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John’s Horror Corner: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), a distant sequel to 1974’s TCM in the spirit of 2018’s Halloween, capturing all the raw brutality but none of the menacing mystique.

March 7, 2022

MY CALL: If you enjoyed the 2003 TCM reboot, then this should somewhat to your preference. Actually, with my expectations adjusted to simply expect a solid intense slasher movie instead of a TCM movie, I really enjoyed this movie. You just need to check your TCM expectations at the door and forget about them. MORE MOVIES LIKE Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Well obviously you should have already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and the ultra-zany sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), though I was not a fan of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) or Leatherface (2017). Then there was the excellent (IMO) franchise reboot The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), and perhaps even Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013) just for completeness. From there I’d suggest seeing House of 1000 Corpses (2003).

Visiting and prospecting the town of the brutal massacre of 1973, city slickers Melody (Sarah Yarkin; Happy Death Day 2 U), Lila (Elsie Fisher; Castle Rock), Dante (Jacob Latimore, The Maze Runner) and Ruth (Nell Hudson; Outlander) set out with the dream of breathing life back into the ghost town of Harlow, Texas.

Their new creepy neighbor and former orphanage manager Mrs. Mc (Alice Krige; Silent Hill, Ghost Story) is unceremoniously ‘evicted’ from her home as soon as she meets them, and she has a plus-sized man-child of a tenant. There is no question about it: this is Leatherface (Mark Burnham) and the movie wants you to know it.

The violence opens early and timely with a truly intense arm-break that should make some all-time “Top 10” lists! Wow. Shocking, brutal, grotesque… everything I wanted in terms of raw violence. This sequel/rebootquel lacks the grimy, grainy, dusty, sun-scorched patina of its source material. But it does bring truly brutal intensity. Sure, Leatherface has been neutered of his intrigue when we see his all-too-human face and learn his overly simple story. But his menace remains in spades as he admires a victim’s peeled-off face in the sunlight and slips it neatly over his own.

There’s a lot of blood. And if you enjoyed the 2003 reboot, then this should be to your preference. I also find myself appreciating the uniquely disturbing skin mask. A great deal of care went into this Leatherface’s look, even if no such care went into his character’s overall presentation.

Like a generic brand Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween (2018), Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré; Mandy, Sea Fever, The Northman) seems to have been waiting and ready for the news to cue her vengeance 49 years after the slaughter of her road-tripping friends. The over-presentation of Leatherface and cliché ‘vengeance Hardesty’ do disservice to the TCM legacy. But the script in question handed to director David Blue Garcia (Tejano)—for all its overly basic flaws—was executed verywell, transmuting TCM into a more typical kind of mean mainstream slasher film whereas the original was anything but. Leatherface’s mask may be disturbing, but he has been stripped of his psychopathic mystique.

There’s some truly inspired and utterly grotesque wound work here. And OMG a horrendous leg break!!! There’s a skull-splintering head-smushing that was just plain chunky-gory fun, and what I’d best describe as a dismemberment party bus fiesta. The writing may have been left behind in the wake of too many sequels, reboots and timelines, but shock and awe are riding shotgun.

Maybe predictable and oh-so-overplayed, but I enjoyed the ending. It’s tough to end horror movies in satisfying ways. Actually, with my expectations adjusted to simply expect a solid intense slasher movie instead of a TCM movie, I really enjoyed this movie overall… yes, quite a bit.

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