Directed by John Luessenhop
Texas Chainsaw 3D is the first installment in a major horror franchise to reclaim itself from the Hollywood remake trend. In this case the filmmakers have ignored the god-awful “Platinum Duniverse” and used the Tobe Hooper original as a springboard for the return of Leatherface and the Sawyer (not Hewitt) clan. That’s a trend I hope to see in coming years as long as it’s executed to better effect. Sadly, despite every attempt to win back the fan base, this return trip to Texas isn’t any better.
After a 3D recap of the original, we pick up with the Sawyer clan moments after Sally Hardesty escaped the infamous dinner table finale at the end of Hooper’s classic. And while it’s cool to see the original house lovingly recreated, this attempt at an olive branch quickly spirals into fan service with ill-conceived cameos (Bill Moseley fills in for the late Jim Siedow while Gunnar Hanson plays a previously unseen member of the family). From there a Devil’s Rejects style firefight ensues with Texas police and town locals, resulting in every member of the Sawyer clan being wiped out – save for one baby.
Cut to modern day. We’re introduced to Heather (Daddario, whose character should be about 40 given that this film takes place present day), the grown-up adopted survivor who has matured into a sexy Goth chick who works in the grocery butcher section and makes morbid art from animal bones (insert collective groan here). After receiving word that she’s inherited an estate in the middle of Texas, she gathers together a group of stereotypes (Doomed Black Guy, Slutty McSlutwhore, and Nameless Red Shirt) on a road trip getaway to her brand new secluded mansion. But not before picking up a random hitchhiker and leaving him alone in the estate while they take off to get weekend party supplies.
TC3D is full of this kind of horror movie stupidity, where the characters are required by law to be as brain-dead as humanly possible in order to stay in danger. I realize the victims in Hooper’s classic weren’t exactly deep characters, but there was a rawness to them that made you fear for their lives. Here everything is chock-full of superficial Hollywood bullshit with chiseled WB teens and a bad hip-hop soundtrack in one of those mindless studio attempts to make Chainsaw appeal to the younger (i.e., dumbed down) generation.
The film is miscast from top to bottom, especially with regard to its antagonist, Leatherface (Yeager), now a balding, average-statured redneck who isn’t physically imposing in the slightest. While it’s not the case, it feels as if the filmmakers went down to the local dive bar, grabbed whatever random guy they could find and slapped a bad mask on him. Despite having KNB on makeup F/X duties, there’s nothing about his appearance or persona that distinguishes this version of Leatherface from the low-level imitations seen at your local haunted attraction every Halloween.
With flat direction by John Luessenhop, Texas Chainsaw 3D even wastes its central gimmick with boring, uninspired visuals the likes of a Syfy channel movie (if it weren’t for the title, this film would have never seen theater screens). The filmmakers even waste a potentially classic setpiece that sees Leatherface chasing our heroine through a crowded late night carnival. I was excited to see a chainsaw-fueled homage to Hooper’s Funhouse, or any other crazy visual scenario (a blood-drenched “Hall of Mirrors” or “Tunnel of Love”), but quickly realized I put more thought into this than the people making it. For most of the film’s runtime, everyone seems content to mine the same Texas Chainsaw formula we’ve seen time and time again.
Only in the home stretch does the script shake things up, with an unexpected twist that manages to change your sympathies. While it doesn’t change the sloppy execution that exists in every second of the ninety-minute runtime, you have to at least commend the writers for trying something different (something that can’t be said of the Platinum Dunes team). With a real genre director and better cast, it might have even worked.
But for all its good intentions, TC3D plays like a low-budget fan film and ultimately fails to redeem the franchise. Maybe turning this property into a franchise was the first big mistake. After Tobe Hooper’s goofy send-up sequel, it’s become more and more obvious that there’s nowhere left to go. Leatherface may be an icon, but several decades’ worth of attempts to bring him back have only resulted in tainted meat.
2 out of 5