“Try anything and you’re cancelled, bro”. Believe it or not, that is one of the dialogues heard in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is marketed as a direct sequel to the late Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic. That particular dialogue is included as if the seemingly never-ending franchise is desperately trying to stay hip and relevant with today’s generation.
Of course, one of the influencers who livestreams Leatherface (Mark Burnham) from his phone ends up brutally hacked with a chainsaw and so do the rest of them on the bus. It sure lives up to its “massacre” title, complete with all the screaming, blood and gore. If judged solely by its technicality, director David Blue Garcia and his effects team know well how to ramp up the gore factor.
But it hardly matters anyway, thanks to Chris Thomas Devlin’s threadbare screenplay. I can’t help but feel this so-called direct sequel is more like a poor excuse to jump on the legacy-sequel/franchise-revival bandwagon populated by David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018). Just like the aforementioned 2018 legacy sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre ignores the events of whatever sequels and prequels that happened after the 1974 original.
The film even brings back Sally Hardesty, the sole survivor who managed to escape at the end of the 1974 original. It does seem like a good idea to include an original character, who would serve as an essential connective tissue between the past and the present similar to Jamie Lee Curtis’ iconic return in the 2018 film as Laurie Strode. Too bad it wasn’t Marilyn Burns who reprised the role since she already passed away in 2014 and her role has to be replaced by another actress played by Olwen Fouéré. Fouéré does look like she’s trying her best to make the now-older Sally Hardesty a worthwhile character, all raging and ready to face her worst enemy once and for all.
But it’s a pity that her character is so severely underwritten. Right to the point that after she learns about the news surrounding Leatherface’s attack in the (fictional) ghost town of Harlow, what follows next is going to disappoint you. And that is not all, as the rest of the plot — which centres on a group of young and ambitious Gen-Z entrepreneurs (among them includes Sarah Yarkin’s Melody and Jacob Latimore’s Dante) trying to auction off the nostalgia-heavy town properties to potential bidders — is just an excuse (sorry, I just have to repeat this word) for Leatherface to kill again. The reason? One of those entrepreneurs indirectly caused the death of a fragile old woman (Alice Krige), who lives with Leatherface and takes good care of him in one of the town buildings.
From there, it’s strictly-by-the-numbers hack-and-slash moments and while Texas Chainsaw Massacre only runs a scant 80-minute-plus, all the copious amount of gore and violence fails to overcome how dreadful this piece of junk is. Apart from Fouéré’s Sally Hardesty, everyone else is equally underwritten characters that I barely care whether they make it or not. Even the would-be potential introduction of Elsie Fisher’s Lila, who plays Melody’s sister and a survivor of the mass shooting in her school is sadly a missed opportunity. While we do see her suffering from PTSD each time there’s something that triggers her past, the film doesn’t bother to delve deeper or at least make her character worth sympathising for.
Having seen all of the past Texas Chainsaw Massacre films and disappointed with most of them, this 2022 legacy sequel ultimately hits the final nail in the coffin since the last attempt — the 2017’s ill-fated prequel Leatherface — was already a failure. I supposed enough is enough, given its continuous streak of failures to desperately revive the Texas Chainsaw Massacre over and over again.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is currently streaming on Netflix and if you bother to sit through the end credits, you will find a brief post-credits scene.