Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Why, Netflix, why?


Ben Kaiser, News Editor

The review which you are about to read is an account of the tragedy which befell a streaming service in the winter of 2022. It is all the more tragic that viewers actually saw this travesty. For them, an idyllic Friday night viewing became a nightmare. The events of that release were to lead to a desperate attempt to cash in on an old slasher horror franchise, a horror onto itself. That horror would be known to the world as Netflix’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre legacy started in 1974, introducing the horror world to Leatherface, a hulking, cannibalistic killer who wears several masks sewn together from human faces. His trademark weapon of choice is the chainsaw, hence the movie title. The franchise has had several sequels, remakes, reboots, and re-reboots. This film, however, follows only the 1974 film, ignoring all other films. This is identical to what the new “Halloween” films are doing.

“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was directed by David Blue Garcia. The only other film Garcia directed was “Tejano.” Also set in Texas, “Tejano” was about a farmhand using his broken arm to smuggle cocaine in his cast across the border. Other than these two films, Garcia has spent most of his career as a cinematographer and camera operator.

“TCM” stars Mark Burnham (“Wrong Cops”) as the film’s face-wearing Leatherface. Sarah Yarkin (“Happy Death Day 2U”) as Melody, Elsie Fisher (“Despicable Me”) as Lila, Jacob Latimore (“The Maze Runner”) as Dante Spivey, Nell Hudson (ITV’s “Victoria”) as Ruth, Moe Dunford (A&E’s “Vikings”) as Richter, and Olwen Fouèrè (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”) as original survivor Sally Hardesty

This story begins with California halfwits driving through Texas until running into chainsaw boi, Leatherface, and then screaming soon after ensued. What? That’s how every one of these “Chainsaw” movies had been for the last 20 years. It’s not my fault that they haven’t changed the mold since. I’m shortening the narrative to the main points of interest.

Fine. Melody traveled with her sister and friends (California halfwits) to the abandoned town of Harlow, Texas, to turn the old buildings into a gentrified location. However, one elderly occupant refuses to leave and collapses due to a heart attack. A massive, mute man who the occupant takes care of carries her to the ambulance and rushes to the hospital. The woman dies en route, and the mute loses it, killing everyone in the ambulance.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the mute is 70-something-year-old Leatherface, who authorities never found since 1973. And now he’s mad. He returns to Harlow with a new face mask and begins slaughtering everyone in sight. Hearing about the killings, former survivor Sally Hardesty drives to Harlow to hunt down Leatherface for killing her friends from the first film. Can Hardesty, Melody, and her friends stop Leatherface’s rampage? Nah, but they do try using their savvy phone cameras and cancel culture.

See how my first way was better and faster? I actually had to look up their names, so I wouldn’t label them victim #1 or victim #2.

Ok, so let’s be fair, most fans of Leatherface and slashers, in general, aren’t here for the Oscar-nominated story writing and acting. People want to see gory kills, and you do get it in this. Probably the best part is Leatherface mowing through his victims trapped in a bus. One memorable kill was a panning shot of one of the gentrifying investors getting sawed in half while stuck in the bus window. I don’t know; there’s something funny about a grown woman somehow stuck in a window like Winnie the Pooh.

This reboot/sequel also follows 2018’s “Halloween” example, being a direct sequel to the original film and ignoring the earlier sequels. At least, it seems like it. Leatherface had a long murderous journey in the sequels, and nothing outside of the first film is ever mentioned. In fact, I’m lost to why they moved Leatherface to a new place and why he’s under the care of an elderly woman that was never part of his original family. Seriously, she’s only in there to die and make Leatherface go crazier than usual.

They also have the first film’s survivor, Sally Hardesty, returning to face Leatherface once and for all. After her encounter, she became a Texas Ranger to hunt for Leatherface or his cannibalistic family. According to the back story, they were never found, and authorities assumed they were dead or long gone.

While an interesting angle to bring Leatherface’s first survivor back to the film, it loses its muster with not having the same actress who played Hardesty. The original actress, Marilyn Burns, passed away in 2014; so naturally, they had to recast the part.

One of the characters hunted by Leatherface had a traumatic experience before traveling to Texas: she was the only survivor in a school shooting. Maybe a gory slasher flick isn’t the place to use a teenager’s tragic past in a school shooting. Especially since real-life school shootings are an ongoing thing in this country. It’s just not a cool thing to write about to slap onto a character’s backstory. If her past was something that would help her grow in some way, maybe help face and take down Leatherface, then that would be different. But nope, it doesn’t go anywhere; it’s just held out as gee-whiz trivia.

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear this movie sucks. I think the bigger question would be: “why, Netflix?” Or, even better, “why Netflix?” Netflix isn’t the biggest place for horror, especially with slasher-type films. There’s a streaming service called Shudder that is all horror, even has a whole category for slashers. How did “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” not go to them, instead?

Apparently, all this warranted a post-credit scene. Leatherface goes home to the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house, where it all began. I still don’t get why he left.

“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022) is streaming on Netflix for some reason.