Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre keeps with the brutality of the first film. Yet, is weighed down by its story, lack of tension and repetitive nature to fully enjoy it. Come for the kills only. Such a shame.
Fifty years after Sally Hardesty survived the impossible, Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) want to create their own bustling town in Texas with a bunch of influencers, along with Melody’s sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) and Dantes girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) they find themselves in a situation they never thought possible after kicking out the wrong people from their home.
What made the 1973 original work so much wasn’t the gore that we saw; it was what we thought we saw. You could sit there wherever you are right now and swear to everyone that the original was a pure gorefest. It wasn’t; it was just filmed so well that it made us think that. Here, David Blue Garcia has not gone for the less is more option but reverted to B-movie (expensive B-movie, mind you) gore. It holds no prisoners, and it works very well and becomes Texas Chainsaw Massacres main if only saving grace. Changing it up to be more visual with the deaths allows for a good shock to the system and those early deaths set the tone early. By giving us those types of deaths it presents us with something to watch in a group setting, less terrifying but all the more fun.
Sadly, this leads us to just be confused and disappointed about almost every other aspect of this sequel. First, characters are here for the shortest amount of screen time possible and thus gives us next to no reason to care for them. Add into this their attitude at getting the town sold, we actually have reason to root for Leatherface, and that is excluding the bus scene (that should never have been near the trailers by the way). Worst of all is the idea to bring back Sally; it is just so blatant the reason for her being here as a legacy throwback because it is in vogue. Then for them to basically do nothing with the character, causes you to shake your head and throw your arms up in frustration.
The less said about Lila’s backstory, the better, as at times it verges on just being exploitative. We get that she is meant to be overcoming her fears of what happened in her past by fighting back and trying to survive against Leatherface. However, it never works, and you feel uncomfortable whenever it gets brought up. Another needless addition to add to the pile making it tough to imagine how half of this story was approved, due to its sheer laziness.
Strangely though, there is a story hidden deep in here that could work if you just flushed out all the nonsense. Unfortunately, it is so thin on the ground that that frustration rises again. Another criminal point of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is Leatherface himself. He, at this point, has to be in his 70s or pretty close to it and can move like the wind. Also, he isn’t actually that menacing; instead, he becomes a Jason Voorhees with a chainsaw. He is just an invincible monster of a man who wants everyone he encounters dead.
We can almost forgive a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film for having a flimsy enough story. These films have never really been about the story have they? What you cannot ignore however, is the lack of tension in any of the scenes and the repetitive nature of moments; guns jam or run out of bullets no less than three times when a character is about to shoot Leatherface. Did they forget the last moments that happened when writing this? Also, limiting down the remaining characters for the last few scenes throws away any suspense. Oh, a character is off-screen, and the other is in danger… I wonder who is going to save the day here? Again the word lazy comes up and it is a hard one to shake when thinking about this story; just any form of tension would improve the film.
The thing that is the hardest to grapple with is how well the first 30 minutes work, right up until we get back to the town after the particularly strong sunflower field/van scene. Everything in that scene is great, the tension that is lacking in the rest of the film is all there, and you have gut wrenching emotion in that scene. But, as soon as we reach the town again, that might as well be all for nothing, as if we are watching a completely different film.
Finally, where exactly is the family? From my viewpoint, the first film worked so well because of the collective family. They were what made the film what it was, and as horrifying as it was, it wasn’t solely Leatherface, so to turn him into this big bad Jason-esque character betrays what made that film work. It also limits what the film can do to scare its audience, leaving us in a rinse and repeat situation regarding how the characters get trapped into certain predicaments. For a film to be set in a deserted town, the main set pieces take place in very few locations, wasting all of the possibilities it had to surprise.
If you try to ignore the story and just enjoy Texas Chainsaw Massacre for its gore moments, then you will have a watchable enough experience. The first attack scene has the tension you want, and that bus scene is glorious fun. Yet, nothing connects as it needs to, leaving us thoroughly frustrated. Overall it is a frustrating film that has seemingly been weighed down by too many cooks in the kitchen. When it should just be a far more straightforward piece. Such a shame as there are good moments within the film, but stretched out to its already short runtime it somehow becomes repetitive.
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