A busload of millennial city slickers out to gentrify a Texas ghost town with La Croix and avocado toast get sliced up by Leatherface in 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a surprisingly gory but also utterly bland franchise reboot that acts as a direct sequel to the first film in the franchise while ignoring the next seven or so.
2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre stars Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher as Lila, a school shooting survivor who travels to the rural Texas town with restaurateur sister Melody (Sarah Yarkin), Melody’s partner Dante (Jacob Latimore), and his girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson).
As soon as the young millennials enter the seemingly-abandoned town of Harlow, Texas, they forcibly evict an elderly woman from her home and cause her to have a heart attack. The hulking man in the shadows she had been watching over for the past 50 years tags along in the ambulance; no prizes for guessing who he is and what he’s going to do when the old lady croaks.
Leatherface soon makes his way back to town, terrorizes our leads, and breaks his rusty old chainsaw out of the wall. And in Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s show-stopping five-minute sequence, he saws through an entire bus full of hipsters who had come to bid on property to gentrify the town.
Props to the filmmakers (including director David Blue Garcia and writer-producers Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, who previously made the excellent Evil Dead remake) for getting the gore right: it’s grisly, extensive, and largely accomplished using practical effects. A scene featuring a character getting his head repeatedly bashed with a hammer is particularly unsettling; another where a character has his own fractured arm bone shoved through his neck is sickeningly inventive.
But this Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t know what it wants to say with all the violence. It’s never remotely scary, and while the film goes over-the-top with the bloodshed like Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, it never has that knowing edge that would make it truly subversive. The blood just soaks up the screen, and the more we see of it, the less we’re shocked.
Taking a cue from David Gordon Green’s recent Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre brings back Sally Hardesty (played Olwen Fouéré; original star Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014), the lone survivor from the first film. But it doesn’t know what to do with her or Leatherface, and tacks on a Laurie Strode-Michael Myers relationship that doesn’t fit.
As by-the-numbers as it is, this new Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a serviceable Netflix product that should please anyone unfamiliar with the franchise and interested in seeing the film based on its title alone. For those who have seen previous films in the franchise, many of them rough and subversive, this one’s a slick and unmemorable addition.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 is the ninth or tenth movie in the franchise, which has been trying to reboot itself since the original. 1974’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a legit classic that is not the gorefest its title implies, but a genuinely unsettling experience that evokes horror through slow-burn suggestion. Director Tobe Hooper returned to the franchise a decade later with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; realizing he couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle again, he made a loony self-parody that flopped at the time but has since become a cult classic.
New Line rebooted the franchise with 1990’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, starring a young Viggo Mortensen, a more traditional slasher movie that largely ignored the previous two films. Another attempt to reboot the franchise took place four years later with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A New Generation; this one was a total dud and a low point for the franchise, but demands to be seen for the gonzo lead performances from Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey.
A 2003 Michael Bay-produced reboot was slick and soulless, but stuck to the original outline and successfully created a tense atmosphere; it’s 2006 prequel, meanwhile, added gore and backstory, draining away the horror in the process. 2013’s Texas Chainsaw was yet another reboot with nothing original to say, while 2017’s Leatherface got so lost in backstory it forgot what franchise it belonged to.
This latest Texas Chainsaw Massacre, shot by Legendary Pictures in Bulgaria and sold to Netflix after post-production delays, slides right into this misbegotten franchise: ignore most if not all of the previous movies, pretend like viewers are interested the new backstory of Leatherface, and pour on the gore. But despite a post-credits scene setting up a sequel, almost unheard of on Netflix, you can bet this one will also be utterly forgotten by the time the next entry in the franchise materializes.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, ranked – for fun, see if you can identify them based on their small title alterations without release years:
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation