Coming Soon: The Sawyer Massacre (2022) - Reviewed


Fan made films, especially ones that aim to insert themselves into the timeline of storied franchises, are a fickle thing.   Sam Merlo's independent horror feature, The Sawyer Massacre, deftly walks the line of homage and bloodbath, conjuring a prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that knows exactly what it is and what it is setting out to accomplish.  The result is a blood soaked, unrepentantly violent offering that builds upon Leatherface's mythology with an aura of dread and inspired kill sequences, further cementing the anthology as one of horror’s most storied sequences of film.  

The setup is simple and immediately invokes memories of the past.  Texas.   Cars full of inevitable victims arrive by different means at a dilapidated farmhouse.   The difference, and perhaps the strongest aspect of Merlo's script is a nightmarish ambiance that permeates every visual sequence.  These are normal people seeking respite from the horrors of everyday life who inevitably find themselves in a charnel house.   While the bloodletting is more frequent, Merlo and his crew dial directly into the essence of the original film, and his Texas is a world out of time, a place of violence and bizarre rogues who entreat their victims with promises of supplies and respite.  

One of the most interesting departures is in how the story addresses the murderous family at the center of the series.   There are devious delights to be found in how the script explores why these people do the things they do.  This is enhanced by the way each of the kills is prolonged, with endless screaming and pleading preceding carnage untold.  Scotty Parkin is the standout, his performance as Leatherface is both nuanced and pronounced, the almost childlike commitment to his awful work is a splendor to behold, putting the other principals into the red haze of his wake.  

Beyond this, Charlie Brady's soiled cinematography captures the gore and each kill with a needed sense of urgency.  There are closeups of each victim, while the terrible accoutrements of Leatherface's sanctum fade into the foreground.  Brady also edited, making quit cuts of his shot to accentuate the abject terror of the killings.   The result is a compact gore train that arrives, with panache. 

Coming soon, The Sawyer Massacre is a bravura example of the magic of crowdfunding independent films.  A loving tribute and a nasty piece of genre work, this is an exceptional low budget slasher that revels in the gore and delights in the pastiche.   Merlo and his crew have struck gold.  

--Kyle Jonathan