Director: John Luessenhop
Runtime: 92 minutes
Directed by John Luessenhop (Takers), Texas Chainsaw 3D is the latest attempt by Hollywood to resurrect the long-standing horror franchise The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ignoring the three sequels, as well as the two remakes produced in the 00’s by Platinum Dunes, the film instead acts as a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper‘s original 1974 classic and builds from there. But while it has good intentions, and some genuinely interesting ideas, this January horror release is marred by horrible action, insurmountable leaps of logic, and a plot that, by the conclusion, feels like two separate halves of completely different movies.
We begin rather well, with the story picking up almost immediately where the 1974 film concludes. After Sally’s escape from the clutches of Jeb Sawyer (Leatherface), the Sheriff of Newt, TX (Thom Barry) makes his way to the Sawyer farm to apprehend him for his grisly crimes. The situation is calm and under control until a group of angry locals, led by the angriest loudest one of them all Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) show up on the scene and things escalate quickly, resulting in the Sawyer farmhouse being burned to the ground and the family having burned alive inside, with the exception of a baby belonging to one of its members.
Smash cut to many years later, and the baby has become Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), a raven-haired young adult planning a New Orleans road trip with her boyfriend (rapper Tremaine ‘Trey Songs’ Neverson) and two friends (Tania Raymonde and Scott Eastwood). When Heather receives word that a grandmother she never knew existed has died, she and her friends decide to make a detour to Newt, TX to investigate. What they find is a mansion suitable enough to party in and as you can expect what looks like a fun situation turns into a crime scene as the not dead at all Leatherface (played this time by Dan Yeager) emerges from beneath the mansion and starts slicing people up once again. But there turns out to be more to the story than it seems, involving shifty locals (including a now-Mayor Burt Hartman) and other such shenanigans.
I’ll hand it to Luessenhop and company; Texas Chainsaw 3D does not feel like a movie that lacked any ideas or passion from the creative side. It seems like the three credited writers (Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms) sincerely intended to take the series in a completely new direction and freshen things up for a new audience. While that’s something I respect, unfortunately the movie itself doesn’t end up working as a whole because of the major tonal shifts. After the connecting lines are set in the opening few minutes, Texas Chainsaw 3D chugs along as your typical slasher movie, with jump scares, gore, and ludicrous leaps of logic (hiding in coffins, no one ever using a cellphone except the cops, etc.). But after awhile it shifts into something else entirely, changing the tone (and the whole situation) that feels akin to Rob Zombie‘s 2005 film The Devil’s Rejects. It’s a weird transition that never feels quite comfortable and turns what was already beginning to feel shaky Texas Chainsaw 3D into a full-blown mess.
One rule of horror movies is to never expect strong acting from its leads, yet one will easily be let down by the performances here. Daddario is fine — even better than your average slasher target — but everyone else is just so bad. Trey Songz is making his film debut with this movie and his inexperience makes him stick out like a sore thumb; a particular consoling scene between him and Heather towards the beginning of the movie is distinctly brutal. The other characters, played by Eastwood and Raymonde, are obviously there just to be cannon fodder but they do nothing to interest the viewer before being predictably killed off (although Raymonde’s death is a nice spin on one of the iconic moments of the 1974 original). Outside of that, everyone else just appears to either be slumming it or, in Rae’s case, trying to get their lines out as quickly as possible before they forget them again.
There is very little for horror fans to really admire in Texas Chainsaw 3D. The gore is okay, though minimal, and if you’re an oversexed horndog, you’re not going to see any skin. The scares are all of the “jump” variety and they stop halfway through once the story completely changes directions. The 3D is used in a predictably gimmicky fashion ( i.e. lots of chainsaws in the face), but the scares aren’t manipulated in any creative ways to justify using the format and costing the moviegoer en extra four bucks to see it. Take solace in the opening few minutes of the movie, because they are undoubtedly the best and the high point of the entire 92 minute run-time.
By no means a good movie, nor a simply fun horror experience to be entertained by, Texas Chainsaw 3D has little to latch onto. The story, while interesting in its own way, takes the movie in some weird directions and shifts in the “hero/villain” dynamic, resulting in a movie that doesn’t feel like a complete package. With some fun nods to the original, there is undoubtedly passion behind this project, but as we’ve learned time and time again, that factor often doesn’t result in a worthwhile final product.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is now in wide release.
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