You can’t keep a good cannibalistic inbred serial killer down! This weekend sees the release of “Texas Chainsaw 3D” (yes, the word “Massacre” is purposefully missing from the title — more on that in a minute), the latest in a seemingly unending series of reboots, sequels and spin-offs that began with 1974’s immortal classic “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and continued through a cluster of contentious follow-ups and a pair of glossy Michael Bay-produced remakes. This new “Chainsaw” is being ushered to the screen by one of the original architects of the “Saw” franchise, and when he acquired the rights, he let it be known that he intends it to be the next major horror franchise, with plans for six films (!) already mapped out.
The question, of course, is whether or not this newest “Chainsaw” can hold a candle to the original, or if its mired in the same pitfalls and miscalculations that befell so many of the movies that followed. So, should you pluck down the extra moola for the 3D and watch Leatherface slice up a new bunch of comely youngsters? Or is it better to stay at home, pop in the Blu-ray and relive a masterwork? Read on to find out.
PRO: You Get To See Some Of The Original Movie
Unlike the original film (and most of the spin-offs/sequels/whatevers that have trickled out through the years), “Texas Chainsaw 3D” does not start with crawling text and gravely serious narration. (These elements were essential to the atmosphere of docu-horror that those films tried to create, and tipped their hat knowingly to Ed Gein, the notorious American serial killer whose crimes partially inspired the film.) Instead, we’re treated to about five minutes of the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” And you know what? It’s probably the best five minutes of “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” a handy reminder of what an amazing, homespun masterpiece Tobe Hooper’s original really was and how single-minded terror can easily be mined from the backwoods and forgotten farmhouses of the American South. After this recap/flashback is over, the movie begins in earnest, first with a sequence set directly after the conclusion of the first film, and then jumping ahead several decades to follow a typically gorgeous group of young people. Yawn.
CON: The Word “Massacre” Is Missing From The Title For A Reason
Keen-eyed film freaks will notice that the word “Massacre” is missing from the title of this installment, the first time the word has been omitted in the history of the franchise. That’s because, while there is plenty of gooey, drippy bloodshed, this movie veers off in a different, completely stupid direction. You see, the conceit of “Texas Chainsaw 3D” is that Leatherface, while undoubtedly a cannibalistic, sexually confused serial killer, is also a misunderstood soul. After those scenes from the original, we find out that the townsfolk of Newt, Texas (um, what?) burned down the Sawyer house and all of the people inside… or so they thought. There were some survivors, however, namely Leatherface and Leatherface’s cousin, who was abducted from the scene of the smoldering farmhouse and raised by another family. It’s this long-lost relative named Heather (played by Alexandra Daddario), who inherits a stately Southern manor from her deceased grandmother, who leaves a note that Heather never reads but probably says something like: “BTW your psychopathic cannibalistic cousin lives in the basement LOL.” At some point Heather and Leatherface team up to exact revenge on the equally murderous townsfolk of Newt.
CON: It’s The Worst 3D Ever
2012 saw a glut of movies utilize the newfangled 3D technology to outstanding results — things like Ridley Scott’s sci-fi trip out “Prometheus,” the comic book shoot-em-up “Dredd” and Ang Lee’s dazzling, emotive “Life of Pi.” It might have been enough to think that 3D is on the upswing and isn’t, as previously imagined, a huge, expensive eyesore (not screened for critics, my “Texas Chainsaw 3D” ticket cost me $ 14.50). Well, “Texas Chainsaw 3D” undoes all that goodwill in one single chainsaw swoop. This is arguably the worst 3D in a major theatrical release since the technology made a comeback with James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Things look blurry and unfocused and night scenes are rendered almost unwatchable. There are a couple of decent gags, like a bit where Leatherface tosses the chainsaw at the camera, but otherwise the technology is worse than unnecessary — it’s an active hindrance to your enjoyment of the film (that is, what little there is to enjoy). I’m not sure if it was shot in 3D or if it was post-converted, but whoever did the job should be fired immediately or possibly loaded into a canon and shot into the sun.
Clearly, the filmmakers behind “Texas Chainsaw 3D” have reverence for the original film — there are references sprinkled throughout. They range in size and importance, everything from the kids riding in a similar Volkswagen van to a dead armadillo on the side of the road, to cast members returning for small appearances. All of it adds some texture to an otherwise lifeless movie. The problem, of course, is that this reverence never translates to anything substantial, and you’re left even more flabbergasted, since these are filmmakers who love the original so much but can’t understand what made it so special.
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