THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D"
Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released in 1974, is so fundamentally disturbing that it never leaves you once you've seen it. To this day, it is considered an all-time classic in the horror genre. A series of sequels and reboots followed, none even remotely coming close to achieving the same primal terror of the original. This is because none of them really understood what made it so effective in the first place. Texas Chainsaw 3D doesn't either, although, in fairness, it's surprisingly watchable in spite of its fundamentally misguided nature.
The movie positions itself as a direct sequel to Hooper's original. An opening credit sequence uses newly converted-to-3D footage of that film's ending, then takes us beyond it. A young woman named Heather (Alexandra Daddario) finds out that she has inherited a mansion from a distant relative. Together with her boyfriend (R&B singer Trey Songz) and two other pals, she heads to a small Texas town to check it out. Initially unbeknownst to her, Heather is the last surviving member of the Sawyer family, who committed heinous acts of butchery and were subsequently murdered by angry, vindictive townsfolk. Actually, there is one other member of the family left, and that, of course, is Leatherface (Dan Yeager), a chainsaw-wielding psychopath who wears human skin as a mask. Leatherface is locked away in the basement until some damn fool lets him out to terrorize Heather and her companions.
To its credit, Texas Chainsaw 3D has a few effective moments. There's a nice stretch of action in the second act, including a nifty bit in which Leatherface uses his weapon of choice to prevent those crazy kids from getting away in their van. A third act twist is also kind of intriguing, given that it shifts your allegiances toward the characters a little bit. Heather discovers that there's someone else in town even more dangerous than Leatherface. This, in turn, leads to a climactic confrontation between two evil forces, plus one of the more gruesome on-screen deaths in recent memory.
While not nearly as terrible as one might expect, Texas Chainsaw 3D isn't really in the same spirit as the original. I've mentioned this before (including in a piece I wrote on the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), but it bears repeating. Noted horror filmmaker Wes Craven once said, “The first monster that an audience has to be scared of is the filmmaker. They have to feel in the presence of someone not confined by the normal rules of propriety and decency.” This is exactly what Tobe Hooper's film capitalized on so well. It was raw and dangerous, and it hit you with its terror when you didn't expect it. In comparison, Texas Chainsaw 3D is pretty; the relatively-restrained blood and gore is carefully composed, never messy or frightening. The plot progresses in a largely predictable manner, with Leatherface's attacks arriving at precisely timed intervals. In other words, it feels like “product” rather than true horror. Hooper wanted to terrify the crap out of you; TC3D director John Luessenhop (Takers) wants you to feel safe amid the hacking-and-slashing by Leatherface. Why anyone would make a safe sequel to one of most unsafe horror movies in the history of cinema is baffling.
The only new element added is the 3D, which is barely used, save for a few shots of Leatherface thrusting his weapon straight toward the camera. Bottom line: Forget Texas Chainsaw 3D. For $11.75, I'll hold a chainsaw three inches from your face for an hour and a half. I'll even make you popcorn.
( out of four)
Texas Chainsaw 3D is rated R for strong grisly violence and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.
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