Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorise a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town.
Review: Directed by David Blue Garcia with story by horror duo Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the minds behind both Don’t Breathe movies as well as the solid Evil Dead reimagining. Texas Chainsaw Massacre continues the trend of terrible title choices (there are already two other films in the franchise with the exact same name) and takes a page or ten out of David Gordon Green’s book on “How to breathe new life into a dying horror franchise” by modelling this made for Netflix movie to Halloween 2018. This in itself isn’t a bad thing as Gordon’s movie was a hit with audiences, but in this case maybe they should’ve read the entire book as TCM 22 (which is what I’m calling this movie) is more smoke than fire.
TCM 22 takes place directly after the iconic 1974 original. Leatherface has been hiding for five decades, living peacefully with horror queen herself Alice Krige (Silent Hill, Gretel, Star Trek: First Contact) Ginny, who ran an orphanage that old LF once lived in. When a group of young (and VASTLY unlikeable) entrepreneurs roll in with the plan to gentrify the dead town they crossed paths with Ginny and after inadvertently causing her death, trigger the murdering behemoth to once again don a mask of flesh and a big old chainsaw and go to town on, well, everyone!
So here’s what they get right. The cinematography looks great with a visual style that evokes the original while feeling fresh and standing strongly as its own thing. The score does the same thing and both fit well in the overall world that Tobe Hooper built. I’m not familiar with Mark Burnham who has taken up the mantel here of Leatherface, but of all the actors to follow Gunnar Hansen in the role Burnham is the only one who nailed it for me. Imposing doesn’t begin to cover the way this man comes across because for someone his size he’s also incredibly fast which made every scene where he stalked a victim hit home even that much more.
The kills were effective as well with the opening one leaving one hell of an impression. I don’t like CGI in my horror but they did a solid job of blending it with the practical ones and there’s enough blood and gore here to satisfy even the hardest of horror fans. I’m also loving the mask here as I think it’s one of the most gruesome looking ones in the entire franchise, especially when you consider where it came from. The runtime is also relatively short which means the pacing is tight, keeping the tension racked up nicely.
Then there’s the parts modelled after Halloween 2018. As I mentioned before TCM 22 chronologically takes place after the first movie, technically making it part two. Then there’s the inclusion of Olwen Fouéré as Sally Hardesty (she was originally played by Marilyn Burns). Sadly Burns passed away in 2014 which is probably the only reason she was recast here. But like Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Sally Hardesty was the first woman to go up against Leatherface and survive. And just like Laurie she’s had nothing else on her mind all these years but revenge. Fouéré does a great job in the role and definitely makes a memorable impact, as does Moe Dunford as mechanic Richter who was my personal favourite character from the jump. Which leaves us with our four lead players and easily the worst aspects of this film.
Sarah Yarkin as Melody, Elsie Fisher as her sister Lila, Jacob Latimore as their friend Dante, and Nell Hudson as Dante’s girlfriend Ruth. Melody and Dante are influencers who get investors to buy into reviving the town of Harlow. And when I say these two and their entire group of fellow entrepreneurs are unlikable I’m being nice as I’m trying to keep this review PG-13. The only person in the group that seems to have any redeeming qualities is Ruth while Lila, who we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards due to her history with violence, is more annoying than anything else. She’s like an escort mission in a video game—unnecessary and most likely to get everyone around her killed. I’m trying to avoid spoilers but I can’t help but tell you that any and every character that you genuinely like is probably not going to make it to the end, which played a huge part in why my enjoyment of this movie was stilted.
The writers also take a literal whack at “cancel culture”, gentrification and the people who surround and promote these types of things which I’m sure some people will genuinely enjoy. As for myself, while I found one of these scenes (“Make a move and you’re cancelled dude”) genuinely funny, the rest of it was too heavy handed to be considered smart. The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre handled a similar theme of forgotten frustrated folks (albeit cannibalistic folk) with a lot more nuance and skill. It was so heavy handed here I actually expected someone to stand in the background with a sign that read “MESSAGE!” Sorry, but I prefer my horror with a tad more subtlety.
TCM 22 isn’t a bad horror movie. On its own it actually works as an average slasher with cool kills, a memorable and genuinely terrifying protagonist and a pace that keeps the tension flowing. But line it up against the rest of the franchise and this one fails to do much more than that. It doesn’t add anything new with the character of Leatherface and it certainly doesn’t leave you with a final girl you want to see again anytime soon.
Sommer’s Score: 5.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts you can check out my video review below:
So those are my reviews. How would you rate TCM 2022? And you can check out more great slasher content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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