There’s nothing like a divisive horror film to shake up our happy community. Don’t believe me? Just hop on any Facebook horror movie page and post, “I’m thinking of watching ‘Hereditary.’ Is it any good?” or “Is the ‘Suspiria’ remake better than the original?” Then log back on in an hour and peruse the comments. Recently, Netflix ignited some discord of their own with Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), the long unanticipated retcon sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I like some of the Texas Chainsaw movies but this flick was never on my radar and I tuned out any and all news leading up to it. That is until the trailer dropped and my apathy gave way to disgust. This was thanks in large part to the cringe-worthy ripoff of Sally Hardesty returning like Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018 and a scene showing a group of young people telling Leatherface he’s going to get “canceled.” The latter would trigger a cavalcade of angry YouTubers who’d quickly decry the new film as ‘woke’ a.k.a. fan poison for any established franchise. Then I sat down and actually watched the movie. And you know what? It changed everything. Before I explain, be advised this post does contain a few SPOILERS.
When the movie began, I was sitting on my couch, arms folded, with one eye on the screen and the other on the remote control. A group of young progressives is hoping to gentrify the virtually abandoned town of Harlow, Texas. With the exception of the two sisters, these kids are wholly unlikeable, and when they help to evict an old lady from her home (played by horror icon, Alice Krige) you want to head out to the tool shed and grab a chainsaw of your own. Fortunately, Leatherface has you covered. It turns out the old lady is someone he’s been living peacefully with for the better part of fifty years and, after the stress of her eviction winds up killing her, Leatherface springs back in action.
It was then that I realized that a lot of YouTubers had been wrong in their assessment of this movie. It isn’t ‘woke’ at all. In fact, it’s more the opposite as you’re clearly supposed to hate these kids and sympathize with their killer. Personally, I don’t care if a movie has social commentary as long as it appears natural and fits the overall narrative (which it rarely does). What got my attention was the movie’s first kill. It was so clever and graphic, the old ’80s gorehound in me got up and cheered. From that moment on, I was all in.
Of course, I expected mainstream critics to hate the film but was surprised by how many of my fellow horror fans did. In fact, YouTube must have put a memo out to its content creators stating they must hold their heads in frustration when making a thumbnail for their reviews of this movie.
Obviously, it’s in no danger of joining the Criterion Collection, nor being confused as anything close to good cinema. Of course, I appreciate classic, critically acclaimed films with rich character-driven stories and skilled cinematography. However, I’m not looking for any of these things in a slasher film. For those of us who grew up watching horror films in the ’80s, we know the recipe for success is a group of hateful young folks getting slaughtered in creative ways by a deranged killer. And as long as the movie isn’t dull and can successfully provide about ninety minutes of escapism, that’s all the plot we needed. Yes, it’s a bad movie, but it’s also a fun movie. So regardless of all the criticisms out there (which are valid), I personally loved it. Here are my pros and cons…
Gore: As far as graphic killing is concerned, this movie does not disappoint. Although Leatherface is synonymous with a chainsaw, he also deploys other creative methods of killing people. One criticism I hear about this film is that it’s another “forgettable” Texas Chainsaw movie. I disagree with that. I think the infamous bus scene alone will help this entry to always stand out.
No overt political agenda: This film does a surprisingly good job of showing both sides of the political spectrum while never getting preachy. In the beginning, there’s a clear divide between the kids and the more conservative townsfolk but these are later tempered with scenes showing the two working together.
Cinematography: I know I said this isn’t something I look for in a slasher, but I think this movie was beautifully shot.
Entertainment value: This movie is never dull and, in my opinion, a LOT of fun.
Gore: This gets put in both the pro and con category because some people love graphic horror while others are repelled by it. The bottom line is that this film is not for the squeamish…but if you are squeamish why are you watching anything with the word “Massacre” in the title in the first place?
Sally Hardesty: Anyone who watched the trailer likely groaned at this familiar 2018 Halloween plot device. Just like the latest Halloween trilogy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 also retcons the franchise; with only the original in its canon and bringing back an original character. But whereas Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode is forever linked with the character of Michael Myers, Sally Hardesty is far less tethered to Leatherface. Further hindering its impact is the fact that the original Sally (Marilyn Burns) died eight years ago. Most troubling of all, this character adds very little to the overall film. Leatherface, himself, seems to point out her irrelevance when the two finally come face-to-face. You get the distinct impression that if our killer could talk, he’d of said, “Who the Hell are you?” At the end of the day. Sally was just another one of his victims with no other significance.
Divisiveness: Like I said, this movie isn’t for everyone and will likely generate controversy for years to come. Some people loved it, some people hated it, but just about everybody was talking about it, thus generating a streaming bonanza for Netflix. Divided as we are, perhaps Leatherface showed streaming services just how lucrative us horror fans can be.