Here we go, again. When Halloween found success going back to basics, it was only a matter of time before other horror franchises followed. Technically, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre already went this route. Before we were calling them legacy sequels or ‘re-quels’, the awful Texas Chainsaw 3D positioned itself as a direct follow-up to the Hooper’s 1973 original. But if at first you don’t succeed, you just ignore that sequel and try again. At least this time, Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre has the Halloween template. And based on initial critical responses, this legacy sequel may have tried too hard to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Nearly fifty years ago, Sally Hardesty survived a brutal massacre – her attacker was never caught. Now a bus of young influencers and investors have descended on a Texas ghost town with dreams of bringing it back to life. But there’s still one resident hiding in the old buildings. And once he emerges from hiding, it draws Hardesty to the town to finally have her revenge.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Puts the ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Massacre’ In It Title
Opinions will vary on whether Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a good series entry. But director David Blue Garcia accomplishes one thing. Here, he’s made a pretty damn good slasher movie. Almost no time is wasted getting to what audiences came to see. And once the mayhem starts, Garcia rarely lets things slow down for long. Though Hooper’s original was never as explicitly graphic as its legend suggest, the legacy sequel certainly lives up to its title. Expect plenty of grisly violence rendered with some impressive make-up effects. Chainsaw mutilations, limb-snapping, hammers, broken glass – this is easily one of the more brutal slashers in recent memory.
Garcia ups the sequel’s body count in a wildly orchestrated orgy of violence.
Arguably two scenes teased in promotional materials elevate this one above other slashers. Most viewers will have plenty to say about the tourist bus scene. If you’re going to make a movie with the words ‘chainsaw’ and ‘massacre’ in the title, this is how you do it. Garcia ups the sequel’s body count in a wildly orchestrated orgy of violence. But an earlier scene set in a field of sunflowers may the best moment in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s actual suspense set against quiet and impressively sun-soaked cinematography. Some may take issue with Garcia’s ending. But it’s shocking and consistent with the sequel’s tone.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Doesn’t Add Much Meat to the Bone
Much of Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s problems can be attributed to a weak screenplay. Working from Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) and Rodo Sayagues’ (Don’t Breathe, Don’t Breathe 2) story, Chris Thomas Devlin offers little in the way of a cohesive vision. For 30 minutes or so, Devlin teases several big ideas, promising a more thoughtful approach to the material. Does he have something to say about gun violence? Or maybe he wants to tackle Zoomers and the generation gap or gentrification? All of these buzzwords get a mention. And Texas Chainsaw Massacre promptly forgets them once the carnage starts. This isn’t particularly surprising since the sequel largely forgets about its own characters. Both Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher are fine as the largely nondescript sister.
…Hardesty functions more like an Easter Egg than an actual character.
Two of the sequel’s bigger problems, however, are its legacy characters. Though Leatherface is a disturbing horror icon, the character works better surrounded by bizzaro family members. The Hitchhiker, The Old Man, Chop Top, Sheriff Hoyt – they’re missed her. And Garcia strips Leatherface of much of the character’s personality, Here, Mark Burnham’s Leatherface isn’t much more than a hulking killer. In spite of Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s efforts to follow the Halloween 2018 template, Garcia doesn’t give Olwen Fouere’s (Mandy) Sally Hardesty the Laure Strode treatment. In what’s little more than a glorified cameo, Hardesty functions more like an Easter Egg than an actual character.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Mostly Overcomes Its Limitations
No one is ever going to confuse this legacy sequel with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plenty of things just don’t work here. Chief amongst the sequel’s problems, the Sally Hardesty character feels misplaced and wasted in what should be her story. Moreover, the sequel overestimates Leatherface’s onscreen presence. Nonetheless, Texas Chainsaw Massacre carves out some brutal kills in a tightly paced manner. Garcia doesn’t waste much time. Some may hate the ending, but it’s undeniably shocking. For better or worse, Netflix gives us a good slasher and a reasonably decent Texas Chainsaw movie.