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Going Nowhere: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (2022) Review

Chill Clinton obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies in 2016 and has since worked as a professional writer.

Elsie Fisher, best known for her performance in Bo Burnham's "Eight Grade" (2018), stars in this disappointing entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.

Elsie Fisher, best known for her performance in Bo Burnham's "Eight Grade" (2018), stars in this disappointing entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.

No need to rush out to the theaters. The newly released Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) is now streaming on Netflix, which is possibly its only redeeming quality, because paying specifically for this film would be almost as insulting as the self-flagellating process of gulping down another installment in a series that hasn't produced a compelling film in nearly 50 years.

This film acts as a direct sequel to the original 1974 hit, returning to the small Texas town of Harlow in an apparent attempt to service fans by including familiar narrative and visual elements, including the return of Sally Hardesty from the original film.

But unfortunately, all attempts to create anything inspiring or refreshing end at signing Olwen Fouéré to appear in this movie. Otherwise, it lacks anything to distinguish it from the most common late-night slasher flick. Its ham-fisted attempts to comment on contemporary topics like gentrification and school violence are never adequately realized, leaving the audience wondering if these are just other ploys to make up for the film's total lack of narrative and characterization.

Left to Right: Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, Nell Hudson, Jacob Latimore

Left to Right: Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, Nell Hudson, Jacob Latimore

Return to Harlow: A Spoiler-Free Synopsis

A group of young entrepreneurs descend on the nearly abandoned town of Harlow, Texas, with the goal of marketing its all-but totally faded charm to potential developers.

However, while exploring the town and attempting to remove a tattered Confederate flag from a dilapidated former orphanage, they encounter an elderly woman who is illegally squatting in the foreclosed property.

An argument regarding her right to remain leads the woman to have a life-threatening medical episode, and when she dies, we learn that her only remaining child is none other than Leatherface. And yeah, you could say he's unhappy with the situation.

Then there's maybe fifty more minutes of killing Millennials and Gen-Zers that sound like their dialogue was written by an AI program that only had access to Tik Tok, we learn that the protagonist Lila (Elsie Fisher) was wounded in a high school shooting which is the extent of her characterization, and Sally Hardesty appears in order to contribute nothing but Olwen Fouéré's name to the credits (she spends about five minutes on screen).


Blood and Bore

When watching the film, one cannot help but notice that the quality of its visual elements far exceed that of its narrative. As director David Blue Garcia's first big budget directorial credit, this film clearly showcases his strength directing visual elements.

The movie both balances color as well as a variety of shot orientations to create a visual language that keeps pace with modern slasher films, while also paying homage to the styles reminiscent of the exploitation horror era of the 70's that gave birth to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.

The screenplay, however, makes viewers wonder if screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin has any sincere interest in the genre whatsoever. Slasher films are not widely known for delivering compelling stories, but those with a passion for this sub-genre understand that quality characterization sets the best films apart from the pack.

In Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the majority of the characters are walking, talking bags of blood, waiting to find themselves on the other end of Leatherface's chainsaw. Most are there to exploit the town's crumbling infrastructure for cheap land to market to trendy Capitalists, and in that way, I suppose we know all we need to know about them before they inevitably get their just desserts.

However, we are meant to root for Sarah Yarkin's and Elsie Fisher's characters, who are the only ones to show distress and a desire to leave following the old woman's passing. These two become the central protagonists, and they are the most realized characters in the movie. Yarkin plays the big sister, who wants to be a protector for her little sister on this trip to Harlow, while Fisher plays a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, wanting space to breathe.

It's here when we learn that Fisher's character had recently survived a school shooting after being wounded, which is the first and only interesting and unexpected reveal throughout the film. The only problem is that we never really understand what effect the shooting had on her. She seems neither timid nor angry, and the experience doesn't seem to give her either an edge against Leatherface, or an obstacle to overcome in order to defeat him.

And if I'm being completely forthcoming, I think the writers' cheap exploitation of the topic to make up for their apparent inability to write characters is exceptionally distasteful given the present climate. Ultimately, we see no reconciliation of her past, and in the penultimate climax of the film, she is saved by her older sister, reinforcing the concept that she is helpless when left to her own devices.

And you may be thinking that the secondary climax would give her another chance to be the hero, but you would be wrong. Ultimately, she is largely ineffectual, and at the mercy of the horrors happening around her.


Final Thoughts

If you want to see a grown man sawed in half with one wing of a chainsaw, this movie has it.

If you want to see a face get cut off and placed on someone else's face while they bash other people's faces in, this movie has it.

However, the latest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise lacks any sincerity or apparent desire to create a film that could have breathed new life into a franchise that has been sputtering out for far too long.

Hopefully, this film will finally be the nail in Leatherface's coffin, far overdo for a burial. But after seeing this unabashedly lazy project that should have been canned upon reading the script, I fear that there is no bar too low for the owners of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre license.

And I'm fairly confident that, like the doomed characters in these films, this franchise will continue to strive for survival, ultimately going nowhere.