Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Director: David Blue Garcia

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige, Jessica Allain, Nell Hudson

Nearly 50 years since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released, it's remarkable how viscerally frightening Tobe Hooper's masterpiece remains. Many sequels followed with their own interpretations on the series, yet that inescapable terror felt largely missing from these films. Hopes arose when the creators of 2013's Evil Dead and Don't Breathe were attached to this ninth instalment, only for the final product to dash such promise.

Familiar inclusions for the opening are John Larroquette's narration and a shot of a dead armadillo, this time appropriated for the introduction of a true crime series playing on TV. That night of terror has been commodified into chainsaw keyrings and T-shirts, something witnessed by a group of Instagram influencers arriving into Texas. Their plan is to gentrify the remote town of Harlow for their business venture, although they accidentally disrupt the home of Leatherface (Mark Burnham), who reacts in horrific ways.

The latest legacy sequel to a classic franchise, screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin works off a story by Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, and one can feel they have something to say. Whatever musings they had in mind appear lost in translation, as the result feels like an out-of-touch boomer taking his anger out at Gen Z-ers in eye-rolling ways. As party-bus patrons react to Leatherface by pulling out their phones and threatening to "cancel" him, the scene feels made with a genuine sense of contempt for the modern generation.

Perhaps a satirical intent would be effective if there was something to latch onto with the protagonists, something made difficult by the thin writing. All following these blank slates does is make the slim runtime feel far longer than necessary. The most startling inclusion is how one characters journey goes from their past as a school-shooting survivor, to reclaiming their courage by using a gun. As such tragedies remain unfortunately real today, it's a crass inclusion which feels downright disrespectful.

Taking over as Leatherface is Mark Burnham, casting an imposing figure in the iconic role that's the source of such brutally realized gore. Some of the grisly kills will stick in the mind, although the dim lighting and evident inclusion of CG work proves distracting. What's most bothersome is how the character feels more like Jason Voorhess in a different mask, as the character shrugs off life-threatening wounds with superhuman stamina. When this iteration feels so distant from Leatherface, one wonders why it had to be connected to this franchise at all.

The biggest shame comes in the form of Sally Hardesty, portrayed here by Olwen Fouéré. While the portrayal feels inspired by Laurie Strode's depiction in 2018's Halloween, the minimal screentime leaves the character to feel unfortunately wasted. There's an interesting idea in her desperation to have her trauma mean something, frightened at her nightmarish ordeal being considered insignificant, which makes it a saddening how this curious angle gets merely a surface-level exploration. As a result, Sally's inclusion feels like half-hearted nostalgia bait, although that's par for the course when both the ending and post-credits scene feel so laughably forced.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is available to stream on Netflix