Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D

Texas Chainsaw 3D is the most polished, expensive Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan film I’ve ever seen.  

That could be a good thing or that could be bad thing, depending on how you look at it.  Me?  I don’t see that as, nor am I using it, as a compliment.

Like a fan film, Texas Chainsaw‘s heart is in the right place and it goes through some the motions of what we’ve seen before.  It painstakingly scrutinizes the minute details of its predecessor (this entry ignores everything after Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre) to be “familiar” and “true” to the series canon.  But it’s a lunk-headed, often silly (like many fan films), effort that lacks logic and makes the crucial mistake of misfiring in its depiction of Leatherface.   It earns points for steering the series into new, potentially interesting territory, but boy, did they screw up in its execution.

The most devout Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans will commence their wincing during the film’s prologue in which clips from Hooper’s TCM play out (post-converted in 3D, of course, to match the rest of the movie).  This is all well and good to re-acquaint the audience, however, when a shot of the late Jim Siedow’s Drayton Sawyer is called for, they cut in Bill Moseley (taking over for Drayton) into the original’s footage.  It’s a fleeting, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it left me a bit raw, considering Siedow’s involvement in TCM and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (also starring Bill Moseley).  That’s not to say Moseley (or any other franchise vet who make a cameo) is terrible – in fact, he does just fine for the brief time he’s on screen slipping into Drayton’s skin.

With the “greatest hits” introduction over, Texas Chainsaw 3D carries on, picking up where TCM left off.  The Sawyer family home is under siege shortly after Sally Hardesty escapes.  The local sheriff isn’t happy, nor is the town’s residents who have turned vigilante.  Oh, and there are more members of the Sawyer family now.  I don’t know where they were hiding throughout the original TCM, but there’s a whole clan.  Without this plot detail, we would not have the rest of the movie, obviously, because a Sawyer infant – following the whole “siege on the Sawyer house incident” – is later adopted and becomes our leading lady, Heather (Alexandra Daddario).

When we first find Heather, she’s making bizarre artwork at home that involves paint and bone, suggesting the Sawyer family’s fascination with grotesque displays of flesh and bone (seen in TCM) is genetic (groan).  She receives word that a relative has passed away and that she has inherited a home.  So, she packs her bags, her boyfriend (Trey Songz) and her pals (Tania Raymonde and Keram Malicki-Sánchez, whose character dresses like he belongs in a band like Smashmouth) and heads to her new abode in Texas.  There, she finds not just trouble lurking within the recesses of her inherited mansion (hello, Leatherface!) but friction with the townies and local mayor as well.

Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s themes of family are welcome and progressive, but not entirely well thought out and it’s difficult to go into why without delving into spoiler territory.  

I do have to wonder, however, how Heather appears to be in her early to mid-20s even though the events of Texas Chainsaw Massacre - in her infancy – took place in ’73/’74.  And while I’m questioning things, I have to also wonder why there is a certain plot detail involving something that occurs between Raymonde and Songz’s characters that doesn’t pay off.  Like, at all.  They do something together and there’s really no reason for them to do it; there are no repurcussions as far as Heather is concerned.  It’s sloppy storytelling and Texas Chainsaw 3D is filled with plenty of rubbish – that includes a modern take on the “hitchhiker scenario” as well as a scene in which the mayor and sheriff watch, via computer, a police deputy, using Facetime on his goddamn iPhone, roam the dark corridors of Heather’s mansion.  It’s a bafflingly bad scene rife with terrible reaction shots from the mayor and sheriff.

The scenes, meanwhile, with Leatherface are serviceable.  I think an opportunity to “go bigger” during a chase at a carnival (look for a cameo!) was missed, but this Leatherface certainly doesn’t hold back.  He carries with him a sense of fatigue, which is a nice touch, however, what I didn’t particularly care for is the empathy you’re asked to feel for this clearly lost, chainsaw-wielding brute.  He’s not Frankenstein.  He’s not King Kong.  He’s Leatherface, yet the team behind the film clearly attempt to make him out to be like those other icons of the genre I’ve mentioned.

Texas Chainsaw 3D has a set-up for a potentially good story and there’s an interesting character arc for Heather in place, but this film is bereft of intelligence, atmosphere, moreover, scares.  It’s still not the worst film of the franchise (that award still goes to The Next Generation), so I guess you all can be thankful for that, but I can’t imagine revisiting this film again.

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