Like many, I’m not particularly a fan of 3D, and have struggled to find a film over the last three years where the effect actually felt warranted and an integral part of the movie that the story just couldn’t have done without. But what I am a fan of, and have been since my teen years, is Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 cult masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a film that thanks to copious amounts of excruciating carnage, bloodcurdling screams and scenes so uncomfortable to watch you would be forgiven for looking away, will always top my list of horror classics. That said it might come as a surprise to hear that I am actually an exclusive member in the small club of people who actually enjoyed the 2003 remake, starring Jessica Biel. As far as remakes go, it actually wasn’t bad. Obviously nowhere near the calibre of the original, but there have certainly been worse horror remakes over the years.
So with all this in mind, upon hearing that the Chainsaw saga was to be reinvigorated and rebooted for the 3D generation, I was both mildly excited and a little dismayed that these two films that I enjoy would be tarnished and that the saga of Leatherface was to be forever regurgitated and progressively degenerated. However, I made it my mission to steer clear of any footage other than the initial viewing of the trailer, and go in blind and with an open mind, unsure whether this was a prequel, a sequel, a remake or a stand-alone movie.
Possible Spoilers ahead.
As it turns out, this is a direct sequel to Hooper’s original 1974 classic, picking up directly after the events that saw lone survivor Marilyn Burns (Sally Hardesty) deliriously escaping the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface in the back of a pick-up truck. Following a somewhat enjoyable and crudely blood-splattered montage of scenes depicting the horror of Hooper’s first, just five minutes in and it is apparent that this film dismisses the existence of any of the sequels that followed (not necessarily a bad thing, of course), including Hooper’s own 1986 comedy/horror follow-up, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 starring Dennis Hopper. Following the slaughter of the Sawyer family at the hands of the townsfolk, we fast-forward twenty years to find Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) not only discover that she is adopted (a plot element that foreshadows a twist towards the end of the film to the point where the writers clearly thought it was going to be a bigger surprise than the audience did) but that she has also inherited some property from her recently deceased grandmother. With her standard textbook group of friends – the somewhat geeky good guy (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), the sporty boyfriend-type (Trey Songz) and the whore (Tanya Ramonde) – they embark on a one-way trip to Texas, picking up drifter Darryl (Shaun Sipos) on the way, only to quickly discover that the catacomb-like bowels of the house are also home to the reclusive and until now presumed dead Leatherface (no surprise there).
While many a horror film outside the Chainsaw arena leave much of the brutal murdering to occur either off-screen, behind an obstructive body or strategically fallen shadow and implied by means of suggestive spasmodic limbs, Texas Chainsaw 3D offers just the right amount of slicing, peeling, cutting and sawing without the audience ever feeling like it goes gratuitously too far. While still managing to retain a gloomy, dark and dangerous aesthetic, the macabre is in full view from the offset. Moreover, where the traditional villain of the horror movie might lurk in the shadows until the third act, Leatherface is at the forefront of the bloodshed almost from the offset, relentlessly (if not a little clumsily) pursuing his victims with unyielding zeal.
As fun as this all is to watch, the film is obviously not without its flaws. What’s unfortunate (to the point of me watching and wondering if it was maybe not so accidental at all and somewhat of a homage to the genre) is the sporadic lack of decent acting from the supporting cast. I am of course specifically talking in terms of Heather’s friends, the sweaty mass of voluptuous hips, perfectly shaped (moulded) breasts intermittently thrust into the direction of the viewer and typically bulging muscled jock bodies. With all of this in your face, it’s astonishing at how just flat their presence really is.
Thrown into the fold is Leatherface – the modern day Frankenstein and a victim of disfigurement, his family’s protection as well as his own morbid need to safeguard them – who was sooner or later destined to be portrayed as a sympathetic character. It is towards the end of the movie where I begin to question the motives of certain characters and whether the conclusion to the story is the one that I would have liked to see. Having said that, the film, overall, is a joy to watch. Is the 3D warranted? Probably not, but it does provide mandatory shots of the chainsaw being hurtled towards the audience and bestow the viewer with some rich visuals of the grisly horror without taking away too much from the actual shock and gruesomeness of the story. While the carnival scene should have been a little more thrilling than it actually was, providing Leatherface with some ample opportunity to hack away at some local townsfolk, it did provide a nice nod towards other popular movies of the horror franchise, particularly the Saw series, and not forgetting several other nods in terms of props, editing and sound towards the previous instalments, including the 2003 Marcus Nispel remake.
If you clear the fact that we are inundated with remakes and sequels from your mind, steer away from the hater bandwagon that so many people jump on and go in expecting the film to be a not-so-serious movie with some cool references to the Hooper classic and plenty of blood spill for the new generation, then this could be the first enjoyable film of 2013. Let’s face it, it’s safe to say at this point that the Chainsaw series and the deathly escapades of Leatherface are never going away, so we may as well just enjoy the ride.