Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Very Own Pet Leatherface - A Review of Texas Chainsaw 3D

I'd feel the need to place a spoiler alert here at the beginning, but how do you spoil a heaping pile of bullshit? I know, I know -- What was I expecting from a 6th sequel in a played out horror franchise? Well, I suppose I was expecting something along the lines of the last 2 films, which were clearly inferior to the original, but suitably tense and creepy reimaginings of Hooper's classic. What I wasn't expecting was a cynical cash-in with a ludicrous script slapped together with a "fuck-it-it's-only-a-horror-flick" attitude.

Conceived as a direct sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TC3D opens with a highlights reel of kills and other iconic moments from the 1974 original, post-converted into 3D for a strange, but interesting effect. The intro flows fairly seamlessly into the new footage, which does an impressive job of capturing the look and color palette of the original. Storywise, we've got the police investigating the Sawyer farm based on the reports from Sally Hardesty of the family of cannibalistic murderers who killed her brother and friends. While I've been led to believe that they do things BIG in Texas, apparently multiple murders only warrant one investigating officer. Then again, this might be  a commentary about the state of race relations in Texas in the late 70s, seeing as they sent they black guy out solo on a clearly dangerous mission. Or it could have been a convenient plot device to make sure the cop was hopelessly outnumbered by the redneck vigilante mob that shows up and massacres the whole family, which has apparently grown by a dozen members since the original.

Did I say they massacre the whole family? We could only be so lucky. No, rather, one of the mob finds a baby Sawyer and sneaks it to his barren wife to raise as their own. This, of course, forms the basis of all the lameness to come. Oh, and Leatherface (or Jed as he's known in TC3D), manages to survive as well, despite being mentally challenged.

Fast forward damn near 40 years and Baby Sawyer has grown into a buxom 20-year old goth chick. Yeah, the filmmakers apparently didn't pass 2nd grade math. Actually, the director takes pains not to show the year on any of the newspapers, even when highlighting the date. But come on, when you open with footage of the original and everyone is clearly wearing 70s fashions and hairstyles, you can't just pretend its the early 90s so your lead will be the right age in the present. But, you know, Fuck it--it's just a horror flick.

He had to say that or they would have taken away his Executive Producer credit.
Heather is played by he gorgeous-but-acting-challenged Alexandra Daddario. I'd blame her flat and divorced-from-reality performance on the script, but I also saw her in Bereavement and found her lacking there too. The script certainly doesn't help though, as it forces her character to emotionally contort into unnatural postures to fit the ridiculous ending the filmmakers had in mind.

Heather inherits the Carson family mansion from a grandmother she never knew about, but who had been keeping tabs on her for years, because the Carsons are somehow related to the Sawyers. Heather, her boyfriend (Trey Songz), her slutty friend (Alex from Lost), and her boyfriend's friend\friend's sorta love interest Kenny (actually a pretty accomplished actor\musician\tech guru who's totally slumming in this movie) take a road trip down to Texas so she can sign some inheritance papers. The problem with inheriting houses from long lost relatives, though, is that sometimes Leatherface lives in the basement and kills all your friends.

The gore in this movie is copious and well-done, but only interesting from a special effects standpoint. The characters are only remarkable for their Hollywood good looks and their douchiness, so there's no emotional impact to watching them die. Although, this may be exactly what the filmmakers were going for. After all, when you ultimately want Leatherface to end up the hero, you don't want him to kill off anyone the audience may genuinely like. Plus, if we got all attached to them, we might think it kind of suspect when Heather suddenly reverses her opinion of good ole Jed after reading about the massacre of the Sawyers, who were, after all, just innocently making furniture from the bones of people they'd murdered and eaten when the vigilantes unjustly set them ablaze.

Been Caught Cheatin' - TC3D is a study in douchey characters who deserve to die

Anyway, Heather makes the mistake of letting the town's powers that be know that she knows what they did in the summer of '74, so they've got to get rid of her. Then she's on the run from both Leatherface and the cops. The cops catch her and tie her up, then leave to freshen up their hair or something and give Leatherface the chance to finish her off. Cousin Jed has the chainsaw to her throat when he discovers she's got a lazy plot device on her chest, marking her as a Sawyer. And you know how much blood means to this family, so suddenly she's safe from Leatherface, who frees her. But LeatherJed isn't safe. The cops attack and are getting ready to toss Old Leather into an industrial meat grinder when heather goes all Sawyer on their ass.

The film ends with Heather reading a letter from her grandmother explaining that she will have to take care of Cousin Jed, but that he'll be there to protect her. So now he's got her very own pet Leatherface. This was actually my favorite part of the film, not only because it's so ridiculous that it finally took TC3D over the top into absurdity, but because admit it, how cool would it be to have your own Leatherface?

I gave this movie several chances to change my mind, continually hoping that the filmmakers were just using the laziest slasher cliches in the biz to set up false expectations that they would then demolish in high style. At every turn, I was proved wrong. The filmmakers just didn't care enough to try to do something different with the film besides the standard small-group-of-young-people-go-to-a-remote-location-and-get-killed storyline. I got pretty excited at one point when Heather actually managed to escape the Carson estate and run into the middle of the town fair. I just knew I was in for an insane bloodbath unlike anything in the TCM series. There were teenagers left and right, crowded into small lanes between carnival rides and packed too tight for easy escape. And Leatherface is in the middle of it all with his huge chainsaw roaring like the Grim Reaper's Harley-Davidson, and you know how many teenagers her mows through? Zero. Fucking no kills at all in that scene. He just chases Heather the whole time and fucking fails utterly.

Somebody let me out of this fucking movie!

I was prepared for the movie not to be scary, but I at least though there would be limbs flying this way and that, splattering buckets of blood in gloriously cheesy 3D. Aside from 2 scenes where Leatherface is cutting through shit, there is absolutely no reason for this film to have been shot in 3D (Okay, 2 bucks extra per ticket is a fair reason, I suppose). Really, the only entertainment I got from TC3D was in thinking about how I was going to trash it in my review, and there's so many things wrong with the movie that it was actually a fun exercise. I recommend you either avoid this film, or hate-watch it with a big group of drunken friends. So, who's going to be my drunken friend?