Texas Chainsaw 3D Or: A kind of remake that serves as a sequel that ignores previous sequels and prequels
By Bret Dorman
For people who are interested in horror movies, movie making in general, and film makers who make horror movies I highly recommend the book Shock Value by Jason Zinoman. In it Zinoman gives some great insider info on some of the great horror classics, making a personal argument The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may be the best (his argument is great, but I gotta go Halloween personally). It only makes sense this mega-iconic movie would inspire sequels, remakes, prequels, and re-sequels. Texas Chainsaw 3D serves as a direct sequel. From there, we directly jump forward in time to some sexy teens who serve as fine fodder for some massacrin’.The Story: Directly after the events of the first movie, some hillbillies burn the Sawyer house down and all its family members. All except one Grandma, Leatherface (of course), and a little girl. Some hillbillies take the little girl and raise her as their own. Years later this little girl is now a super sexy butcher (it runs in the family I guess) named Heather (Alxandra Daddario). She learns her Granny has passed and left her a house. Along with her boyfriend, two other friends, and a hitchhiker, they go exploring this new house only to realize there’s a giant killer with an 8 year old mentality in there. And they let him out. Oops! Also, Clint Eastwood’s son plays a lawman (it runs in the family I guess) and he has some line deliveries that sound JUST like his old man.
3D disclosure: I don’t mind 3D, at all. I just don’t like paying for it (hence usually movie hopping into a 3D movie with my own glasses after seeing a 2D movie). But the projector for my theater was SUPER blurry. Blurry is actually a generous word. It was like watching two versions side by side. I left to tell an employee and he kindly informed me I needed to wear my glasses. I told him it was out of focus even with the glasses. Moments later the movie became a huge blur, then became a little crisper. It was still blurry a bit at times, but tolerable. I’m not sure if the movie was shot in 3D or converted or if it was the theaters fault… but I’m not going to hold this against the movie. It actually serves as a nice metaphor… The filmmakers knew where they wanted to go, they just weren’t always so clear on how to get there…
Great horror movies (really, all genres of movies) have some sort of deeper meaning behind them. Great slasher sequels have people getting brutally murdered in violent and visceral ways. So I’m not opposed to out of nowhere dialogue like “I’m adopted”, “I’ve never felt like I fit in anyway”, and “We know how stubborn you are so we are canceling all our plans and coming with you!” [paraphrased] Yes, this movie is silly, even bad at times, but it moves fast. Right from the get go, we see a house burned down. Then we are on the road to Texas. Then people are getting killed. Then family secrets are revealed. The movie takes what is usually one big condensed body dropping finale and stretches it out for the middle forty five minutes to the point where you are asking “Where are they willing to go next?!” Unfortunately, the end is a silly one that could have been achieved regardless of the fun mayhem that came before it.“But how is the gore” you ask? It’s fine. Leatherface’s weapon of recognition may be the infamous chainsaw, but his killing/unconscious-ing blows are usually a giant metal hammer. Here we go a bit further beyond the sliding door and messy kitchen, deeper into the “catacomb things” and Leatherface’s personal life. Right when we start to get an actual insight into his mayhem though, we are distracted by another nosey intruder. Some will argue this movie goes too far into Leatherface’s motivations and some will argue it doesn’t go far enough. He’s physically unrestrained but emotionally stunted. His acts of aggression are primarily territorial. He doesn’t go out looking for murder but if its presented to him, he goes all out. Yet he’s still far from a “character” and more resembles a “force.” His presence strikes fear and his screams invoke a flinching curiosity. The scariest moments of Texas Chainsaw are when Leatherface is in an unpredictable situation. The downfall is the movie always ends these situations predictably.
I’m all for not over analyzing stupid things characters do/say to get the story moving forward. I don’t want to ruin the fun/momentum the movie is providing me, especially since I’m watching it voluntarily. But every once in a while a character will say something, not plot-driven, that I can’t help but question. Case in point: a supposedly badass fist pumping hoorah moment of a standardly weak (but super sexy/slutty) female standing up to her chainsaw-wielding face-wearing giant lunatic attacker. He’s cutting through a barn door with a chainsaw (I get that you want to lock the wooden door to slow him down, but don’t stand there and act surprised when he cuts through it) and the girl grabs a shotgun and yells “Welcome to Texas, mother fucker!” before shooting at him. Okay. Let’s get some things clear. She is not from Texas. He is. She does not need to welcome him there, as this is his home. She is intruding on his land. That’s like me walking into Walmart and greeting the greeter with “Thanks for shopping at Walmart!” It doesn’t make sense. But okay… its a badass moment. Girl stands up to serial slasher. Except she MISSES! So her one moment to be a badass and she says something that doesn’t make sense and accomplishes nothing except making a hole in the door. Her bad aim isn’t even used as some sort of comedic relief either. This is bad writing. Simple as that.
SpoilersOkay, we know early on Heather is really related to Leatherface. So by the end either she gets away or joins him. Once she looks over the (conveniently left) evidence box and writes “MURDERERS!” over a picture it becomes clear which path the movie chose. Even though Leatherface killed a bunch of innocent kids (including her own friends) she is somehow bound to him by blood even though she’s never met him or any of her family before. Some weak/typical dialogue about blood being thicker than water and justice and the good book make the last act of this movie a “revenge begets revenge” and “family reunion” and ” warring hillbilly clans” adventure. I like the idea of her becoming a family member, but her motivation is pretty weak regardless. Besides, they leave the main hillbillies’ son alive (he seems to have wandered off before the Sheriff arrives).
The best scene in the movie COULD have been the carnival scene. Leatherface is “retarded” (in the terms of the movie) and he doesn’t do well when he is frightened, usually to the detriment of whoever did the frightening. So when he is surrounded by a bunch of strangers, bombarded with lights and sounds, he… keeps his sights laser focused on Heather? Just moments before he had Heather trapped in a coffin but was distracted by two people waving their arms and shouting from far, far away. And when he had the girl trapped in the van he was distracted by Heather who waved her arms and shouted things. So when he is confronted by a bunch of people shouting and running it would make sense that he would go NUTS and kill ’em all. Right? No. I guess that’s why they took the Massacre out of the title. Innocent people are saved. The only ones who are killed are a thief, some cheating cheaters, a policeman who just murdered a girl (accidentally, but still), some hillbilly scumbags, and… a teenage chef who did nothing wrong… okay he doesn’t count. That one is sad. If this movie wanted to go dark, it would have made its hero find something tragic and perhaps redeemable in a crazed mass murderer who slaughters all he sees unforgivingly. Instead, Leatherface only kills when his home is invaded or his bloodline threatened. Translation: He’s really not THAT bad, just slightly kind of misunderstood in a charming and easily digestible horror-slasher kind of way.
By the time Heather gets almost felt up by her relative (Texas, am I right?) and screams to Leatherface “Do your thing, cuz!” while heaving his chainsaw to him, allowing him to find the strength to not get pulled by the chain, stand up, and unwrap himself (Chainsaw:Leatherface::Spinach:Popeye?) I just kind of lost interest. I wasn’t expecting anything out of this movie, but I couldn’t help feel a bit disappointed the movie didn’t push things a little farther due to what they set up. The TCM franchise has always shown a spotlight on the wicked, but Rob Zombie and his villainous protagonists (The Devil’s Rejects) and innocence turned crazy evil ‘twists’ (Halloween II) clearly inspired the direction of this movie. In fact, House of 1000 Corpses/The Devil’s Rejects serves as a better remake/sequel of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than anything the franchise has put out on its own.
It’s also fitting that the impotent Sheriff who gets bullied around does nothing when the bully himself is in danger. Poetic irony? Perhaps. But as a man who defended a murderer (Leatherface) he sure seems okay with letting that murderer murder another murdering murderer. Revenge begets revenge and I’m sure this sequel will… not go anywhere but spawn another re-sequel that takes the franchise in a new(ish) direction.
In Conclusion, instead of giving us some badass fun Texas Chainsaw 3D just gives us dumb fun. I’m all for suspending disbelief and going along for the ride, but I can’t turn off my brain and prefer good-good movies over bad-good movies every time. So when a character in the movie cockily retorts “A chainsaw don’t make ya bulletproof” I can’t help but put my head in my hands and wearily shake it murmuring to myself “And having a gun doesn’t make you idiot proof…”
Final Grade: D