Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

In a world of hot tags and listicles that opine on the worst sequels ever made, worries over whether this movie is too woke or not enough woke, and the argument that it’s either the worst or best movie, the truth is movies are awesome because you make your own mind up — do it, it’s great — as to what a good or a bad movie is.

My opinions are just that. Mine. And Texas Chainsaw Massacre is as good a slasher as we’re going to get in 2022, which is a left handed compliment. But it’s also not a good Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. But then again — but, but and but — there haven’t really been that many good sequels to the original.

Taking a page out of Halloween, this movie asks you to wipe your memory clean of the first sequel — Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, much like Halloween 2, is one of my favorites and asking you to forget it and making this film attempt to supersede it is a tall order — and establishes a new timeline, the fourth timeline for this series.

Let’s break it down, with a tip of the bloody flesh mask to Bloody DIsgusting:

Original: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre IIITexas Chainsaw Massacre: The New Generation

Remake: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The BeginningThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Reboot: Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw MassacreTexas Chainsaw

Legacy: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this movie

Of those movies, I can tell you that the original is, obviously, a movie that blows away any movie that will ever be in this franchise. Yet I adore the audacious middle finger that is Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and the WTF Illuminati heart of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The New Generation. The other films, well, they make each new release better with how bad they get.

After the release of Leatherface in 2017, Lionsgate had plans for five more sequels, which frightens me, but the studio lost the rights. Legendary got them and had Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues(whose Evil Dead is considered a good remake and their Don’t Breathe did well at the box office) to write and produce a sequel. Ryan and Andy Tohill were set to direct, but were replaced by David Blue Garcia (Tejano) who made this from a script by Chris Thomas Devlin (this is his first movie).

Much like every sequel made in the 2000s, this was made in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria doubling for Texas.

Mark Burnham plays the sixty-year-old — at least! — Leatherface and Olwen Fouéré takes over for Marilyn Burns as Sally Hardesty, who should probably be yelling “Evil dies tonight” as she’s the exact same character as Laurie Strode in Halloween and Halloween Kills.

Entrepreneurs Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) have decided to transform Harlow, Texas into a new Austin, bringing along Melody’s sister and survivor of a school shooting Lila (Elsie Fisher) and Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Neil Hudson). While working with one of the locals, a gun owner and total opposite to these characters named Richter (Moe Dunford), the team works to clean up the town before investors arrive. That means kicking out an older woman, Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige, a welcome actress any time), who dies moments after being evicted, bringing her charge Leatherface (Mark Burnham, Lowlife) out of hiding as he rides with her to the hospital. Yes, it doesn’t go well. Yes, he goes wild on everyone. Yes, it’s actually pretty great and the kills look cool, thanks to some solid practical effects.

From then on, Leatherface gets his saw and becomes a killing machine, even referencing Jason, seeing Mrs. Mc’s face as he goes wild on a bus full of influencers — no matter how much I dislike some of this movie, it’s hard to hate a film in which multiple social media types get gorily dispatched — and stalks the sisters.

Let’s get the good out of the way: the wokeness of this movie, which so many worried and gnashed and argued, is just to set the table. And the closing credits look astounding, showing a visual style and color palette that should have informed the entirety of this movie. And hearing John Larroquette introduce the movie makes me so happy.

But here’s my problem: every other good Texas Chainsaw has made you physically sick thanks to the decay and rot and bone and gristle and, well, cannibalism on display. The set of Chainsaw Massacre 2, a Civil War theme park that has died and been resurrected as a bone-strewn temple to putrified flesh, and the original farmhouse are horrifying places. Indeed, the first Chainsaw is a movie that would have no interest in being part of, a torture test for cast and crew that they barely survived with their lives and sanity.

This movie has none of that, substituting geysers of arterial blood for the really disgusting stuff. And when you think of it, there’s not much gore in the first movie. We all know that, actually. Yet it remains filled with menace and makes you feel that feeling just on the edge of throwing up when you find a dead animal half-eaten on your porch. It’s visceral, it has staying power, it’s the end all be all that all horror that came after must compare itself with.

Beyond referencing Friday the 13th, this film feels so oddly familiar in the way that it recycles imagery. The hands of the influences trying to escape is very Dawn of the Dead. I could handle that reference if two scenes didn’t feel completely cribbed from The Strangers: Prey at Night. The sisters being trapped in a bus bathroom and the aftermath of them crashing the truck are so close to that movie — which I realize not many people saw — that it can’t be a coincidence.

The close of the film erases what has been so important to the first two films: the catharsis of one character barely escaping, as she screams in terror or victory over those who had oppressed her. I get it — the survivor in this film is no Sally or Stretch. But the whole point of the ending feels lost for a gotcha ending. And the post-credits sequence is relatively pointless.

It’s strange that for a movie that claims to erase the sequels, this feels a lot more like the 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than a brave new take on the series. This is the new way that movies happen. Speak badly about everything in the past, then do the exact same thing. If it worked for Michael and Jamie Lee…

It really has no idea what it wants to say. If Lila has gun trauma, she gets over it really quick when she has to. There’s never a conflict there. There’s only an alpha predator senior citizen with a chainsaw and enough badly sketched blood-filled victims to dispatch.

I kind of laugh at the audacity that the filmmakers claimed that they used old lenses to get the look they wanted while wasting Daniel Pearl footage at the beginning of this movie. But hey — the original movie was art. Everything else has been a cash-in, either feeding the direct video appetite or now, the need for new movies to stream.

Then again, was this ever meant to be a slasher? The original exists before the slasher and this goes more for straight up murder and less stalk and slash. I mean, far be it from me to decry the genre that I’ve watched hundreds of movies within, right?

And hey — Leatherface isn’t even the scariest Sawyer family member. This movie forgets that.

There’s enough here to like, but not when you can just do it right and watch good slashers in the short time we have on this Earth.

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