In 1974, filmmaker Tobe Hooper shocked cinema going audiences with his violently grotesque horror feature The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film’s depiction of gore and torture resulted in it being banned in several countries and forced numerous theaters to stop showing it amid complaints from audiences with weak stomachs. In 2022, Netflix ups the ante with their reboot/sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Leatherface is back, and this version of the villain is the scariest and most depraved we’ve seen yet.
Melody (Sarah Yarkin), Ruth (Nell Hudson) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) are young entrepreneurs. They arrive in a small Texas ghost town with business plans to turn the empty buildings into money makers. Melody drags her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), along for the trip. Lila is a recent survivor of violent trauma and Melody has become overly protective. She views her sister as a victim who needs to be taken care of; to be protected. The town and its surrounding area are haunted by a nightmarish event from decades earlier. A madman wielding a chainsaw had murdered a group of young travelers, leaving only a single survivor before disappearing, never to be seen again… until now.
Fede Alvarez and his writing partner, Rodo Sayagues, developed the story and Alvarez acted as a producer. Alvarez is no stranger to violence or reinventing classic horror films. Evil Dead (2013) is a testament to both points. And Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) does not skimp on the gore. Leatherface is an undeniably imposing figure. His size and stature alone are enough to scare most; but, when you add a chainsaw and mask stitched together from human flesh to the mix it’s a recipe for pure horror. And that’s where this film succeeds above all else. It’s a horror movie that genuinely delivers on the horror, tension and edge of your seat discomfort. And it does so in a manner that is surprisingly… beautiful? Cinematography isn’t what you usually notice in a movie about chainsaw murders, but it’s hard to miss when its done this well.
Surprisingly, or perhaps just surprising to me, when I conducted a poll on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CinemaStubs) asking who your favorite cinematic slasher was, Leatherface came in dead last. Halloween’s Michael Myers came in on top with 43.4%. Friday the 13th’s Jason followed in second with 26.6%. And way at the bottom, with a measly 9%, was Leatherface (no wonder he’s so grumpy). Much of Michael’s recent popularity can be attributed to his own revival in the David Gordan Green directed trilogy. Perhaps Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) will do for Leatherface what Halloween (2018) has done for Michael. It certainly should. At 6’6″, actor Mark Burnham brings the towering figure to terrifying life.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) sticks with the recent trend of long running horror franchises. Working as a direct sequel, while also breathing new life into the franchise by steering it in a fresh, new direction. This film acts as a direct sequel to the original film, while ignoring all of the sequels and reboots to have occurred in between. Tobe Hooper’s classic helped to invent the “Final Girl” horror trope. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) was the lone survivor of that movie and she gets her chance to face her old foe once more; though the showdown is admittedly underwhelming and lacks the significance of a Laurie Strode vs Michael Myers moment. This time around Marilyn Burns is replaced by Olwen Fouéré, and Sally’s frightened and helpless demeanor is replaced by a fervent determination for revenge.
Helmed by Texas based director David Blue Garcia and produced by Kim Henkel (co-creator of the original), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) thrives because of its connection to the classic. Those behind the scenes and present on screen clearly have a deep rooted appreciation for the character, and the lore, and that spills onto the screen like the blood from Leatherface’s victims. 8/10