Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) - A Review

Evil wears many faces…

In 1974, a film was released that was so disturbingly grotesque and horrifying that it was subsequently banned in over 10 countries, some for as long as 23 years before the film saw the light of day. It’s opening crawl, voiced by John Larroquette, has gone on to become one of the most recognizable and chill inducing moments in the history of cinema. 

It is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

This film serves as one of the backdrops of my horror history. It is one of the few films that will continually send shivers down my spine, even just thinking about it. Unfortunately this review is not focusing on the 1974 classic, however on the direct sequel that was released in January of 2013. I held off on watching it, not based on any reviews, but because it didn’t look very good to me (based on trailers and promotional materials). However, due to its recent release on Netflix I decided to give it a go and see if it really is as bad as everyone seems to think it is. Let’s take a look at Texas Chainsaw (3D).

Title: Texas Chainsaw

Director(s): John Luessenhop

Writer(s): Kirsten Elms, Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan

Producer(s): Carl Mazzacone

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Bill Moseley

Studio: Twisted Pictures, Lionsgate (distribution)

Running Time: 92 minutes

Release Date: January 4th, 2013

“After the first massacre in 1974, the townspeople suspected that the Sawyer family were responsible. A vigilante mob of enraged locals surrounded the Sawyer house, burning it to the ground and killing every last member of the family. Decades later a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from her grandmother. she decides to bring her friends along on the road trip to invesitgate her inheritance. On arrival she uncovers she has inherited a mansion but is yet to uncover the terrors that lurk in the basement below it.” – synopsis courtesy of IMDB

One of the biggest horror remakes of the past 10 years has been the Marcus Nispel directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel and Andrew Bryniarski as Leatherface. It was a spectacle; it successfully revived interest in the franchise and even if most horror fans seemed to hate it, it was handled pretty damn well in my opinion. However, when I first heard that the franchise was yet again being revisited, this time as a direct sequel to the 1974 masterpiece, I became a bit leery.

I think it’s best in this situation to start with taking a look at the director, John Luessenhop (Takers, Lockdown). Now, this is Luessenhop’s first time in the horror ring and it absolutely shows. The Chainsaw franchise has certain elements that set it apart from any of the others, the first one being it’s grimy and chilling atmosphere. This film failed to capture very much of that. The mere fact that Leatherface is now living beneath a beautifully decorated and well maintained mansion (of-sorts) seemed to come off strange to me and as an interesting deviation from the original rules set down by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel. I think that the main point to make about Luessenhop is that he does not seem to be a fan of the horror genre, much less of the Chainsaw franchise and I think that may have been his biggest downfall. Diehard fans of the franchise were able to see right through the factory line, main stream appeal that Luessenhop tried so very hard to create in this film.

That very same mainstream appeal permeated the casting decisions as well, with the inclusion of Alexandra Daddaria (Percy Jackson series) in the lead role of Heather Mills, supported by Trey Songz and Tania Raymonde (LOST). Aside from Daddaria’s rather mediocre performance in the third act of the film, and Raymonde’s mediocre performance in general, I had a hard time trying to decipher if I was having trouble with their performances or the material they were given to work with. I mean, in all reality, if it takes three people to write a slasher film (and someone else to help come up with the story) then there is something seriously wrong.

While the film starts off with a fun intro depicting the events directly following Sally Hardesty’s escape at the conclusion of the original (and some surprise appearances by Gunnar Hansen and Bill Moseley), the story was sloppy at best and filled with plot holes. In a rather unimaginative attempt to turn Leatherface into a horror anti-hero, the writers sacrificed all logic and common sense in the final act of the film turning it into an amalgamation of confusion, blood and downright stupidity. While the 2006 addition to the franchise, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, placed a bit of emphasis on Leatherface’s destructive upbringing, ultimately giving him a kind of sympathy-vote, they made no attempt to have characters in the film directly (and vocally) sympathize with him to the point that they were justifying his actions. The final 20 minutes of the film were just that, and it ultimately changed the dynamic of the character in such a way that I can’t help but understand the outrage that the film sparked. While trying to give Leatherface more of a backstory and a deeper dynamic, Luessenhop and his band of merry writers completely altered the character, depriving him of the pure and carnal terror that he once was capable of. I actually found that in the first and second act, the film was actually quite effective and I was thoroughly enjoying it. It wasn’t until we began to really see Leatherface, his methods and his mannerisms, that my eyebrow began to rise. Once again, I feel that these people were not fans of the film, and if they were… well… I have to wonder if we’re fans of the same film. 

As I mentioned before, there are certain dynamics that make a Chainsaw film a Chainsaw film and this film lacked the vast majority of them. If it wasn’t for the mask of skin and a chainsaw, you would hardly be able to tell that it was a part of the franchise. From the atmosphere, to the polished cinematography and soundtrack, it just didn’t feel like it had a proper place in this franchise. In that way, I feel that it would have been better, and probably would have been more of a success, had they branded this film under a different name.

While I don’t necessarily think the film was as bad as people made it out to be in the months following its release, I don’t think that I can justify it all that much either. Albeit, I have to completely put aside my love and admiration for this franchise aside (which is not easy to do) as this was a factory line film that took complete advantage of the recognition of the Texas Chainsaw name to draw in a quick buck. 


- Rg Lovecraft

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