At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Texas Chainsaw Massacre “2022”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige, Jessica Allain, Nell Hudson, Sam Douglas, William Hope, Jolyon Coy; Narrated by: John Larroquette/Runtime: 81 minutes

I don’t think it would be exaggerating things to say that it might take the amount of time equal to a semester at the university of your choice, plus or minus final exams dependent on the person in question, for me to bring those of you with only the bare minimum of knowledge about iconic horror movie villain Leatherface up to speed on the downright chaotic cinematic path that has gotten us to the slice and dice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yet in an intriguing move we see that this entry from helmer David Blue Garcia, which now makes for entry numero nine in this backwoods southern living for homicidal maniacs’ series, has decided to pull a 2018 Halloween and act as a direct sequel to the legendary original film from Tobe Hooper in the year 1974. As a result, gone are such wonderful gems from this franchise’s past like crazed Dennis Hopper wielding dual chainsaws to a wonderfully twisted performance from Matthew McConaughey as he proceeds to go full-blown maniac and terrorize the heck out of poor Renee Zellweger to name but a couple. Indeed it really is a ballsy chess move by this slice of cinema’s producing team and brains behind this film’s narrative consisting of Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues, who after Don’t Breathe in 2016 and their own remake/follow-up to a beloved franchise in the form of Evil Dead, now possess a degree or 10 of credibility to say nothing of trust with investors to an extent that they would be willing to give them money for projects. Perhaps said investors should have given them a bounced check for this one. I say that because this may be a slice and dice of cinema that tried to sell audiences as an intriguing relaunch for a franchise that has become iconic for, save for 2 of the entries, being more over the top and gory than legitimately terrifying and yet at the end of the day not only is this film not even a better stab of the ol’ chainsaw than a few of the follow-ups it had the nerve to snap out of existence a ’la Thanos, but it is also a complete and utter mess that may be plenty gory but nothing else of any real substance that might actually make this a genuinely good movie. Suffice it to say that this slice of cinema is such a rusty blade of an entry that I am honestly convinced that it wasn’t Leatherface that killed these people in this, but actually tetanus (oooh! Scary!)

The plot is as follows: So as given to us through top-notch and very much welcome narration by OG narrator John Larroquette, this slice and dice of cinema establishes that it has been over 5 solid decades since Sally Hardesty and her group got to see firsthand what a section of Hell looks like and, perhaps as a result of the stories that have been told in the years since, the small town of Harlow, Texas has not really been seen as a prime spot for people to move to let alone won any awards for Best Small Town in Texas. Yet we soon see that a pair of millennials by the names of Dante and his girlfriend Ruth have plans for the town. Plans that include them making money by buying buildings in town and transforming them into apartments they can rent out to people who may enjoy living some place that possesses an aesthetic that if found in a fashion magazine might as well be known as rundown small town USA. Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that it isn’t long before these youngsters inadvertently discover that there is at least one person living in town who really is not a fan of their plans. A resident who’s big and mean, but certainly not green and who is highly skilled with a chainsaw. Yet whilst this resident wages a one-man campaign of terror against these poor helpless millennials who clearly have no idea the menace they’ve just reawakened we also see that his return triggers someone else to head to town on a mission of vengeance that was first provoked 50 years ago. Thus a conflict has now been triggered and it should come as no surprise to learn that before it’s over blood will be spilled, and people will die some of the most horrific deaths imaginable…

Now more than anything else, I guess this slice and dice of cinema might just work for you if you are the kind of person who likes a film that is coated in the fluids that come in waves when a chainsaw makes its way through human flesh. In that respect, this slice and dice of cinema might not ever take top prize at a chili cook-off (if you know, you know), but at least there will be those who appreciate it for how it seems to be a collection of highlights showing the latest in truly gruesome bodily mutilation. Indeed in 81 minutes, this slice of cinema shows us our favorite chainsaw wielding maniac take a shin bone and show us what a right angle looks like, literally turn a group of livestreaming influencers into his dish on the Food Network show Chopped, and also execute punishment on millennial gentrifiers who are deploying morality as their excuse for why they are taking over the town that he has been hiding out in.  Indeed if anything, Leatherface doesn’t operate as a chainsaw-wielding psycho, but rather as a member of the Boomer generation who is fed up with these “gosh darn millennials who just won’t stop trespassing on his lawn”. Well at least as far as it comes to how this movie handles its kills, this movie does remember that it has the word “massacre” in its title and as such there are some pretty gnarly kills in this with a sequence set onboard a bus that turns into a literal meat wagon is easily one of the more wonderfully twisted fatality set pieces and the special effects team on this film more than definitely puts in the work on this and what they come up with is fairly admirable and well-done. If there is any area where this slice of cinema falters terribly, it would be in the screenplay department. Indeed not only do I not care about any of these characters, but I could give a flying heck about their arcs as well. Yes one’s scar from a shooting may ignite an initial discussion about gun violence, but the film then chooses to betray that by flipping the script on that in one of the most ill-advised ways I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the biggest slap in the face though is not only in how this slice of cinema handles Leatherface by and large, but especially in how it brings back Sally Hardesty from the original and then makes her like Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween and, instead of giving us the commentary that the 2018 Halloween did with Laurie about survivor’s trauma and stuff of that nature, completely drops the ball on this and really doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say about any of the threads that its’ narrative seems to be operating with. I mean I understand that “reason” often comes second in graphic slasher fare especially in many of the under the radar or midnight hits from both the 70s and 80s that I love with a passion. At the same time though, these excuses are ones that I only find to be valid and worthy of being permitted when the slice and dice of horror cinema that it is a part of at least has a narrative that makes some degree of sense that doesn’t have the number zero in front of it (so sorry kids, but 0.1% doesn’t count). Finally, I guess it should be noted that the work from this slice of cinema’s production design department do manage to remind us of some of the *better* films in this series. Indeed cinematographer Ricardo Diaz manages to do a wonderful job of showcasing the infamous heat that Texas is known for whilst also making the abandoned town the story takes place in feel both constricted and off the beaten track.

Now in terms of performances, I do feel that Mark Burnham’s performance as Leatherface was alright. Yes this is a role that deals mostly in being a physical menace rather than one that will butcher you whilst also making a cheesy as heck pun like a killer in the vein of Freddy Krueger. With that in mind, this is still the same Leatherface who was able to twirl his chainsaw like he was a flag twirler, but this is also a guy who has no qualms about pursuing a character in a sequence that will make you laugh at both the audacity of the sequence as well as just straight up try your best to keep your gag reflex in check when seeing just what is happening on screen before your eyes. As for the rest of the cast, I want it to be clear: yes the look of straight up terror being shown by both Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher does seem to be quite genuine when they are going up against this genuine horror legend and yes they do fairly decent work with their respective parts as does the majority of this film’s cast. The problem that I have is that this slice of cinema’s cast of characters really are no more and no less than caricatures you’ve seen a million times before in other horror films. A problem because for how extreme the gore in this gets, it still feels less impactful than it ought to because you don’t really care about these characters at all and I honestly know that even in a horror film you can have characters you care somewhat about whilst also giving us a wonderfully spooky and quite ominous narrative.

All in all I hate to be the one to say it, but the 2022 rev of the ol’ chainsaw that is Texas Chainsaw Massacre manages to fall prey to the same pratfall that virtually every single sequel and even remake in this franchise has managed to fall into, despite each one bringing at least some intriguing new element to the franchise which could have been really cool if executed properly, in the years since the iconic and still just as nightmare-inducing original came out. That being that this is one slice and dice of cinema that completely and utterly falls flat in its attempts to redefine the historic cinematic legacy of its main chainsaw wielding menace Leatherface in a way that brings anything new to the character and even his just as terrifying clan other than what we have seen time and time again namely that he likes to skin and chop people up, he’s a tough as nails behemoth of a man, the only person he’s ever let live is John Larroquette and that’s only because he’s the narrator and never actually in these movies physically, and that his weapon of choice…..is a chainsaw (gasp!). Sure there are those of you out there who may only feel that the best criteria to judge a slasher on is both the amount of bodies that are dismembered by the end and whether or not the film deploys even an ounce of macabre creativity in how it chooses to off the majority of the poor and unfortunate souls that have been assembled as cast members. If this sounds like you then I think you might be among the only group who is willing to give this multitude of guts, but virtually slim to none in the way of glory slice of cinema a pass. If on the other hand you want to see a slice of cinema in this franchise that shows a truly bleak and grim affair that also shows that Leatherface might be terrifying, but the rest of his brood be they named Sawyer or Hewitt is just as if not more so horrific then either give the original film a stab (obviously) or the 2003 remake which, with entries like this one, show that maybe that one wasn’t near as bad as critics thought at the time. Either way, the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still a slice and dice of cinema that is not only the fresh blade on the ol’ chainsaw that the fans are still wanting to see, but is one that stinks just as bad if not slightly worse as Leatherface’s basement full of dead bodies. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Texas Chainsaw Massacre “2022” a solid 2 out of 5.