Don’t Mess with ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

Netflix’s ham-fisted update of 1970s gore

You can’t expect anything that bears the title The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be a treatise on subtlety; chainsaws and massacres are not delicate things you can discuss in sitting-rooms over cups of tea. About all you can expect is that the movie delivers on the title, which this technically does, taking place in Texas and containing at least one massacre involving chainsaws. But you can hope that the movie also lives up to the audaciousness of the title in some fashion – intensity, severity, catharsis. Sadly, this limp and ham-fisted slasher does nothing of the sort.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

Positioning itself as a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic of the same name, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre finds a group of idealistic/opportunistic city-slicker millennials in possession of a remote Texas ghost town they hope to turn into a liberal paradise, only to discover it’s the home of the notorious Leatherface. There’s some promise in that notion, being a step above the lazy “immoral partying kids get what’s coming to them” trope, but this remake quickly shunts it aside in favor of joyless, artless tension-free murders that lead squishily to the inevitable final confrontation. Did a movie ever spill so much fake blood for so pointless a cause?

Along the way there’s a half-baked attempt at twisted message-making, pointing out the obvious inadequacy of wokeness in the face of a chainsaw-wielding maniac. (Never mind the apparent inadequacy of anything short of a main battle tank in the face of this particular geriatric chainsaw-wielding maniac.) And there’s some half-baked myth-making as well, with one of the hapless victims being something of a Final Girl already, having barely survived a school shooting that we see in flashback during the twelve seconds that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre threatens to become a more interesting movie.

But it doesn’t. At least the recent Halloween sequels, whatever their problems, had the benefit of Jamie Lee Curtis and a generally interesting cast; here the workmanlike actors do workmanlike plot things until the killer murders them in workmanlike fashion. Mostly dull and never scary, the only terrifying thing about this Massacre is the prospect of a sequel. Maybe in another 50 years we take another shot? Sadly, you could probably hold your breath until the next one of these comes out.

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Ryan Kallberg

Ryan Kallberg is a writer based in southern California. His work has appeared in The Onion, The A.V. Club and on E! Online. His checkered resumé includes stints as a professional poker player, reality television producer, and sandwich assembler.

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