1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre was made on a shoe-string budget, using a cast of unknown actors, a small setting and lots of off-screen kills to save money on special effects. Since then, we’ve seen multiple sequels, a remake and two prequels. After years of the franchise being in limbo and the last studio losing the rights to the franchise, acclaimed horror filmmakers David Blue Garcia and Fede Alvarez bring this latest chapter to Netflix, in a brutal and bloody updated take.
The story centers on a group of 20-something entrepreneurs, led by Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher), Dante (Jacob Latimore) and Ruth (Nell Hudson) who visit the near-bankrupt town of Harlow, Texas to start a new business. Upon looking through the old buildings, they discover a few tenants were left behind, including Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige) and her towering son, who we quickly realize is Leatherface, a psychotic murderer who killed a group of teenagers in 1973 and was later never found. Without giving spoilers, something happens to trigger Leatherface into going on another killing spree, thus turning this entrepreneurial dream into a gorey nightmare.
The young cast gave solid performances, particularly Elsie Fisher as Lila, a young woman who is a survivor of a previous traumatic event and carries a sense of guilt from having survived it. This adds a much needed layer of depth that we don’t always get in horror movies. More often than not, characters in slasher films would get killed off and you were left feeling nothing with their deaths because there was little-to-no character development. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for the most part, avoids that.
The kills were brutal, bloody and expertly done. The tension-filled, cat and mouse chases from the original film, besides the bus scene that was shown in the trailer, remain to great effect. That bus scene brought the true ‘massacre’ for the film’s title.
David Blue Garcia’s direction is brooding and retains the visuals and overall tone of the franchise, with shots lingering on characters in hiding that bring a real sense of dread, you’re just waiting for a jumpscare. The use of practical effects as opposed to CGI blood and gore feels like an homage to the classic slasher films of the 70s. Throughout the film’s final act, we’re left constantly guessing who will end up surviving this nightmare as the hunt goes on and on with these young adults against a psychotic, chainsaw-wielding monster.
A few elements felt somewhat borrowed from other recent horror franchise revivals/reboots/requels, but that’s expected each time the genre goes through a mild reinvention. We see a legacy character face off against their old rival, like Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween or Sydney Prescott returning to Woodsboro in 2022’s Scream. In TCM, Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré), the sole survivor of the events of the 1974 film, became a ranger in her small Texas town and hunted down Leatherface for killing all of her friends nearly fifty years prior, but her hunt turned up empty until now.
This does raise some questions about how old Leatherface is meant to be, even if he was in his mid 20s in 1973’s events, he’d have to be over 70 years old, which is hard to believe considering how strong, fast and brutal he is in this film. Then again, these slashers are borderline supernatural, appearing out of nowhere without making a single noise and surviving shotgun blasts, knife wounds and blows to the head. It’s a horror movie. Logic is expected to go out the window!
7 out of 10 chainsaws from this horror fan!