The Mostly Unsurprising Results of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (2022)
A Spoiler-Free Review
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has always been a continuity mess, and its entries have run the gamut ranging from poor to middling to good. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), released on Netflix, is not the first entry to ignore everything except the 1974 original, but it does try to capture the atmosphere and pacing of the original perhaps more so than any of the previous installments. The hints of competence make it all the more frustrating that this film suffered in various aspects, making it one of the weaker entries. Granted, given the history of the franchise, my expectations were low, so I am not surprised. But here are the reasons for my rating.
The film does attempt to update things by talking about gentrification, something that Candyman (2021) touched upon. And it feels very real (unfortunately) that the Confederate flag would still be on display somewhere, much to the characters' concerns during a scene. However, the cell phone moment is as cringeworthy as it seems in the trailer.
Honestly, I think both this film and Texas Chainsaw 3D made the wrong decision having Leatherface around in modern times, when he would be in his sixties and seventies, respectively. I just do not buy that the original Leatherface would be this strong in his seventies. In fact, he is presented as being super strong early on, breaking someone's hand off. It felt so unrealistic that it broke my immersion.
Unlike other slasher classics, the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre felt fairly grounded. I really think that having a sequel set in modern times just does not work, unless there is some new character taking on the Leatherface persona, which I would honestly be more open to than trying to do mental gymnastics trying to convince myself that this is the original Leatherface today.
Another thing that is difficult to believe is that Sally Hardesty, survivor of the original (but played by a different actress here, as Marilyn Burns passed away) has become a Texas Ranger. Prior to release, comparisons had already been made to how Laurie Strode has been depicted in the more recent Halloween films. The execution is actually pretty different and unexpected, but not in a satisfying way.
In any case, the ending of the original film has always left me with the impression that Sally is never going to be fine, let alone willing to go on the hunt for Leatherface herself. Granted, it is possible for people to overcome traumatic experiences and become stronger in real life. But as her arc has been presented in these films, it feels like there is some disconnect. It doesn't feel to me like I am watching the same character, due to all the factors that I have mentioned. It actually feels like Sally does not really even need to be in this film, given how things play out. And another thing that is difficult to believe is that in the 30-40 years or so searching for Leatherface, she was never able to find him.
The ending could have been something really special, but it ended up feeling very groanworthy to me. Again, there were various moments that broke my immersion and made it feel like the possibility of making this film feel as real as the original was there, but any attempt to push it in that direction has a push in the opposite direction. The result is a film that feels half-baked. To me, it is better than the 2017 prequel Leatherface and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. But like I said, the glimmers of competence in this film make it even more frustrating that it does not surpass other entries that are silly throughout. One would think that people would have learned by now, but alas. So my score for this film is a 5/10.