Review: New 'Texas Chainsaw 3D' Misfires with an Interesting Concept
by Jeremy Kirk
January 4, 2013
The "Massacre" is out of the title, but that doesn't mean things don't get ugly. Texas Chainsaw 3D, touted as the first direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's 1974 original, is more an alternate timeline to the bloody franchise. Any notion of consistency the franchise had split the moment Matthew McConaughey showed up with a mechanical leg in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Yes, that happened. But the new film brings its own energy and, believe it or not, interesting twist to the series. There's definitely problems abound, but as far as surface level horror goes, Texas Chainsaw 3D cuts just a little better than average.
The opening moments do hint at a direct sequel structure, showing moments from Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre over titles like a highlight reel of ignorant teens getting butchered. Cut to the next day where we see the direct results of the Sawyer clan killing Sally Hardesty's friends and brother. Police arrive, then a mob. Soon the house is bullet-ridden, set ablaze, and every member of the Sawyer clan of cannibal butchers is thought dead. But you know how that goes.
A baby survived the massacre, and 20 years later the now-grown woman finds she has inherited a house willed to her by her biological grandmother. Unaware of her real family, Heather, played by Alexandra Daddario, and her friends travel to the backwoods of Texas to find and claim her new home. Instead of finding cherished memories of a sweet and loving family, Heather and her friends find Leatherface housed in the cellar and ready to get out for some chainsaw-loving fun.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has bounced from rights-holder to rights-holder for years, a cause for the vast differences in the series' structure. Every once in a while, a new Leatherface movie would show up, and it might have some connection to the original film. Usually it's on an ancillary level, small details in screenwriting that don't amount to much. But Twisted Pictures, the production company behind the Saw franchise, along with a slew of screenwriters, have taken an interesting approach here.
Setting up a sort-of epilogue to the original film and building a story from that point means more than just having mindless teens wandering into the house and being chased through the woods. The screenplay here bounces from idea to idea, more often than not rushing through what should be more elaborately crafted sequences. The opening shoot-out is chief among these, zipping through it in five minutes time to get to the meat of the story. Director John Luessenhop and his production team did a fine job recreating the look of original home. It's a shame it, along with some fellow faces from the original film, only gets a few minutes of screen time.
Fortunately, the film doesn't die from there. That comes later but only after we get a nice wham-bang of a slasher movie, Heather and her friends quickly finding Leatherface, quickly begin getting picked off, and the energy of Texas Chainsaw 3D quickly building to what promises to be a solid horror movie. Luessenhop even finds ways of putting in nice nods to Hooper's original - The constant shots of asses in red shorts could be a new drinking game - while still coming up with new and inventive ways to show the action. A particular car wreck in the background with Leatherface watching in the foreground was a nice choice.
Unfortunately, all that gets played out with an hour left to fill, and neither Luessenhop nor the team behind the screenplay find a way of keeping the intensity of the film going. Instead, we're left watching cuts between a woman in a room and an investigation through the house. Long instances of steady shots and little going on eventually wear, and the film's momentum stops dead under the weight of a story too convoluted for its own good. The early setup and character traits for the film's "last girl" provide a setting for something more than a little interesting in Texas Chainsaw 3D's climax, but it's never fulfilling and never scary. Leatherface is shot in shadows and Dan Yeager has original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen's movements down, but the fright is sapped out of the character in favor of something that's supposed to be crowd-pleasing and cheer-worthy. The end of this movie is neither.
What it is is complex and more confusing than it needs to be. Don't even try to sort out the timeline in terms of what year events take place in this movie, but that's a detail when there are bigger problems with Texas Chainsaw 3D. To say that it's not the worst modern horror has to offer isn't saying a lot to the film's credit. Hell, it's not even the worst the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has to offer, but there is much in Texas Chainsaw 3D for fans of the series and the genre to enjoy. Sequels are sure to come. They always will with franchise like this, and if the same team is behind the next Leatherface adventure, it won't be the worst decision that's been made for the series. Another glowing endorsement.
Jeremy's Rating: 5.5 out of 10