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The problem with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is… Leatherface.

What? I hear you bellow and cry? Texas Chainsaw Massacre is Leatherface and that is precisely my point. Having Leatherface as the poster icon for these slasher, body torture flicks has dampened the menace that the original 1974 Tobe Hooper feature had. The torment doesn’t lie with just his heightened and physical presence but with his entire f@#$ed up family.

Family or some sense of family has been key amongst this franchise and to unsettle this dynamic leads to ruin for any who encounter it. This is evident in Hooper’s sequel, albeit through a dark comedy gaze. It’s following sequels tried to replicate this energy but somehow missed the mark and since then the franchise has had more jump starts than a shitbox car with a malfunctioning alternator.

Leatherface is iconic for a reason but without his family support network around (as dysfunctional as they all are) he will either do one of two things, become a hermit, isolated in his own filth and depravation, or become a loose cannon, destroying everything in his path. This latest feature aims for the latter and for good reason as it has become such a winning formula for David Gordon Green’s Halloween franchise revival.

There was some promise in this latest release with Directing Auteur Fede Alvarez behind the resurrection, serving as producer, and teaming up with the original writers Pat Cassidy, Ian and Kim Henkel only added to the integrity.

Legendary Pictures who had secured the rights to the franchise were putting their trust in relative newcomer David Blue Garcia with his sophomore outing in the directors chair for a feature length movie.

The focus for the film would have Leatherface holed up in a house for troubled youths, only now the only occupant along with a mother-like figure who ran what was the facility, played by the fantastic Alice Krige. The rest of the place has become a ghost town filled with dilapidated buildings and the vision of a group of influencers hoping to transform this Texas town into a bustling business venture. Cue potential victims for Leatherface to rip through as these gentrifiers get more than they bargained for.

The issue is that there’s a half-baked idea going on here, and it rests too highly on the success and brutality of Halloween (2018) to fuel Leatherface’s rage, thrusting him solely in the centre of the carnage. When the movie does go for barbarity, it often hits the right notes of repulsion but too often it falls foul of old horror tropes, having it’s leads either hiding in the closet and  under the bed or trying to kick ass against the monster.

TCM even tries to replicate the harshness that trauma has on our heroines, that featured so heavily in Halloween by having one of the leads, Lila (Elsie Fisher) a survivor of a school killing massacre. This is brought in double fold by bringing back Sally Hardesty, this time played by Olwen Fouere, to tap into the whole hardened survivor ala Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode.

Another example however that the filmmakers are content in playing familiar notes and resting on the laurels that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre name and that of its emblematic figure Leatherface brings.

The prognosis:

This latest version is aimed at a new generation of audience.

Too often though, it falls prey to the usual horror tropes and offers nothing new.

Leatherface does go full on with the kill count though going Michael Myers with some brutal deaths, especially with the bus scene which was highly satisfying.

It also had some moments of humour that didn’t necessarily hit the mark.

For veteran horror fans hoping to see some descent bloodshed will feel satiated, but ultimately let down by the lack in depth to the fold as the film struggles to add any flesh to it’s now frail bones.

The rust has truly taken hold in this franchise and it might be too hard to get that chainsaw whirring to satisfaction again without some bold new approach.

Saul Muerte