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Film Review: Besides Elsie Fisher, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Is a Bloody Mess

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | February 18th, 2022

Film poster: “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (David Blue Garcia, 2022) 1½ out of 4 stars.

Don’t look now, but there’s a Texan running amok in Bulgaria. That would be director David Blue Garcia, a native of the Lone Star State whose sophomore helming effort (his first was the 2018 Tejano) is a sequel to the late Tobe Hooper’s eponymous 1974 original (which had an additional “The” tacked on to its title). Both films clock in at 83 minutes, though Hooper’s had no end credits to speak of, making his the longer tale. It’s just as well, as the latest entry in this long-running franchise (a film which ignores all intervening movies as if they never happened) offers little in the way of novel ideas, trafficking in the usual slasher tropes of arterial spray, guts and more. Throw in some problematic gender and racial politics, and we have a bloody mess.

That’s not to say there is nothing at all to recommend here. The visual setup is nice, as we follow a young crew of would-be gentrifiers (called “gentri-f***ers” by a local, not inappropriately) from the capital city of Austin to the ghost town of Harlow, where they hope to attract investors for some kind of culinary project. Or at least that’s what I got from the dialogue. Taking place almost 50 years after the events of the first movie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre begins with a newsreel montage reminding us of what happened and providing an update on the life of Sally Hardesty, the lone survivor of the carnage. She became a Texas Ranger and devoted her life to tracking down the titular killer, to no avail.

l-r: Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, Nell Hudson, and Jacob Latimore in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Cr. Yana Blajeva ©2021 Legendary. Courtesy of Netflix

From there, we join our irritating cast along the road, where they manage to antagonize everyone they meet. There’s Dante (Jacob Latimore, Like a Boss), his business partner Melody (Sarah Yarkin, Eat Brains Love), his fiancée Ruth (Nell Hudson), and Melody’s younger sister, Lila (Eighth Grade’s marvelous Elsie Fisher, the absolute best part of this new film), and with the exception of that last one they are all due for a bruising, dismembering, what have you. There’s nothing like telegraphing the need for murderous comeuppance from the cinematic get-go. To be fair, 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre bunch was also pretty annoying. It would be nice to see Garcia try something fresh.

And that’s the main issue. Beyond the mercenary desire to profit off a series (one the filmmakers choose to pretend never happened), what is the raison d’être of the project? It’s not as if the killings are particularly innovative. The subplot of Hardesty—now played by Olwen Fouéré (Sea Fever), as Marilyn Burns died in 2014—returning to the fray holds real promise, which is quickly squandered by her long-time obsessive quest making her no wiser than the newbies. With prey as dumb as everyone here, it’s no wonder the predator has an easy time cutting them down (quite literally).

Olwen Fouéré in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Cr. Jana Blajeva ©2021 Legendary. Courtesy of Netflix

The plot mechanism that sets things in motion revolves around a creepy orphanage (a standard horror trope), an ailing matriarch (Alice Krige, Gretel & Hansel), and a Confederate flag. Intentionally or not, the takeaway from that final detail is muddled: better to have let it fly, racist insult notwithstading. Then, piling on more offensive material, the saw-wielding psycopath, Leatherface (Mark Burnham, Lowlife), has a hinted-at penchant for cross-dressing (explored more in some of those ignored predecessors). Because of course he does.

Still, kudos to Garcia for making Bulgaria pass for Texas. Had I not watched the end credits, I would not have known. And for those with a love of gore, perhaps there are sweet treasures within that passed me by. Without a doubt, however, the one great revelation is Fisher, who just four years after her breakout role is unrecognizable, in the best way that an actor can be. See it for her, and for … well, your bloody mileage may vary.

Mark Burnham in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Cr. Yana Blajeva ©2021 Legendary. Courtesy of Netflix
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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), as well as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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