With iconic slashers and horror franchises making a major comeback in recent years it came to me as no surprise when a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre film was announced. Much like David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween sequel, it was announced that this film will retcon all previous sequels and be a direct follow up to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece. Big question for me going into this was could this film ultimately live up to and be nearly as enjoyable as Hoopers? Despite a few issues, for me personally it was a yes.
After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorise a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town.
First off the bat it was great to hear John Larroquette back to voice over a narration for the opening of the film via a TV documentary about the now infamous 1973 killing spree Leatherface went on. This is just one of the many nods and easter eggs for fans to enjoy scattered throughout the film. It’s a good way to start as it gets the film going quickly at a decent pace and we aren’t having a play by play of what followed the events of the first film. We then get introduced to our main cast, which unfortunately is one of my main annoyances with the film. To put it simply, they weren’t well written, and I feel all of them par one were there just to up the body count. There was just a massive lack of depth and development for all except Lila (Elsie Fisher). I’ve got to be honest I was rooting for Leatherface to deal with as brutally and swiftly as possible. Despite the lack of depth and development the cast were reasonably good, they really nailed the cocky, big head, annoying, self-entitled, narcissistic, self-aware influencer/entrepreneur characters. Highlights for me were Elsie Fisher, supporting cast member Moe Dunford as Richter and most importantly Mark Burnham as Leatherface.
Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore), two young entrepreneurs have travelled to the abandoned town of Harlow in Texas, with Melody’s sister and school shooting survivor Lila (Elsie Fisher) and Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) to auction off old properties and effectively gentrify the area turning it into a new, hip, exciting place to live. They have a bus load of investors coming up and of course, they run into issues regarding one property which is where our old friend Bubba comes back into the mix. I’m not going to go into any further detail as it will ruin what comes next, but basically, they drop themselves in it and bring the wrath of Leatherface down on themselves. At first glance this film’s Leatherface is just as big, bold, and intimidating as he was in Hooper’s original and the 2003 remake. And it was great to see him back on screen again!
Of course, a big talking point of Leatherface’s return are the kills and his look. To start the kills were fantastic! Hats off to the writers and make-up/special effects team, a job bloody well done (pun intended). Leatherface is back in the most brutal way possible with each kill showing off an impressive amount of gore. Kill of the film for me was the poor Sheriff’s deputy who has his forearm snapped and then gets stabbed several times with his own ulna and radius, and this my friends is the first kill!
The pinnacle scene though, which you have most likely heard about (and rightly so because it is fantastic), is where Leatherface gets let loose on this bus full of influencers. I’m just going to admit this; I’m not a fan of influencers at all in any way shape or form so this scene was even more elevated for me. Especially as one decides to tell Leatherface “Try anything and you’re cancelled bro” before being brutally dismembered. The scene is an absolute feast for horror, gore and Texas Chainsaw fans alike. I also loved the fact we see Leatherface doing what he does best with not only his chainsaw but the hammer he also used in the first film. My only complaint is we didn’t get to see any kills involving a meat hook in this film, which for me is an iconic part of the franchise.
I thought the way Leatherface looked in this film was great, nice throwback of sorts to Gunnar Hansen’s original costume. The mask was very well done, thought it fitted in well with the story and made sense. Quite frightening in scenes if I’m honest. Was it as good as the original; course it wasn’t but it is one of better Leatherface masks. Very reminiscent of when Leatherface donned the fresh mask he had just skinned off Kemper in the 2003 remake. I would say I felt they could’ve used the “Pretty Lady” mask he wears at the end of the original film though, thought it would’ve been a nice touch if he took it out the same hiding place he stashed his beloved chainsaw. And in another great nod for fans, this film did feature the exact same chainsaw used in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film. As detailed in an interview with both Screen Rant and The Boo Crew Podcast over at Bloody Disgusting, producer Fede Alvarez explained that “Kim Henkel sent the original chainsaw to our office in the very beginning.”
“The vintage chainsaw on set… I used it all the time. Whenever we needed a close-up of the chainsaw running, or just… something that wasn’t a stunt. Even when [Leatherface] is on the bus and he starts it up, that’s the one. That’s the old school one. I had a sort of reverence for it. And I will tell you, it's very old and it hardly ever started. I would take 10 to 15 to 20 minutes sometimes of just [revving noises] trying to get it started, and once it was on, we didn't know how long it would stay on because it would just turn off whenever it wanted. It put out these terrible fumes. I mean, so much smoke to the point where I say that if Leatherface had really walked onto that bus, he could have just stood there for about 30 seconds and everyone would have died of asphyxiation before he even had a chance to cut them up."
I felt they did brilliantly with the entire look, feel and aesthetic of the film. You could tell it was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film and a lot of thought went into trying to bring it as close to the original as possible without encroaching on it. The cinematography was beautifully done, it really shows in the long and wide shots. The story I will admit was basic and somewhat lacking, but at the end of the day I’ve never come to expect anything more from most slashers. As Randy says is Scream there’s a formula, and honestly why try to fix something that isn’t broken. And I’ll be honest it makes for an entertaining hour and twenty minutes regarding this film.
My biggest issue with this film is something I know a lot of fans will probably agree with me on- the return of Sally Hardesty. Hell bent on revenge for her beloved brother and friends Leatherface laid waste to back in August 1973, she’s carried that bitterness and anger with her for the past 50 years only to come face to face with Bubba Sawyer himself in a very anti-climactic stand-off. In short Leatherface shows no signs of remembering her at all and has little to no interest in going head-to-head with her until she starts shooting at him with a shotgun. It felt rushed and almost unnecessary; whilst Sally finally faced up to the demon that had been plaguing her for much of her life it did nothing for the film. A bit of a slap in the face to fans as it was so short lived. Just wasn’t done well for me, the total opposite of what Blumhouse and Green did with Laurie Strode for 2018’s Halloween. Part of me is left wondering it could’ve been a better twist if they ran with the whole she was committed to a mental asylum as the film makers were going to do with Erin’s character in the remake. Perhaps then her daughter or son could have come after Leatherface in an attempt to avenge their mother. Just an afterthought.
The ending redeemed some of the film’s faults though. A perfect throwback to Hooper’s film and the legendary Gunnar Hansen. Believe me when I say you’ll be smiling when good ol’ Bubba does what he does. Make sure you stick around for the end credits though as there’s a post credit scene that brings Leatherface full circle and hints at potentially future films for the franchise. Me personally, I would love to see another film.
So where would I rank this in regards to the other films? Whilst I enjoyed it and I would recommend watching it, it certainly isn’t the best the franchise has to offer. My ranking would be-
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
All in all, this is a decent entry into a franchise that has certainly had its highs and lows. I enjoyed it and would happily watch again. It’s a fun, brutal and gory slasher that, despite its flaws, delivers some great entertainment. Much like Halloween Kills though, the film appears to have divided the fanbase which comes as no surprise. Just go watch it and make your own mind up about it. Love it or hate it…well I was just happy to see Leatherface dismembering, carving and disembowelling people with a chainsaw again.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now available to watch on Netflix.