism are not the words that come to mind. However, director David Blue Garcia and screenplay scribe Chris Thomas Delvin decided to bring all of these elements together to create the first entry on my worst-of-the year-list.
This logic-free film stars Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher and Mark Burnham as the Leatherface slasher. The actors try their best to navigate an unfortunate script, but nothing can save this Netflix movie from caving under the weight of its irrationality.
Three self-righteous Austin entrepreneurs, Dante (Jacob Latimore), Ruth (Nell Hudson) and Melody (Yarkin), and her kid sister Lila (Fisher) travel to Harlow, Texas, in hopes of fulfilling their dream of creating a workspace environment. These people are well aware of the town’s history, but since it’s a relative ghost town, and Leatherface (Burnham) hasn’t killed in years, they figured this was a great place to work and make money.
The group also has bankers and investors on their way to the town who are interested in buying into the space. A monkey wrench is thrown into the plan when Melody and Dante enter the building they purchased (the town orphanage), and it’s still inhabited by Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige), who lives with Leatherface and keeps him under control. None of them know that the man living with her is a murderer, so they let their guard down—big mistake.
Dante questions the woman as to why she’s there. Mrs. Mc claims she still has the deed to the place, and it’s her property. She tries to plead her case, but the young people just aren’t hearing it. All the stress leads to the old woman having a heart attack. Now they are all worried about the woman dying, so Ruth decides to ride with her and the chainsaw killer to the hospital, hoping that she survives so that their conscience is clear. Well, guess what happens? Yup, you guessed it, and now Leatherface is back and on a quest for revenge against the people who gave his guardian a heart attack.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 is a direct sequel to the 1974 film. There are eight films between the original and this sequel, so it’s unclear if this is a retcon or another attempt to awaken a dead franchise. Sally (Olwen Fouéré), the character who survived the first film, appears in this, and she moves, acts, and even dresses like Laurie Strode from the modern Halloween movies. She doesn’t build a bridge between past and future like Strode does, so the attempt at character revival is a failure.
There’s also an odd bit about Lila, who is suffering from PTSD due to a school shooting incident. With this information, Delvin’s script tries to conjure emotional beats by saying something about resilience and survival in the face of death. But did this story need a school shooting victim to help get that point across? It doesn’t add anything to the story, which is tragic because Fisher is a great young actress who deserves better. She in most scenes isn’t even acting, and instead spends most of the movie standing around. I get it–Fisher is out to shed the girl-next-door image she invoked in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, but at what cost?
Every horror trope in the book is executed throughout a film that’s juiced up on Deus Ex-Machina overload. People trip and fall on cue, stand around not even trying to prevent their own murders, individuals surviving the impossible, and the main heroines getting saved by fate every single time they’re in trouble. Many horror movies are full of tropes, yet they persist because they are portrayed well and include engaging characters. Unfortunately, you won’t find any of that here.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 is another casualty of turning an already established story into a nostalgia cash cow. The real horror here is the modernizing of the content by merging social media, social issues and Twitter buzz words in a careless fashion that makes it hard to latch onto anything substantial. Thus, it weights the story down instead of adding to its legacy. The film doesn’t contain that sense of dread like the 1974 film, and while not as bleak, the 2003 movie is fun. This film is everything wrong with the current state of cinema where Hollywood creates content fans didn’t ask for and then expects them to welcome it with open arms.