[Movie Review] Leatherface Returns

Other than comic-book inspired movies, horror continues to resonant in theatres during the pandemic. In the past nine months, horror has dominated the box office with The Quiet Place 2, Candy Man, The Conjuring : The Devil Made Me Do It, Halloween Kill and Scream doing solid business at the box office during various COVID waves, reinforcing that horror movies are best “experienced” within the shared space of the movie theatre.

In fact, the key element missing from Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre “requel” are the shared gasps, screams and screen taunts that come with every horror movie. Like Halloween (2018) and Scream (2022) before it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a “requel” that strives to tell a continuing story grounded in franchise lure all while being connected to legacy characters (the OGs of the franchise) and new additions that aim to extend the universe.

For example, Scream released this past January, is not merely “Scream 5,” but a reconfiguration of the franchise in that it reaches back to the original. As a teen character articulates in the film, it’s all about the requels. Like with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to Halloween, Scream creates a world where the franchises can continue within the new confines of genre.

Thus, to fully appreciate Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre gore-fest is to first understand that franchises like genres will evolve with audience taste and cultural sensibilities. This is illustrated in this new Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that a group of millennials aim to gentrify a Texas ghost town only to discover a Trumpian presence. The ghost town, straight out of an old b-movie western, is where Confederate flags still hang and the trauma of body horror remains.

This notion of body-horror, a horror sub-genre, is about the fear of the human body being dismantled and rampaged. In this regard, Leatherface is the perfect analogy for our populous, COVID and war-torn times. Our bodies, our most personal belonging, is in threat and obscurely not our own. Whether it’s Leatherface as a symbol of Deep South racism or an unforgiving and unbiased disease like COVID, harm is inevitable and viewers are forced to encounter the bloodshed directly.

This is all to say that Netflix’s rendition of Learherface is not the elevated horror that Tara (Jenny Ortega) speaks of in the opening of the new Scream (2022). Rather it’s a b-movie, grind-house throwback, to 80s horror that was unapologetically violent and shocking. Thus, as you manage the bloodshed, keep in focus the world that Leatherface rises out of. His world is very much our own.

As Dr. Anne Lancashire asserts in the video below, all popular film rises from the political. With this understanding comes the need to be intentional in thinking and to look beyond the blood and discomfort that any horror film delivers .

Although this Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far from a masterpiece, it’s a must watch for anyone looking for a couch jolt or cringe.

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