Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
Dir. David Blue Garcia, USA, 81 mins
Ginger Nuts of Horror is honoured to once again be asked to participate in Derby University's Creative and Professional Writing & Film and Television Studies honours degree course.
Today we welcome Charlotte Sims with their review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) directed by David Blue Garcia
There’s a reason why this story has been remade and rebooted time and time again due to the upstanding ranking of the 1974 original being the best in the franchise. Leatherface returns for the 9th instalment of the Texas Chainsaw franchise, once again terrorising a group of teenagers for disrupting his peace he’s managed to maintain for 50 years after the events of the 1974 film in a quaint ghost town in “Texas” – but was actually filmed in Bulgaria.
Instead of living up to the original where it gained reputation for being one of the best and most influential horror films of its time, the 2022 film is a soft reboot that focuses more on gore visuals, exposition that doesn’t connect to the original story, and an overbearing lack of logic that makes this film mind-numbingly frustrating to watch.
First of all, the story feels unimaginative. Netflix’s TX Chainsaw feels notably similar to the approach of the 2018’s Halloween sequel where Laurie, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, returns to finally kill her pursuer. Even though it’s a typical trope of a victim returning to exact revenge, it’s understandable why they used the story because of how Halloween received high ratings of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, and from its audiences stating it lived up to the 1978 original. Whilst they created a similar plot and had potential, it still managed to fail.
The story tries to connect itself to the original movie even though it diverts from original lore. In the 1974 film, Leatherface lives with his father and brothers in an isolated farmhouse with the mystery surrounding the mother. Yet in this movie, he has apparently lived in an orphanage since he was a child with his mother, who the original Leatherface never knew.
The remake made Leatherface 2-dimensional like other slasher villains such as Michael Myers, who has always been the essence of evil, unlike Leatherface who seemed to have been manipulated by his horrific family making him more human. This interesting backstory of his character that made him different to other slasher movies and had developed over the years had now been thrown through the window to just be a carbon-copy of Myers only with a chainsaw.
The script sounded unrehearsed as the dialogue was flat and unemotional - even though this could be the actor’s performance, the reactions from characters when they saw someone slumped over after being brutally murdered weren’t at all realistic. It also seemed as though the scriptwriters had no idea how teenagers talk to each other because of the overuse of cringey and cliché “teenager language” – such as using “lit”, “weirdo”, “sis” and a personal hatred of mine: “Newsflash”.
The characters retain the ‘collateral damage’ trope role of slasher movies, which is fine to watch but for me it felt like they were being purposefully dumb as though their intentions were to die as soon as possible. Communication between characters is practically non-existent with the famous line of “just trust me” before things go terribly wrong, it’s as though the writers want minimal character development.
However, the cinematography and the use of sound were really pleasing and were the enjoyable part of my experience. The film has beautiful use of colours and interesting camera shots/angles that portray the new-Leatherface in a more terrifying light. The filmmaker revealed that the production took an “old school” approach to filming by using vintage lenses and practical effects for the gore, which seemingly enhanced the visual style of the film by making the atmosphere feel more Texan.
My favourite scene is the moment we see Leatherface through the wing-mirror of the Sheriff van holding up the face he carved off up into the sky – the intense musical sting brings the tension that had been building to a climax as the infamous killer gains a new mask of human skin.
The film’s use of musical stings and sound effects increased the suspense and tension in most scenes and made me feel more immersed in the action, rather than relying on loud jump-scare effects and heavy music that make me feel like the film tries too hard.
I also love the subtle references and humorous moments dotted within the film. A reference to the T-Rex chase scene from Jurassic Park (1993) where on the mirror of the Jeep it says: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” can be seen on the Sheriff’s van mirror. There are also numerous references to the 1974 original, such as the end-credit scene where we see Leatherface walking up to the now-decrepit farmhouse, and the unsettlingly poetic, creepy chainsaw dance.
Within five days after its release on Netflix, it stood at 1st place in their Top 10 list in the US. But overall, viewers were less than impressed and the film received a generally negative review from critics, as it holds a rating of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Atlantic’s David Sims describes the film as “unnecessary and anonymous, leaning on crass visual shocks while failing to match the unsparing brutality of its lodestar.”
For me the film was a let-down. While I was shocked by the bus bloodbath scene and enjoyed the cinematography masterpieces surrounding the Sheriff’s van scene, I felt like I questioned a lot of the logic in the movie which repeatedly took me out of the immersion. I like the immortality of killers in slasher movies, but not when it starts to become ridiculous – especially with how long it took for side-characters to die after being held up in the air by the chainsaw.
It’s a shame that the film had so much potential to be on a par with the original, if only they had followed the original lore and atmosphere instead of diverting in a new direction, this film wouldn’t have turned out to be a pointless remake that doesn’t connect with the other films apart from use of the words Texas, chainsaw and massacre.
The director has expressed interest in helping with another sequel, but with generally unfavourable reviews from Metacritic, it may be best to leave it to someone else.
Overall, I give the film a 4/10. The great use of sound and music that went against typical horror/slasher tropes of being super loud, and chilling cinematography feel like a waste of time if it’s just going to be brought down by the poor writing and execution.
Review by Charlotte Simms
I'm a second-year student at Derby University studying a Joint Honours in Creative and Professional Writing & Film and Television Studies. With a past publication of a poem at secondary school, I've always pushed myself to get more of my work out there so these opportunities are great for me. I'm mostly working on building my website at the moment where I can eventually set up an online portfolio and upload writing blogs.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (2021)
Written by Matt White, Brook Driver, Nick Gillespie
Directed by Nick Gillespie
Review by: Mark Walker
A weedy charity-shop worker is set on winning the big national talent show. But when the actions of 5 selfish people cause him to miss his audition, he sets out to seek deathly revenge. It's 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders.
People see Paul Dood (wonderfully played by Tom Meeten) as a bit of a loser. He works in a charity shop with other misfits and lives at home with his elderly mum (June Watson). But his heart is in the right place, and he loves his mum.
And she loves him.
So much so that she supports his dreams to win the big talent contest Paul is obsessed with. Paul is so invested in the talent show that he posts videos and live streams charting his journey to stardom on the social media site “Trend Ladder” a popularity contest where everyone is vying for the top rung. However, when Paul realises he has mixed up his dates, he has just a few hours to get to the audition or his dreams may end up in tatters.
With his mum in a wheelchair, Paul embarks on a hero’s journey that is thwarted at every turn by officious railway staff, frustrated shop-owners, dodgy church-folk and celebrity judge, Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop) who makes Simon Cowell look like Charlie Brown.
Paul’s dream ends in disaster, and he finally cracks a few days later as he sets out on a poorly planned rampage of revenge against all those he holds responsible for his audition failure, live-streaming his deadly lunch break all the way.
Paul Dood’ Deadly Lunchbreak is a mildly gory, light-hearted look at one man’s limits; it’s Falling Down in the English suburbs mixed with interpretive dance. It is, on the whole, a silly film, played for fun, but with an underlying warmth and love for its lead character. Regardless of whatever you think about Paul’s actions on his deadly lunchbreak, you are on his side all the way as he fights to overcome the arseholes in life who won’t let people just be who they are.
As Paul livestreams his lunchbreak, his popularity on TrendLadder soars, propelling him into the stardom he wanted from his audition, but for hugely different reasons. As the reality of his spree becomes evident, he is elevated to local hero, before a final standoff where…. Well, you will have to watch to find out, I don’t want to spoil anything!
Ultimately, Paul Dood’s deadly lunch break shows him that he doesn’t need to seek adoration from the faceless people on social media, that the important people to him have always been right there in front of him, it just takes a few deaths to figure that out.
I loved this film and can’t recommend it highly enough. It not high art (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) but is an hour and a half of pure fun and joy with a great cast of characters played by some of our greatest domestic talent. Paul Dood mixes with the likes of Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Johnny Vegas, Mandeep Dhillon, Craig Parkinson, Pippa Haywood, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. And there are some great minor characters mixed in as well; keep an eye out for the women who stumble across Paul in the local skate park!
Visually, the film looks great. It is mostly intimately shot, with a lot of interiors so you don’t get sweeping vistas and widescreen photography, but you don’t need it. You need to be intimate with Paul to understand him and empathise with his journey. The way the film is shot and written does that perfectly.
Not only is it very funny in places, but it also loves its lead. It would be easy to criticise Paul Dood for scoring laughs at the expense of Paul and his life. But it doesn’t. The main “digs” at Paul come from the arsehole characters around him who see him as a joke, but the film is never directly cruel to Paul. It is an interesting take on the impact of Talent Shows and the dubious value of entertainment that encourages you to laugh at “losers.” It is everyone other than Paul that is the problem here. Paul is harmless, loving and caring and many of those around him don’t deserve him.
The style and feel of the film (and some of the cast) reminded me a lot of Sightseers so, if you had a good time with that couple (who also show up here) then I think you are going to enjoy spending a lunch break with Paul Dood. This is low-budget filmmaking at its best. Paul Dood won’t trouble the Oscars, but it was never meant to and although It’s a bit rough around the edges, much like its lead, that just adds to its charm.
Unlike Jack Tapp, why not give Paul Dood a chance?
CHECK OUT TODAY'S OTHER ARTICLES ON GINGER NUTS OF HORROR
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR movie REVIEW WEBSITES
An anxious shut-in moves into a haunted apartment, hiring a stranger to perform an exorcism which quickly takes a horrific turn. (IMDB)
Warning – there are some minor spoilers in this review
Ken Barber (Geno Walker) is trying to start afresh. He’s suffered a breakdown, a split from his wife and it sounds like alcohol was a contributing factor. His fresh start means moving into a new apartment as he tries to build a life for himself away from the issues that brought him down. Ken also suffers with anxiety and is a shut-in, rarely (if ever) leaving his apartment, locked into a daily routine where every day is planned out and meticulous. He communicates largely via web-chats with his ex-wife Kelsey (Kate Arrington) and his best mate Terry (Felonious Munk) and fills his spare time through taxidermy, as well as recording a number of different video-blogs as he tries to grow a following on social media.
The latter isn’t going so well, until Terry notices a bird fall off a shelf behind Ken in a very unusual way, leading to the suggestion that Ken’s apartment might be haunted, and he starts to gain an online following for his videos. As more strange things start to happen, Ken tries to capture the ghost using a spirit jar he designed based on passages from a book by famous medium/spiritualist Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm) and some stuff he found on the internet. Now, regardless of how much of a sceptic you may be, using random symbols you found on the internet is never going to go well for you! The attempt to trap the spirit results in a few surprises and more weird things happening in Ken’s apartment.
Ken’s videos catch the attention of spooky streamer Dark Corners (Daniel Kyri) who arranges a live stream of a second attempt to capture the spirit using a spirit jar personally made by Lawrence Grimm. Ken’s ex wife and her new partner Isaac (Michael Shannon clearly having a ball) along with Terry, Ken, Lawrence, Dark Corners and fellow streamer Lyden Knight (Theo Germaine) all join the livestream as they attempt to trap the spirit in Lawrence’s spirit jar.
And that is when thing get REALLY messy.
Night’s End is a film of two halves.
The first part of the film concentrates on Ken’s fresh start and his attempts to order his life with routine. Ken is someone who counts down from 10 when he is stressed to keep himself calm, or when he is preparing for sleep. He doesn’t leave his flat and his kitchen cupboards are lacking in content, but extremely well ordered and tidy. His routine is what keeps him sane so, when the weird stuff starts to happen, we watch Ken slowly unravel, unsure if what he is experiencing is real or his imagination. After the bird falls from the shelf, we have a slow build up of noises, things moving and misty apparitions. As Ken learns more about the history behind his apartment the bumps in the night take on a more sinister turn and he goes back to drinking, his routine screwed. For someone who had a problem with drinking and who has previously had a breakdown, the weird shit in the apartment will make you question your sanity. His family and friends see him drinking again and they begin to question his reliability and the truth in what he is telling them, pushing Ken further to the brink.
I enjoyed this part of the film. I liked the way it built up slowly; the more psychological elements of the story and how it affected Ken, taking away his control and grip on reality. It reminded me of Host (for obvious reasons) and the way that builds up the terror by not really knowing what is going on and whether things are real.
However, once the live stream kicks in for the final act, the film, for me, goes in an almost completely different direction which didn’t quite work. It was almost too much of a shift and took me into Prince of Darkness territory. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a classic movie and it feels like Night’s End took some inspiration from it, right down to the soundtrack in places. But the tone in that film is fairly constant throughout. Part of the problem was Lawrence’s character which was comedic, but in a way that was out of kilter with the rest of the film which had not been played for laughs. I guess it is a tone thing, the shift just didn’t quite feel natural from the set-up.
Perhaps if I had read the tagline on the poster earlier, that might have given me a different expectation, but I went in blind and just felt the shift into the third act was a little jarring. It’s tricky to criticise a film for something like this because it is a very personal thing, and it may well not be an issue for anyone else. Both parts work well, are shot and acted well, and I had no major issue with them other than the way I didn’t feel they gelled together.
I am not saying that this is a bad film at all, let’s make that clear. For me it is a 3/5-star film which could have reached for 4 stars if it wasn’t for that switch-up. Now, some people will love the change and the way things pan out, especially if they are not expecting it. I think Jennifer Reeder does a great job with the movie and the cast are great, it’s just that one thing that niggled me. Anyway, there are no ratings on IMDB yet, so it will be interesting to see how other reviewers see it. I suspect I will be in the minority!
Remember, art is subjective!
Night’s End is due for release on 31st March on Shudder and I would definitely recommend you checking it out, just be ready for a shift in tone that will either mildly annoy you or delight you