Film Review – ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

Film Review – ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

Strong female characters fighting their pasts in order to protect the future for themselves and the people they care about has become a powerful driving force in popular horror franchises sequels in recent years. That’s certainly the case with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the latest entry in the hit series that has grown in popularity since the release of its original film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, almost 50 years ago, in 1974.

The franchise’s new ninth installment, which was written by Chris Thomas Devlin and directed by veteran genre cinematographer, David Blue Garcia, follows in the footsteps of the similarly rebooted Halloween. Both series ignore the events of the previous sequels and serve as direct follow-ups to their original entries. Both franchises are largely driven by the return of an emotionally dramatized woman who has survived a brutal attack, and is willing to risk her life in order to stop the man who hurt her from targeting anyone else.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Elsie Fisher as Lila, Sarah Yarkin as Melody, Nell Hudson as Ruth and Jacob Latimore as Dante. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2021 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a quartet of idealist Gen Zers – Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her teenage sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), their friend, Dante (Jacob Latimore) and his girlfriend, Ruth (Neil Hudson) – who travel from Austin to the small, remote Texas town of Harlow. Melody and Dante are hoping to revitalize the desolate area and turn it into a more bustling neighborhood by alluring business owners to set up stores there.

Despite their well-meaning intentions, one of the buildings they recently acquired as part of their business plan is the site of an abandoned orphanage, whose previous owner is still residing there, unbeknownst to the young friends. They have an unexpected encounter with the elderly owner, Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige), who soon becomes increasingly hostile when Melody and Dante ask her for proof when she insists that she still has the deed for the property from the bank.

As Mrs. Mc, who ran the orphanage, becomes increasingly upset over the matter, the last boy she took care of in his youth – the now senior Leatherface (Mark Burnham) – reveals himself in an effort to scare the young friends off. As a result of her becoming more upset over her dispute with the young friends, the ailing Mrs. Mc suffers a stroke. Her declining health sets off Leatherface’s homicidal range against everyone he comes into contact with, from the quartet to the visiting business owners they’re trying to lure into partnerships and even the area’s Sheriff (William Hope).

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Mark Burnham as Leatherface. Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2021 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

The group’s main hope to defeat Leatherface once and for all is Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouere, taking over the role from the late Marilyn Burns, who played the character in the original 1974 movie), the sole survivor of the killer’s initial killing spree. Sally, who frequently gazes at a faded Polaroid photo of her murdered friends, is still seeking revenge against her former tormentor nearly half a century after the attack. Sally is prepared to take whatever means necessary to stop Leatherface once and for all, no matter what consequences she faces.

Like the initial installment in the acclaimed, long running slasher series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre continues the franchise’s powerful emphasis on reflecting on contemporary social and cultural issues plaguing America. While the series’ latest entry forgoes delving into a well-defined, detailed backstory about the new ensemble of main characters, it showcases how the quartet, particularly Melody and Dante, are optimistic visionaries.

The young adults are determined to prove to the world – and even themselves – that they’re passionate enough to help revitalize a less-fortunate area, no matter what personal sacrifices they have to make in the process. The entrepreneurial quartet is so determined to make sure their plan is successful that they’re willing to give up the comforts of their city lives in Austin to rebuild a desolate, remote small town like Harlow.

The dreary look of the isolated rural area that the drama is entirely set in was masterfully created by production designer Michael Perry. Despite the modern technology that the quartet rely on while they’re in Harlow, like their cell phones to keep their social media followers updated on their progress and their car’s autopilot feature that partially pays off during the sequel’s conclusion, the deteriorating buildings feel as though the town is still stick in the mid-1970s.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Cr. Yana Blajeva / ©2022 Legendary, Courtesy of Netflix

The former orphanage is a prime visual example of how Harlow’s last few remaining residents are unable to connect with modern society. From its creaky, tattered floorboards and closet doors that served as hiding places and protection for Melody against Leatherface while he pursued her, to its shabby photographs and furniture, Perry showcased that the villain and his foster mother were unable to move on from the past, particularly when she first began caring for him.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s enthralling production design also helped set up fierce action sequences that were created by stunt coordinator Stanimir Stamatov. While violent, gruesome kills have become synonymous with the franchise, its latest installment amps up the physical and emotion tension with even more extreme fights. From Leatherface cutting through the floorboards with his iconic titular chainsaw as Melody frantically crawls under the house to find a way to escape, to the killer horrifically smashing in the heads of several of his other victims, the series’ latest follow-up doesn’t hold back with its stunts.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an emotionally driven, visually stunning spectacle that powerfully showcases the determination of strong women who aren’t afraid to fight back against the man who targeted them. Sally satisfyingly encourages Melody to continue the fight against the ruthless Leatherface in a socially-inspired reflection on the importance of helping others, despite people’s differences. Supported by gripping visuals, from the dilapidated buildings created as part of Perry’s production design and Stamatov’s intense action sequences and stunts, the new movie is an emotional and gruesome tribute to the franchise’s infamous villain.

Netflix is releasing Texas Chainsaw Massacre today, Friday, February 18, 2022.

Grade: B

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

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