Film Reviews

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

It’s not often that movies are actually filmed in and take place primarily underwater but if done right, it feels like the perfect angle for a horror movie.

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s The Deep House gives you just enough time to take in one big breath before diving head first into the cold waters of a French man made lake for the rest of its runtime.

In this particular lake is an abandoned mansion that conjures a young haunted travel vlogging couple, Ben and Tina played by James Jagger and Camille Rowe, to monetarily explore its eerie presence.

Expecting to find only the large structure left standing on the lake floor, what they find inside is much more than expected and with absolutely no means of escape. This mansion is enormous and that’s clear when the couple descend upon it and swim around its exteriors but once inside the completely boarded up place, the many creepy rooms still mostly preserved in completely surrounding watery darkness makes you feel uncomfortably claustrophobic.

The dark and sinister history of the Montegnac Mansion is awakened by the arrival of its latest guests and so this aquatic exploration quickly turns into a horrifying race against time and the terrors that still lurk within this sunken purgatory. Sanity levels deplete even faster than the supplied oxygen tanks do and it fully illustrates wave after wave of dreadful and hopeless panic.

Bustillo and Maury have collaborated on a handful of horror movies since the early 2000s. From their first and still best work on the 2007 film Inside, each movie sadly seemed to get worse from there, especially their 2017 Leatherface film. This movie is easily their 2nd best movie so far. The Deep House is a rather straightforward horror movie but with technical design that is just exceptionally incomparable to any other horror movie out there.

Check it out on Hulu or Paramount Plus.

“It’s him isn’t it. Laytherfayce”

***Spoilers Ahead***

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is hilariously bad-ass. It’s poorly written, badly acted, lacks any narrative coherence and it had me freaking out the entire time figuring out what in god’s name was actually going on. It does more to explain the original film in the first 5 minutes than it’s able to do for its own movie during its entire runtime. But it’s not all terrible.

Basically a group of gen z “gentri-fuckers” -played by Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Jacob Latimore and Nell Hudson- have rolled into the abandoned town of Harlow Texas and plan on selling their newly acquired property to a bus full of tourists who seem to have no idea how close this place is to the site of the original film, or maybe they do, its just never clearly revealed as is the case for nearly everything else that follows. Things just happen and you either roll with it all or find yourself throwing up your hands in utter confusion and a fit of frustration. 

It’s their pestering presence that triggers the long dormant monster, Leatherface. If you erase any other sequel and only welcome the idea that this mentally ill and underdeveloped man went into hiding not long after the traumatic murder spree of the original film and found solace in the Harlow orphanage where his surrogate mother has taken care of him for nearly 50 years and as a result felt no need to kill all this time (even if the potential was always deep within him and its clear now that it was), you could maybe squeeze out a mere drop of logic. But logic is quickly chainsawed into a big messy pile of nonsense.

So all it takes to awaken that murderous chainsaw wielding beast is yet another domestic intrusion. How the movie gets us back to this point makes terrible sense really but it’s what gets Texas Chainsaw Massacre back to where it truly belongs as the most primal version of a slasher film and that itself is literally the only thing that makes sense about the movie. And so the plot finally thickens when blood begins to spill.

Afterall, no one really cares who Leatherface is until he puts on that skin mask.

It’s apparent that people are getting caught up in the underlying themes just tossed into the story. Stuff like the general idea of Gen Z culture, gentrification, school mass shootings, the death of a small town, racism and that domestic dysfunctionality. I can see how people feel the movie inadequately attempts to work these themes into the movie or thinks its far too woke for its own good, especially in a film that doesn’t need any of it to just needlessly clash and so incompetently. But none of it ever stood a chance against a horror icon like Leatherface.

There are two things I clearly like about the movie, with another slowly growing on me. The first is Leatherface himself and it’s something that I only now think I like. The second is the nonsensical slasher slashing and the third is the film’s surprisingly great cinematography.

This version of Leatherface, played by Mark Burnham, continues to grow on me. At first I was indifferent to this new actor and his portrayal of an older Hardesty boy. He’s an aged man that has maintained a beefy build, standing at 6 foot 4 when he’s not hunching over from his old age. Once he puts on his surrogate mothers skinned face, gets a few murders into of his system and a whole lot of blood smeared on him, that big body comes in handy and makes him just as terrifying as he was all the way back in 1974. But there’s an aged maturity to his body language now, it’s more reserved and less flaily but not necessarily sluggish. We essentially witness this killer be brought back to life so to speak because by the end he does his little infamous dance like he’s back! He definitely fits in with Blumhouses current version of an older Michael Myers. It’s just a shame we don’t get a full Hardesty family unit in some capacity because The Saw is Family!

The quality of Leatherface kills varies greatly. He mindlessly massacres everyone with ease except for the two sisters of the main group, Melody (Yarkin) and Lilia (Fisher). He even destroys an old friend with such a disrespectful amount of ease. I won’t be discussing this unnecessary and pointless return because it’s frustrating the more I think about it.

There are far too many tame methods of killing early on but then it’ll hit you out of nowhere with the most brutal instances of violence the genre has seen to date, relentlessly bashing the local redneck “realtor” in the head with a sledgehammer until there’s really nothing left of it, snapping a deputy’s arm open with ease and then shoving the jagged bone into his neck, cleaving a gnarly chunk out of Dante’s face. Then there are the crown horror jewels of the film. There is the soon to be infamous neon bus massacre (all cancel culture wokeisms aside), It’s a wild terrifying and honestly claustrophobic stretch of horror and then the killer somewhat revisionist ending that made me cheer and holler wildly for no good reason. I would love to dive deeper into these two sequences in greater detail later on. But these two sequences are where the franchise thrives and it certainly does in this movie.

Thanks to a pair of cinematographers, now director David Blue Garcia and his DP Ricardo Diaz, visually, Texas Chainsaw Massacre looks exactly like it should and it creates such a classic horror milieu that feels true to this franchise. You can see it and you can certainly feel it. Filmed in Bulgaria, you feel as though you’re in the scorching summer of rural Texas. Even with the hot mess that unfolds on screen, the movie looks great. It doesn’t just look great but the setting somehow works. Despite how confusing it is at first, this little Bulgarian set turned abandoned small town makes for an effective Texas Chainsaw Massacre locale. It’s a gruesome playground for Leatherface to have some fun and even find himself again!

But who is David Blue Garcia? After a duo of directors left the project just a week or so into its production, David Blue Garcia, a small time cinematographer-director with few projects attached to his name and not a single major IP such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was hired on to direct. It’s still unclear how this filmmaker even got his hands on this movie to begin with. That’s something that needs to be researched but I would suspect this filmmaker was on Fede Alvarez’s radar or in close proximity to his inner circle.

Speaking of, this could go down as Fede Alvarez’s first miss, at least as a producer and if you compare it to his previous work in the industry. I remember the news that he was attached to this film as a producer got us all excited for something good. Evil Dead (2013) was a solid theatrical horror release and the original Don’t Breathe (2016) was great so things seemed promising for his career. I do wonder what this film may have been like had Alvarez directed it and not merely served as a producer.

The directors behind Leatherface 2017, still the worst installment of the franchise, went on to direct The Deep House a lowkey great new horror movie so there is hope that David Blue Garcia can bounce back even better if his dedication to the horror genre is legit. Glimpses of it can be found in this movie.

It’s not often that Netflix welcomes in horror films as historically violent as this franchise but here we are. While it would be cool to see this movie get its own theatrical release, like Halloween 2018 and Scream 2022 did, the fact that it even exists at all is fascinating. It would thrive much better on Shudder’s streaming platform because they would authentically advocate for the film, good or bad. You just know that this movie will be quickly forgotten by Netflix, on Netflix.

Everything has been said already. Texas Chainsaw Massacre has far too many awful qualities. That’s just a constant with the franchise as a whole. But I still had so much fun with this sequel, requel or whatever it is…..interacting with the absurdity, yelling about frustrations and mostly laughing at it but occasionally with it too. It makes for some fun and entertaining group riffing!

Just like Leatherface himself, who is triggered out of hiding and swiftly makes his murderous rounds only to retreat back into his bizarre and fucked up sanctum, Texas Chainsaw Massacre poked that big bear, woke up something horrific, awful and downright confusing and now we must all endure its brief lifespan until it quickly sinks back into the dark depths of the Netflix library.

While it’s not THE Texas Chainsaw Massacre it certainly is one and I quite like that.

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