By Shane M. Dallmann
The film officially titled TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D is, naturally, merely identified as TEXAS CHAINSAW on-screen because there IS a 2D version available, and frankly, I wish I’d chosen that option and saved a few bucks. While I apparently benefited from better 3D quality than some others have reported, there was scarcely any point to shooting this in 3D to begin with. Okay, there was ONE good moment when Jedediah threw his chainsaw at Clint Eastwood’s son.
Who’s Jedediah? We used to call him Leatherface, but that name isn’t used anywhere in the new movie. Which posits itself as a DIRECT sequel to Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. The other sequels never happened in this version. And the remake and the prequel to the remake don’t count. The original was supposed to have taken place in the 1970s, and they do their best to fudge the on-screen dates in this sequel (directed by John Luessenhop), but since the new characters have Smartphones, etc. at the ready and since the character who was supposed to be an infant at the time of the original is nowhere near 40 years old, there’s been some sort of disturbance in the time field. Oh, well.
The new film actually starts with converted 3D footage from Hooper’s original and picks up the action directly after Sally’s escape, which brings both the law and a mob of angry vigilantes to the Sawyer home (this film DOES acknowledge the family name we didn’t actually learn until Hooper’s OWN sequel). And the Sawyers now have quite a few MORE family members who’ve arrived to take a last stand with Drayton (Bill Moseley steps in for the late Jim Siedow, while Gunnar Hansen maintains family ties). Chaos and arson ensue, and the only survivor is a baby girl surreptitiously stolen by one of the vigilantes. At least, she’s the only survivor we actually SEE at the time, but we know better.
Twenty years later (or so), the illegally adopted infant, now known as “Heather Miller” (Alexandra Daddario) is mysteriously tracked down by the lawyer of her REAL grandmother and is requested to settle her estate. Leaving her unpleasant adoptive parents (who fled the original scene immediately) behind, she makes the trek to Texas with three friends in tow. One of them is Tania Raymonde, whom you may remember as Malcolm’s girlfriend from MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE. Now she plays the slut, and there is absolutely nothing else to be said about her character. There’s a black boyfriend, and nobody ever mentions his race, so we’re integrated, and we’re color-blind, and that’s perfectly fine, but must such characters always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be introduced with pounding rap music? And there’s… some other guy. And a hitch-hiker they almost run over along the way. But he’s not nutzoid like Ed Neal.
By the time Leath… er… Jedediah finally starts his rampage, there IS something of a sense of relief that we don’t have to put up with the truly banal characters much longer, but this CHAINSAW, in addition to being completely devoid of suspense or tension (though there’s gore aplenty, of course) makes a mistake like NO other (no, not even the pointlessly baffling RETURN/NEXT GENERATION/whatchamacallit). In EVERY other film in the franchise, once the horrors began, they remained in play from that very moment until the end titles hit the screen. THIS one manages to schedule an intermission! So it’s back to the mayor, the sheriff, the lawyer, the nice young officer, etc., all of whom have ties to the previous massacre… you get the idea: even though this movie only has ONE certifiable looney-tune on the loose, you still have to worry about who might be in on “the conspiracy.” As Joe-Bob would say, “WAY too much plot getting in the way of the story.” And yes, the nice young officer is Scott Eastwood, son of Clint. And I think Dad is going to have to have a long, sad talk with Scott’s chair.
Okay, the tribute to the ‘freezer’ scene in Hooper’s original is very effective and startling. And Jedediah’s application of his latest face-mask is quite cringe-inducing. There’s plenty of additional gore, as I said, but there’s nothing special. Even when the guy gets sawed literally in half. Hell, WE (and by “we,” I mean the crew of THE WOODEN GATE and FX mistress Robin Shaw) did that scene much earlier and much better if I DO say so myself.
No spoilers unless you ask me specifically and privately, but the gore-conspiracy trail leads to a ludicrous, baffling finale which leaves at least one important character unaccounted for (just what WERE they going to say to this character after all that? I would just LOVE to know!) but which at least segues into the epilogue which finally features the long-awaited Marilyn Burns cameo. And there’s a (really stupid) extra scene after the credits.
This is what happens when making your sequel “different” is the only thing on your mind. Watch the two Hooper films again. That way you’ll see everyone who matters in this one, and not only that, you’ll rediscover both suffocating tension and nervous laughter, neither of which you’ll find here.