Texas Chainsaw 3D
dir. John Luessenhop
Release Date: Jan 04, 13
(A bit of preamble: Texas Chainsaw 3D is a thoroughly atrocious film. That said, if you’ve never watched a single slasher movie before, or if the presence of Trey Songz is alone enough to make you drop $10 on this cinematic monument to human failure, SPOILERS ahead and such.)
When The Cabin in the Woods was released last year, many a hyperbolic review sang hosannas to its capacity to “end horror movies.” Though it’s important to protect the key spoilers on which that movie is predicated, it’s enough to say that when you deconstruct the very essence of the genre movie flesh feast, it becomes harder with each subsequent retread of it to unsee what Cabin had to say. If only Texas Chainsaw 3D were clever enough to warrant a metatextual reading, you could handily argue for it as a cunning parody of hackwork horror franchise-starters, a full-blown mockery of movies where pretty white people (and one equally pleasing person of varied ethnicity, because this is how slasher movies work) are murdered by a faceless figure. Or in this case, one with many faces.
Alas and alack, this is not to be. Rather, Texas Chainsaw 3D is one of those films that comes along every so often to remind viewers that horror movies have yet to reach their nadir, and that with time, Hollywood as a large collective has somehow un-learned how to make an effective scare film that also deals in heavy volumes of viscera. Plot? Four pretty white people (and one Trey Songz, because slasher movies) head to quaint Newt, Texas, where the townsfolk leer at pretty, half-clothed out-of-towners and Heather (Alexandra Daddario) has come to inherit a fortune from her estranged grandmother. That fortune turns out to be the Sawyer mansion, which among its many amenities has a terribly hidden fake wall, into a butler’s closet beneath which Jed Sawyer resides. Who is Jed Sawyer, you ask? None other than germinal face of horror Leatherface, because if there’s one thing Leatherface needed, it was an origin story.
The brilliance of Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (a movie this one foolishly invokes during the opening) is largely indebted to the film’s relative restraint. Appalling as its violence was, most of the nastiest stuff happened offscreen, and it was through some good filmmaking and a psychedelic visual style that the film conjured its terrifying atmosphere. By contrast, Texas Chainsaw 3D is an exercise in not only abysmal low-budget 3D, but also in a total lack of aptitude for horror filmmaking. The jump scares are so exaggerated and telegraphed that Paranormal Activity now looks like a master class in suspense by comparison. The kills are largely lifted from other films in the series, the subplot involving warring local families feels stolen from The Devil’s Rejects (among other Southern-fried horror flicks) and the film’s insistence on killing off most of its established cast within the first 40 minutes makes you wonder exactly how the latest ride of Leatherface will even reach feature length.
But oh, what a final surprise Texas Chainsaw 3D has in store. Not only does Leatherface get an overextended origin story, because nothing screams “faceless specter of evil” quite like a series of hokey flashbacks, but he also gets a family subplot. That’s right; Heather and Leatherface are blood relatives, and in a stunning moment of boldfaced hilarity, the words “Do your thing, cuz” are uttered. This despite the fact that at that point in the movie, Leatherface is wearing Heather’s friends’ faces. The whole thing resolves itself with the sort of treacle usually reserved for movies based on the work of Nicholas Sparks, if with a gothic twist. Texas Chainsaw 3D isn’t only a God-awful movie on its own, but it breathes the rarified air of a franchise entry so terrible that it retroactively damages the earlier, better installments right alongside it.