The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a game changer for the modern horror film. Its release in 1974 shocked audiences and critics with the “in your face” terror and documentary style layout of the proceedings. It was and is a true original that is respected and still holds up today.
As do most successful horror films, it started a franchise that continues to this day with Tobe Hooper directing and co-writing the first two installments and then letting go the reigns for two more sequels, a reboot, and its follow up.
The original is one of the finest examples of horror ever made. I enjoyed Hooper’s second Chainsaw film but found the third film in the series, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3, to be near awful and instantly forgettable.
In 2003 there was a remake of the original film which was good enough for a one time viewing but left one with the feeling of “I might as well just watch the original.” Three years later there was an atrocious prequel to the remake, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
All of the sequels, including Hooper’s follow up to his original, failed at the box office save for the 2003 remake. Fans of the original had been betrayed enough and were tired of the 1974 film’s good name being sullied. Thankfully it seemed as if the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise would be left alone and we could settle in and be content with our great memories of the original.
Six years after the last Chainsaw dud of a sequel, director John Lussenhop, maker of the surprisingly entertaining action thriller Takers, has re-envisioned the franchise with a film that is part reboot and direct sequel to the 1974 original.
The movie begins minutes after the ending of the original as the sheriff, having just taken the statement from Sally Hardesty who was the only survivor, comes to the famous house of horrors to arrest Leatherface. The Sawyer family, of which there is now 5 or 6 more for some reason, arm themselves and refuses to hand over the son. Chaos ensues as a group of vigilantes from the town come barreling in and proceed to start a gunfight that ends in a tragic fire.
It has the look of Hooper’s original and features a cameo from Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface, and the fine genre actor Bill Moseley as the family patriarch filling in for Jim Seidow who died in the 1990’s. What occurs in this opening is rather silly and negates a lot of what we know from the original film.
The family seems to no longer be the maniacal, inbred, maniacs from the original. In the opening scenes they have a mundane conversation on whether or not to hand over Leatherface to the authorities. This is ridiculous as the sheriff agrees to this and is apparently fine with letting the rest of the family go even after what they have just done. This sequence is a feeble attempt to attach this film to the first one as it does in a few instances of empty allusions.
We should do our best to distance this film from Hooper’s classic but the movie won’t let us. It is overly desperate for us to say, “Oh look!” as the filmmakers fill the screen with many visual allusions to the original as well as tipping it’s hat on a few of the kill scenes.
We are treated to the shot of a dead armadillo, which represented impending doom in the original but here is a tired attempt at a reference. The director gives us a few low angle shots following our sexy, nubile, actresses across yards or into a house. Yes, there is even the steel door that we all know and used to fear. Now it is simply a steel door.
These tributes do make us nostalgic for the original but, unfortunately, it also shows us just how tired and desperate these filmmakers are.
When the dust settles from the opening sequence we are taken to modern day and are introduced to, you guessed it, young, good looking, twenty-somethings who will take a fateful road trip to the town in Texas where it all happened.
I must talk of certain plot points that are a major problem so I will warn the reader that the rest of the review will contain certain spoilers. If you are planning to see this film, read no further.
We meet Heather, according to the story born in 1973 but in 2012 is still only in her early twenties, who is summoned to Texas after inheriting a house by a Grandmother she never knew. In one of many preposterous plot points, she finds out that she was adopted and now owns a wonderful mansion, and a dark secret, deep in the Texas town where the killings happened. Along with her boyfriend, two friends, and a hitchhiker they pick up along the way, she heads down to claim her new home.
The film has been lackluster so far but it is here where it becomes laughably bad and an utter betrayal of the masterful original.
Leatherface, thought to be burned alive with the rest of his family, is still alive, and lives in a locked room in a deep basement behind a locked steel door.
Apparently he hasn’t aged much, my calculation is that he should be pushing sixty, and is more agile than he ever was. He doesn’t cross dress any more but the filmmakers do pepper his room with dresses and makeup just so we can nod in remembrance. These items are referred to in an amazingly inept sequence where a police officer goes into the house, sans backup, even after he sees blood trails and knows what horrors could await him. The scene is made even more ridiculous when the Mayor and Sheriff are communicating with him via his camera phone and forcing him, unrealistically, to continue on into the darkness alone.
All characters act in ridiculous ways as one stupid decision is followed by another. The leads leave the hitchhiker they have just met, alone in the mansion while they all go shopping. Amazingly, he tries to steal everything he can carry. No kidding? A character runs from Leatherface and cowers behind a tree and then a tombstone but keeps peeking out in plain view as she hears him getting very close. People keep going down into the basement alone even after they see a plate with recently eaten rib bones sitting by the basement door.
The laugh fest continues as Leatherface chases a van full of victims, makes a new skin mask that looks as if he just purchased it from Wal-Mart, sews the mask to his face, and, completely against the actions of what we know Leatherface would do, chases his prey into a carnival that is in full swing and full of people. This sequence is preposterous and completely out of character.
The word character shouldn’t even be used in this review. Everyone is a cliché from the smorgasbord main cast, to the good ol’ boy Mayor with a secret that is painfully obvious, to the shifty lawyer who gives Heather the keys to her new home but returns later to explain the mystery.
The mystery is, here be spoilers, Leatherface is her cousin! Explained in a letter by her deceased Grandmother, Heather has basically inherited Leatherface! That’s right, a haphazardly desperate and inane plot twist that leads to one of the worst endings in a film, horror or otherwise, that I have ever been witness to. That one I will not mention but I ask you to try and digest such dialogue as, “Do your thing cuz!”
Throughout the film, the filmmakers seem to be trying to get us to sympathize with the Sawyer family. Leatherface continues his murderous rampage while the focus shifts to try and shine a bad light on the townspeople as we are meant to believe that their bloodlust for Leatherface’s demise is unwarranted. This all plays out in the finale and I am still scraping pieces of my jaw from the floor. Again, it is a sequence so bad that it makes the ending of M. Night Shamalayn’s The Village look like the ending of Psycho!
The filmmaking atrocities even include the title, as “Massacre” has been removed in an apparent cow tow to the current mood of the country.
Lastly I will mention the fact that the film is in 3D. Frankly, there is absolutely no reason for the 3D except for the three to four dollar ticket price hike. They do not use it to their advantage and there are only a couple of scenes where the chainsaw is coming at us. It is a tired ploy, I am tired of 3D in any genre, that makes the film even worse as it is shot dark enough already and 3D darkens the film even more. Trust me; this is a one dimensional 3D film.
I did not have high hopes for the film but confess to being caught up in the hype of hearing that a director who respected the original film wanted to restore true essence of Hooper’s material and make us forget about all of the previous sequels and remakes. It sounded as if he could possibly make a solid entry to the series. I was wrong.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is full of plot holes, massive inconsistencies, horrible direction and acting, and laughable moments from scene to scene. I stress again that the film is astoundingly bad. I cannot remember the last time I have seen such a wretched and silly mess.