Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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Filmmakers have been trying to duplicate Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for decades. No one has ever come close. There's a very good reason why Hooper himself made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 a horror-comedy. He recognized that you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice, so you might as well find a new approach. Now we've got a “legacy sequel” reboot of the franchise, un-creatively titled Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Just like 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2013's Texas Chainsaw 3D, and everything in between, this new version is nothing more than a pale retread.

The movie, debuting on Netflix, runs a whopping 74 minutes before the end credits roll. I have to wonder if a lot of exposition was cut out of the first act because the set-up is ridiculous and makes no sense. A group of twentysomethings arrives at a Texas ghost town. Despite looking barely out of college, they've somehow convinced a bank to buy all the properties in the area and put them up for auction. Dante (Jacob Lattimore) is the ringleader of this. He's there with his girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson), colleague Melody (Sarah Larkin), and her sister Lila (Eighth Grade's Elsie Fisher). Lila is a school shooting survivor. Why the film opted to throw a weighty subject like that in without dealing with it is a mystery.

It turns out that an old woman still lives in one of the buildings. Dante kicks her out, which in turn enrages her son. If you guessed that son is Leatherface, give yourself a gold star. He immediately goes on a killing spree in retaliation. Fortunately for them, there's someone who can help – Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouere, filling in for the late Marilyn Burns). Like Laurie Strode in the 2018 Halloween reboot, she's been waiting decades to eliminate her old nemesis.

The set-up to Texas Chainsaw Massacre is absurd and unconvincing. A million ways exist to strand characters in the middle of nowhere. The whole “revitalizing a ghost town” idea is needlessly contrived, not to mention rushed through. (Again, 74 minutes.) On top of that, the characters are one-dimensional. Only Lily has any semblance of a personality. Adding Sally to the mix doesn't work either. If she's going to be here, she should be the main character, or at least have more to do than magically show up in time to save someone else from a Leatherface attack. Her inclusion is just a blatant effort to meet the requirements of a legacy sequel, with zero greater thought into how she might be meaningfully incorporated.

Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not as graphic as people think it is. The movie gives you just enough to let your mind fill in the gaps. That's why it has so much power. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, on the other hand, is mind-blowingly violent, taking goriness to new levels. In total fairness, the movie's “kill scenes” are exceptionally well done. A scene where Melody gets trapped in a house's crawlspace and another where Leatherface corners a bunch of people inside a bus are effectively horrific, suggesting that this could have been a very solid TCM sequel if the story wasn't so lame.

Because it's on Netflix, fans with a subscription may want to check it out just for those sequences. You've got nothing to lose in that case. Gory moments aside, nothing about Texas Chainsaw Massacre works. After all, this is a picture where a group of Leatherface's soon-to-be victims whip out their cell phones to record him, and one says, “We're trying to get you canceled, bro.” It's a slap in the face to what Tobe Hooper created.

out of four

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 22 minutes.