Say what you will about the worst of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes, but nobody could ever accuse any of them of being bland. The weird ramblings of Matthew McConaughey; Alexandra Daddario’s strange Who Do You Think You Are? episode; Stephen Dorff vs Leatherface; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has never been a franchise lacking in personality.
Once again resetting the timeline, director David Blue Garcia ignores everything and everyone else to deliver another direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After purchasing a whole town in rural Texas, a gang of influencers (led by Jacob Latimore and Sarah Yarkin) accidentally evict an aged Leatherface from his home. Having freshly pissed off the 80-odd year-old horror icon, the gang find themselves fighting for survival against Leatherface – reborn, renewed, and now extra good at throwing things.
Dragging the franchise kicking and screaming out of the 1970s, this is a Chainsaw Massacre of influencers, Instagram, safe spaces and threats of getting cancelled, bro. Like the Michael Myers of Halloween 2018 and its sequel, old man Leatherface is a beast. It’s 1974 Leatherface with the strength and efficiency of his 2003 counterpart. Stabbing, chopping, lobbing and sawing his way through an extensive cast of cannon fodder, the film at least brings the promised massacre.
Indeed, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is shockingly mean-spirited. The film’s already-infamous “you’re cancelled, bro” moment is as cringe-worthy as expected (how you doing, fellow kids?) but it does lead into the bloodiest sequence in the franchise to date. Garcia and screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin’s sympathies fluctuate, depicting Leatherface as a poor, grieving idiot beset by cityfolk stomping all over his simple, easy life. At the same time, there’s school shooting survivor Lila (Elsie Fisher), whose whole arc leads to her picking up a gun herself. Then there’s the aged, grudge-bearing Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré), shoehorned into the story, if only because Halloween ’18 did it too. Hardesty’s inclusion makes sense but feels clumsy, disrespecting both the character and the late Marilyn Burns, without even having the courage to go full Dennis Hopper with her obsession.
The film is beautiful (in the kind of way that Tobe Hooper’s classic specifically wasn’t) and the gore and action sequences are a thrill, but the character work and story are as flimsy and two-dimensional as the shaky old sets upon which it plays out. It’s a film with personality – albeit a trying and unlikeable one – but this is a chainsaw massacre at its bluntest and most blunted.