Leatherface returns for a 9th (and hopefully final) time in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a direct sequel to the original 1974 classic done in the vein of the ‘requel’, a trend we’ve seen many franchises take on – Halloween (2018) and Scream (2022) included. The only difference here is that, where many requels have been big success stories, this one is a disaster.
This new Texas Chainsaw Massacre picks up nearly 50 years after Leatherface’s original killing spree, where a group of teens come face to face with the killer himself and must fight to survive in a run-down country town. What this sequel has confirmed for me is that there really isn’t much opportunity in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise to do something new. The entire premise hinges strictly around “man with chainsaw kills people”, so any sequel, reboot, prequel or requel is just going to be rehashing the same plot points, just worse. We saw another direct sequel back in 2013 titled Texas Chainsaw that didn’t hit the mark, then there was 2017’s prequel titled Leatherface that was all sorts of horrible. Now you add this film to the mix, which is yet another bad entry in the franchise, and I think it’s finally time to put the chainsaw to bed for good. This franchise drifting into mediocrity comes down to a lack of creativity – and not a matter of the filmmakers’ creativity, just what the franchise allows with its limited premise. There have been attempts to spice up the franchise, even in this film, but what comes across as a neat idea always ends up being lacklustre in the final product. It really is a “been there, done that” situation, especially for fans of the franchise who have seen every sequel, prequel and reboot.
The story itself is very barebones, as expected. Audiences pay to see gruesome kills tied together by a loose story, and that’s exactly what you get. However, a loose story doesn’t need to be a bad story – as long as the characters are interesting, developed well, and you can root for them. Unfortunately, the characters that you’re supposed to be rooting for are all infuriating. None of them are likeable, and it results in not really wanting any of them to survive – which is not what you should be wanting in a slasher flick. They try to give one or two of the characters some sentimental backstory, but it’s entirely uninteresting and doesn’t help the fact that their actions make them entirely unlikeable. One specific backstory arc feels very forced – as if the writers put it in there to link to current societal issues, which was absolutely not needed in a horror slasher.
Speaking of the characters, it’s no secret that this sequel sees the return of Sally Hardesty (recast with Olwen Fouéré), survivor of the original film who is back for vengeance… I guess. When it comes to the inclusion of these legacy characters, such as Laurie Strode in Halloween and Sidney Prescott in Scream, these should be triumphant returns that fans get excited for and love seeing back in action. Sally Hardesty’s inclusion in this narrative is handled so horribly, she may as well have not even been in the movie. Considering the severe lack of focus on the character, it’s almost as if she was written into the movie at the last second so they could throw her in the trailers and get people to watch the movie. The character hardly makes an impact on the story, adding to the long list of characters you don’t really care about.
Despite the horrible characters and lacking narrative, there are some notable positives in the film. There are a couple of tense sequences and bloody set-pieces that are satisfyingly entertaining. In other words, the only time the film is wholly entertaining is when it’s mid-way through a brutal scene in which someone is either getting murdered or about to get murdered. Not every scene intended to have tension is necessarily tense, but the ones that are successful I found myself properly enjoying. On top of some great bloody scenes, there’s actually a lot of creepy imagery and nice shots throughout the film. Now, creepy imagery doesn’t go a long way in making a great film, but it’s a neat touch that I admired.
I would usually go deeper into talking about the performances, but none really stood out at all. There was a good chunk of dialogue delivery that didn’t come off smooth or natural, but I wouldn’t say the performances were particularly bad – just entirely forgetful. Elsie Fisher and Sarah Yarkin had the most to do, but to be fair their characters didn’t really have any compelling emotional arcs they could make the most of.
In the end, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is yet another misfire in the franchise that continues to prove why it should be shelved for good. The original film is phenomenal, you can gain something from its sequel in 1986, and I have a soft spot for the 2003 reboot, but other than that it’s a collection of uninspired films that make a mess of their narratives. Aside from a couple of entertaining and blood-filled horror/thriller sequences, there’s not much substance to the characters or interest in the story to get you through. It’s a shame to see that Fede Alvarez is one of the 2 writers credited on this story, especially considering the great work he’s put out in the past. Fans of the franchise can check it out, but don’t go expecting a return to form…