Nearly two decades ago, Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, ushered in something of a minor slasher revival with a glossy 2003 remake of Tobe Hooper’s sunbaked horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The studio quickly followed suit with remakes of franchises ranging from relatively obscure (The Hitcher) to ubiquitous (Friday the 13th). Now, thanks to the massive success of director David Gordon Green’s recent Halloween films, slashers are inching toward the spotlight once again, but now in the form of belated sequels to beloved staples.
Like 2018’s Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (streaming on Netflix today) ignores the previous seven movies in the franchise to serve as a direct sequel to the 1974 original. Deliberately snubbing so many previous movies from the series implies that this is the true follow-up worthy of the Texas Chainsaw moniker, even moreso than Hooper’s own wonderful sequel from 1986. This, director David Blue Garcia and producer Fede Álvarez seem to be saying, is the first time the spirit of the original has been captured in almost 50 years.
Well, needless to say that Texas Chainsaw 2022 does not capture the spirit of what is arguably the greatest horror film ever made. The spirit it does capture, however, is that of all the sequels to which this one presumes superiority. Despite a few new wrinkles to the story this time around, it’s more or less what you would expect: Old man Leatherface tearing up a bunch of clueless twentysomethings in horrific ways with his chainsaw. As an added bonus, it’s less than 80 minutes long before the credits roll. Those seeking the simple pleasures of copious chainsaw carnage will get what they came for, and honestly, sometimes that’s enough. It certainly was for this reviewer.
The basic premise here is virtually the same as the rest of these movies, with a screenplay that needs to find a reason for a group of young adults to drift into an incredibly creepy Texas town that houses Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer family (or Hewitt family, depending on the timeline; it gets complicated, folks). Here, the unfortunate protagonists are coming to this dilapidated town to make it a sort of… retreat for social media influencers? The details are rather vague and confusing, but you really shouldn’t care too much because the film clearly doesn’t care too much either. What matters is that when two of them, Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Melody (Sarah Yarkin), barge into one of the seemingly abandoned homes to remove a Confederate flag from the top window, they stumble right into what’s left of the murderous Sawyer family, and through a series of unfortunate events, they end up forcing an ancient Leatherface out of retirement.
If you’ve seen any Texas Chainsaw movie, you can pretty much write the rest of the plot yourself, and you shouldn’t expect anything out of the norm in this latest installment. There is a shred of a coherent idea here regarding privileged and delusional young people raised on the internet obliviously marching to their doom in a place and culture of which they have no understanding. It’s similar thematic territory to Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, but all of that is quickly discarded once Leatherface gets down to hackin’ and slashin’.
Simply put, this series is no longer interested in recapturing either the almost documentary-like terror of the first film or the large-scale splatterpunk charms of its sequel. The characters are nonexistent (even Elsie Fisher, so revelatory in 2018’s Eighth Grade, is given nothing to do here), the shoehorned attempts at social relevance are laughable (there’s a totally tasteless and unnecessary flashback to a school shooting, for Christ’s sake), and never for a single moment does the movie evoke anything resembling suspense.
But there is one thing this sequel gets right more than any of the others since 2006’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and it’s ultimately what’s most important: a stunning variety of chainsaw mutilations. If you’re not going to put any effort into atmosphere or character development, then you better bring the ruckus in the gore department, and thankfully, Texas Chainsaw 2022 does just that. Thanks to the scant runtime, viewers are treated to a grisly bit of ultraviolence roughly every five minutes or so, which makes for a pretty satisfying kill-to-boring-character-moment ratio. Besides an unfortunate reliance on CG blood, they consistently deliver. Heck, in the movie’s Grand Guignol centerpiece, Leatherface tears through an entire party bus full of dopey millennials until he’s practically wading through a pool of blood. Who are we to ask for more?