Movies: Chainsaw always first, ask questions later

Well, at least he’s wearing a proper tie this time.

The original 1974 Texas Chainsaw (actually Chain Saw) Massacre was a surprisingly bloodless movie. Some kids travelling through Texas come across a dilapidated old house where a family of cannibals live. Leatherface, a childish and brutish maniac wearing a mask of human skin, attacks them with a chainsaw, or something similar. There is no storyline and it is not clear why these teenagers end up in small pieces: the inference is that Leatherface is a total lunatic perhaps conditioned to brutality by his spell as an abattoir worker, but the point is never developed. You don’t actually see any carving up and the violence is mostly suggested rather than made explicitly. Hooper actually hoped that the movie might get a PG (parental guidance)

The Tobe Hooper movie was a raging success, so sequels or remakes were unavoidable: the count is at least 10. Now we have the 2022 version which actually has a plot of sorts. A luckless group of Texans travel to a derelict property which they believe they can occupy as part of a gentrification scheme. When they thoughtlessly evict the elderly resident owner Leatherface – presumably a close relative – shows up with his revenge chainsaw in tow. The argument is that the youngsters are trespassing on his territory for a superior moral purpose (gentrification) which is both unlikely and ham-fisted to say the least.

The gore in the latest version, directed by David Blue Garcia, is certainly awesome. The sound of digitally-created saw wounds is certainly far worse than the noise made by the dentist’s drill. The closeups of carved bodies and separated corpse bits are sure to command attention by gore-test viewers on Netflix or wherever, but it’s all rather pointless. After a time, the computer-generated graphics of slasher fatalities still make you squirm but it’s obvious in advance what you are about to witness. Movie massacres are like that.

Leatherface sets out once again to mow the lawn or whatever.

The problem in essence is the screenplay. Characters demand no investment. You have no idea who the next victim is, or was, so you couldn’t care less. In an attempt to cash in on the original, we have the reintroduction of the girl Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouere as the original actress died in 2014) who is hell bent on killing Leatherface but fails to replicate the mystique of the original. In the 2022 version she has few scenes and nothing much to do apart from looking scared stiff. Another oddity is that Leatherface must by now be in his 70s which makes unlikely his racing around with his whirring machine as if he was still a guy in the prime of life.

There’s one scene where a bus load of unfortunates arrives at the cursed house and you know in advance what will happen to the passengers (apparently wannabe investors in gentrification) even before the vehicle actually stops. In another scene, a group of townspeople are flying Confederate flags and sporting handguns. They say they aren’t racists but the point of this segment is unclear, apart from giving the viewer a momentary respite from the bloodfest. Whether this is the last Leatherface movie sequel or remake nobody knows. It is certainly a really good idea.