It’s hard to know what the psychopath behind the mask of Leatherface and co. think when they are constantly resurrected from the dead and forced to murder a handful of teens for yet another installment of such long-running horror franchises. You would’ve thought that, much like general audiences, they would have become bored of their own murderous ways, hanging up their chainsaw, machete and saw-blades to retire to a quiet life of butchery in an odd corner of America.
When it was released in 1974, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre was never invented as a horror franchise, with its exact allure encapsulated in its sheer mysticism, curiosity and bold terror. Despite this, much like any popular Hollywood film, Leatherface and his cannibalistic family have been forced to partake in eight sequels, remakes and spin-offs, with Netflix’s latest Texas Chainsaw Massacre being the latest to be tossed onto the towering pile of rotten monotony.
Purporting to be a direct sequel to the original film after several remakes and reimaginings, the latest effort from the second-time director David Blue Garcia throws a new group of teenagers to the slaughter, travelling to the abandoned Texas town of Harlow to create a gentrified utopia. Under the guise of carrying a ‘socially pertinent’ message, Garcia’s film carries a weight of self-importance as the rag-tag group of petulant, spunky teenagers play a physical game of SimCity, reimagining a forgotten town in their preposterous own liking.
“This space would be perfect for my art gallery,” one of the teen’s states, pointing to what looks like an ancient Western saloon as they walk the streets of the forgotten town whilst another eye’s up where their comic-book store will go. It’s a bafflingly stupid conceit that barely holds itself together, led by a band of entirely unlikeable millennial brats, so when the buzz of Leatherface’s chainsaw starts ringing we invite the incoming onslaught.
In pursuit of this redundant comment on gentrification, that the film itself gets bored of halfway through, director David Blue Garcia totally misses the point of the original film that fuelled itself on carnal terror and visceral anxiety. In place of this, it feels as though the film is merely hopping on the bandwagon of the recent efforts of Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta who have recently revolutionised the genre with their respective socially aware horrors Get Out and Candyman.
Using Leatherface as a vehicle for such commentary was always a poor concept, as neither director Tobe Hooper nor the villain himself intends to imbue any other feeling other than visceral fear itself. In trying to make something more of the franchise, Garcia reduces the iconic villain to nothing more than a generic horror goon, removing his nuanced insanity and carefully constructed mysticism.
The rotten condiment to complement Netflix’s poor cinematic feast is the mindless return of Sally Hardesty, played by Olwen Fouéré, the ‘final girl’ from Tobe Hooper’s original film. A victim of the shocking violence of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family, Sally spends much of her time in the original film conjuring a blood-curdling scream from her lungs whilst doing whatever she can to evade the terror of her impending doom.
As she escapes in the back of a pickup truck at the end of the 1974 film she cackles with manic, disturbing delight, finally free of her nightmare, never to return to the hellscape she’d barely escaped from.
Mimicking the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in the modern Halloween trilogy, this similar return simply doesn’t translate, coming off as a desperate plea to stay relevant in a horror landscape that demands more than just gore, guts and jump scares. Instead, Netflix’s latest Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes a mockery of the glorious original and embodies all that is wrong with modern mainstream horror.