Directed by John Luessenhop
Distributed by Lionsgate
Jesus H. Christ. I don’t even know where to begin exactly. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, much like the Halloween franchise, is unique in the fact that several different plot-lines take place in their own bizarre universe with different characters, different families, etc. Over the years the Saw has seen remakes, prequels, sequels, and every other treatment you could conceivably give a property. With Texas Chainsaw the filmmakers decided that this entry would be a direct sequel to the original 1974 Tobe Hooper classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This was a ballsy and honestly welcome move. There was just one hitch… this would prove to be only the first of many problems that the film suffers from. Let me explain…
Texas Chainsaw begins the day after the events which found young Sally Hardesty jumping out of a window in hell. We see the police show up at the Sawyer residence (which has been lovingly recreated in this movie in startling detail), but eventually the long arm of the law falls limp as a group of angry Texans arrive with nothing but vigilante justice on their minds. During the fracas one member of the Sawyer clan flees for her life, baby in arms, only to be found at death’s door by a member of the mob, who ends up taking her baby to raise as his own.
Flash forward to the present. By my count 39 years have passed since the incident in Texas, and we catch up with the abducted child, who is now named Heather (Daddario). Here’s the thing… she’s about 23. Was she in stasis for 16 years or something? This chick should be pushing 40, but no. She’s twenty-friggin’-three. No matter how you slice it, this does NOT add up. Numbers don’t lie. Normally I’d consider this “just one of those things” if not for the fact that the entire sales campaign for the film since it was first mentioned was built around this being a “direct sequel to the original.” So how do the filmmakers combat logic? Every time the date of the deadly original incident is revealed, the year is always conveniently missing… whether it be grass covering it on a tombstone or whatever Austin Powers-style game of Hide the Salami they can concoct. Thus, we start things off with the entire movie being based around a gaping plot hole the size of Texas itself.
Anyway, back to the plot such as it is. Heather is now working in the meat department of her local supermarket and soon gets a registered letter stating that her real grandmother, whom she knew nothing about, had passed away and left her a sprawling Texas estate complete with built-in graveyard and flesh-wearing psychopath. Well, technically she doesn’t know about those later bits until she gets there. In any event she and her friends pack up to go check out Heather’s new digs. From there we’re hit with rapid-fire moments of stupidity that will leave you battered and bruised. Instead of harping on each one, which would make this the most epic-sized review for this movie ever, I’m just gonna list some of them. Spoilers follow so if you don’t want to read them, just skip it.
Texas Chainsaw Stupidity Checklist
I could go on and on and on. None of it makes any sense. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not looking for a movie called Texas Chainsaw 3D to be rich with details, but can’t even just the basic plot make sense? Want to be even further infuriated? Good! I’ve got just what you need. You can watch an UNRATED cut of Texas Chainsaw by buying it from iTunes. It’s NOT included in this Blu-ray / DVD package. Nope. Not at all. You do get a digital copy of the rated version though. Yay. Having seen the unrated version, which clocks in at 92 minutes (incidentally, the same exact runtime as the theatrical cut), I can tell you that the differences are minimal. We’re talking a few frames cut from a couple of the movie’s kill scenes, especially the final meat grinder kill. Yep. No biggie here. I’m sure Lionsgate will release an unrated Blu-ray in the future, and just like good little sheep someone will buy it.
I would like to give a special shout-out to Dan Yeager, who played Leatherface in this go-round. It’s very apparent that he cared about what he was doing and that he was honored to play the role. Good on you, dude. You’re truly one of this flick’s saving graces.
Still, even given all of its absolute stupidity I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the flick on some level. In fact it’s incoherent silliness and brutal kills kept me entertained throughout on the most superficial level possible. The Blu-ray looks stunning with razor-sharp detail, wondrously deep black levels, and booming surround sound mix. Say what you want about the movie, but it looks and sounds phenomenal. Also phenomenal are its bonus features. They’re way better than the film itself deserved, and that just adds to the tragedy.
We get three commentaries – one with John Luessenhop and Leatherface Dan Yeager, which is about as dry a 97-year-old woman’s vagina, another with with producer Carl Mazzocone and filmmaker Tobe Hooper which is a must for Chainsaw buffs and historians, and a special “Chainsaw Alumni” audio commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, and John Dugan. If you’re going to listen to just one, trust me and go with the alumni one. It’s fast, funny, and full of witty anecdotes and stories. From there we get seven featurettes (detailed below) which look at both the franchise and this film from every possible angle and end up being a much better watch than the movie itself. These run anywhere from about six minutes to nearly nearly fifteen and do nothing but make you wish that the movie was better. It’s like all the components were there, but no one had any idea how to put them all together. After spending time with these supplemental slivers of goodness, you cannot help but appreciate what the people who brought Texas Chainsaw to the screen tried to attempt. Too bad said features also underscore how badly they failed. From there we have six on-set shot behind-the-scenes videos which run about five minutes each, an alternate opening that was far superior than the hackjob MTV-style quick edit fest we got in the film itself, and the trailer. Seriously, this thing is packed to the gills with goodness. Except for the film, which kind of sucks in an almost okay way.
In the end, despite all the good intentions and heart that went into it, Texas Chainsaw plays more like a glorified fan film than it does an actual entry into the franchise. Who’s to blame for this? I doubt that anyone involved really knows themselves. Of course the flick ended up making bank at the box office so there will be a sequel, which is rumored to be called Texas Chainsaw 4, but Texas Chainsaw 4 was actually called Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation, and since this is technically the second film in the series based on the original franchise, wouldn’t that make the next movie Texas Chainsaw 3, which was actually Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, and not Texas Chainsaw 4? There goes that friggin’ screwy math thing again. Sigh.
– Burning Down the House
– Trapped in the Van
– Carnival Time
– Leatherface in Action
– Hot Times in Louisiana
– Bloody Good Times
2 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5