The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has been passed around to various studios more times than a party favor at a Snoop Dogg concert, which has been quite difficult for many of the reiterations to keep any sort of continuity. Finding a home at Twisted Pictures, Texas Chainsaw 3D acts as a straight sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original. Betting it all on a semi-twist ending to redirect the timeline, TC3D is riddled with bad writing, weak scares, and is a pathetic attempt of 3D.
For me, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre will live in infamy as my favorite horror movie of all time. It is psychologically and visually grotesque and disturbing. Aside from Jaws and possibly The Exorcist, not many films within the genre can say they withstood the test of time, continuing to be as frightening as when they first released. Needless to say, Texas Chainsaw 3D had a lot to live up to if it was going to be a direct sequel to one of the greatest horrors of cinema.
Sadly, right from the beginning is where we run into continuity errors. After a few short flashbacks, we pick up immediately after the events of TCM, as a police car heads straight to the Sawyer house – Tobe Hooper’s film never gave a name to the sadistic BBQ cannibals, but now they have one. Originally there was only the hitchhiker, the gas station owner, Grandpa, and Leatherface; in TC3D, all of the sudden, a whole slew of family members are seen within the Sawyer residence locked and loaded ready to protect Leatherface from the Newt, Texas sheriff and its residents. Where did all of these family members come from, we do not know, which is just one of the problems that make you scratch your head.
Fed up with the Sawyer family shenanigans, against the better judgement of the sheriff, the town folk make grilled cheese out of the home and set it on fire. Only one Sawyer woman makes it out alive, only to be curb stomped in the face and her newborn taken away from by one of the men responsible for her peril.
An unknown amount of time has passed, the infant has grown up into our final girl, Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario). It’s upsetting that the screenwriters never factored in any sense of time. If the original is set in 1974 and TC3D is set in the present (they use iPhones), that would put Leatherface at an age close to at least 60 and Heather 38, which neither physically resemble. Heather comes to learn she has inherited an estate from a grandmother she never knew existed. Here is where the fun begins. Or so we think.
If The Cabin in the Woods taught us anything, it’s that horror movies today are very formulaic and yet TC3D hits every note TCINW satirizes. Each teen was stereotyped down to a tee with the athlete, the slut, the partier, the smart one, and the “virgin” (we work with what we have). Fulfilling their roles, none of these characters are fleshed out and we could care less as each one gets picked off one at a time. The only character we have to latch onto is Heather and we hardly even get a sense of who she is as a person. All of the actors within the movie do a fine job with what they were given, except the town mayor who comes off too cartnoonish with his strange agenda against the Sawyer family.
The best part of the Platinum Dunes remake is the production design. The Hewitt home and Leatherface’s basement were so well established that you felt generally terrified when any character entered the home. Not only that, but there was an unsettling feeling about the whole town. In TC3D the production seems so lackluster that there is no uncomfortable feeling, Leatherface’s playhouse isn’t interesting and the town could be any podunk town in Texas.
Dan Yeager does a thorough job as the hulking mass that is Leatherface. His presence is felt whenever he is ready for the kill. Yeager also copies the mannerisms of Gunnar Hansen’s 1974 Leatherface pretty well too. His masks on, the other hand, look cheap and hardly eerie.
About halfway in, whatever little tension has been built fades away as the kids are taken out way too quickly. As an audience we should care whether anyone onscreen gets hacked to bits, but not even the main characters are given time to express their terror. The sheriff is the most captivating one of the whole bunch and he is hardly in the movie. With everyone picked off, what’s left is a staggering subplot that leads into a unique left turn for the franchise that ultimately sets itself up for a sequel. (You didn’t think the studios sucked this well dry yet had you?)
Horror movies are suppose to frighten and disturb, TC3D provides little tension along with uncreative kills, and couldn’t live up to the task. Instead we get an intriguing commentary about family and coming to terms with your roots. But unfortunately the writing does such a poor job of leading us to that conclusion the ending of the film seems poorly justified. I appreciate the effort and ambition TC3D took to change up the stale franchise, but the writers/director could have put in a little more effort to build a better story.
You would hope that the 3D would effectively enhance the scope or make the movie fun, NOPE. The 3D is a complete waste of time and effort. There is about 3-4 scenes where they utilized the third dimension to come at you, and the rest of the time it looks like an average 2D movie with no depth beyond the screen. Surprisingly, the picture was bright enough to see through the dark glasses.
Texas Chainsaw 3D has some nice callbacks to the original, but even nostalgia can’t help piece together this clumsily written film. With unsatisfying scares and characters we couldn’t care less about, this entry is one of the worst of the franchise. Serving the viewer with a bigger question than its predecessors, TC3D sets up an appealing opportunity for a sequel that could potentially work very well for the series.
P.S. There is a laughable scene after the credits if you are motivated to stay.
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Aside from the numerous amount of Sawyers coming out of the woodwork to join us in TC3D, it’s baffling that no one bothered to care who these people were before they are assaulted and then burned to pieces by the Newt, TX residents. If your movie is trying to give Heather a reason to care about her past, at least make it believable that the Sawyers could have been human beings.
This also applies to Mayor Burt Hartman who instigated the whole Sawyer family massacre. Despite whether or not the Sawyers were cannibals, this doesn’t justify his extreme nature to slaughter the entire family. Was he related to a victim, is he vegan, we’ll never know, but his persona displayed in the movie is too one-dimensional to make his motives to kill Heather engaging or reasonable.
Which brings us to the twist. I like the fact that you have a character who must decide whose side she should take. But again, the plot is so rushed that you are forced to accept her decision of killing the Mayor and becoming the new caretaker for Leatherface. This makes absolutely no sense because one moment she is traumatized that her cousin dismembered all of her friends and boyfriend and the next minute she is taking his side after she realizes he’s blood.
Now about these side characters. They are pretty much a waste of space only to be used for kill scenes. Trey Songz is taken out in a car crash and isn’t given a decent death; call me sadistic, but we don’t even see him go through the window to meet his doom. Weak. Adding that Songz’ character cheated on Heather with her best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde) isn’t utilized to cause conflict, it is thrown at the wayside and never brought up to Heather’s attention.
Along with those two comes a “stoner” side friend who has nothing to contribute other than a hot meal stopped short by a quick and meaningless death. The hitchhiker, Darryl played by Shaun Sipos, serves little purpose. Leaving him alone with a newly acquired mansion filled with valuables has to be one of the dumbest written plot devices ever. These kids just met the guy wandering in the rain at a gas station and they expect to trust him at the house alone while they pickup groceries? Dumb.
The fact that the cop was the mayors son was obvious and didn’t deserve the attention it receives.
And another thing. The sheriff was standing right there and did absolutely nothing to stop these hooligans from firing upon the Sawyer home, killing everyone. No one went to jail and the ring leader became mayor. I guess that goes to show how messed up the town was, but after the initial first scene, the town is never heard from again and we don’t know how their views on the Sawyer incident had changed the town.