Tuesday 12 April 2022


Directed by David Blue Garcia. Starring Sarah Yarkin, Elsie
Fisher, Mark Burnham. Horror, 2022, 81 mins, Cert 18.

Available to stream on Netflix from 18th February 2022.

"The only way to deal with an invasive species is to eradicate them." [with a chainsaw] 

Leatherface gets a retcon facelift in this direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's seminal 1974 classic. Taking its lead from the rebooted Halloween franchise, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022) eschews all the previous TCM prequels, sequels and reboots whilst employing artistic amnesia by erasing the entire Sawyer family; thereby granting our chainsaw monster the status of orphan for nearly 50 years.    

Helmed by David Blue Garcia (no, me neitherfrom a story by the Evil Dead (2013) / Don't Breath tag-team of Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, this latest entry in the face peeling franchise sees a disappointingly brief return for original final girl 'Sally Hardesty' to face-off (so to speak) against her one-time nemesis. Sadly Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014 so the original's 'final girl', now a Texas Ranger (albeit a not very good one) is portrayed by Olwen Fouéré in a frankly underwhelming few minutes of screen time.

The aforementioned invasive species of the film are a bunch of young millennial "Gentri-fuckers" led by Melody (Sarah Yarkin, a spitting image of 80's Diane Franklin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore). Somewhat implausibly, these two restaurateurs and social media influencers have assisted a bank in buying up an abandoned Texan town and are coaching in a busload of potential young hipster investors to auction off the old dilapidated properties to transform the town into a trendy 'village' of restaurants and art galleries. (In reality, their sole raison d'être is to augment the film's body count as human cattle for literal slaughter). There's just one problem with this regeneration project - the sick and elderly remaining tenant running the local orphanage claims she still retains her property deeds - and the last remaining 'orphan' upstairs has been with her ever since 1973 when he was taken in as a troubled teen "...that needed me to show 'em mercy for their ways."            

Reports of a troubled production, (original directors being fired after underwhelming dallies and allegedly disastrous test screenings) combined with the decision to drop a theatrical release and dump it straight onto Netflix meant expectations were lower than usual for a TCM entry (if that is actually possible at this point in time). 

Credit where it's due however, this is the first installment to actually deliver an on-screen chainsaw massacre. There's certainly no scrimping on the (largely practical) gore, despite the film's ruthlessly pared-down running time, with the coach/bus (UK/US translation) scene a truly Bacchanalian bloodbath. 

The abandoned town setting gives off House of Wax (2005) vibes, and visually feels more like a Western (despite bizarrely being filmed in Bulgaria) albeit with kitchen rather than saloon doors swinging open to reveal a gruesome tableaux. Plotwise, Leatherface (Mark Burnham) is essentially Jason Voorhees this time around. The death of his mother-figure, Mrs MC (Alice Krige), who knowingly harboured a mass-murdering butcher all these years, here sparks his murderous instincts back to life, and persuades him to crank up the old 'saw once more. Of course Jason didn't honour Mrs Voorhees by skinning mummy's face and using it as a mask, but both are adept at constructing rudimentarily gruesome altars of sorts to their respective deceased matriarchal guardians.

The truncated brevity of the film's running time results in the ruthless slaughtering of the majority of characters without giving us any realt time to get to know them (although perhaps here this isn't always such a bad thing). The relationship between Sarah Yarkin's 'Melody' and her younger sibling 'Lila' (Elsie Fisher), a lone survivor from a High School shooting, is still reasonably affecting however. The sisters form an interesting tag-team when they are forced to pair up against old, near-geriatric, but still surprisingly nimble Leatherface. Moe Dunford also brings an ounce or two (no more mind) of nuance to the role of local gun-toting rootin'-tootin'  petrol polluting mechanic 'Richter' who bonds with Lila over a rifle and some clunkingly obvious foreshadowing. 

Visually, the film offers some striking sequences, such as the chainsaw blade slicing through floorboards like a deadly metallic shark fin, and the finale staged in an abandoned flooded moviehouse which allows Leatherface a watery jumpscare as he launches out of a submerged rain filled basement (instead of a lake onto a canoe, surely I don't need to spell out this visual nod?). The photography is pleasingly free from shaky-cam, which allows the often richly detailed production designs space (if not time) to be appreciated, and the set-pieces are nicely choreographed to generate at least a modicum of tension. 

Sure there's some gaping, chasm-wide plot holes: was Leatherface really so hard to find that he remained undetected for so long purely because he'd worn a mask? Had he been working out in an unseen home-gym in the orphanage throughout all those intervening years to make him so spritely (and seemingly impervious to bullets)? 

But brushing obvious faults aside, this is still a slick, sick thrill-ride with just enough meat on the bone in terms of script to hook one's attention for 81 mean-spirited, nihilistically splattery minutes deep in the heart of Texas (or Bulgaria).

****(out of 5*)      

Paul Worts