WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
When it comes to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, its franchise is a bit of a mess. The original 1974 film is unanimously considered to be an all time classic. The movie inspired countless filmmakers over the years and is one of my all time favorite horror movies from the 1970’s and is still often held in very high regard amongst the film and horror community. The sequels though are a bit of a different story in that regard. While there are many different entries into this series, it’s not nearly as popular as Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday the 13th ended up and they didn’t really want to be consistent at times. Regardless of that though, each of them does some memorable qualities: the second one’s dark humor and launching the career of horror icon Bill Moseley; ‘Next Generation’ giving us an early role of Matt McConaughey and played with some self awareness in it; and the Platinum Dunes remake and prequel having one of my favorite R. Lee Ermey roles outside of Full Metal Jacket.
Given that many different franchises are receiving the Re-quel treatment lately (as they’ve been dubbed lately), TCM is no exception as a new entry into the franchise was recently released on Netflix that also serves as a sequel to the original film as well as a means to reboot the series. Funny enough, that’s what the last film in the series tried to do as well. So this would be the second attempt at that for this series and many people came to find out if it did a good job at it…which it didn’t.
Synopsis: Set decades after the events of the original, a group of young and wealthy kids go to the abandoned town of Harlow, Texas after acquiring the property and plan to auction off the property to make it and new, up-and-coming social environment. Soon after arriving to an orphanage, they get into a scuffle with an elderly resident who still owns her property ends up with her being sent to the hospital and being taken care of by her only friend on the property: Leatherface. Soon after passing away though, Leatherface returns to Harlow to take care of the new visitors.
Seeing as it decides to follow up the original movie, one does wonder how they decided to continue the original story. Well, they decided to have Leatherface hide out in an orphanage and apparently NO ONE was able to find him nor identify him or his family members over the course of nearly FIFTY YEARS. How is this possible? Well, don’t expect any answers since this movie doesn’t give us any to go off of and just expects us to accept it. It honestly feels lazy that they didn’t offer any kind of details or insight into his past and it raises more questions than answers (especially since he was also living with his two brothers and his, somehow still living, grandfather and two of those three family members were still alive at the time).
Given how it’s supposed to directly following the original, the film decides to follow a trend that a lot of the reboots have been doing lately is bringing back some of the most original characters back and they brought back the original survivor Sally Hardesty. Following the events back in 1973, she has become a battle-hardened Texas Ranger while waiting for the day for him to return to seek revenge. Given the nature of this movie, it’s no surprise that she’s become a re-tread of Laurie Strode in the recent Halloween trilogy. While they gave us plenty to work with for Laurie and how it affected her, Sally doesn’t really get anything as she’s given very little screen-time in the movie. Not only that, but she only shows up in the same town as Leatherface towards the end of the movie. While there could have been something to work with, she ends up feeling like a lazy character to throw in to try and attract fans.
Speaking of characters, this movie decided to do one common mistake that a lot of modern horror movies have been doing: making the characters completely unlikable. They tend to be either stuck up, obnoxious, or incredibly stupid to emphasize rooting for the killer. For this film, they decided to make them all social media influencers who bought the town to try and make it some kind of influencer paradise for some reason (I can’t even imagine how you’d be able to go about purchasing an entire town just by being creative on Instagram or Youtube). Plus they also seem quick to judge since they just immediately start being antagonistic to the less-than-a-handful amount of people who live in town. It’s honestly really disappointing that a lot of modern horror movies do stuff like this since we should emphasizing with them and not the one swinging around a chainsaw trying to kill them. They don’t have anything going for them in terms of personality outside of appearance and the only thing you’ll end up remembering is who is going to get killed first.
Oddly, this movie was trying to throw in some kind of message throughout the movie. Given the fact that the characters were all some form of presence on social media and/or online influencer, they seemed to be either mocking or criticizing the idea as they become the obvious target for Leatherface in the movie. Given how this movie ended up being fairly light on plot, the same is applied to the attempt at whatever they were trying to go for here. The idea was there for a little bit but it doesn’t really go anywhere nor does it ever have any kind of impact throughout the story or with the characters and it ends up being completely pointless.
If there’s one good thing that this movie has going for it is that it’s easily one of the most visually good looking entries into the franchise. This movie is very well shot with a lot of great still shots that make anyone curious about this movie (Hell, it was the main reason why I watched it). While the first movie looked like it was shot like a documentary, this one definitely dabbled in some more artistic shots in addition to the documentary style of the original. Not only that, but all of the gore scenes were executed very well. The effects were easily the entertaining part of the movie and, again, the main reason that would make anyone curious about the movie (it’s also the main reason why some people like this movie).
Overall, this was a pretty disappointing entry into the TCM franchise. Outside of how it looks on camera and the death scenes, I can’t really think of anything worth recommending for people to watch this nor any reason to revisit it any time in the future. It’s pretty sad to see that it was another mediocre entry into the franchise and that the series would have been better off if they just had just the first few movies and been left alone after that.