'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' review: Leatherface returns in gritty (and uber bloody) sequel
Courtesy of Netflix
“Halloween,” “Scream” and now add “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to the mix of iconic (or perhaps not so iconic) horror staples that have retconned lousy sequels in favor of pulpy new content for either box office dollars, or in this case, streaming numbers. David Blue Garcia’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” runs a tidy 75-minutes before the credits roll, leaving just enough time to slice and dice a squad of self-entitled millennials or Gen Z’ers who, for reasons that’ll require a massive suspension of disbelief, end up in the abandoned Texas town where the chainsaw wielding Leatherface is eager to disembowel fresh meat.
Akin to the way Micheal Myers slashed his way into relevance in 2018, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” goes back to the basics and only requires its audience to have a slight understanding of Tobe Hoober’s 1974 grindhouse classic (which is quickly refreshed over the opening credits). As a franchise restarter, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” kind of works and it’s nice from a viewer perspective not having to keep up with the franchises’ convoluted mythology. For those keeping count, there've been four original sequels, two remakes, and one 3D sequel that, also, tried to ignore the previous installments. The narrative has never been the selling point and screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin understands anyone pressing play wants to see the hulkish brute, with his trademark mask constructed of rotted flesh, rip through organs and limbs like a turkey carver on Thanksgiving. In that regard, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” with its nasty and gory attitude, certainly delivers.
While clearing an already low bar was never going to be challenging, especially in the convoluted realm of the “Texas Chainsaw” franchise, I was surprised at Garcia’s craftiness and usage of practical effects. The new outing picks up 50 years after Leatherface made stew out of a bunch of nimble teenagers where lone survivor Sally (now played by Irish actress Olwen Fouere after Marilyn Burns passed away in 2014) is still haunted by nightmares of the attacks and has made it her mission to track down the man who murdered her friends. Enter Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore), two budding entrepreneurs taking advantage of a robust business opportunity in the desolate town of Harlow.
Their idea? Auctioning off retail store fronts and populating the town with hip, young tycoons and creating a Gen Z/Millennial haven for those looking to escape the big city life. On arrival, Melody’s sister (Elsie Fisher of “Eighth Grade” notoriety) and Dante’s girlfriend (Nell Hudson) encounter a shacked-up resident (Alice Krige) who still claims ownership of her property and doesn’t plan on leaving. After a brief scuffle, the woman collapses and is rushed to hospital with her kiddo standing idle, but when she dies in route, it sends her disgruntled son, Leatherface (played here by Mark Burnham) into a tailspin and he begins wreaking havoc on the twentysomethings who invaded his home turf.
Again, running a scant 74-minutes leaves very little time for thinking or trying to compartmentalize how a bus full of potential investors ended up in Harlow or think it makes sense as a viable business opportunity (it does, apparently, leave enough time to rack up a series high body count). What matters is the gnarly slayings and the ingenuity with which Leatherface decides to off his victims. There’s one blood-soaked sequence where Leatherface runs a train and thrashes 20+ people in a matter of 10-minutes while a thunderstorm happens outside. It’s one of the more inspired (and sillier) moments this franchise has created in its nearly 50-year legacy. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is now streaming on Netflix.