If you find millennials and Texans getting their brains bashed in entertaining, then you’ll enjoy Texas Chainsaw Massacre directed by David Blue Garcia. Though this is far from the worst of the many films spawned by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), it further proves the impossibility of achieving the shocking rawness and brutality of the original. The latest iteration of Leatherface, whether he’s strapping on a human skin mask, bludgeoning someone with a sledgehammer, or doing his maniacal chainsaw dance, can only exist as a distilled version of his inaugural performance.
In this Netflix-produced version, four idealistic teens from the progressive city of Austin, Texas decide to invest in the all-but-abandoned town of Harlow, also in the Lone Star State. Chefs Dante and Melody want to open a restaurant, Dante’s fiancé Ruth dreams of launching an art gallery, and Lila (Melody’s sister) is consumed by a troubled past. The quartet plans to host a party for young urbanites who are presumably considering making an investment in the town. When something happens to the caregiver of a large, mentally unstable man—guess who—he does what any sane mourner does: goes on a killing spree.
An element of absurdity rips through this film. Leatherface’s chainsaw cleaves bodies as if they were butter. He can easily elevate his victims over his head or snap limbs like twigs. And most perplexing, his young and ostensibly fit victims allow him to annihilate them without fighting back.
The film does have a few things going for it. First, it clocks in at just 81 minutes and quickly gets to the meat of the matter. It’s clear from the beginning that Harlow locals aren’t thrilled about these young city people invading their town.
Another of the film’s strengths (for the gore aficionado) is that it holds nothing back. You’ll see torn-open faces, protruding bones, and limbs doing things they shouldn’t. And the ending holds up as an exhilaratingly theatrical tribute to slasher brazenness. You want subtlety? This is not the film for you.
The continuing popularity of the slasher subgenre suggests there must be something satisfying about watching dumb young adults get killed. In earlier decades, victims mostly focused on scoring and getting high. Here they seem more ambitious, but don’t be fooled – they’re still dumb. Case in point: Ruth, as she walks through a ghost town that seems more amenable to a poncho-wearing Clint Eastwood character, considers where she might locate her art gallery.
This film also pulls a common horror movie stunt by bringing back The Texas Chain Saw Massacre final girl Sally Hardesty, now a world-weary older woman who’s been hunting Leatherface her whole life. With her cowboy boots and denim, Sally is the silly Texas version of Sarah Connor.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with its characters hiding in the typical places and succumbing to the typical violations, offers nothing new. It does, however, stay true to the brand.–Douglas J. Ogurek***