‘Texas Chainsaw’ Massacres Franchise’s Exploited Legacy

I’m going to cut to the chase, forgive the pun, but the latest Texas Chainsaw Massacre entry, intended as a direct sequel to the 1974 original is a total piece of dog shit. As a matter of fact, comparing this movie to dog shit is an insult. I will say this, for a movie that’s shit, at least we get a scene of Leatherface cutting a sewer pipe causing a character to be covered in shit.

And that’s a direct metaphor for how this franchise has been handled for the past 50 years through so many outrageous sequels, reboots, remakes, etc. As a matter of fact, I think TCM is probably the one franchise that the filmmakers just decide to say, “Fuck it!” every time they conceive a new installment. Tobe Hooper, himself, decided to give the first sequel back in 1986 a more comedic tone. As bad as it was to turn the movie into a horror comedy, it was a ballsy move before Wes Craven went that route a decade later with his movies.

I’ll be blunt, I never cared for the original. Maybe it was because I heard so much, I expected more out of it. There’s only one person killed by a chainsaw and it’s not as bad as some people would think. That’s because Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel were going for a more lighter tone to obtain a PG rating. Yes, believe it or not, they thought it would be able to make more money with a PG rating, so that’s why there’s hardly much gore or profanity in it.

Unfortunately, the Motion Picture Association didn’t see it that way and considered the tone and content to be too extreme even for an R rating and branded it an X. Not wanting people to associate the movie with the porno movies which were being rated X at the time, it went unrated.

Still, it was a landmark horror movie for the era and earned over $30 million while costing only about $140,000 to make. John Larroquette, who would go on to become famous on Night Court in the 1980s, reportedly was given a cannabis joint to record the narration at the beginning. While not considered part of the slasher genre, it did give us the Final Girl Trope as Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) was the sole survivor out of the group of five who were vacationing at the country house in rural Texas.

The latest installment brings back Hardesty, but Burns passed away in 2014. She’s replaced by Olwen Fouere, who plays her as a cross between Walker, Texas Ranger and Sarah Connor. Naturally, the filmmakers saw what Blumhouse did with the Halloween franchise and decided to copy that. Just like Laurie Strode in the 2018, Hardesty has turned into an actual Texas Ranger who spent her life tracking down Leatherface (Mark Burnham) who should be pushing 70 by now, but looks like he hasn’t aged much.

This is one of the biggest problems with this movie. Leatherface is actually living in an rundown orphanage operated by Virginia “Ginny” McCumber (Alice Krige, who is actually younger than what Leatherface should be) in the ghost town of Harlow, Texas. So, we know Leatherface had a family in the first movie. So, this is a different Leatherface, right? Or what? This movie never really lets on.

Ginny gets probably the movie’s only good line where she tells Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) that she would’ve put on her face if she knew company was coming. It turns out that Ginny is aging and needs oxygen. Melody, her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), Dante, and his girlfriend, Ruth (Nell Hudson) are in the town of Harlow to help auction off foreclosed property to turn it into a booming town. They get upset seeing a very worn Confederate flag hanging from the orphanage and attempt to take it down before a busload of investors arrive.

An argument ensues between Ginny and Dante over whether building was supposed to be foreclosed and she was to be evicted. The law enforcement arrive when Dante calls them and Ginny has a heart attack and Leatherface places her in the back of a patrol van as they head to the hospital. Ginny dies along the road and Leatherface kills the sheriff, his deputy and Ruth, who went along, out of anger. Also, he cuts off Ginny’s face and wears it.

The movie sets up so many social issues but never does anything with them. There’s some resistance because of the gentrification of Harlow, even though Melody and Lila say it’s where their grandmother used to live. Dante is black dating a white woman. And some of the locals don’t want to see Harlow gentrified, but considering that only a gas station outside of town and a small law enforcement seem to be in operation, the economy should help. Also, Lila survived a recent school shooting massacre but that is just thrown in just because there’s always got to be a traumatized young woman in these movies.

I will give the movie credit by not reducing the sheriff and the locals to totally racist hicks because of Dante and Ruth’s relationship. But they’re all hardly in the movie long enough to even mention it. At 83 minutes with credits, this moves fast and well, too fast, especially since it presents a lot of social commentary it doesn’t deliver on. All of the investors are Millennials who are more interested in taking pics and video of Leatherface than running for their lives or trying to defend themselves.

This is the ying to Don’t Look Up‘s yang of wagging its finger at anyone under 45. And this is silly considering the movie’s target audience is obviously going to be people under 45. And last time, I checked, a lot of Millennials don’t have a lot of money to invest in property in small-town Texas. The original at least had some statements to make as the economy and especially the gasoline shortage was affecting people in the 1970s.

This is more or less torture porn for Boomers and/or conservatives as Leatherface kills all the investors on the bus. When I was discussing the original with a co-worker in college, he asked the question of how dumb you have to be to get killed by a chainsaw. And I think this movie answers that question. There’s so many scenes of people getting in cars trying to get away from Leatherface only to run into something in the panic.

Also, if you have use of a chainsaw and you’ve gotten the upper hand on Leatherface, chop his fucking head and limbs off. This is one of those stupid horror movies in which you just know Leatherface isn’t fucking dead and he’s going to come back at the end for one final scare. But there’s no final scares because there’s nothing scary about this movie. It’s just a bunch of senseless violence.

TCM has been released on Netflix, which isn’t surprising, because the online streaming service seems to be whether all the awful movies are going these days. I’m not surprised this movie was filmed in 2020 with the intention to be released in theaters in 2021 before more or less being “burned off” on Netflix.

Like I said earlier, I was no fan of the original but I would recommend it more than this one. It, at least, tried to be different and had an original tone to it. I’d even recommend the one with Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger before they became A-listers. Compared to this movie, that one is alright, alright, alright.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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