I have to say that I was sceptical about David Blue Garcia’s latest addition to the (very) long list of TCM films and was pleasantly surprised… by the first 15 minutes only. Over the 80 minute runtime, Leatherface manages to hack and stab his way through a bunch of Gen-Z characters and even then most of the kills become a tad boring after a while.
The story itself is a simple one - Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante are San Francisco based influencers who head south for a business opportunity, purchasing the derelict town of Harlow with the aim of auctioning off retail space for those who are bored of big city life. They are accompanied by Melody’s sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) and Dante’s girlfriend Ruth (Nell Hudson) along the way. Once they arrive in the town they encounter a resident who refuses to leave her house, insisting that she still retains the deed for her property. A stand-off occurs, before the elderly woman collapses and has to be rushed off to hospital with her mysterious charge alongside. But when she dies on the journey, it doesn’t take a genius to guess who her “last boy” is before all hell breaks loose.
One thing I will give the film is that the short run time means no time is wasted in getting the kills rolling. I did genuinely feel tense after Leatherface’s first attack, as Nell Hudson’s Ruth desperately tries to get away from the car wreckage she finds herself in, and there are multiple shots that were really effective. For example, as Ruth glances into the wing mirror of a police car and sees Leatherface carving away at his foster mother’s face to form his infamous mask, I could feel my own skin crawling. But that’s about as effective as it gets. That’s not to say that there aren’t other moments like this one, however, they’re just so fleeting that no lasting impression is made. The writing is for the most part just plain bad, and the social commentary they’re trying to achieve feels so forced that it’s almost cringeworthy. I’m also not a fan of CGI blood and as the film progressed, it felt like there was a growing reliance on it.
Perhaps the worst thing about this film, however, is its treatment of TCM’s original final-girl Sally Hardesty. Played in this instalment by Olwen Fouéré, after Marilyn Burns died in 2014, the limp return of the character is a shameless attempt to recreate the success of Halloween (2018) and more recently Scream (2022). But unlike Jamie Lee Curtis’ return as Laurie Strode and Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, the memory of Sally’s character isn’t honoured - rather, it’s used as a plot point to show just how unstoppable Leatherface is. Maybe if I hadn’t loved the latest instalment of Scream so much, the treatment of Sally may not have bothered me so much. But the filmmakers of Netflix’s TCM need to take note, by using horror franchise icons they need to put in the effort to demonstrate that it is not just an empty fan-service gesture.
If you’re a slasher lover then this generic film does indeed tick all the boxes, but I wouldn’t go looking further for a deeper experience. With some *interesting* parts, Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre will leave you thinking that maybe these franchises are best left alone for the future.