Twelve years passed before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre received its first sequel. Things were different back in the ’80s. Long before Disney reinvented franchise filmmaking, most attempts to follow up a popular title were dismissed as needless cash-grabs, which of course they were. Tobe Hooper’s classic slasher, in particular, gave no narratively-justified reason to return to the dusty plains of Texas. It was beautifully simplistic. It was perfect.
And yet, we’re nine films deep now and reaching a point where Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboots have become a sub-genre of their own. Step forward Netflix, with their new reboot that no-one asked for.
Much like Blumhouse’s recent Halloween ‘requel’ films, we’re asked to forget anything we saw post-1974. This time out a group of rich millennial entrepreneurs head to an abandoned Texan town where they plan to sell off real estate and reinvigorate an area long abandoned. It’s a ludicrous, utterly unbelievable plan, but who cares? Arriving in their self-driving car, waving phones around, these youngsters are just crying out for a killin’! They soon rile the last remaining locals, and given the movie’s impressively brief runtime (it clocks in at just 82 minutes), the blood doesn’t take long to flow. And boy does it flow.
Outside of the Scream franchise, there’s little to do or say in a slasher flick that hasn’t already been done or said. So perhaps it’s to the writers’ credit that they don’t try to reinvent the format that has served the TCM franchise for nearly half a century. There are no added dimensions to this. No loaded themes. It’s not an allegory for our times, beyond a brief shake-of-the-head towards youngsters and social media.
Leatherface waves a chainsaw around, people die. Horribly. Repeat. The villain himself, still looking much the same as he ever did, despite Mark Burnham having to fill the boots of the late Gunnar Hansen, is now more Jason Voorhees-like in his durability and unstoppable nature. Which serves him well when he finally boards the literal party bus, providing a moment of genuine hilarity as he massacres a cohort of millennials.
For a movie with such a featherweight plot there is still a surprising amount of room for error. The reappearance of a vengeful Sally Hardesty, the sole surviving character of the original movie, is a bit too on-the-Halloween nose, and the laws of physics are regularly defied as characters continue to make ridiculous decisions as they fail miserably at the challenge of self-preservation. Still, nobody ever watches a TCM movie expecting to find more logic than gore.
Director David Blue Garcia is safe pair of hands, hitting all the right shots as he tosses blood and guts around with abandon, looking for increasingly inventive ways to put people to the chainsaw. He builds up tension convincingly enough that you wonder if maybe, just maybe, this character is going to to get out alive.
Sure, there’ s no real reason for this story to keep unfolding. This is all about enjoying the imagery of human beings getting chopped up. And in that regard at least, Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not disappoint.
- Director: David Blue Garcia
- Starring: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham
- Release date: February 18 (Netflix)