Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013)

Texas-Chainsaw-3D-Interview

When an established film franchise is rebooted in the form of a remake, most diehard fans of said franchise usually react in one of the following ways:  either with rage that an ongoing storyline, no matter how off-the-path it has fallen, has been abandoned, with relief that the meandering plot lines have been abandoned, or just dismayed that the original film has been bastardized in so many ways. The TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise is no exception. When the original franchise was rebooted by Platinum Dunes, and Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece remade, the reaction was mostly divided between praise for the slick, music-video-style remake and further dismay at the homogenization of one of the most brutal and original films in horror history. The remake was followed by it’s own sequel, and with this new look into the infamous Sawyers, I was completely shocked to learn that the newest film, simply titled TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D, would be ignoring the reboots and the sequels, including my favorite, the Hooper-directed sequel TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, and acting as a direct sequel to the first film, my reaction was a mix of interest and dread. After seeing this newest entry, I can safely say that TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D, the seventh film in the Texas Chainsaw franchise, is a flawed, sometimes stupid movie. It is also the best Texas Chainsaw film since the original franchise attempted to die with the equally-flawed RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D picks up immediately where the first film left off, opening with a montage of original footage from the first CHAINSAW, post-converted to 3-D. Rest assured, Hooper fans, this footage looks astonishingly amazing, and I never thought I’d be typing that in a million years. As the original CHAINSAW ends, the new footage, which mostly melds into the old, reveals that there were more Sawyers in the house, and they’re immediately greeted by the town’s Sheriff, along with a lynch mob led by a “good ole boy” named Burt Hartman. The Sawyers, whose ranks include Bill Moseley (best known as Chop-Top from CHAINSAW 2, taking over the role of Drayton “The Cook” Sawyer, originally played by the great Jim Siedow), and Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface). The Sawyers are massacred “Texas justice” style, save for an infant, who is rescued and adopted by one of the posse; however, Leatherface, now revealed to be Jed Sawyer, escapes unbeknownst to the lynch mob as well.

A jump in time brings the story to the present, where Heather (Alexandra Daddario), learns of her adoption after her previously unknown grandmother Verna (another cameo, the original CHAINSAW’s Marilyn Burns) passes away, and leaves an estate in Texas to her granddaughter. Heather, along with her boyfriend, two friends, and a hitchhiker picked up along the way, travel to Texas to investigate Heather’s inheritance. Almost immediately, trouble begins, first from the town’s mayor, Burt Hartman, the leader of the posse that killed the Sawyers, and then from cousin Jed, Leatherface himself, still living and active, dwelling underneath the Sawyer estate. Quicker than most Texans will finish the lyrics “The stars at night / are big and bright…” Leatherface starts chainsaw-massacring his victims, and Heather starts to learn the truth about her biological family.

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Dan Yeager as “Leatherface”

As I said before, there are some horribly stupid elements bouncing around TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D, and most of them require huge leaps in logic to make any sort of sense. Some spoilers follow this, so be forewarned. Despite the fact that Leatherface would most like be, like Riggs, “too old for this shit,” he’s still running and slicing with the best of them. All of the “young teen” (read: twenty-somethings) are fairly terrible and unlikeable, save for Daddario, who isn’t terrible. In a sequence which looked much better in the trailer, Leatherface chases Heather into a carnival, stalking her through a panicked crowd. Why Leatherface didn’t slice and dice more in this sequence is a fairly big missed opportunity by the filmmakers for the simple fact that, deep down in Texas, not one person at the carnival was armed; this was just ridiculous and insulting. I don’t mean to generalize, but surely one or two Texan carnival-goers would have been packing some serious heat. There are more big leaps of logic, boiling down to the Texas-standoff finale and a switch of loyalties from Heather that was pretty hard to swallow (with a SAW reference that is poorly executed and sort of dumb). It’s admittedly a mess of a film, and it’s really not done any favors by a seemingly-toothless stream of murders throughout; now it makes a bit of sense why MASSACRE wasn’t included in the title.

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Time to walk way from CHAINSAW?

On the flip-side, however, I will say that I found this to be the best TEXAS CHAINSAW since the original franchise ended, and I’m sticking to that statement. Let me explain:  this is a bad film in many, many ways, but there are also some nice moments and some interesting ideas floating through its seriously damaged framework. As previously stated, I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s opening and the use of the original film’s footage, and while it basically boils down to a tepid remake of the opening of Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, it was cool to see Moseley picking up where Siedow left off, even if he’s only in the film for a few minutes. “Mob justice versus the law” was another idea that played through the whole film, and while not fleshed out as much as it could have been, it was nice to see that the filmmakers were trying to do something a little different. The 3-D throughout the film was used fairly well, even though it really wasn’t necessary, and while Dan Yeager’s Leatherface lacked the imposing behemoth feel of previous Leatherfaces, he did bring some nuances to the role that pushed him a little closer to Gunnar Hansen’s original tour-de-terror performance than other incarnations.

I can’t defend TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D, it is, after all, loud and dumb… much like its flesh-masked killer. However, this TEXAS CHAINSAW does feel more in line with New Line’s LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 and THE RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE more than the glossy-but-vapid Platinum Dunes films. At best, it delivered on exactly what the seventh-entry franchise christened with 3-D should deliver:  kids being hacked up in three dimensions by a big dude wearing a skinned face and brandishing a chainsaw. While it doesn’t really solve the problems that the later entries of the franchise have suffered, it’s also a brainless-but-enjoyable afternoon in the theatre. 3-D does nothing for me in big, serious films; I feel very much the opposite of James Cameron:  films like TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D are exactly the type in which 3-D should be used: a popcorn movie offering cheap thrills and an hour-and-a-half of fun. If you go into this film thinking it’s going to revitalize the franchise, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but, if you’re like me and a little tired of Platinum Dunes’ glossy music video remakes, you may have an enjoyable time with TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D… just as long as you turn your brain off and allow yourself to enjoy the film for what it is:  big dumb fun.

Rating: 2.5/5 ★★½☆☆ 

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

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