Here we go then, after three direct sequels, a remake that had a prequel which led to a 3D sequel that wanted us to ignore everything that had happened since the original, which then led to another prequel….we now have a new sequel that wants us to ignore…..oh forget it….Leatherface is back!!!
I have to state to all horror fans and say I have watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation more times than I should really admit. The infamous 1995 addition with the odd Star Trek inspired title is one of my most guilty pleasures to watch when I am bored, a film whose stars Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey fail to admit on their CV and while I’ll agree to its awfulness, there is something delightful about it all, a surreal crazy tone that is captivating because of its dumbness.
The reason I bring that sequel up as we head into a new 2022 entry is because while watching this grim orgy of a bloodbath, I did sit for a while and ask myself “am I enjoying this?” With and added “Can we just have a bit of fun these days with these iconic bogeymen”
The problem with every entry to this franchise is that they can not top the original which was a “lightening in a bottle moment” a horror that will forever be a masterpiece, a powerful and quite frightening flick that scared a generation thanks to its raw power and shock value. To the credit of Tobe Hooper, he understood this way back in 1986 and when he made the original sequel, he decided to go down the “black comedy” route which back then went over the heads of many watching but thankfully has gained a huge cult following over recent years.
When the pretty decent (well compared to most) remake was released in 2003, the film jumped on the gore trend, ignoring what made its original such a cherished film and since then, every sequel/prequel that has followed has tried to up the ante, but if anything, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 wins hands down as the most gruesome, with a staggering bus sequence that will delight the bloodhounds but leave those looking for a more serious tone, quite bored at the mayhem.
In all honestly, the film starts off really good. There is no cheap kill at the start to get the teen audience onboard, instead it felt like there was a real attempt to make a proper horror film. Melody (Sarah Yarkin) alongside her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) head off into the middle of Texas alongside Dante (Jacob Latimore) and his girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) for a business trip in which they are due to meet some potential investors. with their plan to upgrade a ghost town in the middle of Harlow.
So far all good. Plot seems simple enough, just what is needed for a basic slasher flick, but then we get a few flutters of overthought with Lila herself being a survivor of a school shooting, a needless backstory that doesn’t really become a pivotal clog in the plot. An old ragged flag is another prime example of a plot thread that could have been more powerful than just becoming a silly intro afterthought.
On arrival to the town, the gang encounter a warning from the local sheriff but once there, they find that the rundown old orphanage still has an owner, a frail ill lady (Alice Krige) who insists she has every right to stay at “our house”, yes, the word “our” means that the strapping giant standing at the top of the staircase who she calls her adoptive son can only be one person – cue the drumbeat- and soon Leatherface (Mark Burnham) is bashing down the front of a bedroom wall, because behind it is an all too familiar power tool.
It all builds nicely until we to the first kill, a snapped arm and a bone to the face demonstrates just where the film is heading, if you thought the recent Halloween film should have been called Halloween Overkills, then wait until you see what happens in here. Blood is literally sprayed with the mentioned bus sequence no doubt becoming 2022’s most goriest set-piece.
There are some nice touches, a delightful cell phone gag being a highlight and Leatherface himself is such a creation that you can’t take your eyes off him for a second, but with all the blood, running around and screaming, for me personally, I found it rather bland and sadly rather dull.
There has been more of an attempt to make the slash genre more fun these days, with the likes of You Might Be The Killer and The Final Girls winning huge acclaim from fans because of its approach and the fact it harks back to the glory days of the 80’s and while Texas Chainsaw Massacre was never a franchise set up to be like a Friday the 13th caper, it still feels like this is yet another attempt in which it misses the authentic horror of Hooper’s classic.
If you going to put a mad man wearing a dead person’s face and holding a chainsaw in the middle of a bunch of people, then surely there has to be some joy and humour. Many forget that despite its title, the original had hardly any bloodshed as it relied on old fashioned built up terror and some horrible set-pieces that made you think a lot worse than what you actually saw. Which is why I go back to the The Next Generation, as while it has many and I mean many faults, at least it has a deranged family right smack in the middle of it all, having Leatherface 2022 all alone, sort of misses the whole point as he becomes nothing more than a Jason Voorhees wanabee.
The laughable return of iconic character Sally Hardesty who is now played by Olwen Fouéré after the sad death of Marilyn Burns is so badly mishandled that you feel that she was only written in to appease the fanbase – as the gang in the recent SCREAM state “you need a legendary character in a requel”, but to be honest her involvement will annoy more than thrill.
This being the ninth film, everyone knows by now what to expect. Its offering of sadistic cheap kills will no doubt prove a hit for a few, but once more there is a sense of another missed opportunity, Its no better than the many follow ups before it and you’ll long for someone to take that chainsaw and rev it to the max so that we feel that rawness again like we did nearly 50 years ago.
Make no mistake, even to this day, the 1974 version still leaves you uncomfortable with ease, but this watered down 2022 version is more likely to leave you uncomfortable with frustration at another attempt that gets it completely wrong!
But, hey if you ignore the hilarious final shot and head straight to the post-credit scene, perhaps we’ll get lucky at the ninth time of asking, when the inevitable sequel/prequel/requel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Blade Awakens arrives in a few years time…..