Directed by David Blue Garcia — Screenplay by Chris Thomas Devlin.
There are so many legacy sequels out there today, and this industry trend has also hit the horror genre in a big way with Halloween (2018) and Scream (2022) being two of the most notable examples, but whereas the latter film is a continuation of all of the Scream films, David Gordon Green’s Halloween ignores the existence of every other Halloween sequel. David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre ignores seven ‘Leatherface-films’ and is instead a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 iconic horror picture.
It is a little bit wild to me that a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film has been released straight-to-Netflix. Sure, it is a huge get for Netflix (like The Cloverfield Paradox was, even though that film also wasn’t very good) as it helps to make sure that people think of Netflix’s horror library as being capable of including major film franchises. Unfortunately, it does seem like there is a good reason why this film was never released in theaters.
This film has supposedly been through a lot. The original directors — Ryan and Andy Tohill — were apparently replaced by the studio during filming, and there have also been rumors of negative test screenings (and counterclaims that stated otherwise). In any case, the film was eventually released on Netflix, but, unfortunately, I cannot say that this is even a solid horror film.
David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows these young entrepreneurs Melody (played by Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (played by Jacob Latimore) who are accompanied by Melody’s sister, Lila (played by Elsie Fisher), and Dante’s girlfriend, Ruth (played by Nell Hudson). They hope to modernize and gentrify the mostly abandoned ghost town of Harlow in Texas. However, the few locals are not particularly welcoming, and soon they’ll run into the dangerous Leatherface (played by Mark Burnham), who Sally Hardesty (played by Olwen Fouéré), the sole survivor of the original film, has been searching for for decades.
While I can’t know for sure (or know the reason why), this film — with a less-than-90-minute runtime — feels like it has been cut to shreds in the editing room. But it isn’t just the runtime that may have given this away. Characters are barely set up, contrived arguments come out of nowhere and basically disappear before you’ve had time to process things, and day becomes night rather quickly. The film is incredibly fast-paced and that makes it difficult to really get a good idea of the characters that you’re meant to root for.
It also doesn’t help that these characters are poorly written or barely there to begin with. For example, Nell Hudson’s character is almost only defined by her being Dante’s girlfriend, and she makes a decision to go with the locals, at one point, that makes no sense whatsoever. Poor decision-making isn’t anything new in horror films, but we should still expect more. Especially when the story is full of plot contrivances.
I really don’t like what they do with Sally Hardesty. It feels incredibly derivative, as it is basically aping what David Gordon Green’s Halloween did with Jamie Lee Curtis, which was to turn her into a Sarah Connor-like characer. I think there was something potentially really interesting with Elsie Fisher’s character, though, and it might have worked well if the film had spent more time with her (and more time processing her character’s backstory), but the film ultimately just speeds through the events of the film and, thus, its themes are muddied quite a bit.
So, what actually works in this movie? Not a lot, to be perfectly honest. But I will say that some of the images that the filmmakers have conjured up are quite good, and some of the big horror movie set-pieces work. These scenes are brutal, gruesome, and mean. Unfortunately, its most memorable set-piece — the massacre in the neon-lit bus — is hurt significantly by eye-roll inducing dialogue.
If you’re a huge horror aficionado and you’ve got nothing else to do on a rainy night, then you may still have fun with it if you lower your expectations. However, even though some of the gruesome set-pieces are relatively well-executed, David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a derivative disappointment with hollow characters (that make fairly dumb decisions), plot contrivances, themes that go nowhere interesting, and poor dialogue. This is a bit of a dud, unfortunately.
3.5 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.