Lately, the most powerful trend of them all is the one of the soft reboot. This is when studios take a beloved intellectual and make a sort of sequel using the legacy characters, themes, and visual motifs, but it isn’t really a sequel because it focuses on a new set of characters. Many franchises have tried it. Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Scream, they have all done it, and the result has been the same over and over again. Movies cannot create anything new because they are trapped in the past. The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of those movies.
This new installment in the franchise is directed by David Blue Garcia and stars Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Nell Hudson, and Olwen Fouéré. The film tells the story of Leatherface, the mythical killer from the first movie, who has been in hiding for almost 50 years. Now the world of the killer is being disrupted by a group of idealist young people looking to gentrify the town he lives in, and thus the killing ensues.
The Matrix Resurrections spoke plenty during its entire runtime about this. How can you create something new if your basis for it is something old? The answer to the question comes in two forms. First, it is impossible to use something old to create something new. You need to start from scratch and build it from there. Second, the old stories hold a lot of value, and it is important to know them in order to improve upon them, but a problem arises if you cannot move from these old stories.
Right now, Hollywood remains in the phase of endless iteration, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre suffers for it. The original film was so influential because people had never seen anything like it. This new installment is content to reuse aesthetics and even recreate some shots from the original and call it a day.
Director David Blue Garcia does a very good job with framing, pacing, and just making the film look good. From a technical standpoint, it is a very well-made film, which has become a staple of Fede Álvarez’s productions. The standard is well met. The cinematography by Ricardo Diaz tries to imitate the sepia tone of the original, and it does a good job with it, taking advantage of the high resolution technology of today. This is Garcia and Diaz’s first horror flick, and they stride with confidence into the genre.
The score by Colin Stetson comes as a sort of disappointment. The musician has carved a name for himself making some of the most unnerving scores in recent memory, but his work on this movie doesn’t really resonate the same way as his work on something like Hereditary did.
The issues arise when it comes to the story, which is treated from the beginning as any other slasher film of the bunch and introduces a set of characters that are completely unsympathetic. At this point, you are asking, “Are these the people I should root for?” The answer is “yes,” and it becomes a true shore to care about the destiny of these characters. The movie presents its protagonists as annoying and entitled, belonging to a generation that cares more about what’s on their phones than what is in front of them. The social commentary is very explicit and appreciated, but the way they go about it feels off. You don’t know if they are serious about it or making fun of it.
The director and his team also inject some very cool sequences of gore for those in the audience looking for them. The kills are gruesome but never cruel, and they don’t overstay their welcome. Violence is violence, but the movie never goes overboard with it. If only most of the kills didn’t come from the stupidity of the characters, they would have been more powerful.
There are also a lot of moments in the movie where the plot needs the characters’ brains to turn off in order to set up a kill. It is so obvious that it hurts. On top of that, the story finds itself many times setting up the demise of Leatherface, but then, the characters decide that it just isn’t the right time to be done with him. Maybe they should just let him kill them first. It is frustrating.
The movie sets up Lila, Fisher’s character, as the final girl from very early on, but it is Yarkin who earns it through the movie by being a true survivor. It feels like there is a detachment between what the movie thinks it is doing and what it actually does. Either way, Yarkin is the standout in a cast that only delivers medium-quality performances.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre serves its purpose when it comes to being a slasher film. One being made to quench the fans’ thirst for another installment, but it doesn’t really offer anything new or justify its own existence outside of that reasoning. The kills are entertaining, and the short running time of 90 minutes comes as a blessing and makes the movie better than it is.
So, if you’re looking for some good old-fashioned slashers, this new Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be what you want, even if it comes very late to a trend that is now running thin on its charm.