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John’s Horror Corner: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

January 7, 2013

MY CALL:  I wasn’t at all thrilled with this movie as a Texas Chainsaw movie, but I generally LOVED it as a bad horror flick!  It had a great story idea, but a combination of poor delivery/execution and a departure from The Texas Chainsaw “family values” guillotined its potential.  [B for a horror flick]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  There are six other Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.  Get started.  But maybe skip the stillborn 1994 reboot.  Also, please enjoy The Cabin in the Woods–it explains why most of this stuff happens.

A very inexperienced director (John Luessenhop; Takers) has failed to continue delivering the well-pedigreed success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise reboot.  While many people complain about the reboot remake in 2003 and the follow-up prequel The Beginning (2006), they followed in the tradition of brutally torturing and psychologically flaying young groups of off-the-trail road trippers surrounded by “holy shit” moments.  Whether you loved them or hated them, and for whatever reason, you winced and gritted your teeth while trying not to look away.  This latest installment neither made me wince nor flinch.  The scares were hardly present, I never had a sense of suspense or dread or terror, and the brutality was outstandingly minimal compared to all other Texas Chainsaw movies.  Clearly, the branding was lost.

Heather (Alexandra Daddario; the Percy Jackson movies) learns that her grandmother willed her a Texas mansion in a small town.  This also comes with the discovery that she was stolen, not adopted, by her “parents.”  She travels to visit her newly inherited manor with her friends Ryan (Trey Songz), Nikki (Tania Raymonde; Lost, Chillerama) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez; True Blood), and they pick up shockingly friendly hitchhiker Carl (Scott Eastwood; Trouble with the Curve) on the way.

These kids aren’t great actors.  But they do fine.  And Heather and Nikki are off the charts hot!  So hot, in fact, that all camera angles meant to frame “the cast” actually use Nikki’s ass as the foreground and Heather’s abby, cropped-shirt stomach as the background, with the male characters somewhere in between.  LOL.  This is NOT a joke at all and it happens multiple times.  [This may sound like negative criticism, but it’s not. I love it!]

Heather (Alexandra Daddario) and Nikki (Tania Raymonde).

Heather (Alexandra Daddario)

This young group reaches the manor and decides to stay, party and explore.  While doing this, they basically follow The Cabin in the Woods playbook.  Two characters wander off alone.  People discover things like secret doors and investigate by themselves.  They play loud music so Ryan (played by Trey Songz) can’t hear his friend dying over the Trey Songz hit “Ladies and the Drinks.”  Nikki drinks, does drugs and tries to seduce her best friend’s boyfriend out in the barn–THE BARN!!!  Oh, and Heather tests the audience’s patience by seeing how many times she can fall while being chased.  [This may sound like negative criticism, but it’s not. I love it!]

Nikki (Tania Raymonde) sinning with Ryan (Trey Songz).

Why is all this happening?  Because evidently Leatherface still lives there.  Should Heather have known that?  Well, maybe.  Her grandmother left her an important letter which she never got around to reading until the end of the movie.

The action finale is more of an understated “fight” than a blaringly loud, desperate, blood and sweat-drenched chase scene–which branded the franchise in horror fans’ psyches.  This struck me as a MAJOR mistake.  It was not only done poorly, but even done “well” it was terribly ill-suited for the Leatherface character they built up in this film.  Thankfully, the not-so-twisty twist at the end made up for it with good intentions on the writers’ part.  A sequel or additional installment of some sort is obviously on its way, but I hope they return to the family dynamic of past installments that just seemed to make the “sickness” of The Texas Chainsaw series work.

LEATHERFACE:  In this film his character goes largely unexplained.  Past movies use family bullying, psychological manipulation and sexual undertones to explain what drives this lug and aims his rage.  All we learn in this movie is that he’s obsessed with masking himself in human flesh and, in about 15 seconds of the movie, it’s suggested that he may feminize himself with make-up and women’s clothing.

THE STORY: The writers managed to construct an interesting, plausible story linking the end of the first movie of the “original franchise” with this reboot installment.  The story elements are actually much cooler than previous installments had to offer.  However, the poor presentation of the horror, terror, brutality, surreal macabre, and psychological torture that branded the original franchise just wasn’t here–rendering these impressive story ideas less effective.  This was unfortunate.

TIMELINE:  This movie serves as a present day setting sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) as if the original franchise sequels 2 & 3 and then The Next Generation (1994) never happened.  But can we just point out that the lead actress is 26, she looks younger, she’s probably playing a character younger than 26, and the original Texas Chainsaw movie (1974) came out 39 years ago when her lead character was between 6 and 12 months old.  Now, hey, I get that today’s movie releases may “take place” 10 or 20 years in the past.  But the local police cars in this movie are all low-jacked with locations presented on an HDTV at HQ and a cop provides a live video feed with his SmartPhone.  So, yes, it takes place NOW.  So either our lead chick looks AMAZING at 40 years old or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) took place about 14 years in the future–for no apparent reason whatsoever.  Nope, that’s out, too.  Heather saw a newspaper article about the original “massacre” in a police evidence box.

Guess who?

THE GORE:  It was abundant.  But there really wasn’t so much for a Texas Chainsaw movie, and it was often delivered with less of a cringing intensity.  There were oodles of blood trails (from dragging bodies), but not so much in the way of actively drawing blood and opening wounds spewing about.   A lot was presented after the fact or more in the background of the shot rather than the focus of the camera angle (e.g., when Leatherface is amputating limbs on his work table).  There was also basically no torture, just flat out killing for the most part, with no lead in of terror, toying or torture. The major exception to all this was a very satisfying face-peeling scene–that was my major wincing “ooooh weee” scene.

CAMEOS:  A small victory for fans of the franchise is that familiar faces like Gunnar Hanson (stock footage Leatherface; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) cameos as one of the two actors playing Jed “Leatherface” Sawyer and Bill Mosely (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; The Devil’s Rejects) cameos as Drayton Miller during the intro flashback scenes. Even the young local Deputy Darryl (Shaun Sipos; Final Destination 2, The Grudge 2, Lost Boys: The Tribe) will likely be recognized by horror regulars.

3-D:  I saw this in 3D and, sadly, the 3D added nothing too it. Some people generally find 3D more exciting and they may appreciate it.  However, spectacles were more often obscured than enhanced by the 3D filming, especially blood.  The fact that this was presented in 3D, of course, warranted that Leatherface attack “the camera” with his chainsaw so that we’d be all “oooooh shit, it’s coming right for us!”

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