The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Absolute bloody rubbish

Review: There’s very little to be said for this squalid sequel to the 1974 original

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
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Director: David Blue Garcia
Cert: Club
Genre: Horror
Starring: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige
Running Time: 1 hr 23 mins

Nearly half a century after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first spread unease about the world, yet another unwelcome disinterment squelches towards blameless viewers. This Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the eccentric spelling applies only to Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic) has had a particularly unhappy gestation period. Andy and Ryan Tohill, Northern Irish directors of the fine Dig, were employed as directors, but exited after production began due to "creative differences".

The Irish influence survived David Blue Garcia's arrival behind the megaphone, with Moe Dunford, star of Dig, and Olwen Fouéré, enjoying second wind as an invaluable character actor in macabre cinema, bathing in their fair share of hurtling viscera. Eventually ending up on Netflix, the film bears all the traces of a troubled production. Too many bad ideas are juggled in too small a space. Characters spring from nowhere and vanish into the grave with indecent haste. "I wish I knew you all were coming – I'd have put my face on," a creepy older lady says in the opening 10 minutes. Don't fret. We will not reveal if that is misdirection or foreshadowing. It's equally groan-worthy either way.

Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, Nell Hudson and Jacob Latimore

Like the recent, fitful Halloween movies, the new film is a direct sequel to the original that ignores the clatter of intervening episodes. Once again, a vehicle packed with urban young folk is driving towards an uncomfortably rural corner of the Lone Star State. There are the seeds of an interesting contrast here. It would be a stretch to call Hooper's film a satire, but the story did put a counter-cultural, post-Vietnam generation in the path of grotesque variations on the nuclear family (Kim Newman saw Leatherface and his cannibalistic relations as distortions of conventional sitcom characters). Here it is the young people who represent new variations of destructive conformity. They have bought the town where the massacre occurred and are planning hipster gentrification. Dunford's initially threatening good old boy wonders if they are a cult. They reply they are just looking to "build a better world". He sniffs and says, with some justification: "Yeah, that's a cult." This line of attack reaches its apex (nadir?) as a gang of later arrivals take to livestreaming the resuscitated Leatherface on their smartphones. When they suggest they are "cancelling" him, he … well, let us just say we now feel guilty about describing the satire in Don't Look Up as on-the-nose.

There are further half-baked ideas in the mix. Jacob Latimore plays (ahem) Dante, a young black man who, upon encountering a Confederate flag in the town, makes the sort of noises we hear in Jordan Peele horrors. Elsie Fisher, so good in Eighth Grade, turns up as a young woman still traumatised after suffering serious injuries in a school shooting. One would hardly wish the thing longer than its lurid 83 minutes, but none of these potentially fecund storylines receives more than the cursory sketch they were probably granted in the initial script meeting.

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The film-makers, of course, need time to work through their revolting annihilations. If that is what you are after, the film cannot be faulted. Someone’s hand gets torn off and the jutting ulna (or possibly radius) is used to stab somebody else in the face. Another victim is impaled on the eponymous power tool and held aloft like a martyred saint. There is scarcely a corner of tissue that does not go through the mincer.

Yet not for a second do we experience a wisp of the sweat-soaked integrity that made Hooper’s film such a cultural phenomenon. The aesthetic here may be shinier and smoother, but that calculation just makes the experience feel more squalid. In a weirdly scatological aside, the villain chainsaws through an underground pipe and drenches one of the heroes in effluent. Viewers will have some idea how she feels.

On Netflix from February 18th

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist