An Analysis and Review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) [This review may contain spoilers]

Julia Alvarado

In 2018, mainstream horror found new ground in the form of David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” sequel. Since then, sequels and reboots of decade-old movies like “Candyman,” “Child’s Play,” and “Wrong Turn” have brought beloved classics back into the limelight. These “requels” have become such a trend, that they were heavily referenced and discussed in “Scream (2022),” which, since the original in 1996, has served as somewhat of a time capsule for the horror genre.

The most recent film to receive this treatment is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The original, directed by Tobe Hooper and released in October of 1974, was not only a commercial success (grossing over $30 million, after being made for only about $100,000), but an instant classic, finding a comfortable place at the top of many  horror rankings. Its “requel” however was immediately faced with harsh criticism. One reviewer wrote it “had potential, but [fell] flat on too many aspects to be considered a faithful and good sequel to the ‘74 original.” Another said, “[It] was clearly a cash grab by Netflix that was not worth watching or remembering.” With a 32% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s hard to believe that this movie could be the sequel to one so beloved–so, where did “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” go wrong?

One of the most common complaints of 22’s Massacre is that it got far too political. This, however, represents a distinct misunderstanding of the original film, and the horror genre as a whole. With a little analysis, the 1974 original is revealed to be an emphatically political movie, made successful by exploiting the collective cosmic fear society had of itself–of a corrupt, collapsing country built upon the bones of who and what came before. Many praise it for being a forerunner of the 70’s slashers, but its importance and influence is far broader and more significant than that. 74’s Massacre represents such an integral moment in horror history–where the genre begins to develop a very specific relationship to American history and culture. The politics of 22’s Massacre are probably the aspect of it that stays the most faithful to the original. It polishes the story of societal corruption, trading out oil crises and economic terror for gun violence and gentrification. The problem is not that these themes are there. The problem is that they are there, but never explored or committed to in any significant way.

Another complaint is the characters. Modern horror tends to spoil audiences with well-rounded and likable characters, that they end up rooting for, but a very common trope in horror is stupid, forgettable “meat bags”–people that only exist to represent punishable aspects of society and as a result, are eliminated by the movie’s big bad. There is no right or wrong way to handle characters. Some horror movies function better without lovable main characters–the thing is, those kinds of horror movies are not built for this type of sequel. The problem with the movie was not its main characters–who were, at best, lackluster, and at worst, annoying–it’s that the world of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was not created with sequels in mind.

“Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Halloween” are widely considered to be the “big three” of the horror genre. Each series is similar in two major aspects: an iconic killer, and a memorable location. “Friday the 13th” has Jason Voorhees and Camp Crystal Lake. Nightmare has Freddy Krueger and Elm Street. “Halloween” has Michael Myers and Haddonfield. The latter two also have wildly iconic final girls, in the form of Nancy Thompson and Laurie Strode. Perhaps it’s this fact that has caused Friday to be considered the worst of the three series, which introduces you to an entirely different aspect of the genre–coming for the killers.

People don’t watch “Friday the 13th” for the forgettable cast of bland teenagers. They watch “Friday the 13th” for Jason, the same way people did not watch the “Texas Chainsaw” series to follow Sally Hardesty, but instead, for the cannibalistic, Texas dwelling Sawyer/Hewitt family. 22’s Massacre didn’t seem to pick up on that fact. Perhaps seeing Halloween’s success with the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Massacre took its original final girl and tried to fit her into the same role–a role she just wasn’t built for, which  the movie seems to acknowledge. Instead of following around Hardesty on her quest for vengeance, viewers are made to spend too much time with these new characters. 

But instead of using that time to shape them into sympathetic, relatable characters, they’re just left as one-note soon-to-be victims. All the while, Leatherface stalks around in sullen silence, picking them off one by one in increasingly violent ways.  He is similar to a less interesting Michael Myers. Michael Myers is a shark, he kills without any genuine emotion or purpose, and that works for him. Leatherface is a big toddler who hasn’t been taught that violence is wrong–the Michael Myers shark mentality doesn’t work for him. So, the audience is left hating the main characters, but not being invested enough in the killer to derive any sort of entertainment  from watching them get killed.

Taking the Sawyers out of the movie and instead shoving in a handful of undercooked millennial stereotypes, a warped Sally Hardesty and a version of Leatherface, who’s been stripped of all his charm, was another miss by Massacre.

The story itself is a mess of plot holes and easily avoided misunderstandings, and aside from the solid cinematography and decent acting, there’s little to redeem it. But it’s hard to believe the movie does everything it does without a little humour–and that sort of mindset makes the movie more hilarious than horrible. Perhaps the problem lies in taking an iconic horror series and using it as a way to poke fun at aspects of the genre.  Though Massacre is well-loved for its use of black comedy, this specific sort of parody is new ground, and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)” tackles it very poorly.

Personally, I don’t hate the film. I agree with those who say the plot is convoluted and the characters were annoying and blank–but, the cinematography isn’t bad, Elsie Fisher gives a great performance, and the gore is incredibly well done. It’s no masterpiece, but it was entertaining, a solid way to kill an hour and have some laughs at dramatic dialogue and dumb character decisions. 

For the sole purpose of mindless fun, I give it a solid 2.5/5 paws.