Sickle's take on Netflix's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", Fandom and Requels

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Netflix) follows in the "requel" format, as we watch a group of young adults attempt to establish a utopian society in an abandoned Texas town with the brutal Leatherface still lurking within one of the supposedly abandoned homes.


[This movie was viewed via Netflix at the time of this review.]

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre Review


Reviewing this movie is going to require a deep discussion into the realm of the "requel", its place in the recent horror meta, and the dissection of fandom as it pertains to cult-classic horror franchises. But before we begin, it's important to admit my own subjectivity, as I highly respect the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it doesn't hold a special place in my undead heart as a classic I cherish and revisit. With that in mind, I think it heavily affects my perspective on this film.


The latest Scream film (which will be reviewed soon) broke down the "requel" into digestible terms for everyone and then proceeded to do what it does and satirically tear it apart like a very thick horror onion. Basically, it's the studio logic to try and feed off of the success of the original films of horror franchises (as it was their success that endowed the franchises to begin with), but ignore the chronological progress of failed sequels. This leads to essentially ret-conning franchises at their point of "failure". If the franchise failed after the third film, the "requel" picks up from there. If only the original was well done, the requel takes over at that point. Most recent examples include the Halloween films and this TCM Netflix original.


Now, I have to say that "requelling" is a rather clever concept. And while it clearly has the "money grab" label all over it, it also makes a lot of sense. As horror fans we've often said, "Why remake [horror classic title]? It's already perfect, so why touch it?" And then in the very next breath say, "[Sequel(s) 2-5] sucked. Why can't they make a good follow-up film that carries the franchise in reasonable and interesting directions?" The requel is the answer to this dilemma. Don't touch the classic. Progress from it in new and interesting ways.


Now it still carries with it inherent issues and challenges, evidenced by the massive backlash Netflix's TCM received. If you stray too far from the source material, diehard fans will burn you at the stake for your disrespect to the original as you "missed the mark" of what made the original special. If you play it safe and simply duplicate the formula, you will be seen as not progressing the franchise forward and being unoriginal. TCM befell the fate of straying too far from the original, turning Leatherface into a mindless killing machine rather than a mentally disturbed brute that is merely acting on the whims of his psychotic, sadistic cannibal family.


While there is certainly nuance that I agree separates Leatherface from, say, Jason or Michael, we are also essentially denying the carnage Leatherface still enacts. Almost every film, particularly outside of the original, shows Leatherface to carry out plenty of violence of his own accord. Even if many of these acts can be wound back to the demands of the family, there is never a moment of moral dilemma in him as he dismembers bodies and swings his chainsaw around wildly.


Now, having said that, I do admit I am approaching this franchise without the gusto of a cult fan. I can understand that if I had more of my horror fandom invested in the franchise, I would be more sensitive to the treatment of Leatherface in a film. With that in mind, I admit that my enjoyment of this requel isn't coming from the same place nor with the same passion as someone who rewatches the original as a cornerstone of their horror life. So...bear that in mind as I dive into the film from my perspective...


I enjoyed this movie. A lot. It hit all the notes I want in a mindless slasher. I feel like it has been a while since I was able to just sit back and absorb some braindead carnage and mayhem that spent more time on its effects work than its story and symbolism. This was a classic "annoying young people get torn to shreds by a psycho" flick that, frankly, I've missed being done with some level of "polish" towards the execution of its violence. I'm one of the first in line for the next Aster or Eggers film (I'm excited for The Northman), and I love the symbolic and impactful narratives of films like The Night House and Relic. But sometimes I just want the ridiculous and whacky carnage Malignant, or in this case, a dumbed-down Leatherface who just takes his chainsaw to people for an hour.


It's not like the movie didn't do it right. The gore/practical effects are creative and come with a refreshing amount of regularity. It feels like it's been ages since we've had a slasher with this kind of budget dedicated to the effects work, and it shows. Sometimes I just need that itch scratched, and this abomination of Leatherface did that for me. Yes, the story is haphazard and secondary to the mayhem, the characters are setup as predictable fodder from the beginning, and the runtime is hilariously close to being an extended Creepshow special. The acting isn't great, the script is worse, and there is no originality given outside of the misguided decision to turn Leatherface into Jason with a chainsaw. But, dangit, if I didn't have a good time just ignoring all that and enjoying it for what it was.


I understand that's more difficult for others. Whenever their favorite franchise is revisited, they hope for the best. They want that magic they felt when they first saw the original or the complete chaos of the first couple of sequels. Instead they are met with disappointment. I get it. I felt a similar way when the practical effects were butchered in The Thing prequel. And when Prometheus/Covenant made less sense than watching a random episode of season 3 of Lost without any context, and had immersion-breaking terrible decisions from characters from beginning to end. I get it. And you have every right to hate Netflix's TCM for good reason. But I also need a break from the subtlety, nuance, and slow-burns of the modern horror age every once in a while. This Leatherface aberration gave me that.


Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 8/10

Horror Quality: 5/10

Film Quality: 4/10


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