My notes on Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2021)
Obviously, the system of titling for sequels is broken. This is an entry in a franchise that has already yielded films called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Texas Chainsaw (aka Texas Chainsaw 3D) – and really doesn’t need to have Texas Chainsaw Massacre added to the mess of the filmography. It’s one of those pretend-all-films-since-the-original-don’t-exist sequels we’ve seen a lot of lately … though, so far as I can tell, everything since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has taken that approach (with the exception of Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning, a prequel to the remake, and the possibility that Leatherface is a prequel to Texas Chainsaw). A good reason for this is that none of the sequels to date are films anyone would want to make a follow-up to – and this one doesn’t do anything to go against that tradition.
Like Leatherface, this was made in Bulgaria with all the Texan flavour you’d expect from faking it in another country. It was directed by David Blue Garcia (who replaced Ryan and Andy Tohill a week into production), from a script by Chris Thomas Devlin based on a story by Evil Dead remake/Don’t Breathe team Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. Brief enough (83 minutes with a slow end crawl and a meh post-credits blip) to warrant accusations of short measure, it offers a deal of explicit bloodletting but little suspense, horror or (let’s face it) point beyond keeping someone’s IP active. Like the David Gordon Green Halloweens, it tries to ground itself in the original – John Larroquette is back as narrator, here talking over Tobe Hooper footage passed off as a documentary about the unsolved murders. A polaroid of the original cast is frequently looked at by the distinctive Olwen Fouéré, who plays an older, white-haired version of 1973 survivor Sally Hardesty, now a retired Texas Ranger who never did track down the hulking killer of her friends (though it turns out he lives one town over from her). Ever since Leatherface Texas Chainsaw 3, various creatives have oddly insisted on reimagining Leatherface as a single Jason-Freddy-Michael bogeyman rather than the low man on a killer family totem pole.
The set-up taps into current American culture wars, but you’re more likely to squirm at the weird emphases and mixed signals than feel the biting relevance. Lila (Elsie Fisher), survivor of a school shooting, understandably hates guns but eventually needs to use one (not that it does much good). Hipster assholes from Austin (Tobe Hooper’s hometown) sneer high-handedly at rural gun-toters, polluting trucks and Confederate flags (though they don’t mention the statue). They’re all so smug we’re supposed to think they deserve to be carved up, but it’s especially uncomfortable that a couple of these doomed idiots are black or Asian – we’re expected to empathise with the pain of bypassed backwoods types but think a black guy who wants to tear down a rebel flag is a dick. It’s the outsiders’ fault Leatherface (Mark Burnham), who has been peaceable all these years, starts killing again. Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) want to turn the ghost town of Harlow into an artisanal mall or something equally trivial and have bought up all the property. They mistakenly evict an old lady (Alice Krige, latest of the embarrassingly distinguished TCM alumni association which includes Renee Zellweger, Viggo Mortenson, Matthew McConaughey and Lili Taylor) from the former orphanage where she’s been caring for the big lug. The matriarch has a seizure while being hauled off her property and dies in the ambulance, whereupon her charge cuts off her face and wears it as a mask, then heads back to town to slaughter everyone.
The fuss attracts Sally, who shows up with guns but is a lot less handy with them than the present incarnation of Laurie Strode. Sisters Lila and Melody are set up to be final girls, but this isn’t a franchise about survivors – and the filmmakers deliver a callous punchline that doesn’t really shock because this is a movie that unreels rather than involves. There are tiny okayish moments – the store selling souvenirs of the local murders isn’t just a throwaway but set-up – but it’s all pretty disposable. I’m starting to appreciate the legacy of one-and-done unsequelised 1970s horror films … Messiah of Evil, Daughters of Darkness, Death Line, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Race with the Devil, Grave of the Vampire, The Brotherhood of Satan, Frogs. That these old dogs stand alone, untarnished by ten or so yapping puppies shitting themselves to death over the next fifty years, makes them seem all the more admirable now.
Leatherface would be, what, pushing 80 by now? Not bad for a man of his portly frame and advanced years.
What a shit way to treat Sally, she won in the classic original because she survived, and this film takes that away from her for a cheap kill.
Amen! Viva Frogs, the Baby, Race With the Devil, Death Line … Even Burnt Offerings looks like The Shining compared to this swill.
Another unwanted sequel – instant landfill. Forbidden Planet’s Krell seem a more apposite Horror archetype for our times than Junior and co. I also curse the lack of imagination the vegetables who make these abominations display. What happened to The Beverley Hills Chain Saw Massacre, etc … come to think of it,maybe we can give massacres in general a rest. A kwik thought – perhaps there could be some background implications of a war of the statues going on. Juxtapose this with the gruesome corpse monuments contructed by Junior and co (we presume, never resolved in that thudding absolutist way recent films seem to think is essential) – the family live just out of sight of our vision, and they have their own rituals and belief system. The allusions to astrology and solar flare footage imply a force of nature, irrational. Like teh Death line guy. They’ve always been there, minding their own business (the odd bit of cannibalism), modern life bringing them blinking into daylight. Every house a haunted house. No grey shades in taking sides, can’t stand this body count style of picture where we are supposed to hate characters and relish their demise. I never thought I would rue the gore film, but critical mass monotony has long since passed. Tedium is the great crime, shouting louder doesn’t enhance interest. The identikit gym-built gun toting Cameronesque survivalist archetype really galls. Who actually likes modern horror films? Or are they for 19 year olds and I am a residual odour who won’t accept obsolescence?
“Obviously, the system of titling for sequels is broken.” 👏
Fabulous end to that review
Good review for a terrible film
Saved for later. 95% of what I’ve read so far has rated this as one of the (many) lowpoints in the franchise’s history. Some have said it’s worse than TCM 4: THE NEXT GENERATION and TCM 3D, others have said it’s bad, but not as bad as those two entries in the series. Either way, I know that this is not going to be a pleasant watch.
IMO, only Nispell’s reboot and its prequel have been worth watching since TCM 3. Although neither film is quite the stand-alone departure from the franchise in the same way as the SUSPIRIA “remake” – which was really a complete re-imagining from the ground up. Still, I have found myself returning to those two Platinum Dunes productions every now and then.
I love the fact you’ve gone with that photo for this review, I genuinely spat my drink out when I saw that
I hated the superfluous Evil Dead remake: clumsy, leaden and unnecessarily brutal, so when I saw the same people were responsible I knew it was a turkey.
Philip Barns Oh, are they? That makes me more interested in seeing this. I really dug the Evil Dead remake, myself.
I really wish this sequel-remake-sequel-remake-sequel-remake cycle would just STOP.
IMO The worst movie of the entire franchise. Visually speaking, it’s great. But the story, the acting, the humor and everything else suck so bad.
Oh no…dare I go into this film…
Probably won’t bother with the film, but this is a great read. The last couple of lines of the review are perfectly worded.
So it appears you won’t be backing my script of “Frogs 2: Scream ‘Til You Croak”
I enjoyed it as TCM-branded horror product. Didn’t bore me.
Shaun K Chang
I actually liked it, surprisingly, but I respect that people had a different reaction to it.
I liked it in that “How did this get made?” kind of way
The only saving grace was basically every character was unlikeable so when they were cut up I punched the air.
Great review Kim, but I kind of like the fact that they keep on making TCM films even though it does dilute the brand credibility. I do suspect, however, that if they remake Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, you may take to your soap box in earnest!
This is a great review, Kim.
Well, if I can like Dracula (1958) and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, then I can sure as hell like TCM 1964 and 2022!
John Llewellyn Probert
Great review with a cracking final line with which I agree wholeheartedly.
Someone should just do a straight faced docudrama about Trump’s America and market it as a horror. No supernatural element needed.
Absolutely spot on Kim .
Yep. You said it, Kim.
Aah, a non mobile friendly site (is that still a thing?) I’ll need to read tomorrow on a PC.
John Farrell just do that widdly Minority Report thing with your thumbs, works for me 👍
John excellent, you should be finished just in time for Call The Midwife
Scötty Bradley Just finished. As a fan of the franchise I am always going to like any sequel but clearly it is a bit tedious and nothing I haven’t seen before but for any horror fans it’s just something that has to be watched, just don’t compare to the original as there’s no comparison.
John perfectly put.
Hell, how many lame horror sequels did we watch in the 80s and 90s and still get a kick out of?
I guess that’s why it suits Netflix, they’re used to their subscribers viewing an 80 odd minute movie in less than 20 anyway.… See more
Scötty Bradley 🤣 I haven’t given midwife a chance yet, never seen one episode!
John Farrell it keeps Mother happy
I couldn’t have put it better!
The last line is spot on. I appreciate those sequel-free gems from the early/mid-70s so damn much more for not having spawned lazy cash grabs.
I loved it!
Well assumed it would be crap because all the films in that series are apart from the first one, and reassuringly, it was.
Gav Dar Chip Lafreniere
It’s really a grieving story about loss.
Gav Dar Chip Lafreniere no, it’s a shit sequel.
I grieved watching it.
I had high hopes for this but it really was awful..I enjoyed the new Scream film much more, despite going into Texas Chainsaw with expectations it would be good and vice versa for Scream.
Will give this a miss then! I quite liked the remake, & I remember the prequel being quite effective. Agree with final point about how other 70s horrors have faied better for not being revisited. Mind you Black Christmas is still a classic despite the terrible retreads.
The original films are still there for people to see, and lacklustre remakes, reboots, retreads and sequels may even stimulate and encourage new viewers to seek out and enjoy the original films and, consequently, widen their fanbase.
Very good point David Hyman. Never thought of it that way before.
You know what it actually had that none of the others seemed to really bother with? An actual chainsaw massacre 🤣
haha very much so
Lots of interesting ideas around culture war introduced but rapidly abandoned in rush to finish before you notice how terrible it all is. You get the sense the initial directors were aiming for something a bit of subtext but were replaced for a hack and slash which made very little sense and you begrudged having your time wasted with themes raised and immediately abandoned. Should have just been straightforward slasher exploitation film, but played it safe with pretence of subtext to avoid the actual exploitation, would have been better for it.
Charles R Law
I legit just *felt* my intelligence being insulted by this crap. Turning Sally into a lame Laurie Strode knock off and then expecting us to buy that she was supposedly Texas Ranger who somehow couldn’t find either the farmhouse where she was held or the whereabouts of Leatherface for 50 years. It’s not like he went very far.