The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is the latest horror property to receive a sequel to the original classic film. This reboot/sequel or “requel” if you will, helped reignite interest in classic horror films such as Halloween and Candyman. Both films received sequels that were critically praised. These movies simply ignored every sequel after the original and hoped to modernize the property. Netflix takes a crack at this method with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Although Netflix has been recently successful with horror content such as Archive 81 and Midnight Mass, Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t deliver. There are interesting elements in the film, but it ultimately fails to add anything of interest. This will be a spoiler-free Texas Chainsaw Massacre review for those that haven’t seen the film yet.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is currently streaming on Netflix.
STORY: ALMOST INTERESTING
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a sequel that picks up 50 years after the original movie. Like the 1974 film, we follow a group of friends. These friends are trying to take an abandoned town of Texas, and gentrify it. They’re influencers who convince others in their social space to visit and dream of the potential future this remote area could have. And of course, while they’re there, they happen to accidentally intrude on Leatherface’s home. He then proceeds to hunt and kill everyone he finds in this town. The idea of these friends flipping this ghost town into something great sounds interesting but ultimately never pays off. Part of this is because of how uninspired the movie is. It feels limited in scope, clocking in at around 80 minutes. Whether it be from budget constraints or by an uninspired mind, Texas Chainsaw Massacre suffers tremendously.
For example, there is one scene in the latter part of the film that takes place on a bus. Many viewers will look at this scene and think it is was well done. It’s gory and in a way, satisfying. But it’s also simple, quick, and again, uninspiring. What makes the premise of Texas Chainsaw Massacre interesting is the idea of all these people visiting and fixing up a broken and empty town. There are a ton of different buildings that need work. People will sleep and live in this area. But unfortunately, they never do. It’s just an idea that floats around. Instead, the entire story takes place in just a day and maybe two different buildings. Everything feels quick and although the kills are great, Texas Chainsaw Massacre never does anything unique beyond those kills.
CHARACTERS AND PERFORMANCES: CASUALTIES OF LEATHERFACE
Out of the four friends, we primarily follow Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher). And out of these two, Lila is the only one that was given some form of characterization. Lila lived through a traumatic experience that caused her to be more reserved in life. Melody takes care of Lila as a result. And that’s pretty much it. There’s a point in the film where Lila has to confront her trauma, but it’s done in a way where you wouldn’t even think she had trauma. There’s no internal conflict at all. It’s quite amazing how little effort was put into this character in the end. And the rest of the characters? They were either dull or annoying.
Melody sat quite comfortably in the annoying route which is a shame because of how often we see her. Apart from wanting to take care of her sister, there is nothing to her character. She comes off as self-righteous and consistently orders Lila around. The acting didn’t help these characters. I thought Sarah Yarkin was good in Happy Death Day 2U, but didn’t bring that spark here. That being said, when acting suffers across the board, I can only imagine this boils down to the direction of the film. There were too many instances where characters should have been more traumatized and panicking from what they’ve seen.
SALLY AND LEATHERFACE
Sally, from the original 1972 film, returns in this sequel as a seasoned ranger. She has been trying to track down Leatherface for the killing of her friends. Texas Chainsaw Massacre tries to have a Laurie Strode type of character here but it does not work at all. Apart from what we saw in the last film, we know next to nothing of this character. All we are told is that a lot of time passed and she seems to have toughened up. That’s it. We’re not given any sort of update on her life and the only characterization we have of her is when she takes out an old photograph of her friends. She looks at it remembering them fondly and reignites her vengeance for Leatherface. She is completely wasted.
As for Leatherface, I don’t quite understand his age in this film, but maybe that doesn’t really matter. He’s still the mute serial killer from the original film, but unlike the original film, I rooted for him here. Every character is so annoying and lacking development that when Leatherface ultimately runs after them, I can’t help but cheer him on. What I also liked about him is that (minus one instance) he never teleports around to get kills. My biggest gripe with slasher films is that they’re usually always supernatural but pretend they’re not. The killers are all human but manage to live through situations that should kill them and teleport to places they need to be. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here which was refreshing.
PACING AND EDITING: DOUBLE-EDGED CHAINSAW
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a relatively short horror film. This serves as both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength because the film moves at a quick pace, never being bogged down by any bothersome subplots and unnecessary plot. Texas Chainsaw Massacre moves from kill to kill with some fun and gruesome deaths. The pace this film moves at is also a negative however because there isn’t time taken so characters (apart from Lila) could be fleshed out. As a result, everyone here feels like a 2D character. I didn’t care about anyone and even hated some of them.
Lila was the sole exception and even she wasn’t perfect. I thought she had an interesting past but it didn’t ultimately amount to anything. That being said, the way in which scenes from her past played out were horrifying. There is one scene on the bus later on in the film where her experience is woven into the real day and it’s edited quite effectively. Despite not having amounted to anything storywise, the way in which her past is incorporated using editing was well done.
Besides being gory and brutal, the killings in Texas Chainsaw Massacre work so well because of the editing. It’s more so from the lack of editing rather. Action sequences and killing blows here are effective because of how they’re shown. There aren’t quick confusing cuts that’ll make you guess how someone dies. You basically see everything. There is one scene on a bus that this doesn’t fully apply to. There are cuts there but they’re used in a stylistic way to show how chaotic and brutal the scene is.
CINEMATOGRAPHY AND SOUND: WASTED POTENTIAL
Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes place in a ghost town in Texas. It’s an interesting location with broken-down abandoned buildings. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t spend time exploring the different areas. Instead, we primarily spend time in the same small house. There’s also an outdoor space where the influencers hang around but that’s pretty much it. Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t shot poorly by any means and there are some cool shots with Leatherface for sure, but I can’t help feel as though there is wasted potential here. I think the cinematography could have benefited from more time spent in this town. I don’t mean time in movie-length but rather movie days. Everything takes place in a day so there isn’t much to see. We do see night and the lighting when raining makes this ghost town all the more horrifying. I wish we got to see more of it.
The same could be more or less said about the sound. It’s just alright. The sound during these scenes plays out as one would expect. There is an elevated tension caused by the music or lack thereof when a character is trying to hide from Leatherface. Unfortunately, the film only uses the same music over and over. There isn’t much diversity there. Sound works effectively during killing scenes though and of course, the classic chainsaw returns. Nothing entirely creative is done with the sound I found, but it was serviceable.
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