Leatherface meets 2022: The modernization of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise

Director David Blue Garcia and the leading women of the new “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” discuss the creative process behind the movie and how it differs from its predecessors.

leatherface

Netflix

Leatherface makes a dramatic return in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022). (Netflix/Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Blythe Bouza, Staff Writer

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” film franchise first hit the scene in 1974, becoming a cornerstone of the slasher film/horror genre and inspiring eight more films and even comic books and video games. It seems like the world can’t get enough, leading to its newest addition.

As testament to the lasting impact and longevity of the 1974 film, the eighth film in the series was released by Netflix on Feb. 18. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022),” directed by David Blue Garcia and produced with the help of the OG screenwriters Kim and Ian Henkel, follows as a direct sequel of sorts to the very first movie.

The year is 2022, and Leatherface returns, rudely awakened by the new millennium.

Sisters Lila and Melody along with their friends Dante and Ruth decide to move to a deserted and extremely rural town in Texas with the goal to turn it into a tourist hub of sorts. Little do they know, their idealistic and modern behaviors disrupt the dormancy of the one and only Leatherface, invading his shielded world.

I could discuss whether or not I personally enjoyed the film, but that’s another story. Let’s instead focus on what director David Blue Garcia and the three leading ladies of the film, Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, and Nell Hudson, had to say about adapting this franchise to modern times. I picked their brains to learn about the complex processes that go into maintaining the integrity of such a legendary villain and his surrounding story.

David Blue Garcia, a proud Texan himself, discussed how he couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a lifetime to work on something so legendary—not only in the horror world but in his home state as well.

“Horror fans are protective of their classic films,” Garcia said, and while this may be the case, it’s safe to say that he did justice to Leatherface in his new age. He said he “let [the original movie’s] spirit and feeling flow through [him] and back out onto the screen for the 2022 film.”

Aside from the film continuing with the classic chainsaw plot, the 2022 film touches on a lot of subjects that are important to us today, such as gentrification, school shootings, guilt and running from the past. As much as the movie is a reflector for these, it doesn’t tell the audience how to think about these issues. This adds a new layer that its predecessors do not fully encapsulate.

One of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, scenes in the film is when Leatherface steps onto the party bus full of people, and instead of running for their lives, everyone just stands there with their phones out. I asked Garcia what his aim was here, and he said that one of the things he wanted to do with this new resurrection of Leatherface was to play up the culture clash and introduce him to contemporary time. In addition to being a commentary on our relationship with technology, it’s a reminder that we don’t really know what’s real anymore. It’s hard for us to come to terms with whether or not something is a prank or a gag. I think this is what keeps us on the edges of our seats throughout the film.

The leading ladies also had a lot to say about the new additions to this film. The most notable of these, for the female characters, is the break from the typical “final girl” archetype. (I don’t want to spoil anything, but just know that this movie will not end the way you might assume).

Yarkin, who plays Melody, said that she wanted to “come from a more empowered place” for the movie.

“Melody isn’t sexualized in any way. The real love is for her sister,” Yarkin said. 

In slasher films, the half-naked blonde girl running for dear life while soaked with blood is what’s typical, so the fact that the creative team opted to turn this trope is commendable and honestly just refreshing. Hudson, who plays Ruth (the only blonde, blue-eyed woman in the movie) also enjoyed going against the typical expectations of a slasher, as Ruth meets an unfortunate fate.

“God, the bar is low, isn’t it,” Hudson laughed in response, “if the only thing we want is for a female character to matter in her own right.”

It’s safe to say that “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” keeps the notions of a classic slasher film but still manages to introduce and bring to light certain issues and narratives that are a little outdated. Even if blood and gore aren’t your sort of thing, I think anyone would want to see a bunch of millennials attempt to “cancel” a mute, chainsaw wielding man on a blue-lit party bus. Or maybe that’s just me.

Be sure to catch “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022) exclusively on Netflix.