Directed by: David Blue Garcia
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Alexander Reams
Movie titles can be misleading, poorly worded, or ironically funny, so when the words “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” are said, there are certain elements that enter my mind, first and foremost “Texas”. This provides the location, presumably, of the film, then “Massacre” so now we know there is a massacre somewhere in Texas. And finally “Chainsaw”, the weapon that conducts this orchestra of death. Back in 1974, Tobe Hooper was on his sophomore effort as a director, and after making the forgotten experiment “Eggshells”, he goes in the opposite direction and made a balls-to-the-wall slasher film. After Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” exceeded all expectations at the box office, it inevitably spawned a franchise of lesser sequels (not this writer’s opinion, Chop-Top (portrayed exquisitely by Bill Moseley) is a national treasure in horror cinema). After achieving success with their “requel” in 2013’s “Evil Dead” Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (also of “Don”t Breathe 2 infamy) are having another go at bringing back a relatively dead franchise.
Before Alvarez and Sayagues got their hands on the franchise, there had been three notable attempts to revive it. First is Marcus Nispel’s 2003 film, which might win some awards for the most original title ever; “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, a gritty, messy film that is remembered for its kills, Jonathan Liebesman’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”, a prequel that failed to excite or even being to bring new life to the franchise, John Lussenhop’s comically bad “Texas Chainsaw 3D” (remember when studios would put “3D” in the title to try and sell the movie as “new’ and “fresh”), or as I commonly refer to this film as “Texas Chainsaw: Do Your Thing Cuz”. After this dumpster fire, we had a brief prequel that wanted to explain why Leatherface (portrayed by various people) does what he does, and of course, this failed spectacularly, thankfully this trend has seemingly died.
Finally, we return to a new set of teens (it’s never really clarified) who are going to a town that is supposed to be in rural Texas but looks like a bad set in a studio that was shot in Bulgaria. If you think this is annoying, oh boy are you in for a ride. Each character gets their 5 seconds of backstory, and it truly feels like 5 seconds, all we hear about our “lead” Melody (played by Sarah Yarkin) is that she is a “moneymaker”, that is it. First off, calling a character a “moneymaker” in movies nowadays is not only hilariously cheesy, but it also makes the characters sound like they are in 1922 instead. I would try to describe the other characters in the immediate friend group of Melody, but there’s nothing to discuss, they are pure fodder for the player formerly known as Leatherface (portrayed by Mark Burnham).
Oh Bubba Sawyer, I mean Thomas Brown Hewitt, I mean Jedidiah Sawyer, what has become of ye? You were such a beautifully twisted character that struck fear into the hearts of everyone who doesn’t live in the south. Leatherface (previously portrayed by a slew of stuntmen and wrestlers, here played by Mark Burnham) has been watered down and treated about as horribly as his family treats him. I have been longing for a director to understand the maximalist features of Leatherface. He is a simple man, not making his way through the galaxy, but making his way through rural Texas, killing anyone who goes against his family. Here, his family seems to be gone, and he has not donned a mask in a long time. Now he is taking care of an elderly woman, which is where our group of fodder first cross paths with him, and they don’t even know it. Director David Blue Garcia understood this facet of the iconic horror villain. Even when Leatherface is unmasked, we never see his face, this decision was not only creatively smart but builds constant tension whenever the camera is on him.
After our fodder crosses paths with Leatherface they split off (the smartest move in a horror movie). Melody, Dante (played by Jacob Latimore), and Lila (played by Elsie Fisher) go to meet with the rest of the group that has come to the town, on a silver bus, while Ruth (Dante’s girlfriend, played by Nell Hudson) goes with the old woman, Leatherface, and the paramedics. It seems as if all the issues have been resolved. Until the old lady, who now seemingly held Leatherface’s leash, dies, and sets him off. Soon the blood begins to fly in glorious fashion. Garcia blocked this sequence brilliantly, feeling every blow, bone crunch, and somehow, the anger that Leatherface feels, the heartbreak, and he doesn’t know how to channel it except through violence. After he lets off a little steam, there is a visual that is partially showcased through the main poster, of Leatherface walking through a field of sunflowers, it sounds simple, and it is but says so much about our anti-hero. He is old, hurt, mourning, and hasn’t done this in a long time, he is tired.
Tired like me at the end of this film. While Garcia has a knack for exciting and visually stunning horror sequences, with the bus sequence being up there with one of the most iconic Leatherface moments in the franchise, he was dealt a bad hand with the script. Alvarez and Sayagues crafted an intriguing story, but when Chris Thomas Devlin took over screenwriting duties, all the intrigue in the “human” characters was lost. It probably didn’t help that Ryan and Andy Tohill had been fired by the studio, and the film started over from scratch and rushed production. The amount of bumbling mistakes throughout the film, the idiotic characters that might as well be called “Kill 1”, “Kill 2”, etc, the shockingly short runtime that makes everything feel rushed, despite the tone of the film being set by the slow walk that Leatherface does in the sunflower field. The most positive thing I can say about the film is that it rights a wrong that has been done in the previous two “Texas Chainsaw Cinematic Universe” entries, “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and “Leatherface”, it services the titular character, Leatherface, to his full potential, allowing him to turn into an animal and hunt for the majority of the runtime, but it still leaves you feeling empty, unlike how Leatherface felt at the end of this film.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Trailer